Music

A bar fight breaks out during a pivotal scene in Django, the musically crisp yet mournful new wartime drama by Étienne Comar. As the fracas unfolds, the band keeps playing, with a blithe bemusement that seems to say: This happens all the time. But these are far from normal times.

Chris Tobin

The polyglot queen of "New Flamenco" doesn't have to work to captivate a room. Buika's voice, a deep entanglement of late-morning sunlight and curling smoke, takes care of all that — as she effortlessly reminded us during a recent visit with her band, in advance of a Winter Jazzfest concert on Friday at the Town Hall. 


WBGO

Michael Mwenso has led high-profile residencies and amassed an ardent following, becoming a staple of the New York City jazz scene. But he has no recordings to speak of — something The Checkout is here to remedy with “Songs of Empowerment and Uplift,” a suite captured live in concert.


John Rogers / NPR

The Winter Jazzfest, which descends on New York City every year at this time, is more than a show of superabundance. While it's true that the festival's defining trait is a dizzying sprawl and variety of acts — and this year's edition, the 14th, is no exception — there are other reasons for its claim as the most important jazz event of the year.

Courtesy of the artist

Curtis Salgado knows how to sing the blues. He’s lived a helluva lot of blues. “I’ve been cut from stem to stern,” he sings on his 2016 album The Beautiful Lowdown. He’s singing about defying death (and multiple surgeries) — but being cut open does not always fix a broken heart. That’s when singing the blues heals best.  

“I Will Not Surrender,” he sings to open Rough Cut, his new album with guitarist Alan Hager. Been there. Done that. And he’s not done.

BENEDICT SMITH / Courtesy of the artist

When the Hammond B-3 organ guru Dr. Lonnie Smith returned to Blue Note Records in 2016, there was an obvious evolution from those hip Blue Note albums of the late 1960s. With his latest, All In My Mind, Dr. Lonnie comes right at us with what he calls “my brotherhood”: a trio featuring guitarist Jonathan Kreisberg and drummer Johnathan Blake.

Five Songs To Dig Out To

Jan 4, 2018

As the bomb cyclone moves past greater NYC (sorry friends in Boston, you're in for some more white stuff!), we now have to think about getting out of the house. And that means putting that shovel to work and making a path. With that in mind, here are some of our favorite tunes to dig out to.

Shervin Lainez

Mark Guiliana’s trademark isn’t limited to one style, but rather accentuated across a broad spectrum of modern sounds, from Brad Mehldau to David Bowie. His most recent album, Jersey (Motéma), is an acoustic jazz effort that honors his roots in the Garden State. ​He recently brought his drums to our studio in Newark to demonstrate his evolution in rhythm, from one beat to the next.


Peter Adamik

Take Five kicks off 2018 in high style, with music that stretches forward.

Courtesy of Motema

We ring in the new year by remembering “Our Favorite Things – 2017,” a review of notable jazz and blues releases as chosen by WBGO announcers:                             

Kiel Scott

This year supplied no shortage of notable and often inspiring music — sounds that flirt in and outside jazz. Here are a few you should listen to.


FARRAD ALI

 

Wayne Shorter didn't release any new music in 2017. But that's not to say the eminent saxophonist, composer and NEA Jazz Master had anything less than a banner year.

 

Copyright 2018 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

The WBGO Joy of Jazz South African Adventure was one of my highlights of 2017. As soon as we arrived in Johannesburg on Sept. 28, our group of over 50 travelers was treated to a whirlwind tour of the city and the surrounding areas.

Henry Hayes / Courtesy of Berklee College of Music

New Year’s Eve is always an epic night for music in New York City, if you don’t mind spending a little extra (or maybe more than a little) and wading through a crowd.

NPR's Noel King and David Greene look back on a year of great music releases with writers who cover the various genres.

Lee Ann Womack, The Lonely, the Lonesome & the Gone

"Lee Ann Womack is sort of a modern traditionalist; she was a mainstream hitmaker in the late 90's, and she's in a different phase of her career now. With this particular album, she kind of is trying to get to what she feels like is the emotional core of country music: it's melancholy." - Jewly Hight

Ilene Cutler / Courtesy of Verna Gillis

Roswell Rudd, a trombonist whose jubilant blare and yawping wit made him a singular fixture in the jazz avant-garde — as a bandleader, a member of The New York Art Quartet and a frontline partner for titans like saxophonist Albert Ayler — died on Friday morning at his home in Kerhonkson, N.Y.

Cem Kurosman

What defined the conversation around jazz this year? There’s no simple answer to that question, but trying is always a worthwhile struggle ­— especially in the company of my fellow jazz critics, who devote most of their waking hours to the subject.

John Rogers for NPR / johnrogersnyc.com

Every year around this time, the jazz community takes the measure of its highlights and bright moments — along with a tally of its losses.

 

And while it's true that important jazz artists leave us every year, 2017 was tougher than most. We bade farewell to avant-garde pioneers like Muhal Richard Abrams and Sunny Murray, genre-blending synthesists like John Abercrombie and Larry Coryell, and behind-the-scenes giants like Nat Hentoff and George Avakian.

This was an excellent year for jazz on record, across every possible iteration of style. (If you're seeking evidence for the claim, consult the 2017 NPR Music Jazz Critics Poll.) But it's always worth pointing out that albums only tell part of the story, which often assumes different dimensions at street level, where the music pulses in real time.

Courtesy of the artist

A couple of weeks ago, saxophonist Jeff Coffin called up two musician friends. His first question to them was simple: How would you like to make a Christmas album? His next question was a little more pressing: Are you free over the next few days?

Just two and half years ago, Stephen Bruner — the artist otherwise known as Thundercat — said he never thought his voice would ever overshadow his virtuoso six-string bass guitar playing. Then came Drunk, the standout album he released this year, which put his vocals and songwriting at the center of the frame. 


Kevin Mahogany, a big-voiced, broad-shouldered singer who dipped into the wellsprings of jazz, blues, pop and R&B during a career spanning three decades, died on Monday in Kansas City, Missouri. He was 59.

The news was announced by his niece, Lawrencia Mahogany, who confirmed his death to WBGO.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

RAY SUAREZ, HOST:

In three-quarter profile, half-smiling at the camera over his elaborately tattooed shoulder, New Orleans trumpeter Irvin Mayfield, Jr. appeared on the cover of the April 2015 issue of the venerable Louisiana music monthly Offbeat.

Hear five standouts, handpicked by a few of WBGO's announcers. And don't miss our on-air holiday programming blitz, which kicks in on Christmas Eve. Stay tuned for a lot of swinging holiday music, and a few surprises.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

RAY SUAREZ, HOST:

Let's take a moment to remember the Chicago Jazz pianist Willie Pickens, who died last week at age 86.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

Isaiah McClain / WBGO

Stacey Kent is always a delight, and one of the most worldly singers I know. She recently came to Newark to talk with me about her new orchestral album, I Know I Dream, and to sing some of the songs with her group. 

 


Jati Lindsay / Courtesy of the Kennedy Center

What are the holidays without Charlie Brown? Nowadays, the quietly elegant and celebratory recordings by pianist Vince Guaraldi have become as much a part of the holidays as the sound of unwrapping presents. And every year we are treated to at least one interpretation of that classic Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack by one of the pianists on NPR's A Jazz Piano Christmas. This year is no exception.

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