Into the Open with Danish Artist Sarah Elgeti

Posted June 8th, 2012 at 7:44 pm (UTC+0)
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Danish musician Sarah Elgeti

Danish musician Sarah Elgeti

Diaa Bekheet | Washington, DC – Danish saxophonist, flutist, composer and bandleader Sarah Elgeti has made quite a splash in Europe with her new album, Into the Open. Her expressive, impressionistic music conjures up vivid images of beautiful scenery. Into the Open’s 11 original tracks showcase a variety of music styles from big band swing to bop to Avant-garde and modern funk.

Elgeti’s compositions contain a lot of different impressions. “I try to paint pictures for each song,” she explained in an interview with VOA’s Jazz Beat.  “That’s also why there’s such a stylistic variety [on the album].”

Sarah Elgeti, who has led her own quintet since 2007, plays saxophone, flute, and clarinet. She tries to use the instrument she feels fit to paint her picture, she said. I talked with Sarah, a Holbaek Jazz Award winner, in 2008. I asked her to explain her picturesque music on this album.

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Into the Open, was previously released in Denmark and Germany, and is set for release in Britain next month. Sarah says she finds inspiration for her music in the extreme nature of Denmark. She included several photos in a booklet sold with her album, showing her in breathtaking landscape, in the rain, in stormy and cloudy weather, and reflecting her deep passion for nature and city life.

Sarah played the guitar when she was at a boarding school in Denmark, but at the age of 15, she was asked to play tenor saxophone for the school orchestra. “I said yes, I’d like to try that, and immediately I had this feeling that what I always wanted to do.” She then studied music and took classical education on the flute and the clarinet.

Danish musician Sarah Elgeti

Danish musician Sarah Elgeti at home

She adds that the music always makes her feel at home. “It’s a state of peace in mind. It brings me to write music and play music,” she said. “So, home can be a place you call home, but also a state of mind. And music is home for me.”

Tracks: Home; Bossa Among The Trees; Out In The Fields; Downstairs; Ringe I Vand (It’s Raining); But I Wish I Could; Trying To Forget; Blustering Waves; Clouds; Angelique; Night Moves.

Sarah Elgeti continues her European tour to promote her new album. In the meantime, she’s working on a new album that’s set for release next year.

For more on jazz music, listen to VOA’s Jazz America

Danish musician Sarah Elgeti

Diaa Bekheet
Diaa Bekheet has worked for a host of media outlets, including Radio Cairo in English, ETV News, Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa) and the Associated Press. He joined VOA in Feb. 1989 as an International Broadcaster, hosting a variety of popular news and entertainment shows such as Newshour, Radio Ride Across America, Business Week, and Jazz Club USA. He has interviewed a number of Jazz celebrities, including the legendary Dizzy Gillespie, Ramsey Lewis, Wayne Shorter, and George Benson. Diaa is currently an editor for our main English site, VOAnews.com.

A Day and A Half with Berta Rojas and Paquito D'Rivera

Posted June 1st, 2012 at 10:08 pm (UTC+0)
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A new album by Berta Rojas and Patquito D'Rivera
A new album by Berta Rojas and Patquito D’Rivera

Diaa Bekheet | Washington, DC – Guitar virtuoso Berta Rojas blends classical music with jazz and folk music from her native Paraguay. Performing duets with the 11-time Grammy winner Cuban-born saxophone great Paquito D’Rivera, Berta shows both prodigious technique and improvisational skills on South American classics included on a new album called Dia Y Medio or A Day and A Half.

“There are jewels of the Latin American music that are featured on this album,” said Rojas in an interview with VOA’s Jazz Beat. “Some of them are compositions by Agustin Barrios Mangore, one of the most important guitarists in Latin America.” Listen to the interview and a sample of songs from the new album (mp3).

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Some of the songs on Dia Y Medio mirror Berta’s nostalgia and deep passion for Paraguayan music, including “Recuerdos de Ypacarai” or “Memories of Ypacaraí.” Ypacaraí is a town on Lake Ypacarai in Central Paraguay. Her playing of classics such as “Las Abejas” (The Bees) in particular, reveals a deep affection for the music of legendary Barrios, and other Latin American artists like Argentina’s Miguel Mario Clavell, who incorporated Paraguay’s native rhythm of Guarania in his music.

“I have been a great admirer of Berta’s exquisite artistic ability for years,” said D’Rivera in a promotion on his Web site. “When this extraordinary guitarist invited me to join her on this project in honor of fellow countryman Mangoré, with a repertoire from the master himself, and from other renowned Latin American composers, I felt as if I were dreaming. I felt as if the great Charlie Christian had invited me to perform, and record all of Duke Ellington’s songs.”

For Rojas, Dia Y Medio was a great opportunity to showcase the recreations of Paraguayan compositions, many of which are considered “hidden jewels of Latin American music.” The opportunity to partner with D’Rivera “has been a privilege, as it has offered me a chance to pay tribute to the rich music of my homeland,” said Berta who teaches guitar music at George Washington University.

On Dia Y Medio, Rojas and D’Rivera show an eloquent interplay between a guitar and a saxophone. They both captivated the audiences when they toured Latin America in 2011 for concerts and performances.  The joint tour included a day and a half stop in Rojas’ homeland, Paraguay.  D’Rivera felt that the time was not enough to fully appreciate all the beauty of Paraguay, its panoramic views, cultural richness, the warmth of its people, and its music.  Therefore Dia Y Medio was born as a tribute album.

Among the 12-tracks are Folk music from Paraguay re-arranged by Berta Rojas and D’Rivera, who is one of the most beloved Latin artists in the world. Dia Y Medio also features instrumental compositions that offer a unique combination of Folk, Jazz, and the sounds of classical guitar. The style has gained her popularity not only in her native Paraguay, but also in many other countries in the Americas and in Europe.

In the 1990s, Berta became immensely popular in Paraguay. She was chosen to open the 1995 Summit of the First Ladies of the Americas in Paraguay, attended by then-U.S. First Lady, Hillary Rodham Clinton.

“She [Clinton] gave a speech, it was a beautiful speech, and after her speech I had the pleasure to play three pieces for her along with 14 First Ladies,” said Berta who was called “guitarist extraordinaire” by the Washington Post in 1993.

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Berta studied guitar music at Escuela Universitaria de Musica in Uruguay. She holds a Master’s Degree with honors from the Peabody Conservatory, John Hopkins University in the United States, and she’s currently a Guitar Professor at George Washington University.

She’s performed in major cities around the world, including Washington, London, Dublin, Vienna, Bonn, Brussels, Rome, Buenos Aires, Sao Paulo, Santiago, Montevideo, Salzburg, and Budapest. Berta will be traveling to Korea and other countries to perform and promote her latest album.

Some other albums by Berta Rojas include Terruno, Paraguay according to Agustin Barrios, Intimate Barrios, Concierto Latinoamericano, Almay Corazon, and Cielo Abierto.

For more on jazz music, listen to VOA’s Jazz America

Diaa Bekheet
Diaa Bekheet has worked for a host of media outlets, including Radio Cairo in English, ETV News, Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa) and the Associated Press. He joined VOA in Feb. 1989 as an International Broadcaster, hosting a variety of popular news and entertainment shows such as Newshour, Radio Ride Across America, Business Week, and Jazz Club USA. He has interviewed a number of Jazz celebrities, including the legendary Dizzy Gillespie, Ramsey Lewis, Wayne Shorter, and George Benson. Diaa is currently an editor for our main English site, VOAnews.com.

Abdullah Ibrahim, 'King of Jazz' in South Africa

Posted May 26th, 2012 at 1:20 am (UTC+0)
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Diaa Bekheet | Washington, DC – He is a jazz visionary and a piano master inspired by America’s legendary composer and pianist Duke Ellington. So, any other adjective I can add about the music of the gifted South African pianist, flutist, composer and bandleader Abdullah Ibrahim would be redundant. His inspiring music was one of the driving forces behind the anti-Apartheid movement in South Africa.

South African pianist, composer and bandleader Abdullah Ibrahim

South African pianist, composer and bandleader Abdullah Ibrahim (Courtesy A. Ibrahim)

Ibrahim, also known as “Dollar Brand”, was a strong opponent of the apartheid regime. He was arrested several times, but before leaving South Africa for exile, he wrote and recorded his masterpiece: “Mannenberg”. The song became a stirring vamp and the anthem of the anti-apartheid movement following the Soweto uprising in June 1976.

His music inspired then-imprisoned African National Congress (ANC) leader Nelson Mandela. All types of music were banned in jails, but a lawyer for Mandela managed to smuggle some of Ibrahim’s music inside the prison prison and played it in the control room.

“Judy smuggled in Mannenberg,” recalls Ibrahim in an interview with VOA’s Jazz Beat. “When President Mandela heard this song, he said liberation is near.” Listen the interview in full (mp3).

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Ibrahim wrote most of his music in the black township of Cape Town. “We realize what had happened is that we had captured the spirit and the mood of the nation at that time, and it was confirmation and affirmation of our cultural and political inheritance,” said Ibrahim who was with his band in a recording studio in Cape Town at the time of the Soweto uprising. The movement later spread to all the cities and all the townships in South Africa. “And the public and the people picked up the song, and it was played and sung everywhere. And in some regards it has become almost like an unofficial national anthem of South Africa.”

Abdullah Ibrahim’s Albums

  • 1960: Jazz Epistle Verse 1
  • 1964: Duke Ellington presents The Dollar Brand Trio
  • 1965: The Dream
  • 1965: Anatomy of a South African Village
  • 1965: This is Dollar Brand
  • 1969: African Sketchbook
  • 1969: African Piano
  • 1973: Good News from Africa
  • 1973: African Space Program
  • 1974: Ancient Africa
  • 1974: African Breeze
  • 1975: Confluence
  • 1976: Banyana – Children of Africa
  • 1977: The Journey
  • 1977: Streams of Consciousness
  • 1977: Buddy Tate Meets Dollar Brand
  • 1978: Anthem for the New Nations
  • 1978: Autobiography
  • 1978: Soweto
  • 1979: Echoes from Africa
  • 1979: African Marketplace
  • 1979: Africa Tears and Laughter
  • 1980: Dollar Brand at Montreux
  • 1982: African Dawn
  • 1983: Ekaya
  • 1983: Zimbabwe
  • 1985: Water From an Ancient Well
  • 1986: South Africa
  • 1988: Mindif
  • 1989: Blues for a Hip King
  • 1989: African River
  • 1989: The Mountain
  • 1990: No Fear, No Die
  • 1991: Mantra Mode
  • 1993: xnysna Blue
  • 1994: African Sun
  • 1995: Yarona
  • 1997: Cape Town Flowers
  • 1999: African Suite
  • 2000: Cape Town Revisited
  • 2001: Ekapa Lodumo
  • 2002: African Magic
  • 2008: Senzo
  • 2009: Bombella
  • 2010: Sotho Blue (& Ekaya)

Ibrahim was born Adolph Johannes Brand on October 9, 1934 in Kensington, Cape Town, South Africa, under the brutal apartheid regime. His family was very religious. In the mid-1970s he converted to Islam and adopted a Muslim name. Much of his early training came from watching his mother and grandmother play piano and sing in the African Methodist Episcopalian Church’s choir in the black township. When he was six years old, his parents sent him to a local school teacher to learn how to read music notes.  He had an insatiable appetite for knowledge to the extent that he read all the books and magazines in the cultural section of Cape Town’s public library three times.

Ibrahim originally wanted to study medicine, but the white-minority rule denied him access to the medical school. So, he decided to become a musician, but he was denied entry to the Conservatory under the apartheid regime. When the political conditions became too oppressive, Ibrahim decided to join many other South Africans in exile abroad.

In Switzerland, he met American jazz legend Duke Ellington through a young South African jazz singer, Sathima Bea Benjamin, who later married Ibrahim.

“She [Sathima] was a young vocalist and somebody asked me if I could accompany her for a concert in Cape Town, which I agreed you know, pianist don’t like to play for vocalists,” said Ibrahim who He used to listen to Jazz on the Voice of America in the 1950s. He said he studied Ellington’s music, listened to it and played it. “When I arrived at the rehearsal studio there was this very beautiful lady… and I asked her what are you going to sing, she said ‘I got It Bad, I Got It Good” said Ibrahim who has more than 45 albums under his belt. “It was amazing because I was working on the song, the Ellington song myself. So, that created that bond even before we met Ellington.”

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“Wherever we are as musicians, jazz musicians or contemporary musicians there’s no way that you can escape Ellington or the influence of Ellington,” noted Abdullah Ibrahim who is affectionately referred to by many as Africa’s king of jazz.

“So, in South Africa we grew up with Ellington [music]. And for me as pianist and a composer, Ellington was and still is one the primary forces in music. He gave us guidelines and guidance, and for us Ellington was not just an American [musician], he was just a wise old man in the village,” said Ibrahim who also developed a good relationship with other American jazz legends, including saxophonist John Coltrane, drummers Elvin Jones and Art Blakey, and pianist Thelonious Monk.

In the late 1949s, Ibrahim began playing professionally in South Africa. He was a member of The Jazz Epistles, South Africa’s first bebop band. It was inspired by Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers. Later he joined a Cape Town-based big band called the Tuxedo Slickers.  “We used Tuxedo Junction as our signature tune,” said Ibrahim. “It was co-written by Erskine Hawkins… I visited his home in Birmingham, Alabama, to pay my respects.”  The Slickers also played songs by Tommy Dorsey, Glenn Miller, Count Basie, and Joe Liggins.

Ibrahim’s dedication to music encouraged him to establish the “M7” academy for South African musicians in his birthplace, Cape Town. He also initiated and helped launch the 18-piece Cape Town Jazz Orchestra in 2006.  The genius of Ibrahim’s precise rhythmic sense and crisp finger work sometimes resemble that of the famed 19th century pianists in the field of impressionist music, like Gabriel Fauré and Claude Debussy from France, and the Polish Moritz Moszkowski, critics have said.  He has written the soundtracks for several movies, including the award-winning Chocolat and No Fear, No Die.

Ibrahim also appeared in the 2002 documentary Amandla!: A Revolution in Four-Part Harmony, highlighting the empowering role of music in the South African struggle against the brutal segregationist system of apartheid. In the movie, Ibrahim, Nelson Mandela and others described life under the white-minority rule in South Africa. He won the South African Music Award (SAMA) for Best Male Artist.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5wH0R5mU7WQ

For more on jazz music, listen to VOA’s Jazz America

Diaa Bekheet
Diaa Bekheet has worked for a host of media outlets, including Radio Cairo in English, ETV News, Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa) and the Associated Press. He joined VOA in Feb. 1989 as an International Broadcaster, hosting a variety of popular news and entertainment shows such as Newshour, Radio Ride Across America, Business Week, and Jazz Club USA. He has interviewed a number of Jazz celebrities, including the legendary Dizzy Gillespie, Ramsey Lewis, Wayne Shorter, and George Benson. Diaa is currently an editor for our main English site, VOAnews.com.

David Benoit’s Conversation Is Colorful

Posted May 18th, 2012 at 9:34 pm (UTC+0)
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Pianist and composer David Benoit

Pianist and composer David Benoit

Diaa Bekheet | Washington, DC – American pianist, composer extraordinaire and conductor David Benoit is releasing a new album, a kind of musical conversation between two trios, a classical piano trio and a jazz trio. “Colorful” is just one of the words you can use to describe this Conversation.

The album showcases nine tracks recorded inside the legendary Steinway Hall in the heart of Midtown Manhattan, New York. Benoit is the first jazz musician ever to use the famous Hall in its more than 90-year history to record an album.  Steinway Hall is home to the highly-famed custom piano makers, Steinway & Sons.

David Benoit took some time off of his busy schedule in Los Angeles, California, to talk with me on Jazz Beat (mp3) about the ‘historic’ recording’s background, the album, and his music style. During the interview, you will listen exclusively to three songs in full from Benoit’s new album, Conversation. The CD is set for release on May 29 on Heads Up International Records, a division of Concord Music Group.

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Benoit started his outstanding career in jazz in 1977 with the release of his first album, Heavier Than Yesterday. In a matter of two decades, he became one of the United States’ most famous jazz music heavyweights.  With more than 25 best-selling solo albums; plus other piano and orchestral contributions, Benoit has been nominated for five Grammy Awards.

David Benoit has a great passion for world music, too, especially the exotic Brazilian and African beat rhythms. He wrote “Botswana Bossa Nova,”  a Brazilian bossa nova groovy style of music.

“I’ve always loved bossa nova music from day one, and I always like the feeling I get from listening to it,” he explained.

The song can be found on an 11-track album titled Earthglow. The title cut “Earthglow” was inspired by a stunning satellite photo of our planet earth sent to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The photo eventually became the album’s cover.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h5igkv5_PMY

One of Benoit’s most popular works is the remake of the classic soundtrack of the Charlie Brown Christmas show.

“We had a blast doing it, it’s a great tour and it provides great memories for me,” he said in an interview with VOA’s Jazz Beat. “Every city we have a different children choir… we are going to do it again in 2013. This time I’m going to jump on the Dave Koz Christmas tours and take a little break from Charlie Brown but we’ll bring it back.”

The multi-talented performer has led such eminent orchestras as the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the symphonies of London, Nuremberg, San Francisco, Atlanta, San Antonio and San Jose. One of his major projects is being the music director for the Asian American Symphony Orchestra. He wrote the symphony piece “Native Californian” for his young orchestra, whose members’ children are aged from 11 to 18. The orchestra performs Benoit’s acclaimed symphonic piece “Kobe,” and his first piano concerto “The Centaur and the Sphinx” across the United States.

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Benoit has also performed and conducted with the iconic pianist Leonard Bernstein who is considered one of the most talented and successful musicians in American history.

Performing with Bernstein “was a great experience,” said Benoit who has been honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the American Smooth Jazz Awards in Michigan City, Indiana in 2010. “I’m a Bernstein fanatic, he’s one of the great, may be the greatest musicians of the 20th century… what an incredible life experience and a thrill to have been able to have performed with him in Carnegie Hall.”

Some of the other symphonies conducted by David Benoit include Beethoven’s “Ninth Symphony”. It was performed during his debut at Los Angeles’ Disney Hall. He has also written the score for several movies, including “The Stars Fell on Henrietta” produced by Clint Eastwood in 1995, and “The Christmas Tree” produced by Sally Field in 1996. His fame and popularity were behind his three performances at the White House for three U.S. Presidents: Ronald Reagan, George Bush, Sr., and Bill Clinton.

For more on jazz music, listen to VOA’s Jazz America

Diaa Bekheet
Diaa Bekheet has worked for a host of media outlets, including Radio Cairo in English, ETV News, Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa) and the Associated Press. He joined VOA in Feb. 1989 as an International Broadcaster, hosting a variety of popular news and entertainment shows such as Newshour, Radio Ride Across America, Business Week, and Jazz Club USA. He has interviewed a number of Jazz celebrities, including the legendary Dizzy Gillespie, Ramsey Lewis, Wayne Shorter, and George Benson. Diaa is currently an editor for our main English site, VOAnews.com.

Chris Botti's Impressions

Posted May 11th, 2012 at 3:32 pm (UTC+0)
2 comments

Expressing love for romantic melodies from around the world

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Diaa Bekheet | Washington, DC – Grammy award winner Chris Botti is not only a gifted American jazz trumpeter and a talented composer but he’s also a charismatic performer and innovative soundtrack writer. The Oregon native, who was once a member of the progressive jazz-rock fusion group Bruford Levin Upper Extremities, has the ability to surprise the audience with his trumpet virtuosity, improvisational skills, and uniquely expressive sound. Botti’s latest album, Impressions, features him playing with a group of acclaimed artists, including pianist and composer Herbie Hancock, tenor Andrea Bocelli, country singer Vince Gill, rock star Mark Knopfler, composer and pianist David Foster and violinist Caroline Campbell.

Drawing inspiration from jazz roots, Botti shows prodigious technique on the 13-track collection from across the world  that includes Michael Jackson’s hit “You Are Not Alone,” Brazilian songwriter Ivan Lins’ “Setembro,” Joaquin Rodrigo’s “En Aranjuez Con Tu Amor,” and trumpet legend Louis Armstrong’s signature song “What A Wonderful World. ”

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Botti’s Discography

  • First Wish (1995)
  • Midnight Without You (1997)
  • Slowing Down the World (1999)
  • Night Sessions (2001)
  • The Very Best of Chris Botti (2002)
  • December (2002)
  • A Thousand Kisses Deep (2003)
  • When I Fall in Love (2004)
  • To Love Again: The Duets (2005)
  • Live: With Orchestra and Special Guests (2006)
  • Italia (2007)
  • Chris Botti in Boston (2009)
  • This Is Chris Botti (2011)
  • Impressions (2012)

Influenced by trumpet giants Miles Davis and Chet Baker, Botti has long impressed audiences with contemporary jazz and melodies of vintage standards and ballads. I profiled him in 1997 when his star began to rise after releasing Midnight without You.

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Born in Portland, Oregon in 1962, Botti began playing trumpet when he was almost 10 years old. He was partly influenced by his mother, a piano teacher, who noticed his early talent and started to encourage him to pursue music. Botti had an early taste of the international world and learned to love music when he spent two years in Italy, his father’s country of origin. A feeling of a firm connection with his Italian roots later influenced some of his music.

Botti continued to play trumpet through high school, then studied music at the prestigious Indiana University. In the early 1980s, Botti moved to New York, where he took private trumpet lessons, then took flight as a professional musician.  He performed as a sideman for high-profile jazz, pop and rock stars, including Frank Sinatra, Buddy Rich, Bob Dylan, Rod Stewart, Aretha Franklin, Chaka Khan, Joni Mitchell, Jeff Lorber, saxophonist George Coleman, and trumpet great Woody Shaw.

In 1995, Botti blended sounds of contemporary jazz, pop and soft rock, and released his debut, solo album, First Wish, at the end of his five-year tour with guitarist Paul Simon. In 1996, he scored the film Caught. A few years later, he gained more popularity when he performed with pop superstars Sting and Steven Tyler. It was in 2004 when he released best-selling albums, including I Fall In Love (2004), To Love Again: The Duets (2005), and Chris Botti Live with Orchestra & Special Guests (2006).

Botti performed his version of Chopin’s “Prelude No. 20 in C minor” in Warsaw for the 200th anniversary of the composer’s birth. Last year, Botti performed in Moscow amid repeated applause. He described the concert as a “blast.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bJmHMZo-qK4

Botti also performed at the world renowned Hollywood Bowl along with Bobby McFerrin and the Yellowjackets; and played many jazz festivals, including the Blue Note Jazz Festival, Ottawa International Jazz Festival, CareFusion Newport Jazz Festival, Rehobeth Beach Autumn Jazz Festival, St. Lucia Jazz Festival, Festival International de Jazz de Montréal, Daytona Beach International Festival, and others.

For more on jazz music, listen to VOA’s Jazz America

Diaa Bekheet
Diaa Bekheet has worked for a host of media outlets, including Radio Cairo in English, ETV News, Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa) and the Associated Press. He joined VOA in Feb. 1989 as an International Broadcaster, hosting a variety of popular news and entertainment shows such as Newshour, Radio Ride Across America, Business Week, and Jazz Club USA. He has interviewed a number of Jazz celebrities, including the legendary Dizzy Gillespie, Ramsey Lewis, Wayne Shorter, and George Benson. Diaa is currently an editor for our main English site, VOAnews.com.

Betcha By Golly Wow: The Songs of Thom Bell

Posted April 28th, 2012 at 12:39 am (UTC+0)
2 comments

Baldwin’s new album

Diaa Bekheet | Washington, DC – American pianist, composer and producer Bob Baldwin has released a new album to pay tribute to the legendary composer and song writer Thom Bell, one of the creators of the Philadelphia style of soul music in the early 1970s. The album, Betcha By Golly Wow: The Songs of Thom Bell, has a collection of great oldies written by Bell and late lyricist Linda Creed.

If you were born in the 70s, you might not remember this song by actress and singer Connie Stevens. The album’s title cut “Betcha By Golly, Wow” was originally recorded for Thom Bell by Stevens under the title “Keep Growing Strong” in 1970. But in 1972, the song really scored a hit after The Stylistics – a group of five young men from Philadelphia – recorded it.

“I remember hearing Connie Stevens’ tune very well,” says Baldwin who is best known for his brand of soul-and-jazz mix. “But it was The Stylistics’ one that really struck a chord for me, and a lot of the music on those particular records were written by Thom Bell and Linda Creed.”

If you are a fan of such American oldies from the 1970s, you will enjoy this all-killer, no-filler collection. Betcha By Golly Wow: The Songs of Thom Bell showcases songs from that wondrous and great feel-good period by The Delfonics, The Spinners, and The Stylistics.

Baldwin’s Discography

  • 2012 Becha By Golly Wow: The Songs Of Thom Bell
  • 2011 Never Out of Season
  • 2011 Newurbanjazz.com 2 / RE-VIBE
  • 2010 Never Can Say Goodbye
  • 2009 Lookin’ Back
  • 2008 NewUrbanJazz.com
  • 2007 Bob Baldwin – “Memoirs From The Hudson”
  • 2005 All In A Day’s Work
  • 2004 Brazil Chill
  • 2002 Standing Tall
  • 2002 Bob Baldwin Presents the American Spirit
  • 2000 BobBaldwin.com
  • 1997 Cool Breeze
  • 1996 Welcome to The Games
  • 1992 Reflections of Love
  • 1990 Rejoice
  • 1989 I’ve Got A Long Way to Go/The Dream

The album also brings together an all-star cast that includes vocal master Will Downing, vocalist Vivian Green, saxophone icon Gerald Albright, saxophonist Marion Meadows, Paul Taylor, Rippingtons guitarist and founder Russ Freeman, and guitarist Paul Brown.  Thom Bell himself, one of the most influential songwriter/producers of our time, has written a brand new song, “Gonna Be Sweeter”, especially for this 10-track tribute CD.

I talked with Bob Baldwin, the bona fide hero of New Urban Jazz, about the album, that nostalgic period of the 1970s, and his new format of Urban Jazz. You will exclusively enjoy a remake of three masterpieces in full from the album: “Betcha By Golly Wow”, “You Are As Right As Rain”, and “Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time)?”

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Bob Baldwin was born in Mount Vernon, N.Y.  His father, Robert Baldwin, Sr., was also an acclaimed jazz pianist. The father taught his son how to play piano at the age of four. Baldwin grew up listening to jazz piano greats like Duke Ellington and Oscar Peterson, Stevie Wonder, Patrice Rushen, Chick Corea, Joe Sample, Ramsey Lewis, and trumpeter Miles Davis. When he matured, he performed with many well-known musicians and artists, and later focused on urban jazz. The prominent jazz musician, producer, radio host and music presenter is often described as an unsung hero when it comes to the Contemporary and Smooth Jazz genre.

He played many local and international jazz festivals. Last year he performed in the Arab Gulf emirate of Dubai, an experience that has left a mark on him. “I had a great time there. It is one of the amazing countries, the blend of people there!” he said. “Not only from the United Arab Emirates, but you had [people from] India, Northern Africa, and you had [people from] the Arabian countries. What a great blend of people that love that music. I had a wonderful time and I hope to go back.”

Pianist, composer, and bandleadr Bob Baldwin

Bob Baldwin

Bob Baldwin is not just a jazz artist; some people refer to him as an advocate and educator. He performed jazz for charity to help the victims of natural disasters. His last project was a fundraising performance for the victims of the earthquake in Haiti two years ago. With 17 albums under his belt, he has taught music, and has written a book called Better Ask Someone: The Things You Need to Know About The Music Business. The book covers Baldwin’s success story, and advises people on how they, too can be successful in the music business.

Betcha By Golly, Wow” makes me drift back in memory. Not many people knew it was originally written for the adorable Connie Stevens who is best known for her roles in the glorious black and white TV series “Hawaiian Eye.” I still remember this unforgettable theme song and the cool surfing shots in the introduction (watch here). I watched this series when I was a little kid (about eight-years old), and I remember exactly how my brother Nasr who now teaches medicine at Zagazig University in Egypt used shout to alert us each time a new episode was starting.

For more on jazz music, listen to VOA’s Jazz America

The album also brings together an all-star cast that includes vocal master Will Downing, vocalist Vivian Green, saxophone icon Gerald Albright, saxophonist Marion Meadows, Paul Taylor, Rippingtons guitarist and founder Russ Freeman, and guitarist Paul Brown.  Thom Bell himself, one of the most influential songwriter/producers of our time, has written a brand new song, “Gonna Be Sweeter”, especially for this 10-track tribute CD.

 

Diaa Bekheet
Diaa Bekheet has worked for a host of media outlets, including Radio Cairo in English, ETV News, Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa) and the Associated Press. He joined VOA in Feb. 1989 as an International Broadcaster, hosting a variety of popular news and entertainment shows such as Newshour, Radio Ride Across America, Business Week, and Jazz Club USA. He has interviewed a number of Jazz celebrities, including the legendary Dizzy Gillespie, Ramsey Lewis, Wayne Shorter, and George Benson. Diaa is currently an editor for our main English site, VOAnews.com.

Sergio Salvatore, the ‘Marvelous Kid’

Posted April 19th, 2012 at 10:36 pm (UTC+0)
1 comment

Sergio Salvatore

Sergio Salvatore

Diaa Bekheet | Washington, DC – Italian-American pianist and composer Sergio Salvatore has been called the “Marvelous Kid”.  While his kindergarten mates were focusing on learning the alphabet, he was performing in public at the age of four. In 1993, when he turned 11, he took the world of jazz piano by storm, recording and releasing his first self-titled debut album: Sergio Salvatore. The CD featured 10 vibrant songs – seven of them were original tracks composed by young Salvatore himself.  Two years later, Salvatore released his second album, Tune Up, which included compositions by Miles Davis, Wayne Shorter, Charlie Parker, and Chick Corea.  The album led to appearances with the American Jazz Philharmonic and to performances in Japan, Italy, and Canada. It also led to performances at Carnegie Hall and the Ravinia Jazz Festival.

How did 21-year-old Salvatore get to that point?

“I grew up [in New Jersey] listening to jazz music all the time,” explained the young musician.

In a nutshell, his mother is a singer and his father is a musician who once taught at the Berklee College of Music in Boston. When Salvatore was two years old, his dad, Luciano established his own music school, North Jersey Music Labs, to teach piano and improvisation. It wasn’t long before Sergio became his father’s star pupil. In fact, he began composing music at the age of five.

Salvatore’s Albums

  • Dark Sand (2009)
  • Point of Presence (1997)
  • Always A Beginning (1996)
  • Tune Up (1994)
  • Sergio Salvatore (1993)

Born in March 1981, Salvatore was highly influenced by many jazz icons, including pianist and composer Keith Jarrett who started his career with jazz legend Art Blakey. This influence was also reflected in Salvatore’s recordings and rearrangements of compositions by iconic musicians such as Chick Corea, Michael & Randy Brecker, Gary Burton, Jay Anderson, Danny Gottlieb, Mel Torme, Tony Bennett, and Grover Washington, Jr.

In 1996, I featured Salvatore for listeners of my music show in the Middle East. At the time he had become the talk of New York City after releasing his third album, Always A Beginning. The CD was an all-acoustic album selected as one of JazzTimes magazine’s favorite albums of the year. Always A Beginning, Tune Up, and the self-titled Sergio Salvatore albums propelled the teenage pianist to fame as the youngest jazz artist ever to release three albums by the age of 15. Enjoy the music in full following my Arabic narration. You will also hear acclaimed trumpeter Al Hirt in the” Down Memory Lane” segment of the show (Download here).

[audio:http://www.voanews.com/MediaAssets2/english/2012_04/Sergio_Salvatore_Jazz_VOA_oldies.mp3]

Salvatore now works as a software engineer. He has not recorded any new albums since 2008 when he released Dark Sand, a duet project with Greek  virtuoso vibraphonist Christos Rafalides who studied music at the Berklee College of Music and the Manhattan School of Music.

For more on jazz music, listen to VOA’s Jazz America

Diaa Bekheet
Diaa Bekheet has worked for a host of media outlets, including Radio Cairo in English, ETV News, Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa) and the Associated Press. He joined VOA in Feb. 1989 as an International Broadcaster, hosting a variety of popular news and entertainment shows such as Newshour, Radio Ride Across America, Business Week, and Jazz Club USA. He has interviewed a number of Jazz celebrities, including the legendary Dizzy Gillespie, Ramsey Lewis, Wayne Shorter, and George Benson. Diaa is currently an editor for our main English site, VOAnews.com.

Tribute to Guitar Giant Wes Montgomery

Posted April 13th, 2012 at 9:31 pm (UTC+0)
6 comments

Diaa Bekheet | Washington, DC – The Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra will pay tribute to guitar great Wes Montgomery by performing selections of his compositions next week at the National Museum of American History. The event is part of Jazz Appreciation Month, or JAM, celebrated every April in the United States.

Wes Montgomery is one of the greatest and most influential of jazz guitarists in the world. He left indelible marks on instrumental jazz.

My colleague Tom Turco is a die-hard fan of Wes Montgomery. He suggested I include Montgomery’s cover of The Association’s pop hit “Wendy,” as an example of his “vastly superior music.” Turco describes Montgomery’s music and style as nothing short of unbelievable. “His playing was cool, clean and beautiful,” Turco says.

Recently, several long lost tapes of previously unreleased Montgomery music have been discovered and restored. Resonance Records, a non-profit Jazz Label, released this treasure trove March 6, on an album titled Echoes of Indiana Avenue.  That day would have marked Montgomery’s 88th birthday.

Wes Montgomery

Echoes of Indiana Avenue

Echoes of Indiana Avenue, a taste of the early days of Wes Montgomery, showcases him in studio and in live performances recorded in his native Indianapolis in the late 1950s. It’s sold with a booklet of previously unpublished photos as well as essays reflecting on Montgomery, his talented brothers Buddy and Monk and friends.

John Leslie “Wes” Montgomery was born March 6, 1925 in Indianapolis, Indiana. He taught himself the guitar at the age of 19, learning by ear by studying guitarist Charlie Christian. He later became one of America’s all-time favorite jazz guitarists. During his 25-year musical career, the internationally renowned guitar virtuoso recorded at least 35 known albums. He won two Grammys for “Best Instrumental Jazz Performance” in 1966 and 1969.  Montgomery died of a sudden heart attack in his hometown June 15, 1968.

The guitarist was well-known for his innovative soft thumb-picking and octave techniques. Many people wondered why Montgomery didn’t use a pick when playing the guitar. He explained that his practice was limited to nighttime because he worked long hours during the day. So, he had to practice at home while his wife was asleep. He found that using his thumb to strum chords reduced the noise and achieved a softer guitar sound.

I always loved Montgomery’s gorgeous arrangements and sound reproduction of “The Shadow of Your Smile”, one of my all-time favorite love songs from the 1965 movie “The Sandpiper,” The movie starred Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. It’s not easy to re-work such a great song and play it beautifully on the guitar.

Montgomery was known to have developed a corn on his thumb, as he himself later revealed in the liner notes for the album Ultimate Wes Montgomery. It gave his sound what guitar giant George Benson described as a “point.” Montgomery “would get one sound for the soft parts, and then that point by using the corn. That’s why no one will ever match Wes,” Benson wrote in the album notes.

Montgomery had a great impact and influence on generations of guitar players who followed him. Many currently acclaimed jazz guitarists spoke of his influence on them, including George Benson, Jimi Hendrix, Pat Martino, Pat Metheny, Russell Malone, Emily Remler, Kenny Burrell, John Pizzarelli, and others. The legendary saxophonist John Coltrane once asked Montgomery to join his band after performing in a jam session together, but Montgomery preferred to lead his own group. Before his death, he also performed and recorded with many jazz legends and big bands, including Thelonious Monk, leaving an unprecedented legacy as one of the greatest jazz innovators and improvisers.

For more on jazz music, listen to VOA’s Jazz America

Diaa Bekheet
Diaa Bekheet has worked for a host of media outlets, including Radio Cairo in English, ETV News, Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa) and the Associated Press. He joined VOA in Feb. 1989 as an International Broadcaster, hosting a variety of popular news and entertainment shows such as Newshour, Radio Ride Across America, Business Week, and Jazz Club USA. He has interviewed a number of Jazz celebrities, including the legendary Dizzy Gillespie, Ramsey Lewis, Wayne Shorter, and George Benson. Diaa is currently an editor for our main English site, VOAnews.com.

JAM Honors Frank Sinatra, His Activism

Posted April 5th, 2012 at 3:56 pm (UTC+0)
5 comments

Frank Sinatra is the entertainer featured on the 2012 Jazz Appreciation Month (JAM) poster for this April’s global celebration.

Frank Sinatra is the entertainer featured on the 2012 Jazz Appreciation Month (JAM) poster for this April’s global celebration.

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Diaa Bekheet | Washington, DC –  April has been designated Jazz Appreciation Month (JAM) in the United States since 2002. The celebration is meant to recognize that jazz has influenced life in America for so many years. In fact, one way or another, every music genre in America in the 20th century has been influenced by jazz. The music genre has also influenced Hollywood movie makers, artists, poets, novelists and painters. This year’s JAM theme is activism.

Legendary singer Frank Sinatra is featured on JAM’s 2012 poster. The group plans a global celebration of his life and legacy during Jazz Appreciation Month. The iconic singer was chosen for his courageous support for human rights in 1945. That year, Sinatra used a song and a short film to promote respect for others as an ideal of American freedom and civil pride. The song “The House I Live In” became a battle cry pulling America together during World War II. The hit song and a 10-minute Hollywood film, earned Sinatra an Honorary Academy award (Oscar) and a special Golden Globe award in 1946.

In the film, which included the song, Sinatra appealed for religious tolerance, unity and freedom after World War II – a time during which many African-American soldiers were angry that they were returning home to “Jim Crow” conditions, the practice of segregating blacks and treating them as second-class citizens.

The Library of Congress (LOC) selected the film for preservation in the United States National Film Registry in 2007. LOC described it as “significant” culturally, historically and aesthetically.

Sinatra took his bold stand nine years before Rosa Parks, an ordinary African-American seamstress in Alabama, who refused to give up her bus seat to a white passenger during racial segregation years in America. That defiant decision catalyzed the civil rights movement and touched off the Montgomery Bus Boycott and inspired a young Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. to take action.

Throughout April, the Smithsonian‘s National Museum of American History which sponsors the annual JAM events is hosting a series of performances, talks, and tours around Washington. All American jazz stations will join the celebration by broadcasting all or some of concerts and performances, not only to an American audience, but also to a growing global jazz audience on the Internet.

In 1996, I produced a special show about jazz radio stations across the United States, that were trying to use jazz music to cross borders and cultures via the World Wide Web. All stations played a variety of classic, modern, and new age jazz for a growing Internet audience to enjoy. Here’s the show (download here), which includes music by saxophonist Kenny G, and two jazz piano legends who helped enrich jazz music in America: Nat King Cole and Herbie Hancock.

[audio:http://www.voanews.com/MediaAssets2/english/2012_04/Jazz_FM_Radios_www_JazzBeat_1996.mp3]

At the end of JAM’s festivities, Hancock, who is UNESCO’s Goodwill Cultural Ambassador, will launch International Jazz Day. This annual, UNESCO-endorsed initiative will use jazz and intercultural discussions to help foster unity, dialogue and intercultural understanding among the world’s youth.

The National Museum of American History selected April as Jazz Appreciation Month because so many seminal people were born this month, including jazz icons Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Charles Mingus, Tito Puente and Herbie Hancock.

For more on jazz music, listen to VOA’s Jazz America

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_dsjSpyb0pM&feature=player_embedded

 

April has been designated as the Jazz Appreciation Month (JAM) in the United States since 2002. It’s a kind of recognition that jazz has influenced life in America for so many years. In fact, every music genre in America in the 20th century has been influenced by jazz one way or another. Jazz has also influenced Hollywood movie makers, artists, poets, novelists, painters and many others. The theme for this month’s celebrations is activism. 

The legendary singer Frank Sinatra is featured on this year’s JAM poster for global celebration of his life and legacy during the Jazz Appreciation Month. The reason for picking this iconic singer is his role for standing up for human rights in 1945, when he used a film and a song to promote respect for others as an ideal of American freedom and civil pride. The song, “The House I Live In” which became a battle cry, was part of a 10-minute Hollywood short film, which earned Sinatra an Honorary Academy Award and a special Golden Globe award in 1946. In 2007, the Library of Congress (LOC) selected the short film for preservation in the United States National Film Registry. LOC described the film as significant culturally, historically, or aesthetically.

Sinatra took his stand nine years before Rosa Parks, an ordinary African-American seamstress in Alabama who refused to give up her bus seat to a white passenger during racial segregation years in America, catalyzed the civil rights movement by touching off the Montgomery Bus Boycott and inspired a young Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. to action.

Throughout April, the Smithsonian‘s National Museum of American History which sponsors JAM’s annual events is hosting a series of performances, talks, and tours around Washington. All jazz stations will join the celebration by broadcasting all or some of concerts and performances, not only to American audience, but to a growing global jazz audience on the Internet.

I produced a special show in 1996 about jazz radio station across the United States, trying to use their jazz music to cross borders and cultures via the World Wide Web. All stations play a variety of classic, modern, and new age jazz for a growing Internet audience to enjoy. Here’s the show (download here), which includes music by saxophonist Kenny G, and two jazz piano legends who helped enrich jazz music in America: Nat King Cole and Herbie Hancock.

[audio:http://www.voanews.com/MediaAssets2/english/2012_04/Jazz_FM_Radios_www_JazzBeat_1996.mp3]

At the end of JAM’s festivities, Hancock, UNESCO’s Goodwill Cultural Ambassador, will launch International Jazz Day. This annual, UNESCO endorsed initiative, will use jazz and intercultural discussions to help foster unity, dialogue and intercultural understanding among the world’s youth.

The National Museum of American History selected April as Jazz Appreciation Month because so many seminal people were born this month, including jazz icons Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Charles Mingus, Tito Puente and Herbie Hancock.

For more on jazz music, listen to VOA’s Jazz America

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_dsjSpyb0pM&feature=youtu.be

Diaa Bekheet
Diaa Bekheet has worked for a host of media outlets, including Radio Cairo in English, ETV News, Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa) and the Associated Press. He joined VOA in Feb. 1989 as an International Broadcaster, hosting a variety of popular news and entertainment shows such as Newshour, Radio Ride Across America, Business Week, and Jazz Club USA. He has interviewed a number of Jazz celebrities, including the legendary Dizzy Gillespie, Ramsey Lewis, Wayne Shorter, and George Benson. Diaa is currently an editor for our main English site, VOAnews.com.

Jazz in Pop: John Pizzarelli’s Double Exposure

Posted March 30th, 2012 at 3:50 pm (UTC+0)
2 comments

John Pizzarelli's latest album

John Pizzarelli's latest album

Diaa Bekheet | Washington, DC – Jazz legend John Pizzarelli is getting ready to release his new album Double Exposure, a collection of great pop oldies rearranged and recast in a jazz style. Pizzarelli is one of the most versatile guitarists and singers on the jazz scene today. His latest album, which is proving the idea that jazz and pop can exist together, has taken everyone by surprise.

With a collection of 13 pop, rock and folk songs from a different generation, Double Exposure opens with Pizzarelli’s reversioned Beatles‘ upbeat song,” I feel Fine”. The soft spoken Pizzarelli and his band initially road tested songs during a performance last year at the renowned Birdland jazz club in New York City.  Pizzaelli and his band played Lee Morgan’s “Sidewinder” incorporating the Beatles’ “I Feel Fine” inside.  The mix was well-received and drew applause.

Pizzarelli  also rearranged other oldies on Double Exposure, including Neil Young’s “Harvest Moon,” James Taylor’s “Traffic Jam,” the Allman Brothers classic “In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed,”  Joni Mitchell’s “Free Man In Paris,” Tom Waits’ “Drunk On The Moon,” Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller’s “Ruby Baby,” and songs by Billy Joel and Donald Fagen of Steely Dan.

The album ends with a subtle remake of Seals and Crofts’ 1973 soft rock hit “Diamond Girl,” which quotes directly from Miles Davis’ 1950’s iconic “So What.”

“It’s funny – when we first did ‘Diamond Girl’ and a lot of the horn songs we actually got to play live at Birdland about a year ago just to see if this idea was anything,” said Pizzarelli in an interview with VOA’s Jazz Beat. “We actually played ‘So What’ and then sang ‘Diamond Girl’.”  Pizzarelli said people liked the new style very much.

Listen to John Pizzarelli and selected songs from Double Exposure:

[audio:http://www.voanews.com/MediaAssets2/english/2012_03/Pizzarelli_jazzbeat_double_exposure_mar2012.mp3]

John Pizzarelli was born in New Jersey in April 1960. He grew up in a house crowded with guitars, and everybody in his family played an instrument at one time or another. His father is the iconic guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli.

“There were guitars in the house all the time. I once joked that if you wanted to sit down on the couch, you had to move a guitar you know,” said Pizzarelli who is known for his charming stage presence. “And eventually you say I’m moving this guitar very much I’ve got to try and play it. It was just something that we did and I didn’t even realize that I was making a living doing it.”

In his 20s, John Pizzarelli used to go out on jazz, pop and rock gigs, having a good time and getting a check. “It was just something that we enjoyed. I was making a living doing it. So, It’s very interesting how this sort of evolved,” he said.

Guitarist and composer John Pizzarelli

Guitarist and composer John Pizzarelli

Besides his father and sister, Pizzarelli was highly influenced by the legendary vocalist and pianist Nat King Cole, trumpeter Miles Davis, singer Frank Sinatra, pianist Duke Ellington, The Beatles, saxophonist Stan Getz and songwriter-arranger-guitarist-pianist Antonio Carlos Jobim.

With more than 40 albums under his belt, Pizzarelli is a prolific guitarist who has worked in a vast range of studio settings with many famous musicians – most recently in February – with Beatles legend Paul McCartney for an iTunes concert at Capital Records Studios in Hollywood, California.

“I made the record “Kisses on the Bottom” with him and Diana Krall was the piano player… and I got to play with him on the Grammy,” Pizzarelli said. “He [Paul McCartney] is just as humble and as lovely a musician as you could find, and a really talented musician.”

In 1998, Pizzarelli released his studio album, John Pizzarelli Meets the Beatles, as a tribute to the Fab Four (The Beatles). The idea for one of the most talked-about albums was to recast and re-imagine some of the great oldies in a jazz setting. So he placed the songs into a different time as if someone else had performed them first. For instance, he rearranged “Here Comes The Sun” in a Brazilian Bossa Nova style – it was meant as a Jobim/Getz tribute.

Pizzarelli, who is also a radio host and a television personality, has just returned to the United States from a European tour where he performed and promoted Double Exposure. The album is slated for release in May.

For more on jazz music, listen to VOA’s Jazz America

Diaa Bekheet
Diaa Bekheet has worked for a host of media outlets, including Radio Cairo in English, ETV News, Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa) and the Associated Press. He joined VOA in Feb. 1989 as an International Broadcaster, hosting a variety of popular news and entertainment shows such as Newshour, Radio Ride Across America, Business Week, and Jazz Club USA. He has interviewed a number of Jazz celebrities, including the legendary Dizzy Gillespie, Ramsey Lewis, Wayne Shorter, and George Benson. Diaa is currently an editor for our main English site, VOAnews.com.

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VOA’s music bloggers bring you info about all kinds of music. Katherine Cole will keep you up-to-date on the world of Bluegrass and Americana music while Ray McDonald rocks the Pop charts and artists. Diaa Bekheet  jams with you on Jazz.  Visit us often. Your comments are welcome.

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