Music

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.


Coco Montoya's latest album, Hard Truth, covers a variety of emotions. From songs about gambling and drinking to warnings about how "The Devil Don't Sleep," it contains the kind of direct storytelling the blues is famous for.

Listen to Montoya with host Michael Bourne on the Blues Break, where he talks about this new album, upcoming performances, and the inspirations behind his music.

Moses Boyd Exodus ended its performance at the 2017 South by Southwest music festival with a rampaging take on its trademark tune, "Rye Lane Shuffle." Drummer Moses Boyd, the band's young founder and namesake, rumbled freely on his toms, joined by a fervent-sounding Binker Golding on tenor saxophone. The groove that emerged was Nigerian Afrobeat by way of a modern jazz metropolis — one with every resource at hand.

Pierrick Guidou

Earlier this year, trumpeter and composer Ambrose Akinmusire held a weeklong engagement at the Village Vanguard with his excellent working quartet, featuring pianist Sam Harris, bassist Harish Raghavan and drummer Justin Brown. They recorded portions of the gig for what will be a double album.

That album — A Rift in Decorum: Live at the Village Vanguard, due out on Blue Note on June 9 — consists of 14 original compositions across a wide dynamic and expressive range. It opens with a pensive anthem called “Maurice and Michael (sorry I didn’t say hello),” which has a melody full of gulping intervals, over a rhythmic thrum that suggests the insistent tick of a clock, or a swaying metronome.

With his first recording 30 years ago, we learned about "Net Man" — bassist Charnett Moffett. On Music From Our Soul, he revisits some of the feelings of those three decades, enlisting master saxophonist and flutist Pharoah Sanders, inventive guitarist Stanley Jordan, soulful pianist Cyrus Chestnut and drummers Jeff "Tain" Watts, Mike Clark and Victor Lewis.

On Zenith, Michael Wolff approaches the solo piano encounter with masterly mischief, attitude and gratitude for those who came before, including John Coltrane, Charlie Parker and Jerome Kern. He also looks to present-day artists like Sufjan Stevens, makes a homegrown nod to New Orleans, and toasts his wife, noted actress and director Polly Draper.

"The death of the MP3 was announced in a conference room in Erlangen, Germany, in the spring of 1995."

Hope Boykin
alvinailey.org

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater will be completing a coast-to-coast tour at NJPAC for performances on Mother’s Day weekend.

It is especially significant that the Company will be performing 3 works (on Friday evening and Sunday matinee) that celebrates the marriage of modern dance and jazz.

A company premiere and a new production that pay homage to two jazz legends on their birth centennials; Artistic Director Robert Battle’s Ella to the scatting of Ella Fitzgerald and Billy Wilson’s The Winter in Lisbon tribute to Dizzy Gillespie.

Mary McCartney

Our latest installment of Take Five draws from several big new releases, including what will likely be a blockbuster, Diana Krall's Turn Up the Quiet. But you should also take note of the other offerings, including a brisk new samba by guitarist Romero Lubambo and a teaser for this week's Village Vanguard debut by the Vijay Iyer Trio.

Tim Fielding

Chaka Khan is one of the most recognizable names and voices in music history. The Queen of Funk is opening up about her unprecedented career her connection to jazz, her dedication to philanthropy, and her upcoming Mother's Day benefit show.   

Khan has had an eventful and storied career, going back to the early 1970s, when she was front-woman for the funk band Rufus. But before all of that, there was jazz.

The Checkout Live wraps up its season in Boston with an electro-jazz battle (hopefully for the ages) featuring two rising star artists, each attracting copious amounts of buzz from their respective regions.  The jazz-trained, multi-instrumentalist from Los Angeles, Louis Cole, meets his European rival, keyboardist Domi Degalle, who currently studies at Berklee College of Music. Cole is known for his impressive analog web videos. And, Domi from Paris, who is only 17 years old, seems to have all the faculty talking in Boston.

Beti Niemeyer

Ron Carter, one of the greatest bassists in jazz history, turns 80 today. WBGO is celebrating by playing his music on the air throughout the day, and there's certainly no shortage to choose from. But given that today also happens to be International Star Wars Day, it seems only appropriate to shout out a curio in his discography: Empire Jazz, released in 1980 on the RSO label.

Colorado Symphony

As you probably know if you spend any time online, today, May 4, is International Star Wars Day. It's a celebration rooted in a pun: "May the Fourth be with you." [Wookiee groan]

There hasn't often been a jazz angle to this special date, but one young saxophonist is giving it a shot, by releasing a video for a tune he calls "Dagobah." (If that place name doesn't ring a bell, this story's not for you.)

Steve Mundinger / Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz

HAVANA, Cuba — Chucho Valdés and Gonzalo Rubalcaba sat at a pair of grand pianos on Sunday night at the Gran Teatro de la Habana Alicia Alonzo, during the sixth annual International Jazz Day Global Concert, and modeled more than one kind of equilateral exchange.

This week in Take Five: two boss tenors, in tracks both old and new. A free-thinking trumpeter with her dynamic debut. A veteran hard-bop drummer revisiting the music that helped make his name. And a track from a hyper-literate band that blends many styles into a seamless fabric. 

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