“Even with limited train service, tunnels closed and horrendous weather, nothing could get in the way of this group of dedicated public radio supporters honoring three important figures in the world of jazz. WBGO’s Champions of Jazz Benefit was perfect proof of that as a nearly full house turned out to celebrate WBGO in the midst of the Noreaster” said Cephas Bowles, the station’s CEO. “The evening gave new meaning to the adage ‘the show must go on’ and what a fabulous show it was. We’re grateful to those who braved the weather as well as for those who supported the station but were unable to make it.”
Those who couldn’t make it missed a once-in-a-lifetime performance featuring an eclectic gathering of artists, including one of the evening’s honorees, Grammy® Award-winner Bobby McFerrin, who was joined on stage by Paquito D’Rivera, Cyrus Chestnut, Amir ?uestlove Thompson and others.
Bruce Lundvall, another Champions of Jazz honoree, was also the evening’s guiding musical spirit. Lundvall, who led CBS Records and brought the Blue Note label back to life in 1984, made requests for tunes from his front row seat, as a heavy snowfall blanketed Columbus Circle outside The
Allen Room at Jazz at Lincoln Center.
Musicians played selections from “Bruce’s Juke Box” – songs which marked milestones from his career as a producer. Trumpeter Marcus Printup, clarinetist Paquito D’Rivera, singer Bobby McFerrin and producers Michael Cuscuna and Tommy LiPuma all shared stories from the stage about how Bruce’s unshakeable faith in their talents had helped launch their careers, often at great risk to his own.
Twenty-three year-old pianist Christian Sands kicked the evening off with a medley of Herbie Hancock’s “Canteloupe Island” and “Dolphin Dance.” Printup then played “Moontrane”
McFerrin also chose to celebrate Lundvall in his set. He sang two of Bruce’s favorites - Charlie Parker's "Scrapple from the Apple" and Thelonious Monk’s “’Round Midnight” - with Cyrus Chestnut on piano, Gil Goldstein on accordion, Al Foster on drums and Doug Weiss on bass. McFerrin then invited D’Rivera to the stage for an impromptu version of “A Night in Tunisia.” Drummer Ahmir ?uestlove Thompson came on board for the evening’s finale, a musical melee of scat and funk in which McFerrin joyfully rhapsodized about everything from pistachios to the falling snow to close the show.
Earlier in the evening, global law firm Hogan Lovells was honored during a dinner at Porter House New York.
Attendees at the event included internationally acclaimed soprano Kathleen Battle, pianist Michael Wolff, executives from Blue Note and EMI recording labels, Prudential, PNC, Horizon, JP Morgan Chase, Newberger Berman, plus several WBGO on air personalities, including Michael Bourne, Brian Delp and Rhonda Hamilton, who also served as the performance emcee.
WBGO Jazz 88.3 FM and WBGO.org believe in the vibrancy and significance of jazz as America’s gift to world culture. The proceeds raised at the Annual Champions of Jazz Benefit help WBGO continue its mission to ensure the future of this art form while paying tribute to individuals and organizations for their outstanding humanitarian, civic and artistic contributions to both jazz and our world.
The benefit took place Wednesday, November 7, at The Allen Room in Frederick P. Rose Hall, home of Jazz at Lincoln Center in the Time Warner Center, New York City.
Founded in 1979, Newark Public Radio, Inc. is a publicly supported cultural institution that champions jazz at WBGO 88.3 FM in Newark, New Jersey and worldwide via wbgo.org. WBGO is the recognized world leader in jazz radio and one of the most respected jazz presenters in the country, and offers award-winning news and innovative children’s programs. Beyond reaching 350, 000 weekly listeners (including 17, 000 contributing members) on air, online and via mobile devices, WBGO presents live broadcasts from prestigious jazz venues and produces acclaimed programs for NPR heard by millions. WBGO is Jazz Week magazine’s 2010 Major Market Station of the Year.