The Retro Cocktail Hour may be moving from Northwest Public Broadcasting’s NPR and Classical Music service, but it already has a well-established second home here on KJEM 89.9FM.
For fans of the funky, vintage-futuristic show who live outside of our terrestrial signal, catch it on the NWPB App through a smartphone, or stream The Retro Cocktail Hour here by clicking “Listen Live” at the top right of the page.
Same party, same day, same time, just at a different address.
We will be posting the recent episodes of Jazz at 100 which aired on KJEM over the holidays. Here are the first two which aired on the 7th of December.
In the late 1930s and early 1940s, the very dance-oriented swinging music of the Big Bands was the most popular music around. Never had jazz been more central to mass culture. Just over the horizon were the draft of 1940 that eventually conscripted 10 million men, making it increasingly difficult to field top notch bands.
But in the late 1930s, it seemed like the swinging would never end.
Although Duke Ellington, Count Basie and Woody Herman soldiered on, mostly keeping bands on the road into the 1970s (Ellington) and 1980s (Basie and Herman), the era of the big band effectively ended with the AFM strike and World War Two shortages of gas, rubber and players. A leaner combo-oriented music emerged in night clubs after the war. Several band leaders sought to find common ground with the new music and the big band format, but as dance halls faded, the economics of the large ensemble no longer worked.
Catch up on last week’s show before the next two hours air tomorrow night from 7-9! Tune in to Jazz at 100 every Thursday night from 7-9!
Jazz has often been understood through the lens of the conflict between art and commerce. In the 1930s, several artists successfully blurred these distinctions. Louis Armstrong adopted popular song as his vehicle foe a successful career shift into the mainstream. Lionel Hampton, a key member of Benny Goodman’s courageous color-blind quartet and the leading vibraphone player of his generation, created a series of high-energy recordings that were foundational in the development of Rhythm and Blues.
By far the most commercially successful of the stride pianists, he made his reputation (and his living) through comedy. “He wasn’t witty, if that word is taken to imply a kind of humor too subtle to engender belly laughs – he was funny. He was also bigger than life, Rabelaisian in intake, energy, and output. His greatest joy was playing Bach on the organ, but he buttered his bread as a clown, complete with a mask as fixed as that of Bert Williams or Spike Jones. It consisted of a rakishly tilted derby, one size too small, and Edwardian mustache that fringed his upper lip, eyebrows as thick as paint and pliable as curtains, flirtatious eyes, a mouth alternately pursed or widened in a dimpled smile, and immense girth, draped in the expensive suits and ties of a dandy.” – Gary Giddens
If you missed the show a week before Thanksgiving, you can listen to the full two hours right here:
In the mid-1930s, jazz orchestras led by drummer Chick Webb and clarinetist Benny Goodman rose to prominence with the arrangements of Edgar Sampson and Fletcher Henderson. After launching the careers of Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Jordan, Webb succumbed to spinal tuberculosis in 1939, at age 34. Goodman launched the careers of Gene Krupa, Teddy Wilson, Lionel Hampton, Harry James and Charlie Christian over a storied run that earned him the controversial sobriquet “King of Swing”
Billie Holiday began recording at 18 years old in 1933 in a session with Bennie Goodman and was musically active until her death at 44 in 1959. Ella Fitzgerald also began recording at 18 (in 1935 as the singer with Chick Webb), but in her case, her career surged again in the mid-1950’s with the songbook series on Verve. They are perhaps the two most important female singers to come out of the Swing Era.
Catch up on last week’s show before tuning in on Thursday Night from 7-9!
In the eleventh hour of Jazz at 100, we followed Count Basie through the Benny Moten Band in Kansas City and heard his first recordings as a leader. In 1937, after Benny Moten’s death, he took the nation by storm with his driving band lead by the “All American Rhythm Section” and the dual tenor saxophones of Herschel Evans and Lester Young.
In the last hour, we heard Count Basie emerge as an exciting new voice from Kansas City. In this hour, we return to New York to follow Duke Ellington’s innovative path through the 1930s as he experiments with longer musical forms while building one of his greatest bands featuring tenor player Ben Webster and bassist Jimmy Blanton.
Catch up on last week’s show before Thursday night for the next installment of Jazz at 100! Tune in from 7-9!
Outside of the Chicago – New York nexus, jazz thrived during the late 1920’s and 1930’s in Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas, with its center in Kansas City. Under the careful control of Boss Pendergast, Kansas City was a wide open town with a thriving night club music scene, nurturing musicians like Joe Turner, Count Basie, Ben Webster, Lester Young and Charlie Parker. Working the urban centers and roadhouses in the region were a slew of “territory bands” only a handful of whom are preserved in the recorded legacy. In this hour, we’ll explore the early jazz of Kansas City and the Territory Bands.
Sidney Bechet made a stand with the soprano sax and Frankie Trumbauer celebrated the lightness of the C-melody sax. And then there was Coleman Hawkins.
Be prepared for this week’s Jazz at 100 by catching up on both hours of last week’s show. You can listen to them right here and be sure to tune in every Thursday from 7-9.
In this hour, we’ll return to Harlem to listen to maybe the most important band leader in jazz history and one of the most significant composers of the music – Duke Ellington.
“Calling Ellington a bandleader is like calling Bach an organist.” – Gary Giddens
A contemporary of Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington moved from Washington, DC to New York at roughly the same time and established himself as a recording artist. By 1927, he was established in residency at the Cotton Club, broadcasting nationally on the radio and building a repertoire of jazz compositions custom-made for the specific players in the band.
Large jazz ensembles, such as Ellington’s, soon to be known as “Big Bands”, evolved through the 1920s with significant innovations led by bandleaders Fletcher Henderson, Benny Carter, Jimmy Lunceford and Don Redman, and arrangers Carter, Redman, Edgar Sampson and Sy Oliver. By the mid-1930s Big Bands dominated popular music.
Missed last week’s show? We have you covered with both hours right here to get prepared for this weeks show! Tune in on Thursday night from 7-9!
In this hour, we return with Louis Armstrong to Chicago and listen to his seminal small group recordings. We are joined by John D’earth – trumpet player, composer, educator, member of the music performance faculty at the University of Virginia and the jazz faculty quintet, the Free Bridge Quintet.
In this hour we will listen to Bix Beiderbecke’s music often in the company of C-melody saxophonist Frankie Trumbauer. We’ll also listen to several bands featuring cornetist Red Nichols and ground-breaking trombonist Miff Mole.
We are joined in this hour by Brendan Wolfe, the author of “Finding Bix – The Life and Afterlife of a Jazz Legend”. He is the managing editor of the Encyclopedia of Virginia, a project of the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities.
Catch up on last weeks show before hours 7 and 8 air Thursday night from 7-9 PM.
While New York hosted small combos similar to Chicago, it also grew a number of significant larger groups and orchestras. We’ll hear from orchestras led by Fletcher Henderson, Paul Whiteman, Don Redman and Red Allen. Within these bands, we’ll find some of the greatest soloists of the period – Bix Beiderbecke, Coleman Hawkins, Miff Mole, and Louis Armstrong, who spent a little more than a year in Harlem in 1924 and 1925.
In the last hour, we listened to several of the bands associated with New York, with an emphasis on the new large ensemble form, the jazz orchestra. In this hour we’ll stick with New York, but focus in on the piano music of Harlem – “Stride.” We are joined in this hour by Art Wheeler, pianist, producer, composer and educator.