Music

Jordan Kleinman

John Patitucci is a bassist of lightning reflex and strong footing, equally comfortable laying down firm bedrock or dancing around a melodic idea. That flexibility extends to his career: he’s the longtime anchor of the Wayne Shorter Quartet; a linchpin in its spinoff trio, Children of the Light; and a former wing man to keyboardist Chick Corea and drummer Roy Haynes, among others.

Craig Taborn Quartet
Bart Babinski / for ECM Records

Sometimes a theme emerges by chance, revealing itself in the moment. That’s true of this week’s installment of Take Five, featuring new music by a range of smart and searching pianists. A couple of these tracks are from brand-new albums, and a couple are from albums due later in the year. Each is an illustration of deep focus and alert chemistry, along with first-rate pianism.

Zoran Jelenic

George Burton has been a pianist to watch in Philadelphia, his hometown, for almost 20 years now — since the late 1990s, when I was a close observer of the scene, and he was a jazz performance major at Temple University. Burton has since put in countless sideman hours with artists both local (saxophonists Odean Pope and Bootsie Barnes) and international (singer-songwriter Meshell Ndegeocello), not to mention intergalactic (the Sun Ra Arkestra). But he hadn’t released his own album as a leader until last year. 

If you're in Clarksdale, Miss., home of the Delta blues, everybody says you have to go to Red's juke joint. The hole-in-the-wall club is the real deal. It's just a small room, a few tables and a fridge full of beer. Red lights are strung around a low ceiling. On the night we visit, octogenarian Leo "Bud" Welch plays in the center of the room, hunched over a sparkly, hot pink, electric guitar. Red Paden, the owner, sits out front, surveying from behind the bar.

SiriusXM host Mark Thompson plays John Coltrane's "Alabama" at the end of every broadcast of his radio program, Make It Plain. Coltrane wrote and composed this song in 1963 in response to the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing that claimed the lives of four girls in Birmingham, Alabama.

Horace Parlan, an astute and soulful pianist whose unique style was informed by the partial impairment of his right hand, died on Feb. 23 in Næstved, Denmark.

 

He was 86. His death was confirmed by the jazz historian Frank Büchmann-Møller. 

 

Bill Evans was a genius: The jazz world, which can be roiled by factions and jealousies, usually agrees on that. He was a composer and pianist with a light, lyrical touch that was once described as what you might hear at the gates of heaven. But like many geniuses, Evans died too young — in 1980, at the age of just 51, after years of cocaine and heroin addiction.

A new documentary by filmmaker Bruce Spiegel helps capture that genius with interviews of musicians, family members, and archival footage of Bill Evans himself.

KASPER COLLIN PRODUKTION AB / COURTESY OF THE AFRO-AMERICAN NEWSPAPER ARCHIVES AND RESEARCH CENTER

 

It's been a good year so far for jazz at the movies. La La Land, a modern-day love story in the style of Jazz Age musicals, has a heap of Oscar nominations. Elsewhere, in a much quieter affair, the documentary film I Called Him Morgan — based on the story of jazz trumpeter Lee Morgan — will open theatrically next month.

Kawai Matthews

Bilal makes headlines, whether he's performing a fiery (and most hilarious) tribute to Prince at the BET Awards, or making a cameo on Common's Black America Again tour. But forget all of the stage fireworks and politics for a moment. What makes this singer so great is his range — not just vocally, but also with his uncategorical Soulquarian goodness. He dirties up our definitions of sound, melding jazz, rock, soul, and R&B. This program features our own unique recording of Bilal with Igmar Thomas' Revive Big Band, as well as a recent collaboration with the LA-based producer Adrian Younge, In Another Life (2015).

Preservation Hall Jazz Band
Danny Clinch

Buried somewhere in the fathoms of YouTube is a recent clip of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, apparently filmed with a smartphone in Santiago de Cuba. The band, synonymous with the ebullient spirit of New Orleans, is playing a staple of its book, Professor Longhair's "Go to the Mardi Gras." What's notable about this version of the song, from December of 2015, is the punchy assist provided by some Cuban percussionists, who fall right into step with its second-line groove. 

 

Tigran Hamasyan knows his way around a dreamscape. As a pianist and composer, he draws inspiration from jazz, folkloric and classical sources, in ways that feel both hypermodern and practically ageless. This synthesis is well captured in the video for his composition “The Cave of Rebirth,” which has its premiere here. 

 

"Long Tall" Dexter Gordon is one of the best known and significant musicians on his instrument: he was one of the first tenor saxophonists to adopt the bebop style, and influenced players such as John Coltrane and Sonny Rollins. Gordon's widow and former manager-producer, Maxine Gordon, and saxophonist Abraham Burton join Morning Jazz host Gary Walker to discuss the man and his music.

Marcia Ball is an old friend to WBGO's Performance Studio and Steinway B. When she plays solo, she fills the room with her busy left hand and raspy Southern-twinged voice - you don't miss a band at all. But Marcia's been leading a band for decades now.

She says though she never really mentored in a traditional sense, she always surrounds herself with superior musicians. "I have people in my band who can guide me musically." 

This archival material comes from our Playdate series and was originally published March 24, 2014. Click here for Playdate Show #8, which features, among others, Larry Coryell.

This poignant "Body and Soul" was played by guitarist Larry Coryell with pianist Albert Dailey, bassist George Mraz, and drummer Billy Hart at the Village Vanguard on April 26, 1984.

Larry Coryell, the jazz guitarist known as the "Godfather of Fusion," died Sunday night at a hotel in New York City, according to his publicist. He was 73.

Coryell was still performing more than 50 years after his first recordings. He played at New York jazz club Iridium on Friday and Saturday nights, and had plans for a summer tour with his fusion group The Eleventh House.

Old and new, invention and reinvention: this week, Take Five is a study in contrast and dualities. It's also a heads-up for several albums we're looking forward to this spring, and some gigs that you should have on your calendar. Listen up and dive in.

 

Jacob Collier capped off an already wild year by winning two Grammy awards a few weeks ago for "Flintstones" (Arrangement, Instruments and Vocals) and “You And I” (Arrangement, Instrumental or A Cappella). This was the year where the British multi-instrumentalist says he took his sonic wonderland playground – his “room” in his parent’s home in the UK – and take it on the road.

Clyde Stubblefield, the funk drummer whose work with James Brown made him one of the most sampled musicians in history, died Saturday morning in Madison, Wis., his publicist confirmed. Stubblefield was 73; his publicist did not provide a cause of death.

Mark Whitfield and his family band with Gary Walker at WBGO
Isaiah McClain


Guitarist Mark Whitfield’s skillset is so varied. He’s been on the road with Brother Jack McDuff, Dizzy Gillespie, Carmen McRae and Chris Botti. He’s friends with George Benson.

Mark says he’s most proud of his most recent events – his first recording in 7 years was just released, and the fact that it was made alongside his two sons; pianist Davis and drummer Mark, Jr. Both father and sons are Berklee grads - and so is band bassist, Yasushi Nakamura.

Or would the better title be “FACEMELT”? In any case, the tune is an original from  saxophonist Donny McCaslin's recent album Beyond Now. Take a look at this galvanizing, live-wire video, which has its full premiere here, and you be the judge.

Ted Nash won twice at Sunday's Grammy Awards: for Best Large Ensemble Album and Best Instrumental Composition. His big band album, "Presidential Suite - Eight Variations on Freedom" interprets Presidential speeches across the last century. 

Solitude can be a complicated proposition for Keith Jarrett. He’s the most celebrated improvising solo pianist in the world, and has held that distinction for the last 40 years. But he will be the first to inform you that his concert performances are a social interaction — an experiment in which he responds to the mood and psychic energy of a room, like a sensitive instrument.

Interview originally aired August 17, 2004.

Late multi-Grammy winning singer Al Jarreau joined Michael Bourne for this chat in 2004. Covering topics including his influences from Jon Henricks and Johnny Mathis to his ability to switch genres, Jarreau enjoys the conversation so much that before it ends he's asking Bourne for a copy so he can hear it again.

John Abbott

Love is a many-splendored thing, as the songbook lyric goes, and as Clifford Brown and Max Roach reminded us just over half a century ago. For this Valentine’s-week edition of our Take Five column, we thought it would be fitting to explore the theme of love and romance — and heartbreak — from a few different angles. Here are five tracks selected by some of the on-air hosts of our popular programs at WBGO.

 

Barbara Carroll was definitive. As an elegant pianist. As a sophisticated singer. As a beautiful lady. And like another great Lady, her good friend Billie Holiday, Barbara Carroll was down-to-earth and always swinging.

Guitarist John Scofield, Snarky Puppy, Gregory Porter, and the late David Bowie are some of the big winners.  The 59th Grammy Awards brought a mix of established artists and up-and-comers. Here are some of the winners.

Jazz Night in America / WBGO and NPR

 

"It can be maddening to deal with a political environment where it seems like the truth has no purchase anymore," says Darcy James Argue, the hyper-literate composer who leads the Secret Society, a postmodern big band. Argue has spent a lot of time recently thinking about that maddening environment — not just as a matter of civic engagement during a chaotic election season, but also because it forms the crux of Real Enemies, his most recent work.

 

Al Jarreau, a nimble, charismatic singer who bridged contemporary jazz and smooth soul in a career that yielded both popular success and critical regard, died on Sunday at Los Angeles. He was 76.

 

His death was confirmed by his manager, Joe Gordon. Jarreau had announced his retirement from touring just last week, after being hospitalized in Los Angeles for exhaustion.

 

The music industry can thank Glenn Miller's record label for the idea of gold records. Seventy-five years ago today, his song about a train trip became the world's first solid-gold hit.

"Chattanooga Choo Choo" is about a man going home, and promising his sweetheart he'll never roam. By February 10, 1942, more than 1.2 million copies of the song had been sold — and that was no small thing, the biggest seller in years. The record label, RCA Victor, celebrated by presenting Glenn Miller with a trophy during a live radio broadcast.

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