Willis Conover lives! David Brent Johnson's radio program last night on WFIU-FM was a fabulous tribute to Willis Conover—the world's most recognizable radio announcer who was never heard by most Americans.
For more than 40 years during the cold war, Conover was the jazz DJ for Voice of America. His hour-long broadcasts weren't political soapbox sessions. Instead, his chauvinism was for American jazz—and the music was beamed into Eastern Europe, the USSR and other countries around the world. But not in the U.S., which is why Conover's name wasn't well known here among audiences.
Conover spoke slowly...in a deep, knowing voice...so that millions of people abroad...could understand what he was saying. And his love for jazz was infectious, making the music and America sound tremendously exciting.
To hear David's show on Conover, click here and then click the big blue button.
Instant Groove: I had lunch in New York last week with saxophonist Daryl Lowery. Daryl and I went to high school together, and today he tours with rock legend Al Kooper and teaches at the Berklee College of Music in Boston. Daryl was in town to perform in a concert tied in to the upcoming Bob Dylan biopic, I'm Not There.
Daryl and I hadn't seen each other in quite some time, and it was good catching up. Daryl left with me his most recent CD—Instant Groove—a strong mix of up-tempo funk and soulful ballads. The group features a Hammond B3, which knocks me out.
Daryl always had a strong command of the alto and tenor sax, and his original pieces on this CD feature punchy riffs, Latin-influenced horn work and steady solos. Go here to sample Daryl's CD.
YouTube update: Be sure to wander through the YouTube list in the right-hand column. I spent a little time last night "fishing" at the video site for great clips to add to the JazzWax list, and I landed a few beauts.
For those not in the know, you don't have to do anything more than click on the artist's name in the YouTube list. A screen will instantly emerge and show you the clip. Then just close the screen when the clip is over and you'll be right back at JazzWax.
Here's one of Stan Kenton's orchestra in 1945 performing Eager Beaver. Why a showgirl (Jean Ivory?) is dancing woodenly to the music is beyond me, but the band is on the money.