Nick Morrison

Production Manager/ Jazz & Blues Host

Nick began working at KPLU as a program host in the late 1980’s and, with the exception of a relatively brief hiatus, has been with the station ever since. Along with his work as a Midday Jazz host, Nick worked for several years as KPLU’s Music Director. He is now the station’s Production Manager and also serves as a fill-in host on KPLU’s jazz and blues programs.

Among his many memorable KPLU moments, Nick vividly recalls his pleasure and amazement when jazz guitarist, Larry Coryell, visited the studios during his program and performed a solo, acoustic guitar version of George Gershwin’s ‘Rhapsody In Blue.’ It still stands as one of the most wonderful live music performances he’s ever seen.

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Gene Herrick / AP Photo

Since it’s Black History Month, we’re going to take a look at some of the music from the Civil Rights Movement from the mid-‘50s to the early 1970s.

Gospel singer Mahalia Jackson’s “We Shall Overcome” was the unofficial anthem of the Civil Rights Movement.

Charles Sykes / Invision/AP Photo

The Yardbirds released their first hit record, “For Your Love,” 50 years ago. It was 1965, the year British rock invaded American pop music culture. 

John Davisson / Invision/AP Photo

Here are our picks for the best blues albums of the year. / Wikimedia Commons

Charley Patton’s music set the template for all the Delta blues players who would come after him. Take a listen to “High Water Everywhere,” which Patton recorded in 1929.

But Patton’s records weren’t made in the South; they were recorded in Grafton, Wisconsin by Paramount Records, a subsidiary of the Wisconsin Chair Company. Now it seems pretty unlikely, not to mention bizarre, that this seminal blues artist from Mississippi would be recorded in a freezing shack attached to a Wisconsin furniture company, but that’s what happened.

Owen Sweeney / Invision/AP Photo

Today we’re going to talk about a genre of blues that’s so rare it barely has a name. And if you look up that name in Wikipedia, nothing comes up. We’re talking about “trance blues.”

We define trance blues as blues that has a strong electronic component, like samples, loops and drum machines. And woven into that is some element of traditional blues.

AP Photo

For many of us, Jimmy Cliff’s 1973 song “The Harder They Come” was the first reggae piece we’d heard.

Allan Green / AP Photo

Take a listen to “Sex Machine” from 1970 by the architect of Funk, James Brown.

Brown is the focus of our discussion as we follow this music from its roots in R & B to full-blown, shake-your-booty Funk.

Rene Perez / AP Photo

You probably know “Birdland” by the group Weather Report well enough to sing along with the melody.

What you may not know is the melody is being played on an electric bass by Jaco Pastorius, the subject of today’s discussion.  

Bob Daugherty / AP Photo

Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker’s song “Ko-Ko” is perhaps one of the most important American recordings of all time. It’s widely considered to be the first be-bop song ever to be recorded. And even though it’s a 1945 recording, this is still the template for modern jazz.

AP Photo

When Jimi Hendrix released the song “Foxy Lady” as part of the “Are You Experienced” album in 1967, it was like this whole package of psychedelia had dropped from the sky.

Wikimedia Commons

The song “Juke” by Little Walter Jacobs might not sound revolutionary to modern ears, but when it first came out in 1951, nobody had ever had heard harmonica played like this — ever. It really has an aggressive, in-your-face sound.

Stevesworldofphotos / Flickr

What was the first recorded rock and roll song?

Before we can answer that question, we have to go back and figure out the ingredients of rock and roll. We can identify three most important ingredients: gospel, jump and blues. 

William Gottlieb / The Library of Congress

The advent of bebop added a fresh sound to American music. It also added new voices to some metropolitan radio stations: the late-night jazz DJs who specialized in presenting this new music to their fellow hipster nightflies. To recognize the work of the groundbreaking DJs who lent them critical exposure, jazz musicians of the period would occasionally write songs in their honor. Here are five of those songs.

Verve Records

Over the past few years, Take 5’s theme-based music lists have covered a wide variety of subjects. We’ve covered all the seasons of the year, all the holidays, different types of weather, the careers of jazz legends, the cutting-edge work of up-and-coming jazz artists and have gotten into the musical minutiae of things like flowers, birds, baseball, prohibition and civil rights.  And now it’s time for Take 5 to go meta and present a five-song list of songs about….LISTS.  It had to happen sooner or later.

In the Western Hemisphere, January is typically the coldest month of the year.  Most of us feel that if we can somehow drag ourselves through January, things will begin to turn around and we’ll be on the road to springtime. 

But January is also typically the month that feels as if it will never end.  So as we slog through the cold rain and snow, awaiting January’s demise, here are five winter blues songs to help get us through:

Michael Loccisano / Getty Images

Dick Hyman was born March 8, 1927, in New York City. Classically trained, Hyman was drawn to jazz at an early age. Today, he's a living, breathing, swinging encyclopedia of jazz piano history, from ragtime and stride to bebop and beyond.

To hear my conversation with KPLU's Morning Edition host Kirsten Kendrick, click on the listen button above.

Blues singer and harmonica player, Kim Wilson, thinks it’s very healthy for people to drop their emotional guard every now and then and let themselves get smacked around by a great blues performance. 

William Gottlieb / Library of Congress via Flickr

KPLU's Nick Morrison is glad the word "robust" is coming back into common parlance. He says that's the perfect word to describe the Texas Tenor saxophone sound. He's compiled a list of five titans of Texas Tenor.

William Gottlieb/Library of Congress via Flickr

When jazz fans talk about the Texas Tenor saxophone sound, they're talking about a sound which is very robust, sometimes raw, and which mixes the musical vocabularies of swing, bebop, blues and R&B

It's that honking, bar-walking saxophone sound that used to blast from jukeboxes coast-to-coast. Here are five examples of that sound from saxophonists who hail (and wail) from Texas.

Justin Steyer / KPLU

In this studio session, we welcomed Donald Harrison (alto saxophone, congas) and Glen David Andrews (trombone), both of whom were born in New Orleans’ Treme neighborhood, cut their musical teeth on the music of Treme, and can be seen in the HBO television series, Treme

Currently they’re also part of an ever-changing line-up of New Orleans musicians touring with a show called A Night In Treme which is bringing the music of Treme’s Congo Square to cities all over America - including Seattle's Jazz Alley through Sunday night.

Justin Steyer / KPLU

Relive last week’s studio session with vocalist/pianist, Karrin Allyson, who was joined by guitarist Rod Fleeman.

Associated Press

When blues guitarist and vocalist Stevie Ray Vaughan released Texas Flood in 1983, he introduced Texas blues to a much broader audience than it had previously known. His impact was great enough that even today, 21 years after his death, if you ask a music lover to name a Texas blues guitarist, he or she will probably reply, "Stevie Ray Vaughan."

But, like many great musicians, Vaughan was not sui generis. He synthesized his unique style by combining a huge number of influences from Albert King and Johnny "Guitar" Watson to Lonnie Mack and Kenny Burrell. That being the case, here's a list of five Texas bluesmen (out of many) who, in addition to creating their own great legacies, paved the way for Vaughan to create a great legacy of his own.

Katie Weilbacher / Flickr

With the non-summer we've been having and the fact that a lot of people can't afford to get away, allow us to give you a vacation for your mind.

Think beaches. Sunshine. Frozen drinks. Your soundtrack? Five great musicians who hail from the Caribbean.

Justin Steyer / KPLU

I’ve known Jazz Alley manager, Rob Perry, for almost 30 years.  At the end of July, Rob will retire from that job and I will join the many, many Jazz Alley habitués who will miss him.  In fact, though I sort of envy Rob for getting to retire while he’s still good-lookin’, we’re all gonna miss his presence at the club a lot.

Bo Nash / Flickr

Memphis, Tenn., is known as the birthplace of rock 'n roll. But KPLU's Nick Morrison says it should also be known for the blues.

Nick gives five examples of how Memphis and its neighbor, West Memphis, Ark., rank right up there with the Mississippi Delta and Chicago when it comes to launching the careers of influential blues artists.

When Julian Lage was 8 years old, his skill as a guitarist was the subject of a documentary film, Jules at Eight. Before he entered his teens, he had already performed with Carlos Santana and jazz vibraphonist, Gary Burton.

He made his first jazz recording with Burton at age 15, and at age 22 he released his first CD as a band leader. Now, at the ripe old age of 24, he's just released his second CD, called Gladwell.

To celebrate and promote the new recording, Julian is traveling the country with his quintet, and stopped by the KPLU studios last week to treat us to three delightful pieces of music.

Pianist, vocalist, producer and songwriting legend (and Rock n Roll Hall Of Fame inductee), Allen Toussaint stopped by the KPLU studios on June 1 and took us on a sweet and uplifting trip to New Orleans with his music.

Mr. Toussaint has crossed many paths in his illustrious career in music. He has produced, written for, and performed with music giants such as Dr. John, Paul McCartney, Paul Simon, Elvis Costello, Boz Scaggs and Irma Thomas to name a few.

We were pleased to welcome jazz violin virtuoso, Regina Carter to the KPLU studios on June 1 for a unique performance and interview with Evening Jazz host, Abe Beeson.

Accompanying Carter were Will Holshouser on accordion, and Yacouba Sissoko on the kora, a beautiful and unique African harp. The trio performed two selections from Carter’s latest CD, Reverse Thread: Kanou and N’teri (video below) which explore African music in very fresh, surprising and delightful ways.