Music

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. 

Inside the front cover of saxophonist Walt Weiskopf’s new album, there’s a quote from writer Pearl S. Buck: “To find joy in work is to discover the fountain of youth.” For Weiskopf, keeping young has meant exploring a wide vocabulary of styles – from big bands to Frank Sinatra to his long-running gig with Steely Dan. Fountain of Youth  finds him leading a tight quintet with vibist Behn Gillece, pianist Peter Zak, bassist Mike Karn and drummer Steve Fidyk.

With Live At The Bistro, trumpeter Sean Jones realizes a lifelong dream of capturing his musical experience live. The results range from a torch lighter to a post-bop mover, from a down-home blues to a sanctified shouter. Jones has creative assistance from what he calls “a combination of essential forces of spiritual energy and group synergy” — which is to say, pianist Orrin Evans, saxophonist Brian Hogans, bassist Luques Curtis and drummers Obed Calvaire and Mark Whitfield, Jr.

Sri Hari Moss

For those who know harpist and keyboardist Alice Coltrane as a recording artist, notably in a series of albums on the Impulse! label, there's a stretch from the late-1970s to the mid-2000s that might reasonably be described as a hiatus. But this period was joyously full of music — a fact known to her followers but only recently shared with the public in sanctioned form. 

Kevin Eubanks has been a head-turning jazz guitarist since his debut album, Guitarist, almost 35 years ago. His new release, East West Time Line, is the latest in a series of self-assured statements since he walked away from his job as leader of the Tonight Show Band, in 2010. 

Janette Beckman

Drummer Louis Hayes will celebrate his 80th birthday at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola later this month.  It’s also a CD-release party for his solo debut on Blue Note Records, Serenade for Horace.

Hayes was 20 when he recorded his first drum tracks for Blue Note — on 6 Pieces of Silver, by the Horace Silver Quintet. He had been behind the kit with the band for some time when the record hit stores.

Ang Santos / WBGO

The annual Essentially Ellington Competition and Festival brings the best high school jazz ensembles nationwide to New York City, where they compete live from Jazz at Lincoln Center.  They kicked things off this year with a message, New Orleans Style.

Jazz at Lincoln Center kicks off the Essentially Ellington Competition and Festival with a statement on the importance of funding the arts.  They have fifteen of America’s most talented high school jazz ensembles by their side to help.

Georgia Nerheim

It’s the middle of May, on the nose. There’s an old tune that begins with that premise, but we’re not going to revisit it here. Instead, Take Five brings you “Whatever Lola Wants,” as performed by Bria Skonberg — along with tracks by two Cohens and a Barber. We’ll also hear from a saxophonist who has been out on tour with Taylor Swift. And now, as he would have it: Onward!

Shawn Miller/Shawn Miller

Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive" hit the top of Billboard's singles chart in early March 1979, displacing Rod Stewart's disco spoof "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy." After a decade dominated by disco, Gaynor's song (released the previous October on the album Love Tracks) provided a capstone and also served as one of the final mile markers in a cultural phenomenon that was dominant for much of the preceding decade.

John Rogers

Tyshawn Sorey is more than one of the most highly-recruited drummers among the jazz intelligentsia (like pianist Vijay Iyer, with whom he plays through Sunday at the Village Vanguard). On this podcast episode of The Checkout, the multi-instrumentalist, composer and Newark native opens up about his unusual past, his early influences and his most ambitious recording to date, The Inner Spectrum of Variables.


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