Music

Last Thursday, on what would have been Erroll Garner's 94th birthday, WBGO held a Yamaha Salon Concert in midtown Manhattan, with a handful of superb pianists paying their respects. Among them was Christian Sands, who offered a solo medley with crystalline touch and bounding stride rhythm.

Then, following a brief exchange with Michael Bourne, he played a buoyant "Night and Day" with the evening's house rhythm team, bassist Ben Allison and drummer Allan Mednard.

Early in her musical career, in the ‘90s, Diana Krall played a regular gig on Saturday evenings in Boston. When she drove down to New York City on Sunday mornings, she’d plan the trip so she could get close enough to hear the FM signal of WBGO in time to hear Singers Unlimited. She’s been hearing herself playing piano and singing ever since on WBGO.

Nowadays, she can listen to wbgo.org during her travels around the world or in her hometown, Nanaimo, British Columbia. “I listen to you all the time,” she said when she came in for a recent session with a killer band, featuring frequent quartet-mate Anthony Wilson on guitar, along with bassist Robert Hurst, drummer Karriem Riggins and violinist Stuart Duncan.

In the fall of 1974, George Foreman and Muhammad Ali met in the country of Zaire, now called the Democratic Republic of Congo, for the legendary boxing match known as "The Rumble in the Jungle." Although the Rumble had to be postponed until later that autumn, a related promotional event went on as scheduled and turned out to be similarly momentous: Zaire 74, a music festival where some of America's greatest black artists played alongside Africa's leading talent to an audience of tens of thousands.

As jazz becomes more cerebral and gnarly by day, trumpeter and singer Wayne Tucker chases a sound closer to the heart. This instinctive, emotive approach to music has caught the attention of many — including some artists outside the genre, like Taylor Swift and Elvis Costello, with whom Tucker has toured. 

The Wayne Tucker Group recently came into our studio, giving a performance that featured his bright sound, feel-good melodies and a rhythm that, in his words, grooves "Harder Than Robots." 

AZ Jackson
Doug Doyle for WBGO

AZ Jackson, who is training with the Toulouse football club in France, is a rising soccer star. AZ, 15, is the son of jazz drummer and composer Ali Jackson, Jr.

Dad spends plenty of time as the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra drummer, but he has also found time to go to France and support AZ's dream of becoming a pro soccer player.

The Jacksons, father and son, came into WBGO for a special edition of the award-winning podcast SportsJam with Doug Doyle.

The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Jazz Masters award, which comes with a $25,000 prize, is widely described as United States' highest honor for jazz. Today, the NEA announced its four newest recipients of the prize: pianist Joanne Brackeen, guitarist Pat Metheny, singer Dianne Reeves and producer Todd Barkan.

Bart Babinski / ECM Records

What’s on your agenda toward the end of this week? If you live within reach of New York City, Take Five has some fantastic options for you — three competing shows on Friday night, and another one at lunchtime on Thursday. But even if you’re already booked (or situated out of range), you can hear some of the music we’re talking about, right this second.

Selwyn Birchwood's new album, Pick Your Poison, is a soulful collection of genre-bending blues and roots. Birchwood, a guitarist and vocalist, recently dropped by the Blues Break for a live in-studio performance — and sat down with host Michael Bourne to talk more about this new album and his current tour.


Banda Magda
artist

Banda Magda creates a worldly music with unrelenting energy. Led by Magda Giannikou, a singer-songwriter and accordionist from Greece, this ambitious, rhythm-minded band came together at the Berklee College of Music, among an international coalition of players. In this podcast, Banda Magda returns to their alma mater in Boston for a special concert.


Courtesy Greenleaf Music

A few years ago, trumpeter Dave Douglas and saxophonist Chet Doxas released the self-titled debut album by a band they called Riverside. Along with bassist Steve Swallow and drummer Jim Doxas (Chet’s brother), they made the album a smart, springy tribute to the midcentury-modern multireedist and composer Jimmy Giuffre.

Swallow played with Giuffre in the early 1960s, so the project had a personal dimension. But Riverside’s second album, The New National Anthem, lands even closer to home — honoring Carla Bley, the resolutely original composer and pianist who has been Swallow’s life partner for more than 40 years. 

Jean Marc Lubrano

Two brilliant pianists. Two ebullient Cubans. Two intrepid young Englishmen. Two lovable standards, in new colors. The math may not seem to add up in this edition of Take Five, but the music — five winning tracks from as many different acts — most certainly does. (But who's counting, anyway?)

Marie Incontrera is the pianist, composer and leader behind the Eco-Music Big Band, a multigenerational, socially conscious ensemble determined to leave a positive stamp on society. She's a student and protégé of Fred Ho, the baritone saxophonist who founded the Afro-Asian Music Ensemble, and who succumbed to cancer in 2014. 

In this Checkout podcast, Incontrera talks about learning the ways of the Ho — the underground, self-proclaimed revolutionary artist — and why it's important to nurture a new ecology for the avant garde.

Bern Nix, a thoughtfully expressive guitarist in the jazz avant-garde, best known for his close association with composer and saxophonist Ornette Coleman, died on Wednesday at his home in New York City. He was 69.

His death was confirmed by Denardo Coleman — Ornette’s son, and the drummer in his fusionesque band Prime Time, which has recently been preparing for a memorial Ornette Coleman Festival at Lincoln Center in July.

Jure Pukl

The tune was familiar yet unfamiliar, an iconic object seen through a funhouse prism. It was “El Manisero,” the bedrock Cuban standard, refurbished with shadowy postbop harmony and a rolling montuno in 18/8 time. Portillo & Cauce was playing to a packed house at La Zorra y el Cuervo, one of the leading jazz clubs in Havana, and they couldn’t have sounded sleeker or more modern.

The Philly-based collective Killiam Shakespeare is a little hard to categorize, and they're happy about that. Drummer Steve McKie and keyboardist Corey Bernhard say their sound is a seamless blend of jazz, rock, hip-hop and other modern vibrations — styles they picked up while backing genre-blurring artists like Bilal, Talib Kweli, and Questlove, among others. 

Hear them describe their unique sound on another edition of The Checkout series My Music.

John Abbott

With his new release, Zenith, pianist Michael Wolff has captured the diverse spirit of a solo recording done exceptionally well. The album includes an original New Orleans bounce, some Coltrane in ragtime, Sufjan Stevens and more. 

Michael stopped by Morning Jazz to chat about his past associations with Sonny Rollins, Cal Tjader, Cannonball Adderley and Nancy Wilson — and play some inspired piano  on our Steinway grand.

Sonny Rollins
Chuck Stewart/Courtesy of the artist

Sonny Rollins wasn't really thinking about the formation of an archive as he went about his life and career over the last 60 years — as a tenor saxophonist of unsurpassed stature, an artist of active spiritual and social engagement, and an embodiment of jazz's improvisational ideal.

John Abbott

The tracks in Take Five this week cover a range from heartsick to hopeful, from resigned to anything but. One track was recorded almost 80 years ago, but sounds as fresh as anything you’re likely to hear. Another has a political thrust clearly aligned with current events. That’s enough preamble for this week; let’s dive right in.

Known for his work with Weather Report, Joni Mitchell and Pat Metheny, Jaco Pastorius was one of the most inventive bass players in music history. He is the only electric bassist in DownBeat magazine's Jazz Hall of Fame.

Peter Gannushkin

A bundle of discarded wood on a New York City sidewalk, and a piece of advice from a close friend, inspired the artist Cooper-Moore to become an inventor of instruments. In the 1970s, he was an integral part of the loft-jazz scene, along with his old college buddy, saxophonist David S. Ware. As Cooper-Moore explains in this Checkout podcast, he played the piano more than proficiently, but wanted to set himself apart further.


Dorothy Darr

Saxophonist and flutist Charles Lloyd has led some rather spectacular bands over the years — from his heralded late-1960s quartet to the Marvels, his current group with guitarist Bill Frisell. Passin’ Thru, due out on Blue Note on July 14, captures the unique intensity of the Charles Lloyd New Quartet, a decade-long proposition with Jason Moran on piano, Reuben Rogers on bass and Eric Harland on drums. 

system-sounds.com

Dan Tepfer is a pianist and composer whose new album, Eleven Cages, is due out next Friday. He also maintains a keen interest in science — especially astrophysics, the subject of his undergraduate degree. We asked him to elaborate on some recent findings in a faraway solar system, and he came back with this absorbing lesson in the music of planetary orbits.

 

Josh Goleman

Dan Tepfer is a unique combination of things — a jazz pianist, a scientist with a degree in astrophysics, a computer programmer, even an occasional book reviewer for The New York Times. You'd never think a man of his talent and determination would also be prone to being locked up — figuratively, or, as he reveals in this Checkout podcast, literally.


Peter Gannushkin / DOWNTOWNMUSIC.NET

Experimental music fans have a new festival to look forward to this fall: The October Revolution of Jazz & Contemporary Music will take place in Philadelphia from October 5-8. Presented by Ars Nova Workshop in partnership with FringeArts, it will include Anthony Braxton, the eminent multi-reedist and composer; The Art Ensemble of Chicago, a pioneering group in the postwar avant-garde; and Claire Chase, flutist and founder of the International Contemporary Ensemble.  

Pianist and composer Gerald Clayton has been on the road in recent weeks, touring behind his accomplished new album, Tributary Tales. Tonight he begins a weeklong engagement at the Village Vanguard, with a trio. He led a slightly bigger crew when he played WBGO's Yamaha Salon Concert Series, at which this new video — for a moseying, Monkish ballad called "Wakeful" — was filmed.

Bernhard Ley

Mickey Roker, a soulful and deeply propulsive drummer who carried a torch for literate hard-bop in the decades after its commercial peak, died on Monday in Philadelphia, where he was a local jazz institution. He was 84.

His death was confirmed by his daughter, Debra Roker, who cited natural causes but noted that he had lung cancer and diabetes, among other health issues.

The essence of jazz is improvisation, it's often said. But there should also be a special clause for collaboration or communion — the magic that can happen when two or more are gathered to a creative end. Take Five celebrates that ideal this week, with results all over the stylistic map. Start with a fresh take on a tricky bebop head, and keep it moving.

John Rogers

For more than a few musicians based in New York City, the path to Cuba has been facilitated by one extraordinary human, saxophonist and composer Steve Coleman. Trumpeter Jonathan Finlayson, who appears with Coleman's Five Elements at the Village Vanguard through Sunday, is among the artists to partake in such a pilgrimage. 

Leo Sidran, Gary Walker and Ben Sidran together for Morning Jazz
Steve Williams

Ben Sidran observes life through a prism. As a musician and an interviewer, he's always looking to encourage dialogue. This week he stopped by Morning Jazz to play and talk about Picture Him Happy, a swinging new album with provocative lyrics.


Let us introduce you to Bokanté, a modern-day blues band dreamed up by Snarky Puppy’s Michael League. The group’s name means “exchange” in Creole, the native language of Guadeloupe. This French colony in the Caribbean is home to Malika Tirolien, the singer and co-songwriter in the band, who currently resides in Montreal. Hear her on a new Bokanté single, “O La,” which has its premiere here. 

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