Music News from WEMU

Detroit Jazz Festival

WEMU wrapped up February and kicked off March with sixteen excellent choices for “our most played” category.  “The Messenger” by guitarist Kevin Eubanks for Detroit’s Mack Avenue Records was at the top of the list where it deserves to be.  Kevin came from a great jazz family in Philadelphia.  From this essential foundation, Kevin Eubanks became one of Los Angeles’ in demand recording artists and the leader of The Tonight Show Band.  After cooking in the cauldron of these experiences, Kevin Eubanks emerged with a strong individualistic sound on jazz guitar, borrowing liberally from the blues

This morning WEMU premiered "December's Moon" the CD by organist/pianist/accordionist Ron Oswanski. 

  Planning a morning program starts the afternoon before the show. I review new music in the office while working on other tasks and research the next day's musical choices. As I listen to a disc, I immediately think of other music to go with it.

We played various approaches of vibraphone and marimbas with some piano, bass and drums. The initial inspiration for the feature came from "The Bespoke Man's Narrative", the new CD by pianist/composer Aaron Diehl featuring vibraphonist Warren Wolf. Diehl's debut CD has been highly anticipated for over two years!

Even though the official release of In A World Of  Mallets by Jason Marsalis is not until February 19th, we jumped on it immediately at WEMU.  With the panoply of vibes, tubular bells, marimbas and other mallet instruments this recording is like a breath of light, spring air.  Perhaps it’s the New Orleans vibe that percolates throughout the songs or the emergence of a new working group in jazz, but this is a welcome addition to the WEMU playlist.  

Strange as it may seem, Black Aboriginal Australians have adapted American style Country music as a vehicle for telling their own unique stories.  Roger Knox aka: The King of Koori Country or The Black Elvis, is one of the leading practitioners of this style and has just released a brand new album, Stranger In My Land (Bloodshot). 

For this release Knox is backed up by the rotating cast of musicians led by producer Jon Langford (The Mekons), known as The Pine Valley Cosmonauts

José James is simply beyond category. No Beginning No End is a culmination of his career and life weaving threads of jazz, balladry, R&B, classic and neo-soul plus hip-hop into a sensual stream of consciousness.

While we made sure to stir up a good musical gumbo of your New Orleans Mardi Gras and Brazilian Carnaval favorites this morning on 89.1 Jazz, it was our pleasure to premiere Smokey Mary by Harry Connick, Jr.  Smokey Mary refers to the signature train float in the Orpheus Parade.  Twenty years ago Harry founded The Krewe of Orpheus, a racially integrated krewe, which was a radically new development in the New Orleans social clubs

Although “Three Free Amigos” is only six songs long, this E.P.


Given the repertoire, it was only natural that Aaron Neville’s “My True Story” would be the most-played CD on WEMU. 

 It is his stroll down memory lane from the “doo wop era”, but it is also the soundtrack of so many of our lives cast through the prism of the pristine voice of Aaron Neville.  

We received many requests for it plus we wanted to call attention to Neville’s interviews on “Morning Edition” from NPR and “Bob Edwards Weekend” about the authentic music and Neville’s undeniable soul.  Pristine is also a way I’d describe the recording’s production values. 

No expense was spared in the mix or mastering.  

Producers Don Was and Keith Richards have created an American treasure with “My True Story”.  If you’re looking for special Valentine’s Day dinner music, this would be perfect.


While we love to feature the all-time greats of music on WEMU, we also look for deserving unknown ensembles, such as The Aguabella Latin Jazz Band which received their CD premiere for “Baker: Gateway To Death Valley”  this morning.  We had actually played many of these musicians before when they were in the band led by the late, great conga player, Francisco Aguabella.  Today they keep Aguabella’s legacy alive.  Now you know how they found their beautiful name.

This Tuesday was a perfect blues day on WEMU.  The cold and the clouds called for down-home story-filled music.  Our playlist this morning included local blues luminaries Johnnie Bassett and George Bedard along with Columbus Ohio’s blues emissary, Teeny Tucker.

The majority of the classic Blue Note recordings of the 1950s and 1960s were characterized by highly conversant horn exchanges and brilliant, supportive rhythm sections.  For Benny Green to pay tribute to that era of jazz with the instrumentation of piano-bass-drums is quite a task.  But, Benny pulls it off with inspiration, energy and attitude.

The WEMU playlist this morning included many great guitarists.  My initial inspiration was to promote guitarist Jake Reichbart and his quartet at this afternoon’s free “Sesi Motors 501 Jazz Show” at Rush Street.  But, you can’t build a three and half hour program around one artist.  So, I went to our “new stacks” and checked out a disc that we’d had for a few weeks, gave it try, gave it two thumbs up and got it on the air.   It is “Blues For Night

What a way to celebrate the launch of a new label and a new concept in jazz!  Pianist/composer/arranger Scott Gwinnell’s tribute to heart of Detroit –The Cass Corridor – was the most-played CD on WEMU from January 21st through the 27th.   “The Cass Corridor Story” is also the first release on the new imprint from Mack Avenue Records, Detroit Music Factory.  WEMU has been a strong supporter of Scott Gwinnell for years, so we knew to expect great things from him, but this heart-felt original music exceeded our expectations!

In time for African American History month, drummer Terri Lyne Carrington pays tribute to three to icons of jazz and African American music:  Duke Ellington, Charles Mingus and Max Roach on her newest release.  In 1963, Ellington, Mingus and Roach made only one recording together: “Money Jungle” for Capitol Records.  The trio to realize the 2013 approach to “Money Jungle: Provocative In Blue” are pianist Gerald Clayton and bassist Christian McBride along with Ms. Carrington.

Often on first listen to a new CD, I’ll remark, “that’s nice…” and just file it away.  I’m very glad that I gave “3.2.1” by pianist Pamela Hines a second chance.  On the second pass, I heard the complexities that I missed in my first cursory review.  We receive many piano-bass-drums CDs re-working standards at WEMU, so if your disc is to make it on the air it must have a “special something”.  Pamela Hines has it.

Ozella Music

The jazz musician is fortunate to be able to hear new possibilities in old melodies and create new music from the gems of the past.  That is what saxophonist Maximilian Geller has accomplished with “Alpenglühen”, his new CD released recently in the US.  While all the songs on the disc are credited to Geller or band members such as pianist Walter Lang, it is clear that they have drawn inspiration from German, Swiss and French folk melodies to craft their elegant and sparkling repertoire.  According the label, Ozella Music, “Alpenglühen” can take you home and to faraway places: “to alpine cab

Our latest WEMU discovery is The Hummingbird Brigade, an 11 piece jazz ensemble from Vancouver, British Columbia led by saxophonist/clarinetist/flutist James Danderfer.  Danderfer explains the tone of his music as “New Orleans brass band-inspired”.  Building on the rich legacy of New Orleans street bands and the new approaches coming from the Crescent City by The Dirty Dozen Brass Band, The Soul Rebels and The Hot 8 Brass Band, Danderfer and his band-mates are adding to the street beat repertoire with well-crafted, highly rhythmic original music.  Mardi Gras day is coming up on Tuesday, Feb

Ann Arbor Folk Festival performers, The Steel Wheels are scheduled to stop by the WEMU studios on Saturday (1/26)  to play live on The Roots Music Project with Jeremy Baldwin.

36th Ann Arbor Folk Festival

January 25 through 26, 2013

6:30pm at Hill Auditorium

If you are searching for fresh new music for 2013, WEMU recommends the new CD “Cuban Crosshatching” by percussionist Arturo Stable.  His 2012 duo disc “Dos Y Mas” with pianist Elio Villafranca was one of the finest recordings of 2012.  Stable continues the path he has forged in his notable career with music of integrity, artistic credibility and exploratory creativity.  We premiered “Cuban Crosshatching” this morning and found that it paired perfe

With their snaky rhythms, spooky harmonies and catchy licks, Brooklyn’s Menahan Street Band once again takes the top spot on WEMU’s “Sweet 16” for “The Crossing”.  All of the time spent backing up R&B and soul sensation Charles Bradley has sparked a giant leap of creativity and risk-taking in this leading soul/jazz/funk band. 

Dragon Lady via

"'Til Your River Runs Dry" by Eric Burdon is the most revealing, personal and blues-drenched recording the former lead singer of The Animals and War has ever released.  Most of the songs deal with personal demons, release from self-destruction and potential salvation.  However, Eric Burdon remains true to form with  songs commenting on the ills of today's society such as "Water",  "Memorial Day", "Invitation To The White House" and "In The Ground".   Recorded in New Orleans and Los Angeles in 2010 and 2011, the disc was released in the U.K. in 2012.  It is officially released in the U.S.