Music

courtesy of the artist

Marlene VerPlanck was a “girl singer” with the big bands of Charlie Spivak, Tex Benecke and the Dorsey Brothers, but she became a more familiar voice in everyone’s life when she became one of the most active jingles singers in the business. “MMM, good. MMM, good. That’s why Campbell’s soups…” That was the ubiquitous Marlene, singing about airplanes and selling musically everything else.

He is the self-proclaimed Planetary Prince, a progressive pianist who seeks inspiration from emotion and the galaxy. On this Checkout podcast, he shares his debut as a recording artist.


Isaiah McClain / WBGO

It has been my pleasure to host the Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition every year since its inception in 2012. It’s always a thrill to see young vocalists inspired by The Divine One, and eager to further her legacy.

And the winner of the 2017 Sassy Award — announced on Sunday night at NJPAC as part of the TD James Moody Jazz Festival — is Quiana Lynell, who showed some range in her material, and engaged the audience with her stage presence.

Alex Jonas

Is she a crooner from from the bygone era of Billie Holiday and Edith Piaf? Or is she an artist from the cyborg future? ALA.NI tells us she's neither, firmly living in the present.


Sarah Escarraz

Marquis Hill, “Coming Out Of The Universe”

Melissa Walker and Christian McBride
Isaiah McClain/WBGO

It’s astonishing that bassist Christian McBride is only 45. He’s been playing with everyone for decades. Roy Hargrove and the Jazz Futures early on. Diana Krall. Sonny Rollins. And plenty of other jazz masters, including his mentor Ray Brown.

Silver Stars
Doug Doyle for WBGO

This year marks the 40th anniversary of Newark’s longest-running vocal group known as the Silver Stars. The soul and R & B group's story is one of tribulation, redemption, perseverance, triumph and insatiable quest to make great music.

The Silver Stars will be opening for the Hall of Fame group The Whispers on November 18th at Newark Symphony Hall on Broad Street in Newark at 8:45pm.

Courtesy of the artist

New York Voices veteran Lauren Kinhan returned to her alma mater, the Berklee College of Music, for a special performance captured November 8, 2017. 

Unfathomable. Unimaginable. These are among the words used to describe the recent mass shooting in a rural Texas church, which left more than two dozen parishioners dead, eight of them children. For many of us, the inhuman horror of this act literally defies comprehension. The dimensions of the tragedy are all too familiar for Jimmy Greene.

Nancy Carter / Colson personal collection

The pioneering composer, pianist and educator Muhal Richard Abrams died on Oct. 29, at 87. Among the many artists who considered him a mentor are pianist Adegoke Steve Colson and vocalist Iqua Colson, who are spouses as well as musical partners, and coauthored this tribute. 

The Rudy Calvo Collection Cache Agency

Ella Fitzgerald was a big star on the cusp of something bigger when she began an engagement at Zardi’s Jazzland, in the heart of Hollywood, during the first several weeks of 1956.

Eddie Aidoo

The sixth annual Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Competition takes place this Sunday, Nov. 12, at NJPAC, as part of the TD James Moody Jazz Festival.

Courtesy of Blue Note Records

As record labels experiment with formats and strategies in an online-streaming age, one major player in jazz is investing in what you might call a super-premium product tier. Blue Note Records has announced Blue Note Review, an objet d’art available only by subscription, twice a year, in a limited edition of 1,500 copies.

Courtesy of the artist

Performing a tribute to a great artist is always a tricky business. You don’t want to imitate, but you do want to show how much you’ve been inspired by the artist you’re celebrating. You're thanking the artist for all their echoes in your own voice. And that’s what so lovingly resounds in the voice of Lauren Kinhan on A Sleepin’ Bee, her tribute to Nancy Wilson.

On the most recent Singers Unlimited, Lauren talked with me that album and sang in the studio with pianist Andy Ezrin. She’ll perform with Ezrin, bassist Jay Anderson and drummer Matt Wilson on Wednesday evening at her alma mater, the Berklee College of Music, and the music will stream live on The Checkout with Simon Rentner at wbgo.org.

Isaiah McClain / WBGO

A pair of great pianists, Helen Sung and Isaiah Thompson, recently stopped by Morning Jazz to play and chat about what moves them to move us.

Sung was in the first class of the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Performance, studying with Ron Carter, Jimmy Heath and Clark Terry — with all of whom she would one day play professionally. She has just returned from China, performing Monk’s music to packed houses in Beijing and Shanghai. After Monday’s performance with the Mingus Big Band at Jazz Standard, she and the band will travel with Mingus’ music to Tokyo for a week.

Thomas J. Krebs

Ron Miles, “I Am A Man”

There is always some big sky in the music of cornetist Ron Miles. That’s true as ever on his stunning new album, I Am A Man, due out on the Yellowbird label this Friday. You’ll also encounter a firm resolve, and a calm undercurrent of protest, in this album, which Miles named with the civil rights slogan in mind. He was thinking in part about “Condition Report,” a related piece by the contemporary artist Glenn Ligon, whose annotative scrawl is reprinted as a poem in the CD booklet.

Music may be one of the first modes of human expression. As Matthew Stevens also notes, about his latest album, Preverbal: “the need to express ourselves has existed far earlier than our need to make sense of it.”

C. Taylor Crothers / Concord Jazz

Chick Corea, the endlessly inquisitive keyboardist and composer, has made a point of collaborating far and wide throughout his career. But there’s a special category of music that rests on his bond with Steve Gadd, a drummer known both for the alert intelligence of his ear and the heavy pull of his groove.

Francis Wolff / Blue Note Records

One of the greatest jazz albums ever made was recorded 60 years ago today. It's A Night at the Village Vanguard, a live date by saxophonist Sonny Rollins, featuring a muscular backdrop of bass and drums. It's not a carefully plotted concept album, nor a manifesto, but a document with the slangy nonchalance of a conversation overheard on the street, extemporaneous and unburdened. It's a slice of musical vérité that captures a true master of the form on a good day, in a generous and jocular mood.

Frank Stewart / Jazz at Lincoln Center

Louis Hayes spent his youth creating the pulse of hard-bop, as a top-shelf drummer with artists like Cannonball Adderley and Horace Silver. He turned 80 this year, marking the occasion with his own Blue Note Records debut as a leader, Serenade for Horace.

Isaiah McClain / WBGO

Pianist and vocalist Eliane Elias is known around the world for combining her love of jazz with the music of her native Brazil. She recently visited our studio with her husband, bassist Marc Johnson, to talk about her engagement this weekend at Jazz at Lincoln Center, and reminisce about her journey in music.


jazz.org

Nuevo Jazz Latino created its first program of original composition’s in 2014 for Jazz at Lincoln Center.  Now a part of their 30th anniversary concert series, JALC bassist Carlos Henriquez says they’ve enlisted a group of musicians that push the envelope in Latin jazz.

“We have Pedrito Martinez, Yosvany Terry, Dafnis Prieto Elio Villafranca, and Mike Rodriguez join us.  We pick these guys because we feel that these cats understand jazz and the Afro-Cuban aspects of it, and how they are mixed together.”

akamu / akamu.net

The pianist, composer, and teacher Muhal Richard Abrams, a visionary artist with no patience for compromise or excuses, leaves the jazz community in mourning.


Jack Vartoogian / Getty Images

Muhal Richard Abrams, a pianist and composer of staunch independence and sweeping influence, inseparable from his role as a founding father of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians [AACM], died on Sunday at his home in New York City. He was 87.

Miguel Zenón was 12 when he first experienced the devastation of a major hurricane in his homeland, Puerto Rico. That was Hugo, which hit as a Category 3 in 1989, and drove nearly 30,000 residents from their homes.

Rhonda Hamilton with Makoto Ozone
Isaiah McClain/WBGO

Makoto Ozone’s wizardry on the piano has made him a star not only in his native Japan but around the world. 

He taught himself to play the organ when he was just a toddler and then as a preteen, switched to the piano after hearing Oscar Peterson in concert. Ozone has spent his life mastering jazz and classical music, and he’ll demonstrate his proficiency in both with a performance Tuesday night at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola, followed by concerts Thursday through Saturday at Lincoln Center’s David Geffen Hall with the New York Philharmonic.

First Edition Arts / Flickr

The sixth TD James Moody Jazz Festival runs Nov. 4 through 12 at NJPAC, with more than a dozen concerts across a range of styles.

William Thoren Photography

This freaky son of Newark, N.J. didn't always used to funk it up. Back when he was working in a barbershop, he was influenced by a lot of jazz, and aspiring to be a famous doo-wop singer. 

"Our customers were James Moody; I delivered milk to Sarah Vaughan," he says. "Wayne Shorter lived on Huntington Street. I lived on Bergen street, one block apart. Larry Young Jr., I remember when he sang doo-wop."

ERIKA GOLDRING / GETTY IMAGES FOR PILGRIMAGE MUSIC & CULTURAL FESTIVAL

 

The blues have traveled far and wide over the last century — exerting a vast cultural influence worldwide, yielding myriad offshoots, and generating fortunes for some of the biggest musical acts of our time. But it's also still the product of local conditions, and bound by hardscrabble local concerns.

Shervin Lainez

Hilary Gardner is becoming best known as a member of the trio Duchess, but she's been singing around the New York scene ever since she came from Alaska in 2003.  Her first album, The Great City, celebrated New York, now her beloved hometown. 

Her new album, The Late Set, is all intimate duets with pianist Ehud Asherie. 

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