Music

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. 

Makoto Ozone On Piano Jazz

Oct 27, 2017
Waring Abbott/Getty Images

In 1984, when pianist Makoto Ozone was Marian McPartland's guest for the first time, he had become known as a rising jazz star. In his early 20s, he was already a master technician with many keyboard influences, including Oscar Peterson, but he first heard jazz from his father at home in Kobe, Japan.

Chuck Stewart / Courtesy of the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History

The previous installment of Deep Dive with Lewis Porter concerned the sources that John Coltrane used to create one of his most famous works, “Impressions.” Here is a two-part coda: a final reflection on the bridge of that piece, and another on Coltrane’s composition “Big Nick.”

Elton Anderson / Concord Music Group

Two years ago, when Jamison Ross released his Concord Jazz debut, Jamison, you could have reasonably called it a curveball. To the extent that Ross was known in jazz circles, he was known as a drummer — and not just any drummer. I first got to know him by watching him take top honors at the 2012 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition, prevailing in a heavy field.

Courtesy of the Jazz Foundation of America

Fred Staton, a saxophonist touted as "the world's oldest jazz musician," has died at the age of 102. His death was confirmed by his grandson, Richard Staton.

A member of the Harlem Blues and Jazz Band and the older brother of singer Dakota Staton, he was active as a performer even after his centennial, when WBGO profiled him in our program guide. We've reprinted that story below.

The Blue Note All-Stars released their official debut, Our Point of View, not quite a month ago, and one key takeaway from the album was the enduring shadow cast by Wayne Shorter.

Every musician in the group, from trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire to guitarist Lionel Loueke, is a student of Shorter’s legacy as a composer. The album features a brisk reworking of his “Witch Hunt,” from the 1966 album Speak No Evil, and Shorter even makes a cameo — along with a musical soul mate, Herbie Hancock — on a spooky version of “Masqualero.”

Chuck Stewart / Courtesy of Tompkins Square

If ever a jazz musician combined the far extremes of clarity and obscurity, it was pianist and composer Sonny Clark. Over less than a decade’s worth of recording, his precise, boppish touch and subtle sense of phrase rang out on dozens of albums, mostly on Blue Note Records: his own small-group efforts, like Cool Struttin’ and Dial ‘S’ For Sonny, as well as exceptional outings by the likes of Dexter Gordon, Lee Morgan and Johnny Griffin. Whatever the setting, Clark’s pianism elevates the level of play. He’s intuitive, nimble and soulful. Clarity is his calling card.

Keystone / Getty Images

Dizzy Gillespie, “Long Long Summer”

I listened to hours and hours of Dizzy Gillespie over the weekend — not an unprecedented act, though it carried a little more purpose than usual. That’s because Gillespie, the immortal trumpeter, composer-bandleader and bebop progenitor, had his centenary on Saturday.

Barbara Rigon / Ojai Music Festival

In this century, few artists in or around jazz have been closer to the whirling center of the action than Vijay Iyer. A pianist, composer, bandleader and educator — with accolades to show for each of those — Iyer is also an inspired consolidator, someone who brings divergent strands of theory and practice into dialogue. He does it all the time, but he really brought the idea into focus this past June, over four busy days in Southern California's ruggedly beautiful Ojai Valley.

Gulnara Khamatova

Over the last several days, as the phrase #MeToo took hold as a viral movement, I’ve been thinking about how its message pertains to the world of jazz.

Courtesy of the artist

Take Five: new music by guitarist Pat Martino, pianist Marta Sánchez, trumpeters Dave Douglas and Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah, and drummer Tomas Fujiwara.

Sachyn Mital

This past April, The Checkout and Jazz Night In America attempted to make a little jazz history. We asked the legendary pianist Abdullah Ibrahim to reimagine, rearrange, and reinterpret music from his early 20s. Back then, he was a member of a short-lived but influential group called The Jazz Epistles, whose other members included trumpeter Hugh Masekela and saxophonist Kippie Moeketsi.


David Tallacksen / WBGO

Saxophonist Chico Freeman started his jazz life as a kid on the front porch of his Chicago home, peering in the open window as his father Von, and his guitarist uncle George held jam sessions that started by day and lit up the night.

Chico would go on to tour with McCoy Tyner, Sam Rivers, Dizzy Gillespie and Bobby Hutcherson — and work with blues giants Buddy Guy and Memphis Slim. It’s all there, which is the reason so many listeners readily go where Chico steers the ship; it’s guaranteed to be an engaging musical journey.

Courtesy of the artist

I first met Grady Tate in the fall of 1968 at Rudy Van Gelder’s studio in Englewood Cliffs, N.J.

John Rogers / Courtesy of the artist

This morning, the latest crop of MacArthur Fellows was announced — the so-called "genius" awards. Sometimes, a MacArthur fellowship is given as a capstone to honor a long, glorious career. But one of this year's winners, Tyshawn Sorey, is just 37 years old.

Greg Allen

Thelonious Monk changed the way musicians approach jazz. It's not a legacy to be viewed in a museum, but a living body of work for artists to challenge themselves today, finding new arrangements and expressions, surprising themselves at every Monk call and response.

Frans Schellekens / Redferns

Grady Tate, a crisp, swinging drummer who also enjoyed crossover success as a vocalist in a prolific recording career spanning more than 50 years, died on Sunday night at his home in the Upper East Side neighborhood of Manhattan.

He was 85. His death was confirmed to NPR by Wendy Oxenhorn, executive director of the Jazz Foundation of America, which provides a range of assistance to musicians. No cause was given.

Cristina Gaudalupe

Reid Anderson from The Bad Plus says he didn't always have a knack for writing elegant, catchy tunes. As the bassist reveals on The Checkout, the composer says he discovered his voice by doing the opposite: writing overly complicated melodies.


Steve Mundinger / Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz

Thelonious Monk, the incomparably influential jazz composer and pianist, would have turned 100 today, and across the country, a healthy range of commemorative tributes is already underway. But the flagship event that bears his name has quietly been put on hold: the next Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition, which at one point had been scheduled for this week at the Kennedy Center in Washington, will not happen in 2017.

William P. Gottlieb / Library of Congress via flickr.com

Take Five celebrates Monk at 100 with new tracks by Johnny O'Neal, Wadada Leo Smith, Barry Altschul and The 3Dom Factor, John McNeil & Mike Fahie, and Sam Newsome with Jean-Michel Pilc.

Roger Thomas

Famoudou Don Moye was in his early 20s, an expatriate jazz drummer working in Paris, when he got the invitation to join the Art Ensemble of Chicago. With it came a friendly admonition, from the group's trumpeter and most inveterate trickster, Lester Bowie.

"Lester told me: 'Don't even mess with this if you don't want to be part of history,'" Moye recalls, laughing. "This was early 1970, when I was just coming into the band. Of course I said, 'Hell, yeah!'"

Shahar Azran / Getty Images

It's hard to overstate the importance of both Bebo Valdes and Chico O'Farrill to Afro-Cuban jazz and Cuban music in general.

Valdes, who died in 2013 at age 94, was winning Grammys and Latin Grammys for his music right up near the end of his life. One contemporary Cuban pianist called him "the entire history of Cuban piano."

Justin Bettman

Antonio Sánchez, the virtuoso drummer and composer, can often be found on tour — tending rhythmic fires for guitarist Pat Metheny; leading Migration, his own dynamic post-bop band; or performing his solo drum score at screenings of Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), the 2014 Alejandro G. Iñárritu film. 

Jimmy Katz

The Checkout Live at Berklee kicks off its new season with guitarist Lage Lund. Watch him showcase all new compositions during this intimate performance — working with drummer Johnathan Blake, with whom he has played with for over a decade, and bassist Jared Henderson, a new member of his trio.

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 the echoes of the artist 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. 

Courtesy of Mainstream Records

Mainstream Records, an independent label active in the 1960s and ‘70s, has been revived by a celebrity benefactor.

Adama Jalloh / Brownswood Recordings

Zara McFarlane, “Pride”

Zara McFarlane enjoys a sterling reputation as a soul-jazz vocalist in the UK, where she self-produced her first EP in 2010, and has won an array of prestigious awards since. So far she’s more of a blank in the States, but that could change on the strength of Arise, her searching, audacious and authoritative third album, just out on Brownswood Recordings.

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