Cultural Percussionist

Peter Nero Day

May 22, 2019

Peter Nero (born Bernard Nierow, May 22, 1934) is an American pianist and pops conductor. He directed the Philly Pops from 1979 to 2013, and has earned two Grammy Awards.

Born in Brooklyn, New York, as Bernard Nierow, he started his formal music training at the age of seven. He studied piano under Frederick Bried. By the time he was 14, he was accepted to New York City’s High School of Music & Art and won a scholarship to the Juilliard School of Music.Constance Keene, his teacher and mentor, once wrote in an issue of Keyboard ClassicsVladimir Horowitz was Peter’s greatest fan!” He graduated from Brooklyn College in 1956.

Nero recorded his first album under the name of Bernie Nerow in July 1957 under the Mode label MOD-LP117 which shows his technical virtuosity in the jazz genre. Nero recorded an album in 1961, and won a Grammy Award that year for Best New Artist. Since then, he has received another Grammy, garnered 10 additional nominations and released 67 albums. Nero’s early association with RCA Victor produced 23 albums in eight years. His subsequent move to Columbia Records resulted in the million-selling single and album Summer of ’42.

Sun Ra Day

May 22, 2019

Le Sony’r Ra (born Herman Poole Blount, May 22, 1914 – May 30, 1993), better known as Sun Ra, was an American jazz composer, bandleader, piano and synthesizer player, and poet known for his experimental music, “cosmic” philosophy, prolific output, and theatrical performances. For much of his career, Ra led “The Arkestra”, an ensemble with an ever-changing name and flexible line-up.

Born and raised in Alabama, Blount became involved in the Chicago jazz scene during the late 1940s. He soon abandoned his birth name, taking the name Le Sony’r Ra, shortened to Sun Ra (after Ra, the Egyptian God of the Sun). He developed a complex persona and an idiosyncratic, myth-based credo that would make him a pioneer of Afrofuturism. He claimed to be an alien from Saturn on a mission to preach peace, and throughout his life he publicly denied ties to his prior identity.

His widely eclectic and avant-garde music echoed the entire history of jazz, from ragtime and early New Orleans hot jazz, to swing music, bebop, free jazz and fusion. His compositions ranged from keyboard solos to works for big bands of over 30 musicians, along with electronic excursions, songs, chants, percussion pieces, and anthems. From the mid-1950s until his death, Ra led the musical collective The Arkestra (which featured artists such as Marshall Allen, John Gilmore and June Tyson throughout its various iterations). Its performances often included dancers and musicians dressed in elaborate, futuristic costumes inspired by ancient Egyptian attire and the Space Age. (Following Ra’s illness-forced retirement in 1992, the band remained active as The Sun Ra Arkestra, and, as of 2018, continues performing under the leadership of veteran Ra sideman Marshall Allen.)

Though his mainstream success was limited, Sun Ra was a prolific recording artist and frequent live performer, and remained both influential and controversial throughout his life for his music and persona. He is now widely considered an innovator; among his distinctions are his pioneering work in free improvisation and modal jazz and his early use of electronic keyboards and synthesizers. Over the course of his career, he recorded dozens of singles and over one hundred full-length albums, comprising well over 1000 songs, making him one of the most prolific recording artists of the 20th century.

He was born Herman Blount on May 22, 1914, in Birmingham, Alabama, as discovered by his biographer, John F. Szwed, and published in his 1998 book. He was named after the popular vaudeville stage magician Black Herman, who had deeply impressed his mother. He was nicknamed “Sonny” from his childhood, had an older sister and half-brother, and was doted upon by his mother and grandmother.

For decades, very little was known about Sun Ra’s early life, and he contributed to its obscurity. As a self-invented person, he routinely gave evasive, contradictory or seemingly nonsensical answers to personal questions, and denied his birth name. He speculated, only half in jest, that he was distantly related to Elijah Poole, later famous as Elijah Muhammad, leader of the Nation of Islam. His birthday for years remained unknown, as he claimed it for years ranging from 1910 to 1918. Only a few years before his death, the date of Sun Ra’s birth was still a mystery. Jim Macnie’s notes for Blue Delight (1989) said that Sun Ra was believed to be about 75 years old. But Szwed was able to uncover a wealth of information about his early life and confirmed a birth date of May 22, 1914.

As a child, Blount was a skilled pianist. By the age of 11 or 12, he was composing and sight reading music. Birmingham was an important stop for touring musicians. He saw famous musicians such as Fletcher Henderson, Duke Ellington, and Fats Waller, along with others who were quite talented but never made the big time. Sun Ra once said, “The world let down a lot of good musicians”

World Music with Garifuna Collective

May 22, 2019

Belize

Daily Roots with the Eternals

May 22, 2019

The Cosmos with NGC 6559, M8 & M20

May 21, 2019

These three bright nebulae are often featured on telescopic tours of the constellation Sagittarius and the crowded starfields of the central Milky Way. In fact, 18th century cosmic tourist Charles Messiercataloged two of them; M8, the large nebula just left of center, and colorful M20 on the top left. The third emission region includes NGC 6559 and can be found to the right of M8. All three are stellar nurseries about five thousand light-years or so distant. Over a hundred light-years across, the expansive M8 is also known as the Lagoon Nebula. M20’s popular moniker is the Trifid. Glowing hydrogen gas creates the dominant red color of theemission nebulae. In striking contrast, blue hues in the Trifid are due to dust reflected starlight. Recently formed bright blue stars are visible nearby. The colorful composite skyscape was recorded in 2018 in Teide National Park in the Canary Islands, Spain.

Larance Marable Day

May 21, 2019

Larance Marable (May 21, 1929 – July 4, 2012) was a jazz drummer from Los Angeles, California, who worked with Charlie Haden in his Quartet West.

Marable had a career as a bop musician in the 1950s, working with Dexter Gordon and Charlie Parker. In the 1960s he started to venture into the cool jazz idiom with Zoot Sims, George Shearing, and Chet Baker, although he worked with Baker as early as 1952 on the album Bird and Chet: Live at the Trade Winds.

Earlier in his career, he was known as Lawrence Marable.

Larance was a relative of Mississippi riverboat bandleader Fate Marable.

Fats Waller Day

May 21, 2019

Thomas WrightFatsWaller (May 21, 1904 – December 15, 1943) was an American jazz pianist, organist, composer, violinist, singer, and comedic entertainer. His innovations in the Harlem stride style laid the groundwork for modern jazz piano. His best-known compositions, “Ain’t Misbehavin’” and “Honeysuckle Rose“, were inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1984 and 1999. Waller copyrighted over 400 songs, many of them co-written with his closest collaborator, Andy Razaf. Razaf described his partner as “the soul of melody… a man who made the piano sing… both big in body and in mind… known for his generosity… a bubbling bundle of joy”. It’s possible he composed many more popular songs and sold them to other performers when times were tough.

Waller started playing the piano at the age of six, and became a professional organist aged 15. By the age of 18 he was a recording artist. Waller’s first recordings, “Muscle Shoals Blues” and “Birmingham Blues”, were made in October 1922 for Okeh Records. That year, he also made his first player piano roll, “Got to Cool My Doggies Now”. Waller’s first published composition, “Squeeze Me”, was published in 1924. He became one of the most popular performers of his era, touring internationally and achieving critical and commercial success in the United States and Europe. He died from pneumonia, aged 39. One descendant is professional football player Darren Waller, who is Fats’ great-grandson.

World Music with Alex Caton

May 21, 2019

Daily Roots with Ernest Wilson

May 21, 2019

Upcoming Performances

see all events…