Music

William P. Gottlieb / Library of Congress

The immortal Ella Fitzgerald, First Lady of Song, was born a century ago — April 25, 1917 — and there has been no shortage of commemorative celebration. We caught the spirit and asked some of our on-air hosts at WBGO to curate this edition of Take Five. Their enthusiasm compelled us to expand the column to six tracks, spanning the golden era of her roughly five-decade recording career.

courtesy of the artist

It's hard to imagine an artist more steeped in the culture of New Orleans than Troy Andrews, better known as Trombone Shorty. Andrews grew up in the Tremé, a neighborhood that's become practically synonymous with brass-band music. At age 4, he marched in the street with his brother's band; by 13, he was playing in the New Birth Brass Band. He's also donated instruments and founded the Trombone Shorty Foundation to help pass along New Orleans' musical culture to a new generation.

Cameron Robert/NPR

Editor's note: This story contains some explicit language.

The connection between Killer Mike and George Clinton might not seem immediately obvious. One is a 42-year-old Atlanta rapper who, alongside El-P in Run the Jewels, sells out shows across the country without the boost of radio play. The other, now 75, founded the pioneering groups Parliament and Funkadelic in the '60s and presided over a funk empire whose onstage manifestations included dozens of musicians and a spaceship that descended from the rafters.

Sylvia Moy was one of the first female producers at Detroit's legendary Motown Records, co-writing hits for artists like Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye and The Isley Brothers. Moy died on Saturday at age 78 in Dearborn, Michigan from complications of pneumonia.

Peter Gannushkin/Courtesy of the artist

When it comes to Colin Stetson's music, joy is found in the improbable and seemingly impossible places. It's often been said that Stetson's signature sound — hallucinogenic rhythmic swells using just a saxophone, a pair of lungs and some well-placed microphones — is almost supernatural. It's made even more incredible by the fact that Stetson prefers single takes, with no looping or overdubbing. As he told Stereogum: "The addition of unnaturals is what I avoid."

Record Store Day, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, is a consumer ploy in the guise of a cultural event. Or, depending on your vantage, maybe it's the other way around. Whatever the case, record stores across the country and around the world are happily (or gamely) bracing for impact: Record Store Day 2017 falls this Saturday, April 22, with a wave of exclusive releases, in-store appearances and other retail enticements.

Robert Ashcroft / Courtesy of the Artist

Growing up in the Ironbound District of Newark, New Jersey, Wayne Shorter savored almost nothing more than the suggestion of a daring escape. “When we got our bicycles, we would go down to the marshes, where Newark Airport is now, and ride the bikes a little bit into the soft earth, and in those tall weeds,” he said. “We’d go as far as we can — like, dare each other: 'How far can you go?'”

Janis Siegel of the Manhattan Transfer is one of the most versatile singers in jazz and song. She can sing (always delightfully) vocalese, standards, gospel, doo-wop, a kaleidoscope of “pop” songs, bossa novas, and then some. Requinte Trio is a new group she’s been working with recently, featuring pianist John DiMartino and guitarist and vocalist Nanny Asiss.

Why do hip-hop producers gravitate toward jazz samples? For a mood, for sonic timbre, for a unique rhythmic component. Swing is a precursor to the boom-bap. "If you're a hip-hop producer that wants a lot of melodic stuff happening," pianist Robert Glasper says, "you're probably going to go to jazz first."

Keith Major

When pianist Gerald Clayton titled his fine new album Tributary Tales, he had a few different connotations in mind. A tributary is a stream that feeds a river or lake; it's also a gift paid in tribute, or a political state that serves a superior power. Clayton was thinking about his relationship to the jazz lineage, and the ways in which various experiences and influences flow into a larger whole.

New York University’s Jazz Studies program is located in the heart of Greenwich Village, hallowed ground for generations of jazz artists and fans alike. To celebrate Jazz Appreciation Month, assistant professor and saxophonist Dave Pietro introduces us to the NYU Wayne Shorter Ensemble, which explores the compositions of NYU alumnus and Newark native Wayne Shorter.

Allan Holdsworth, a spellbinding guitarist who influenced generations of jazz and rock musicians with his innovative sound, has died unexpectedly at age 70.

His daughter Louise Holdsworth announced his death on Sunday, prompting an outpouring of grief as well as high praise for an artist who not only changed the guitar, but also created a musical language entirely his own.

Ernest Gregory / courtesy Chick Corea Productions

This week, Take Five is all about duos: from all-star summit meetings, like the one pictured above, to collaborative new partnerships like the Upstate Project, jointly led by singer-songwriter Rebecca Martin and pianist-composer Guillermo Klein. The unifying thread is deep colloquy bound by mutual respect — along with the sheer quality of the music.

The Royal Academy of Music is Britain's oldest degree-granting music school. Since its establishment in 1822, the conservatory has produced a lengthy roster of versatile and creative luminaries; Sir John Dankworth, Joe Jackson, Sir Elton John and Annie Lennox are RAM alumni.

It has been a long and eventful road since tenor saxophonist Kamasi Washington released The Epic, his aptly named triple album, in 2015. The rare jazz album to become a pop-culture touchstone, it introduced the world to his close-knit Los Angeles crew, the West Coast Get Down, as well as to his burly, beseeching sound.

 

 

When Christian Sands was 12 years old, Dr. Billy Taylor was already telling folks about this young pianist who had a presence in the music like he'd already been here once. Christian McBride felt it too, and made Sands a core member of his Grammy-winning trio.

The key for Sands is in the title of his new album, Reach. And it's in his playing, which grabs your attention with his every intention.

Alto saxophonist Bobby Watson has always had his light  shine through whatever inspiration might strike: what would post-bop feel like wedded to Motown? Why is Johnny Hodges so hip? His musical I Have A Dream project.  After all, he was a Jazz Messenger. One of Blakey's musical scribes. Seems natural that Made In America, Watson's new album, would embrace a broad view of historic African-American achievement.

The School of Jazz at The New School in New York City is known for nurturing young and gifted improvisers. Such is the case with The Blake Opper New School Jazz Quartet, which sports an unusual configuration: two saxophonists, a bassist, and a drummer. The musicians, all in their junior year at The New School, performed four original compositions by saxophonist Blake Opper.

Doug Doyle / WBGO

Jazz drummer Jeff "Tain" Watts is a 2017 Guggenheim Fellow in the field of music composition. Tain has performed with Wynton Marsalis, Branford Marsalis, Betty Carter, Michael Brecker, Alice Coltrane, Ravi Coltrane and many others. 

During this Jazz Appreciation Month, SportsJam with Doug Doyle is dipping into the archives to provide you with an opportunity to find out more about your favorite musicians and their connection to the sports world.

Nathalie Botbol

Layth Sidiq, a musician born in Baghdad and raised in Jordan, has a story to tell. He's a "Son of Tigris," as he tells it, yet he was schooled in the United Kingdom and United States. Through his travels he has soaked up an abundance of sounds, from Egyptian singer Oum Kalthoum to Johannes Sebastian Bach to American jazz, his newfound love. 


Josh Goleman / Courtesy of the artist

For the last 17 years, The Bad Plus has been a model of musical cohesion. Its members — bassist Reid Anderson, pianist Ethan Iverson and drummer David King — have been an indivisible front, welcoming the occasional guest but never a substitute, according to the strictest ideal of a working band. As the saying goes, it has always been larger than the sum of its parts.

 

John Rogers

Take Five this week turns out to be a celebration of working bands — from the Bandwagon, led for more than a dozen years by pianist Jason Moran, to Natural Information Society, which bassist Joshua Abrams established not quite a decade ago. We'll also hear brand-new tracks by the Tomasz Stanko New York Quartet, a new-breed organ trio called Hearing Things, and the agile group led by bassist Linda May Han Oh.

William Paterson University has 24 jazz ensembles. Bill Charlap, the renowned pianist who serves as the school's Director of Jazz Studies, brought one of them to perform in our studio for Jazz Appreciation Month.

Since its inception, hip-hop has been grappling with the timeless question Marvin Gaye posed on his seminal 1971 album: What's Going On?

Frank Sinatra Enterprises

Frank Sinatra was well into his Rat Pack era, the reigning American embodiment of masculine suavity and aplomb, when he teamed up with a maestro of Brazilian music to make one of the most exquisitely tender albums of his career. That album, Francis Albert Sinatra & Antonio Carlos Jobim, has lost none of its luster since it was first released 50 years ago. In fact, a newly remastered anniversary edition extracts additional depth from Claus Ogerman’s orchestrations, which frame Sinatra’s voice like a Rolex on a velvet cushion.

Lynne Harty

Singer and composer Theo Bleckmann shapes his voice into an array of subtle orchestral colors. In this visit to Singers Unlimited, he talks with Michael Bourne about his new album, Elegy, as well as his work for the stage and collaborations with a jazz mentor, Sheila Jordan.


Sexmob
courtesy of the artist

Sexmob first came together, just over 20 years ago, as the Downtown Scene version of a bar band: pugnacious and maniacal, insubordinate but astute. The group — Steven Bernstein on slide trumpet, Briggan Krauss on saxophones, Tony Scherr on bass and Kenny Wollesen on drums — could always be found one night a week at the Knitting Factory's Tap Room, putting pop tunes through the wringer for a boisterous crowd.

Steve Colson
Doug Doyle for WBGO

A collection of stellar artists will gather this Friday night for the spirited premiere of Adegoke Steve Colson's jazz-flavored tribute, commissioned by NJPAC in honor of Newark's 350th anniversary. 

Colson's piece Here Is the Place, Our City is dedicated to two of his closest friends who have passed, beloved historian and Rutgers University-Newark educator Dr. Clement Price and world-renowned poet Amiri Baraka.

The concert at NJPAC's Victoria Theater is set for 8pm on April 7th.

Pages