There must have been a tune playing in the breeze the day that Eric Jackson of WGBH’s “Eric in the Evening” jazz fame was born.
The year was 1950, and Miles Davis was busy recording Birth of the Cool, which went on to become one of the most important jazz records of all time.
Jazz has infused Jackson’s entire life, from absorbing his father’s love of the music to his first concert: George Benson, Count Basie, and John Handy at Carnegie Hall in the 1960s. To celebrate Jazz Appreciation Month, Jackson has been conducting weekly interviews and performances at WGBH Studio at the Boston Public Library, a collaboration spearheaded by Tessil Collins, Managing Director of Jazz 24-7, WGBH’s online jazz music station. Along with the monthly events, Collins worked with the library to pull together and feature jazz resources ranging from physical books, CDs, and DVDs to eBooks, audiobooks, and streaming music and film, available to jazz fans old and new all month long at the library.
"WGBH is committed to expanding our audience's exposure to greater Boston's jazz community and the music," said Collins. "Our studio at the Boston Public Library is a perfect way to reach people and raise their awareness of this classic American art form."
Collins and Jackson were especially delighted to welcome Ron Carter, one of Miles Davis’s early bassists, to the studio to play and chat. Carter is credited with being the most recorded jazz bassist in history, having played at more than 2,200 recording sessions throughout his career with the likes of Lena Horne and BB King.
At 82, Carter could still conjure up his sessions with Miles Davis in vivid detail, likening him to the head chemist in a laboratory. “The songs were equivalent to chemicals,” said Carter. “Our job was to mix the chemicals and make something special happen.”
Jackson often reflects on why jazz seems difficult to get into for some listeners, which was part of the inspiration for the public celebration at the library.
“When someone puts jazz in front of you, it’s like you’ve been reading at one level and then they’ve given you a college-level book to read,” he said. “The vocabulary is so different, you have no reference to read it.”
Jazz is not about the one-time listen, he said. It’s about “nuances and shadings.”
“Jazz asks you to bring all that to the music.”
- Wednesday April 3, 2019 – Boston's Jazz Scene with Richard Vacca, author of The Boston Jazz Chronicles, Elynor Walcott and Frank Poindexter, owners of Wally's Cafe, and music performed by the Yoko Miwa Trio. Watch Now.
- Wednesday April 10, 2019 – Books on Jazz for Children with Children’s Room Librarian, Maija Meadows Hesegawa, and internationally renowned photographer and author of Nicky the Jazz Cat, Carol Friedman. Musical guest, MIXCLA performed. Watch Now.
- Wednesday April 17, 2019 – Finding the Right Notes – Memoir of Legendary Bassist Ron Carter with author and musical guest, Ron Carter. Watch Now.
- Wednesday April 24, 2019 – Discovering Jazz at the BPL/Jazz in Pictures with BPL Reader Services Librarian, Eileen Sherman, Casey Davis Kaufman from the American Archive of Public Broadcasting, photographer Lou Jones, and musical guest Laszlo Gardony.
Want more jazz? Enjoy this special collection from the American Archive of Public Broadcasting (a collaboration between WGBH and the Library of Congress), which is made up of 40 episodes of the original WGBH radio series "Evolution of Jazz," hosted by the legendary Nat Hentoff, a jazz historian, author, music critic, and civil liberties advocate.