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  1. This week on Night Lights it’s “Dear Martin,” a program of jazz tributes to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. King was a jazz fan, and eloquently expressed his admiration for the music in his opening remarks to the 1964 Berlin Jazz Festival. We’ll hear music from Oliver Nelson’s 1969 album Black, Brown and Beautiful; Nina Simone’s performances of “Sunday in Savannah” and “Mississippi Goddam,” from a concert taped just three days after King’s death in 1968; Blue Mitchell’s “March on Selma”; Duke Ellington’s “King Fit De Battle of Alabam”; Mary Lou Williams’ “Tell Him Not to Talk Too Long”; and two 1970 recordings from Louis Armstrong. “Dear Martin” airs on WFIU Saturday, January 14 at 11:05 p.m. (8:05 California time, 10:05 Chicago time), on the eve of King’s birthday. You can listen live, or you can listen right now, because the program is already archived. Next week: Charles Tolliver on Strata-East in the early 1970s.
  2. As a musician and a man, Thelonious Monk must have provided easy inspiration for the title-namer of his 1956 Riverside album, The Unique Thelonious Monk. His singular sound on the piano, his inability to perform in New York City for several years (due to NYC’s cabaret laws), and his unorthodox compositions that sounded like urban spirituals filtered through stride and bop, nodding at some strange deity of cool, all contributed to a relatively low profile until the late 1950s, when his star suddenly began to ascend into a wider popular culture. Monk’s style was so strong that it’s not surprising that he rarely performed as a sideman–as pianist Ran Blake noted, “There’s never any doubt who’s at the keyboard…it may be a delayed attack on a chord, a cluster that pounces like a tornado, or a jagged snippet that asserts itself under a number of guises.” This program focuses on those few sideman appearances, featuring early performances with Coleman Hawkins and Dizzy Gillespie’s big band (a rare airshot of the pianist’s “Round Midnight”), as well as trumpeter Clark Terry, saxophonist Gigi Gryce, and Monk’s legendary Christmas Eve 1954 encounter with Miles Davis. “Side Monk” airs Saturday, October 6 at 11:05 p.m. EST on WFIU and at 9 p.m. Central Time on WNIN-Evansville; it also airs Sunday evening at 10 EST on Michigan's Blue Lake Public Radio. The program will be posted for online listening Monday morning in the Night Lights archives. In honor of what would have been Thelonious Monk’s 90th birthday (Oct. 10), Duke University is hosting a six-week celebration of Monk’s life and music. Here’s a hatless Monk in 1961 performing his composition “Rhythm-a-ning."
  3. This week on Night Lights we honor Sonny Rollins' upcoming 75th birthday (Sept. 7, 2005) with "Sonnymoon," a program of Rollins' recordings with piano giant Thelonious Monk. Monk forged a musical friendship with Rollins when the tenor saxophonist was still in his teens, a friendship that eventually produced some of the 1950s' most compelling jazz records. We'll hear selections from Monk and Rollins' dates for Prestige, their meeting on Monk's Riverside LP Brilliant Corners, and a final studio encounter, recorded for Blue Note in 1957, in which Monk plays musical piano chairs with Horace Silver on the Monk tune "Misterioso." "Sonnymoon" airs Saturday, September 3 at 11:05 p.m. (9:05 p.m. in California, 12:05 NYC time) on WFIU; it also airs earlier that evening at 10 (8 p.m. California time, 11 p.m. NYC time) as Night Lights makes its debut on Evansville's NPR-member station WNIN. You can listen live on either station, or wait until Monday afternoon, when the program will be posted in the Night Lights archives. Next week: "The Man Before Miles: Freddie Webster."
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