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WBGO Radio: Signal Loud & Clear

Gary Walker

Several hundred jazz lovers from around New Jersey and the metropolitan New York area gathered on a sun-filled afternoon on April 29 to celebrate radio station WBGO’s 25th anniversary of broadcasting on 88.3 FM. In addition to the fried fish sandwiches, soul food and assorted crafts being offered by vendors at this block party outside the station’s Newark, N.J., studios, patrons were treated a full program of music, including a rare solo piano performance by pianist Mulgrew Miller, a rousing set of Basie-flavored arrangements by the dynamic 18-piece Gerald Wilson Orchestra and an astounding display of tap dancing virtuosity by Savion Glover and his ensemble If Trane Wuz Here, featuring saxophonist Mantana Roberts and poet e. gaines doing an inspired rendition of “A Love Supreme.”

At one point in the festivities, before reading proclamations from community leaders and state politicians along with letters and e-mails of congratulations from as far away as Israel and Japan, WBGO’s general manager Cephas Bowles whipped up the crowd with evangelical fervor: “When we started up 25 years ago, who would’ve thought that in Newark we could have a radio station that would become the New York metropolitan area’s primary disseminator of jazz? New York, for those of you who don’t know, is regarded as the jazz center of the world, and the best jazz in the jazz center of the world emanates from downtown Newark, New Jersey. And that’s something that we can all be very, very proud of.”

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