Music

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When it comes to the origin of the word “jazz,” it seems that each person simply believes what she or he wants to.

Jacob Blickenstaff

François Moutin & Kavita Shah, "You Go to My Head"

If you keep up with the modern-jazz mainstream in New York, you probably know François Moutin as a bassist who combines quicksilver agility with growling combustion. You may not yet be familiar with Kavita Shah, a singer grounded in the fundamentals but also brimming with fresh ideas.

Iron City is the group of guitarist Charlie Apicella. They play soul jazz (and more) in the spirit of groovemaster and Hammond B-3 organist Jack McDuff. One Night Only ls the group’s newest album, a tribute to McDuff that includes Brother Jack’s “Dink’s Blues” — one of the tunes they played on The Blues Break. Radam Schwartz, a longtime friend of WBGO, played the station’s own Hammond organ, joined by saxophonist George Ghee and drummer Alan Korzin.

Jazz Night in America / NPR

Spend enough time in New Orleans and you come to understand it as a place for every kind of convergence. The culture hums in an endless exchange, with history forever close at hand. Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah understands this to his core: he grew up immersed in ritual Mardi Gras Indian traditions, and distinguished himself as a jazz trumpeter by his early teens. He's now shaping his own artistic reality, creating what he calls "Stretch Music" — a proud hybrid of styles and approaches, with a strong underlay of groove.

Dominic M. Mercier / Opera Philadelphia

“America – I hear you hiss and stare / Do you love the air in me, as I love the air in you?”

With those words, evoking an impassioned patriotism curdled by deep-rooted injustice, Lawrence Brownlee opened the world premiere of Cycles of My Being at the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia on Tuesday night.

courtesy of the artist

Hailey Niswanger is familiar with the concept of emergence: for the last five years straight, she has been touted as a rising star on alto and soprano saxophone in the DownBeat Critics Poll.

Luciano Rossetti / Rossetti-Phocus

Dave Burrell attended his first Vision Festival in its fifth year, when it was held on St. Marks Place in the East Village.

"The atmosphere was charged," he recalls, describing the rugged immediacy of a space that had once housed the Electric Circus, a fabled psychedelic rock club. "Everyone was there, waiting their turn to perform. It was magical."

Qwest TV / Photo illustration by Sarah Geledi

What to make of Quincy Jones's new video music service?

B+

August Greene, “Black Kennedy”

Black excellence is a welcome and pressing topic of conversation at the moment, as Black Panther wraps up a record-breaking box office weekend and its soundtrack, spearheaded by Kendrick Lamar, debuts at Number 1. For Common, another rapper with a strong moral compass, the subject also provides a natural through-line on “Black Kennedy,” the luminous new track from August Greene.

Keith Major

Gerald Clayton's recent recording Tributary Tales isn't an album of tributes, but rather one inspired by rivers. The metaphor also works for this pianist in the natural flow of his life: the way he streams from one musical situation to another, whether it's with saxophonist Charles Lloyd, guitarist John Scofield or his own ensemble.


Kevin Winters / Getty Images

Quincy Jones, who will turn 85 next month, retains his ability to electrify audiences.

Vic Damone, a singer who rose to fame along the tail end of the post-war era embodied by The Rat Pack, died yesterday at Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami Beach, Fla., according to a statement from his family. He was 89.

A first-generation Italian-American, Damone grew up closely studying the work of another similarly situated artist, Frank Sinatra, who would later become a cherished friend. "Without Frank there would not have been a Vic Damone," Damone once said.

Jesse Kitt/Courtesy of the artist

Lizz Wright, “Seems I’m Never Tired Lovin’ You”

Lizz Wright delivered a gift last year in the form of her sixth album, Grace. A statement of extravagant self-assurance, it’s also an American affirmation, and in many ways a balm. 

Yusaku Aoki

Before the influential broadcaster and tastemaker Gilles Peterson was breaking talent on the BBC, he was climbing rooftops as a radio pirate, championing great black music. Now he’s the industry standard in creating diverse playlists that explode musical boundaries.


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When saxophonist Ken Fowser looks over his shoulder, he hears and feels the rhythms of his Philadelphia birthplace: Jimmy Heath, John Coltrane, Benny Golson, Lee Morgan, McCoy Tyner, Philly Joe Jones. It's a collective spark that has pushed him forward over a dozen-plus years in New York and numerous recordings. Fowser, never one to back away from the scalding sessions at Smoke and Smalls, has been dressing up club stages across the country with his soulful sound.

Monica Jane Frisell

Bill Frisell is no stranger to the solitary urge. Even in an ensemble setting, his graceful, inquisitive guitar playing can feel like the projection of an interior monologue. He’s a warm and generous collaborator but also a paragon of self-containment, complete unto himself.

Anna Webber

Christian Sands, “J Street”

Last year, pianist Christian Sands released an album aptly titled Reach. Among other things, it was a demonstration of that very idea, showcasing Sands’ flexibilities of intention and style. Now there’s a new EP on the horizon that seems likely to expand the canvas still farther, judging by this track, an exclusive premiere.

Giulietta Verdon-Roe

There's a lot of buzz in Europe about Yazz Ahmed. The Bahrain-born, British-based artist says she discovered her voice on trumpet and flugelhorn by stumbling on a Rabih Abou-Khalil recording featuring Kenny Wheeler. On this edition of My Music on The Checkout, she tells her fascinating story behind her own Arabic-jazz recording "La Saboteuse."


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Some experiences stick with you. They cry out for reflection, for the transfigurative potential of an artistic response. That was the case for Mike Reed, the intrepid Chicago drummer and bandleader, after his harrowing encounter with white supremacists in 2009.

Steve Williams / WBGO

Suffice it to say that Jools Holland has a full dance card. He's the presenter of a radio show on BBC 2 and the driving force behind Later…with Jools Holland, the celebrated and inventive BBC TV program he created in 1992. 

But more than anything, Holland is a crafty and fun-loving musician who drops everything for the opportunity to sit behind a piano. So he recently put the busy schedule on hold and flew into New York to celebrate his 60th birthday (January 25) and perform in the Big Apple for the first time in more than a decade. 

Scott Friedlander

Listen to drummer and composer John Hollenbeck reflect on 20 years of his Large Ensemble with his new album, All Can Work, on New Amsterdam Records. The band celebrates the album's release tonight at Le Possion Rouge.


Anna Yatsekevich

John Raymond’s Real Feels, “The Times They Are A-Changin’” 

Direct emotional expression isn’t always easy to come by in jazz’s ultramodern wing, but John Raymond has made it a priority in Real Feels, his primary band. A deeply sympathetic trio featuring Raymond on trumpet and flugelhorn, Gilad Hekselman on guitar and Colin Stranahan on drums, it’s the latest evidence of jazz’s fruitful exchange with melodic indie-rock and singer-songwriter fare.

Getty Images

The jazz and blues winners at the 60th Grammy Awards are in, and they mostly went to seasoned heads and strong favorites. But this ​year’s Grammys also reinforced just how flexible jazz and blues artists tend to be, moving across a range of categories and in a variety of styles. 

Kerry Kahoe

Kate McGarry has been singing all of her life. She grew up in a family with 10 kids, and they all sang all the time. She eventually studied jazz at UMass-Amherst. Archie Shepp was one of her mentors, and the roiling heart one hears in Shepp's '60s albums can also be heard in McGarry's singing.

courtesy of the artist / Sunnyside

 

Every time he plays, saxophonist Wayne Escoffery brings a sense memory that includes early days in the church choir in New Haven, Connecticut; the wisdom and watchful eye of the legendary Jackie McLean; time spent with The Mingus Big Band, Ron Carter and Tom Harrell. 


Stella K

It's a bit dizzying keeping up with Michael League of Snarky Puppy and GroundUP Music. He's perpetually on the road, dropping new music videos, signing new artists, and making new connections. But he carved out some time to tell us about a few artists we should be checking out.


Chris Tobin / WBGO

The Baylor Project — a flagship of the vocalist Jean Baylor and the drummer Marcus Baylor, partners in music as in marriage — will be in the running for two Grammy awards this month. Tellingly, the nominations are in different genre categories: Best Jazz Vocal Album and Best Traditional R&B Performance.

Ignatius Mokone

The trumpeter, scholar and freedom fighter Hugh Masekela died this morning in Johannesburg, at 78. The Checkout has periodically checked in over the years with this South African jazz master — though he'd be the first to say that he wasn’t a jazz artist, nor is jazz an American art form.


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