Friday, April 29, 2011

KCCK Takes You to the NO Jazz Fest - Dennis

This Thursday and Friday, Iowa's Jazz Station takes you to the French Quarter with two afternoons of live broadcasts from the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.

We're partnering with WWOZ-FM, to bring a little New Orleans to Iowa with performances from a variety of great jazz and blues players.

It'll be like having a spot right in front of the speaker. And best of all, no standing in line for the porta-pottie!

We recommend leaving work early, fixing yourself a hurricane (here's a recipe) and turning up the radio real loud. But, if you are stuck at your desk, plug in a pair of headphones and crank up the webcast or listen on your phone with the KCCK iPhone app.

Here's the schedule.

Thursday, May 5
2:45 pm - Charles Musselwhite
4:10 pm - Delfeayo Marsalis & the Uptown Orchestra
5:50 pm - Ruthie Foster

Friday, May 6
12:10 - Stefon Harris & Blackout
1:35 pm - David Torkanowsky's Fleur DiBris (with George Porter Jr. of the Meters)
2:55 pm - Stanton Moore Trio
4:05 on - James Booker Piano Tribute with Joshua Paxton & Tom McDermott
5:35 pm - Mingus Big Band

Performance times, and for that matter, performers themselves are subject to change.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Khan Reunites Eyewitness; Eick Debuts on ECM - Bob Stewart

For guitarist Steve Khan, his new release -- "Parting Shot" -- marks the first time since 1994 that he has reunited his band Eyewitness, with Anthony Jackson on bass, Dennis Chambers on drums, and Manolo Badrena on percussion. This time there is something different, though. They now combine the looseness of their improvisations while adhering to the tenets of Latin music and the clave. To achieve this end, Khan also brought aboard dear friends and masters of the idiom, percussionists Marc Quinones and Bobby Allende. The program of music offers seven new Khan originals and inventive interpretations of tunes by Thelonius Monk and Ornette Coleman.

Norwegian trumpeter Mathias Eick made his first appearance on ECM Records as a sideman at the age of 23. From the outset, critics responded very positively to his vaulting melodic improvisations, often drawing comparisons to one of his main influences, Kenny Wheeler. His new disc -- "Skala" -- extends the concept and the panoramic sweep of his 2007 debut as a leader. It calls upon the services of more musicians and there is more detail in the arrangements. The disc pools new and older compositions written by Eick inspired, he says, by music from classical to pop.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Stafford Channels Strayhorm; New Allison Release - Bob Stewart

Billy Strayhorn is widely considered to be one of the great composers of our time, and his three-decade-long collaboration with Duke Ellington furnished the American songbook with a number of timeless classics. Trumpeter Terell Stafford's sense of melody and uniquely expressive sound make him ideal for Strayhorn's repertoire. His new CD -- "This Side of Strayhorn" -- offers unique and refreshing interpretations of a number of Strayhorn's compositions. Stafford enlists his working quintet featuring saxophonist Tim Warfield, pianist and arranger Bruce Barth, bassist Peter Washington and drummer Dana Hall.

The release of "Action-Refraction" marks gifted bassist, composer and bandleader Ben Allison's first collection of music by other artists. He has turned his ear towards the music of some of his favorite artists, creating an inspired, atmospheric, and at times, art-rock mix tape featuring the music of PJ Harvey, Donny Hathaway, Thelonius Monk, Neil Young, Samuel Barber and Roger Nichols. The idea was sparked when Ben wondered how it would sound "to refract some of my favorite tunes through the prism of an electro-acoustic orchestra featuring two electric guitars, bass clarinet, saxophone, analog synthesizer, piano, acoustic bass and drums." Regular band mates Steve Cardenas, Rudy Royston, and Michael Blake are joined by keyboardist Jason Lindner and guitarist Brandon Seabrook.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Willie & Wynton Celebrate Ray, Jessica Channels 'Trane - Bob Stewart

Given the rousing artistic and commercial success of the first recorded collaboration of legendary troubadour Willie Nelson and jazz statesman Wynton Marsalis in 2008, it's not surprising that the pair would rendezvous again. The first meeting took place in the Allen Room of New York's Jazz at Lincoln Center in 2007. Their encore appearance was also staged at the heralded jazz house, this time for two sold-out nights at the Rose Theater in February of 2009, with special guest Norah Jones. Rather than rehash the previous material Nelson and Marsalis had first presented, the threesome paid homage to the music of the late Ray Charles for the disc, "Here We Go Again."

For her first trio outing in several years, pianist Jessica Williams digs deep as she channels the spirit of John Coltrane on "Freedom Trane." "John Coltrane has been my light through the darkness," she explains. "When there are questions, I'll ask 'what would Philly Joe Jones or Dexter Gordon do.' But when things are really weird, I can ask the 'Trane." She's joined by drummer Mel Brown and bassist Dave Captein on a set of originals along with compositions favored in performance by the saxophone legend.

De-Funding Public Radio Will Hurt Music, Education -- Dennis

The following is a guest opinion run in the Iowa City Press-Citizen on April 11, 2011. Read it on their site.

Much of the dialogue regarding proposals in the U.S. Congress to reduce or restrict funding for public broadcasting has focused on the impact those cuts will have on news and information stations such as Iowa Public Radio that carry National Public Radio programming.

While many public radio stations provide unrivaled news and public affairs programming, music also is an integral element of public radio's service. More than 100 stations, including our own KCCK, have full-time music formats. Music accounts for about one out of every three hours of public radio listening.

Jazz, classical, folk, world and eclectic music are offered in Iowa and around the country by public radio stations mainly because these niche formats are regarded as economically unsustainable in the commercial market. Chances are, whenever you have heard music on the radio that is something other than mainstream pop, rock or country, it's because you're listening to a public music station. In some communities, public stations are the only music outlet that is locally programmed, not controlled by a distant corporate owner.

Sadly, the potential impact of federal funding cuts will tend to have a much deeper effect on music stations than news outlets. Public music stations tend to be smaller than our news and information cousins. Therefore, federal grants can make up a much larger portion of our budget. In KCCK's case, Corporation for Public Broadcasting grants provide 20 percent of our cash budget -- nearly $110,000.

Now perhaps, if you aren't a jazz fan, you don't see a lot of value in having a jazz radio station in your community. But KCCK provides community benefits that go well beyond playing jazz on the radio.

We apply a community engagement model to our service. What this means is that we go into the community we serve, engage in a two-way dialogue about how we can help and then become an active partner in the solution.

Here's an example: In conversation with high school band directors, we learned that some incoming freshmen didn't have a strong background in jazz because their middle schools don't offer jazz band. This led KCCK to bring Kirkwood Community College and a group of jazz educators together to create a summer jazz band camp just for middle school students. Students who might not otherwise have even tried out for jazz band are now leaders in high school.

We've also created an exciting new music service that is not replicated anywhere in the world. The Iowa Channel is a program stream devoted exclusively to local artists, the majority of whom have never been played on the radio at all. The Iowa Channel gives listeners a steady diet of bands like Orquesta Alto Maiz, The Blue Band, The Nadas, SPT Theatre and many more.

You can listen online at, download the iPhone app, or over the air on KCCK HD-2.

Loss of federal funds would have a devastating effect on KCCK and the community we serve. It would force us to lay off staff and certainly would spell the end of programs such as band camp and the Iowa Channel.

What can you do to help? Two suggestions:

  • Let your representative know you value local, public radio. Information is at, a website set up to harness the voices of the millions who interact with public broadcasting each month.
  • Support public broadcasting with a tax-deductible gift. Every dollar you contribute is one less dollar we need from the government.

With your help, we can keep public radio strong and maintain a strong and vibrant local music culture, for jazz and all genres of music.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Di Meola's World Sinfonia, Davidson's Legrand Project - Bob Stewart

Following the much ballyhooed "Return to Forever" reunion tour of 2008, guitarist Al Di Meola began refocusing his energies on his World Sinfonia band with a concert tour in 2009 and a live disc documenting the shows. Di Meola's rhythmically-charged flamenco and tango inspired originals revealed his knack for advanced harmonies along with his embracing of simple, beautiful, alluring melodies. And although he may be a romantic at heart, he showed he is still very much capable of flashing those legendary chops that graced his classic 1970s releases. On the guitar virtuoso's latest outing -- "Pursuit of Radical Rhapsody" -- the world music pioneer deals in more evocative and compelling sounds with his World Sinfonia ensemble.

French composer Michel Legrand has written some of the most memorable romantic music on film. Many of his songs have long since become jazz and pop standards. Since starting his career in the '70s, the French-American pianist and composer Roger Davidson has been as voracious in his musical curiosity as Legrand. His writing includes symphonies and choral music, small-group jazz, Klezmer, tango and a bounty of Brazilian-flavored songs. It was bassist David Finck who suggested that Davidson explore an album's worth of Legrand's songs. In "Umbrellas and Sunshine", Davidson and Finck offer a deeply original, intimate take of Legrand's music.