Jazz Currents

Gus Cantavero

Western Michigan University's Jazz Masters Series will present one of the foremost jazz bassists of today at 7:30 pm Thursday, Oct 24 in the Dalton Center Recital Hall, in a concert that will also feature student jazz ensembles and the Western Jazz Collective, a faculty group.  John Patitucci has united different worlds from the beginning, as a musician who splits his time between instruments (the electric and acoustic bass), coasts (raised in Brooklyn, NY and California) and music (jazz, pop, classical, African, Latin and more). In a conversation with Cara Lieurance and WMU professor of drums Keith Hall, Patitucci speaks in depth about the meaning of music, its power of communication, and the higher purpose it can serve in the world. 


A tireless soloist and side man, Randy Johnston  has released 12 albums as a leader and has appeared on dozens of recordings with a wide variety of jazz recording artists. Keith Hall talks to the prolific guitarist in a live session in WMUK's Takeda Studio, where Johnston brings to life stories about his performing life with the likes of Lionel Hampton, Houston Person,  Etta Jones, Lonnie Smith, and Lou Donaldson.  

Randy Johnston and Keith Hall start their conversation by remembering Johnston's early days in Detroit, where he lived until he was 13. Music was everywhere, he says - he loved Motown artists and rock bands like MC5  and the Bob Seger System - but it was the Beatles phenomenon that made him want to play guitar. When his family returned to their southern roots in Richmond, VA, Johnston says he channeled some of the frustration at being a new student at a new school into hours of guitar practice. By his late teens, Johnston was playing in a popular band that advertised itself as suitable for "dances and pool parties." 

Johnston's path to becoming an indispensible guitarist in jazz organ groups was not direct, he tells Hall, but he learned a lot from the bandleaders who did hire him early on. Later, he played for 18 years with the Lou Donaldson Quartet. Johnston has devoted the last several years to producing solo albums. The latest is 2019's Cherry Juice.


Keith Hall

A greatly respected Michigan jazz artist, Steve Talaga says although he was tempted to uproot himself at times to pursue music, it turned out that Michigan was a wonderful place for him to play thousands of concerts, record albums, compose music, and teach the next generation of players. In a studio session at WMUK with Jazz Currents host Keith Hall, Talaga reminisces about the people and projects that have defined his career, which includes two decades as a faculty instructor at Hope College.

Herbie Hancock is probably his biggest musical hero, he tells Hall, saying it would be a dream come true to share tunes with the master. As a teacher, he admits he learns as much from his students as they do from him. Talaga is a prolific songwriter. He's appeared as a sideman on dozens of albums, and has released five solo albums under his name, filled with original material. In the WMUK studio, Talaga plays five solo versions of original tunes: "Comes the Dawn," "And Then Again," "Sacred Gifts," "Spikey," and "Country Dog."

Katherine Lane

Jazz pianist and composer Nicholas Olynciw (OH-lin-shoo) recently completed his master's degree in jazz performance at Western Michigan University, where he studied with Matthew FriesJazz Currents host Keith Hall visits with Olynciw in the Takeda studio at WMUK, where they talked about his Long Island, Texas, and Michigan connections, and Olynciw plays several new solo works:  "New Blues," "Associated," "Thermos," "Re-Pete," and "Dream Dancing."


Susan Wagener, Lens To Pixels Photography / http://www.lenstopixels.com/

Have you ever had a friend who can remember, and appreciate, the old days with a vividness that brings it all back to life? In this episode of Jazz Currents, host Keith Hall visits with with jazz pianist John Shea, of the John Shea Trio. He's a beloved West Michigan musician who never forgot a kind favor, a funny story, or a long-gone music venue. Hall and Shea both grew up in Battle Creek, MI.

Shea is a walking lexicon of jazz knowledge. His mentors included jazz drummer Bennie Carew, a bandleader who shaped the Michigan scene from the 1940s to 80s, and a music teacher, Margaret Skidmore, who vouched for the young Shea, then in ninth grade, to play piano in the pit for a production of Fiddler on the Roof. His variety of experiences, and his habit of always learning another tune has given Shea a staggering mental playlist upon which to draw.

In the studio at WMUK, John Shea plays Irving Berlin's "Always," Gershwin's "Someone To Watch Over Me," one of his own pieces, "Shawn's Blues," and others.


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