Jazz Institute of Chicago

Words and Music: American songwriters

Words and Music: American songwriters
featured in Chicago radio broadcast
press release by Denise Kowalski, WFMT

CHICAGO—The American popular song as it existed throughout the 20th century has been a mirror for the cultural character, national mood, and unique anxieties of the times. Through economic boom and bust, war, and moral upheaval, the best of our songwriters found a way to reflect the average individual’s concerts and the emotions of daily life.

Saturday, January 8, 2000 at 7 p.m., 98.7 WFMT presented the Chicago broadcast premier of Words and Music, a series of one-hour radio programs celebrating the life stories and music of some of our most beloved composers and lyricists of American popular song. Vocalist Spider Saloff, historian Bill Sheldon, and pianist Bradley Williams combine their broad talents and love of music to create a program that presents these clever, evocative songs in a manner that re-frames their original intent for the modern audience.

Each program within the 13-part series is an hour-long, spirited three-way discussion highlighting a featured composer and/or lyricist. February programs will include Cole Porter, George Gershwin, and Harold Arlen.

Vocalist Spider Saloff was named Best Female Jazz Vocalist of 1993 by the Manhattan Association of Cabarets. Saloff is an in-demand performer in both New York and Chicago nightclubs. Her performance credits include the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C., The Rose Tattoo in Los Angeles, the Full Moon Jazz Festival in St. Thomas, and Dick Hyman’s Jazz in July in New York City. She is currently performer-in-residence at Chicago’s Fairmont Hotel.

Music historian Bill Sheldon is a Chicago broadcaster who has produced, written, and participated in a variety of musical radio shows based on the American heritage of jazz and the great popular song literature. Among his varied credits are a week-long hourly show devoted to the life and times of George Gershwin, and weekly programs featuring outstanding performers in both the popular and classical field which was presented on various Chicagoland radio stations. Sheldon brings to Words and Music a long association with the field of American popular music as both historical researcher and performer.

At the age of 24, Pianist/arranger Bradley Williams recorded and traveled internationally as pianist/arranger with Woody Herman’s Thundering Herd in the mid-80s. He settled in Chicago and for several years, served as musical director and accompanist at the city’s cabaret, the Gold Star Sardine Bar. He has been a featured performer with Tony Bennett, Sheila Jordan, Mark Murphy, Dizzy Gillespie, and Michel Legrand, among others. In 1995, Williams founded his own jazz variety show, "Bradley Williams and His Original 21st Century Review."

Williams performs at the Signature Lounge on the 96th floor of the John Hancock Center in Chicago and has appeared with his groups at the Plaza Tavern Jazz Showcase, Pops for Champagne, Toulouse on the Park, Green Dolphin Street, and the Bop Shop. Songs for Swinging Sophisticates, Volume Two, on the Sideways Entertainment label, is his current release on CD. His band traveled to Jerusalem in March of 1999 to appear at the Jerusalem Jazz Festival.

Show subjects for the first season...
Johnny Mercer
Irving Berlin
Jerome Kern
James Van Heusen
Cole Porter
George Gershwin
Harold Arlen
Hoagy Carmichael
Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart
Frank Loesser
Jule Styne
Howard Dietz and Arthur Schwartz
Dorothy Fields
Duke Ellington (Special broadcast)

Those of you not in the Chicago area can listen to the program live over WFMT's internet broadcast.

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