Music

John Rogers / ECM Records

John Abercrombie, an intrepid and deeply lyrical guitarist who made a formative contribution to jazz-rock before refining a judicious, poetic iteration of post-bop, died on Tuesday at Hudson Valley Hospital, in Cortlandt Manor, N.Y. 

John Abercrombie, a trailblazing and deeply lyrical guitarist, died on Tuesday at 72.

Here are two wonderful recent conversations with John at WBGO. Five years ago he sat down with Michael Bourne to talk about his ECM album Within a Song, featuring saxophonist Joe Lovano, bassist Drew Gress and drummer Joey Baron. 

Vijay Iyer Sextet, “Good on the Ground”

Vijay Iyer’s kinetic, convergent musical vision has found expression in almost every conceivable ensemble format, from solo piano to chamber orchestra. But there’s something special, even singular, about the dynamism of his sextet, which releases its debut album, Far From Over, on ECM this Friday. 

At 46, Ben Jaffe is almost exactly the same age as Jazz Fest. Like a lot of New Orleans natives, he has memories of the annual event stretching back to childhood, though his experience is a little more rarefied than most. "That's where I got to sit on Fats Domino's lap and then hear him play," he says. It's where I heard Allen Toussaint play for the first time as a child.

You know it’s coming, you’ve stocked your provisions. But what is your soundtrack for the eclipse? We’ve got a few ideas.

Who exactly was Whitney Houston?

Was she the radiantly beautiful pop princess who earned the love of mainstream America with enduring hits like I Will Always Love You?

Was she the down-to-Earth onetime gospel singer from the 'hood in Newark who couldn't believe when the crowd at the 1989 Soul Train Awards booed her as a sellout to black music?

Saxophonist Eric Alexander wrote the tune "Iron Man"as a salute to Harold Mabern. It's one of 10 tracks on that Memphis-born pianist's new recording, To Love And Be Loved.

The album features Mabern with Alexander, trumpeter Freddie Hendrix, bassist Nat Reeves and percussionist Cyro Baptista. It also reunites the pianist with legendary drummer Jimmy Cobb; these two giants played together briefly in Miles Davis' band in 1963.

MGM

Today marks the 40th anniversary of Elvis Presley’s death, at 42. There are countless ways to commemorate the occasion, and you should go with the one that speaks to you.

Riccardo Scwammenthal / CTS Images

Woody Shaw and Louis Hayes, “What’s New?”

A little over 40 years ago, trumpeter Woody Shaw and drummer Louis Hayes formed a band with the stated intention of demonstrating that jazz, as they knew it, was very much alive. Recordings from the group’s European travels have already yielded a fine album on HighNote, The Tour Volume 1, and now we have a sequel.

Dennis Manuel/Courtesy of the artist

For those who haven't had the good fortune to attend a jazz festival this summer, Jazz Night has a ticket just for you — section A, row 1 for The Robert Glasper Experiment.

Isaiah McClain / WBGO

In jazz, where so much of the artistry rests on virtuosity and tradition, immense talent is sometimes hidden in plain sight. Such is the case of Sullivan Fortner, a New Orleans piano phenom who just recently decided to showcase his rare vocal ability on The Checkout.


Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images

So many of us can point to a moment when we heard something that changed our lives. In January of 1975, I was a high school student who had saved my money to buy a ticket and sit alone in the balcony of Carnegie Hall. Barbara Cook had returned to the stage after virtually disappearing from public view. Seeing her then, after hearing her on countless recordings, I knew I had to be a part of the theater.

The Bill Charlap Trio, a fixture of the New York jazz firmament, began making music together 20 years ago.

Shervin Lainez

Mark Guiliana Jazz Quartet, “inter-are”

Would it be fair to say Mark Guiliana has been typecast? He’s a drummer best known for his advances along the axis of groove, most visibly with the surging Donny McCaslin Quartet, which served as David Bowie’s valedictory band. But Guiliana cut his teeth in the acoustic postbop tradition, and in addition to the project he calls Beat Music, he leads the Mark Guiliana Jazz Quartet — an astute, flowing combo with saxophonist Jason Rigby, pianist Fabian Almazan and bassist Chris Morrissey.

Nobody understands bebop piano better than Barry Harris, who at 87 is one of the great elder statesmen of our music. He graced us with his wit, erudition and piano mastery in a recent visit to Morning Jazz.


NPR

There’s an emblematic photograph of Herbie Hancock on the back cover of his album Sunlight, which he began recording 40 years ago this month. He’s depicted against a red backdrop with a Sennheiser vocoder headset on his cranium, which is bowed in deep focus.

He’s also totally boxed in by his keyboards. The LP insert sleeve includes a diagram to help identify them by name: Oberheim Polyphonic Synthesizer, Sequential Circuits Prophet Synthesizer, ARP 2600, ARP Odyssey, Micro-Moog, Mini-Moog, Poly-Moog. (This is not a complete tally.)

In the 1990s, two seemingly limitless creative minds forged an important relationship. Now, almost three decades later, that bond is reaching its cosmic potential.


Frank Stewart

Thirty years ago — on Aug. 3, 1987 — Jazz at Lincoln Center held its first-ever concert, at Alice Tully Hall. This morning the organization’s in-house label, Blue Engine Records, announced “All Jazz is Modern: 30 Years of Jazz at Lincoln Center,” a series of 30 tracks culled from the archives, to be released in digital formats throughout the 2017-2018 season.

artistworks

Chuck Loeb, a crisply proficient guitarist who progressed from a sideman and session ace to a prominent solo artist and collaborator in the field of smooth jazz, died on Monday. He was 61.

JR Photography

Cécile McLorin Salvant

If you’ve been paying attention to the state of jazz singing, you no longer need an introduction to Cécile McLorin Salvant. She’s not only the most electrifying talent of her generation but also a breakout star, approaching a kind of celebrity. So it’s reassuring to know that her aesthetic compass hasn’t shifted.

NPR

Almost exactly 30 years ago, guitarist John Scofield recorded an album he evocatively titled Loud Jazz. Not quite a decade later, he made one called Quiet.

Both albums were statements of intent, widely embraced and justly acclaimed. And despite the obvious differences between the two, both were genuine expressions of Scofield's musical personality, which has always been more flexible than those extreme dynamic markings would seem to suggest. 

Before he became one of the most sought-after drummers of his generation, Antonio Sanchez was in Mexico City, training to be a top gymnast.  While mastering his floor routine – and destroying his young body in the process – he picked up drum sticks and his focus shifted to music.

Christian Sands is a pianist with a deep connection to jazz’s history, but he doesn’t see that as a static proposition. Quite the contrary.

“Jazz is such a conglomerate of different styles and different sounds, and always has been,” he said while paying a visit to Morning Jazz. “The world is so big and yet so small, because we’re all connected. That’s the way the music sounds today, because we’re all pulling from different places.”

Sandrine Lee

One of the legends of this music, drummer Jack DeJohnette, recently formed a new superband called Hudson, with John Scofield (guitar), John Medeski (keys), and Larry Grenadier (bass). The band's self-titled new album is mostly indebted to the music from the Woodstock rock revolution of the 1960s. But in this Checkout podcast, we get into the deeper cuts, where DeJohnette summons his Native American ancestors with "Great Spirit Peace Chant" and another original composition he calls "Song For World Forgiveness."


Benoit Rousseau

“I think this was a vintage year,” said Andre Menard, one of the founders of Festival International de Jazz de Montréal, and a friend of mine for 25 years.

Vocalist Claudia Acuña discovered the full swing of imagination in music at a young age, growing up in Chile. Early inspiration came from a diverse range of artists: Violeta Parra, Michael Jackson, Mozart. Acuña then found herself drawn to jazz and its limitless freedom of expression. During a recent conversation with Sheila Anderson, the Chilean singer, songwriter and arranger shared her story.

Jazz musicians, almost by definition, seek an active dialogue between the impulsive and the rational. For some, the terms of that negotiation become a central feature of their art.

 

Dan Tepfer is one of those: a pianist and composer who sees improvisation as the ideal expression of freedom within a framework.

Bernard Benant

Tony Allen, “Wolf Eats Wolf”

Tony Allen, the great Nigerian drummer, made his Blue Note Records debut this spring with A Tribute to Art Blakey, a digital EP. Now Allen, the reigning architect of Afrobeat, has announced a full-length album on the label, The Source. It’s due out on Sept. 8, and you can listen now to a hypnotic lead single, “Wolf Eats Wolf.”

Petru Ivu Photography

Did you know there was a vibrant jazz scene in Romania? We certainly didn't — until witnessing it firsthand, on the ground at the Bucharest Jazz Festival. Let us introduce you to A-C Leonte, a jazz-trained singer and violinist now veering into the realm of electronica.


Cristi Mitrea - corporate, PR and event photography

 

Ari Hoenig burns bright in New York's underground jazz scene, regularly getting shine almost every Monday at Smalls Jazz Club. There you can witness firsthand what many hardcore jazz fans revere: his deft use of polyrhythms, metric modulations, and displacements.

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