Music

David Garten

Political expression isn’t a new impulse for pianist and composer Arturo O’Farrill, who leads the Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra. But he’s taking his most direct action yet with “Musicians Against Fascism,” a concert he has organized at Symphony Space. Scheduled for this Thursday, the eve of the presidential inauguration, it’s an act of protest involving more than a dozen notable jazz artists. 

Nat Hentoff during the annual "A Great Night in Harlem" Benefit Concert at The Apollo Theater in New York City.
STEPHEN LOVEKIN / FILMMAGIC VIA GETTY IMAGES

 

The first and most famous book by Nat Hentoff — Hear Me Talkin’ to Ya, co-credited to Nat Shapiro and originally published in 1955 — is an oral history that rings with the authority of scripture. “This is the story of jazz,” it begins, “as told by the musicians whose lives are that story.” 

 

Donny McCaslin
Jimmy King

 

“No plan,” David Bowie muses in the first verse of a haunting new song by that title. “Wherever I may go / Just where, just there / I am.” These existential lyrics are inextricable from their real-world context: “No Plan” was conceived just as Bowie was confronting his own mortality, with a quiet determination to forge the experience into art.

Welcome to the new WBGO.org! Our site is now more flexible than ever, so you can enjoy listening to the music you love and reading our coverage on any device.

We’re excited to introduce a strong new editorial focus, with in-depth features, news, artist interviews and more. There’ll be something new here every day.

Bobby Rush is one of the last living blues legends of his generation. He toured the South and the chitlin' circuit in the '50s and was often forced to perform music behind a curtain for white audiences. Shortly before the Montgomery Bus Boycott, Rush heard through fellow Chicago bluesman J.B.

Danilo Perez is more than a pianist. He’s an educator, urban developer, the proprietor of his own jazz club – Danilo’s Club – in the heart of old Panama City, Casco Viejo. He’s also the Cultural Ambassador of Panama, where he presents his annual Panama Jazz Festival, which just wrapped up for the year.

Victor Provost started his  musical life in the Virgin Islands, steel drumming along with the horn players he heard on his father's Cannonball Adderley, Chick Corea and Joao Gilberto  records. He studied hard, toured with Paquito D'Rivera, came to the U.S. intent on blending his Island Roots with jazz.

His success  is "Bright Eyes", a new recording, alongside pianist Alex Brown, brother Zach on bass, drummer Billy Williams, Jr. There's a most impressive guest list too, including Paquito D'Rivera, vibist Joe Locke, trumpeter Etiennne Charles and saxophonist Ron Blake.

Pianist Art Hirahara has a diverse resume, spending time  with Charlie Haden, Vincent Herring, Stacey Kent, Dave Douglas and Jenny Scheinman, in addition to recordings of his own dating back to 2000. Art has also studied West African drumming , influences that are part of the palette. His sound is clean, techniquely astute but exploring.

This year's Winter Jazzfest, which took place last week in New York City, presented an explicit theme of "Celebrating Social Justice." Conceptually and musically, Winter Jazzfest pushes the genre forward; after taking in as many of the 130-plus acts across many stages in Manhattan and Brooklyn as they could, our team reported back with some of the festival's highlights.


"Stories like forests are subject to seasons."

Tessa Souter at the microphone
Joseph Boggess

The singer joins Sheila Anderson for a Salon Session, taking us from the Wayne Shorter album that first introduced her to jazz to the story of how an attempt to rekindle a romance pushed her to pursue singing.

Brazilian Singer Kenia and "On We Go"

Jan 9, 2017
Kenia and Awilda Rivera
Awilda Rivera

Brazilian singer Kenia joins Awilda Rivera to talk about her latest release, On We Go.

The genre known as Soul Jazz was responsible for bringing legions of fans to jazz, and keeping them satisfied too! Author Bob Porter, in his recently published book, "Soul Jazz" says it's probably the reason many had a radio around in the first place.  One of the powerhouse trio groups was The Three Sounds. Featuring pianist Gene Harris, bassist Andy Simpkins and drummer Bill Dowdy, standards stood up and moved. Originals guaranteed you'd be back for another listen.

The New Year holiday tradition continues with the Toast of the Nation jazz party. Spirited, improvised and swinging, each hour was recorded live at Blue Note venues throughout the country and the world.

Donny McCaslin remembers his former mentor and old boss David Bowie one year after the rockstar's death with his recording Beyond Now (Motema).  The tenor saxophonist joins Mark Guiliana (drums), Nate Wood (bass), and Jason Lindner (keys) in performance of new arrangements of classic Bowie material at the 2016 Charlie Parker Jazz Festival at Tompkins Square Park in Manhattan.

The Donny McCaslin Group performs at the 2017 Winter Jazzfest on January 6th.

Music mix by David Tallacksen.

Sometimes out of inexplicable loss, new beginnings are miraculously born. The will to survive sparks a deeper understanding of one’s own strength and spiritual drive. Alto saxophonist Bruce Williams’ Private Thoughts is a testament to this notion.

The Westerlies

Dec 29, 2016
The Westerlies
Sasha Arutyunova

The Westerlies -- two trumpeters and two trombonists from Seattle -- breeze into our performance studio. This chamber jazz setting features a "blues fugue" and an arrangement from a 17th-century English and Scottish folk ballad discovered by Sam Amidon and Nico Muhly.

The band features Riley Mulherkar & Zubin Hensler (trumpets), and Andy Clausen & Willem De Koch (trombones).

They play Day 1 of The 2017 NYC Winter Jazzfest Marathon on January 6th.

The Checkout and Berklee College of Music present pianist Lawrence Fields, class of 2008. He joins Vicente Archer (bass), Corey Fonville (drums), and John Ellis (saxophone) at Cafe 939's Red Room in Boston.

The large instrumental band Snarky Puppy, which just won its second Grammy Award, is hard to pin down to one place. Its core is now in New York, but its members have toured and recorded all over the world, and their spiritual home is still Dallas, Texas. It's where they'd take in gospel performances in area churches; it's near where they initially met at music school at the University of North Texas in Denton. As bassist and bandleader Michael League explains, you can hear all those collisions in the pocket of their complex and beyond-category grooves.

Originally published November 7, 2016.

Ted Nash of Jazz at Lincoln Center brings his ambitious new album project - musical interpretations of great presidential speeches on freedom - to Morning Jazz with Gary Walker.

Jazz Night in America: Three Miles Ahead

Aug 26, 2016
Don Cheadle stars as Miles Davis in the film Miles Ahead.
Sony Pictures Classics

It's been said that Miles Davis is to jazz is like Hemingway is to the American novel, like Picasso is to art. He was more than just a trumpet player — he was an icon of style and artistry.

Originally published February 4, 2016.

Two of David Bowie's last band members, saxophonist Donny McCaslin and pianist Jason Lindner, visit our studios to celebrate the British rockstar's final album Blackstar, a recording that features some of the finest New York jazz-trained musicians. McCaslin and Lindner give us a unique duo performance.

Music recording by David Tallacksen.

Michael League
Arjan Aelmans

  Originally published May 27, 2015.

Bassist Michael League talks with Alex Ariff about his band Snarky Puppy and their new album Sylva, which features the Metropole Orkest.

All this week, Morning Edition is talking about drums and drummers. For the first installment in "Beat Week," David Greene spoke with a duo who shared drumming duties for the hardest working man in show business.

Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett
Steven Klein

Singers Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga talk with Michael Bourne about their friendship and "Cheek To Cheek," their new duet album of jazz standards by George Gershwin, Cole Porter, Irving Berlin and others. Bourne's interview with Bennett and Gaga is also the cover story of the November issue of Downbeat magazine, which will be available on newsstands Oct. 21, 2014.

This story first published October 6, 2014.

I've lost count of all the times I've enjoyed concerts of Tony Bennett, but he's always best in Montreal: he's often said he appreciates how greatly the festival treats artists. 

And not only the artistry of Tony Bennett the singer - also the artistry of Anthony Benedetto, the painter. Spectra, producers of the Montreal jazzfest, presented last year a gallery showing of Tony's paintings. They also offer in, the festival's artshop, lithographs of Tony's portrait of Louis Armstrong. 

Jimmy Cobb: Live At The Village Vanguard

Jun 20, 2014

The drummer Jimmy Cobb is 84 — which, even if you didn't know his name, would signal that he's been around the jazz scene for a while. But he's been more than around: He was the drummer when Miles Davis recorded his late-'50s and early-'60s masterpieces, and then toured with Sarah Vaughan for nearly a decade. He's freelanced with just about every great of his generation.

This archival material comes from our Playdate series and was originally published March 25, 2014.

This is the final Playdate in our 8-part series, and we've managed to cover a lot of ground!

Want piano? We've got Harold Mabern in New York City and Frank Emilo Flynn in Havana, Cuba in this show. Also from Havana, we've got trumpeter Roy Hargrove playing street rhumba and trombonist Steve Turre on conch shells.

Jimmy Cobb
John Rogers for NPR/johnrogersnyc.com

Record producer Tommy LiPuma talks with WBGO's Michael Bourne about receiving the Bruce Lundvall Award at this year's Festival International du Jazz de Montreal, and his five-decade career, during which he has worked with dozens of vocalists and instrumentalists, including Barbra Streisand, George Benson and Diana Krall.

Originally published June 16, 2011.

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