Music

Jazz musicians, almost by definition, seek an active dialogue between the impulsive and the rational. For some, the terms of that negotiation become a central feature of their art.

 

Dan Tepfer is one of those: a pianist and composer who sees improvisation as the ideal expression of freedom within a framework.

Bernard Benant

Tony Allen, “Wolf Eats Wolf”

Tony Allen, the great Nigerian drummer, made his Blue Note Records debut this spring with A Tribute to Art Blakey, a digital EP. Now Allen, the reigning architect of Afrobeat, has announced a full-length album on the label, The Source. It’s due out on Sept. 8, and you can listen now to a hypnotic lead single, “Wolf Eats Wolf.”

Petru Ivu Photography

Did you know there was a vibrant jazz scene in Romania? We certainly didn't — until witnessing it firsthand, on the ground at the Bucharest Jazz Festival. Let us introduce you to A-C Leonte, a jazz-trained singer and violinist now veering into the realm of electronica.


Cristi Mitrea - corporate, PR and event photography

 

Ari Hoenig burns bright in New York's underground jazz scene, regularly getting shine almost every Monday at Smalls Jazz Club. There you can witness firsthand what many hardcore jazz fans revere: his deft use of polyrhythms, metric modulations, and displacements.

Jacob Blickenstaff

John Pizzarelli played an “Invitation” series at the Montreal Jazz Festival earlier this month, including a tribute to the songs of Antonio Carlos Jobim, joined by Jobim’s grandson Daniel.  John has been a regular at the jazzfest since 1990 and, John said, “the Bossa Nova concert a dozen years ago was my favorite.

Courtesy of The Atlantic

"The Battle Hymn of the Republic," a quintessentially American invention, first appeared as a poem on the cover of The Atlantic Monthly, in February 1862.

Now, on a commission from the magazine, Jon Batiste — the effervescent pianist, vocalist and educator, as well as the bandleader on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert — has radically reimagined the song.

Willerm Delisfort, a pianist and composer born in the Little Haiti neighborhood of Miami, has established himself over the last six years as a well-respected musician on the New York jazz scene. He sat down with Sheila Anderson on Salon Sessions to share some of his favorite records, talk about his latest project, and break down the meaning behind his phrase "honest music."

Allison Au performs at FIJM
Valerie Gay-Bessette for FIJM

I quit buying Cuban cigars in Montreal 20 years ago. U.S. Customs back then was just inside the airport entrance — and, before 9/11, security was not much more than a look at one’s passport. I’d brought back Cuban cigars before without an agent objecting, but one morning in the '90s an agent…objected. When he asked matter-of-factly if I’d bought any, I openly said “Yes.  Two.” 

“You have two choices,” he said with a shrug. “You can throw them in this trash can,” he said with a smile.  “Or you can go out on the sidewalk and smoke them now.”

courtesy of Barney Fields

“Hey Bob Porter, this is Joe Fields. I’ve got a Grant Green album and I need some liner notes.” That phone call was my introduction to one of the genuine good guys in the jazz business.

Tracy Love / Courtesy of the Artist

Maceo Parker, the Sun Ra Arkestra and the Terri Lyne Carrington Band are among the acts performing on the third annual BRIC JazzFest, in downtown Brooklyn this fall.

The festival will take place over a full week, Oct. 14-21. As in the previous two editions, its centerpiece event will be a jazz marathon, utilizing several performance spaces at BRIC House in downtown Brooklyn.

Bill Charlap — pianist, bandleader and the artistic director of Jazz in July at the 92nd Street Y — knows a thing or two about being a custodian of jazz traditions.


CHUCK STEWART / COURTESY OF THE SMITHSONIAN'S NATIONAL MUSEUM OF AMERICAN HISTORY

John Coltrane died 50 years ago today, at the tragic age of 40. The shock of his death was seismic, for a jazz community still growing accustomed to the hurtling evolution of his music.

Kelly Jensen Photography

Whatever else you have going on, you should hear some live music this week.

Dorothy Darr

"I've got a pocketful of blues here still, you know?" says Charles Lloyd, the saxophonist-flutist-composer-bandleader who, at 79, has become one of jazz's enlightened elders.

courtesy of the Artist

Robert Palmer, the broadminded music critic, once pegged saxophonist and composer Ornette Coleman succinctly: “He lives in a world of clear, endlessly permutating images of global musics, folk and classical and jazz, that interpenetrate.”

The new album by saxophonist Don Braden and bassist Joris Teepe is called Conversations — as good a title as any to describe the results, both musical and colloquial, of their visit to Morning Jazz. They came with drummer Steve Johns, played a few tunes, and spoke with Gary Walker about the origins of the new record.

Conversations, which was released in May, features two drummers, Gene Jackson and Matt Wilson. For their album-release gig, Wednesday night at the Zinc Bar, Braden and Teepe will enlist drummer Jeremy Warren.

Denise Eileen Garrett was only 3 years old when her family moved to Flint, Mich., from Memphis, Tenn. This was long before she became Dee Dee Bridgewater, jazz-vocal superhero — to say nothing of a mother, a Tony- and Grammy-winner or an NEA Jazz Master. But Memphis left an impression on the little girl, subtle but persistent, somewhere in her psyche.

Lawrence Sumulong / Jazz at Lincoln Center

Like any pianist and composer in the jazz idiom, John Beasley owes a substantial debt to Thelonious Monk. Unlike most, he chooses to express that influence in large-canvas terms.

Several years ago he formed the MONK’estra, a Los Angeles-based big band, in order to play Monk’s music with contemporary flair.

It's always exciting when a new composition is unearthed from a behemoth in American art.  In this case, it's a composition by Ornette Coleman, the pioneering saxophonist and iconoclast, who continues to be studied, celebrated and misunderstood. In this Checkout podcast, David Murray debuts the original Ornette Coleman tune called "Perfection," with drummer Terri Lyne Carrington and the late pianist Geri Allen.


Victor Diaz Lamish for FIJM

Especially at the finale of a great concert, an audience can become what I call The Beast. Insatiable.  Ravenous. Wanting more. And more. And more.

Artists often have an encore plotted, often playing the greatest of the greatest hits. But sometimes encores can become anti-climactic.

Rubber duckies whirled through the air. One red. One yellow. One green.

And then she sat the green one on her head. And the yellow one on a little boy's head.

He didn't know what to do with the duck, but he was happy. So was his brother. So was his mother.

Jimmy Katz

The first of many startling reveals in Naked Lunch, the 1991 David Cronenberg film, occurs five seconds into the opening title sequence. An orchestra has just struck its first chords, foreboding and tremulous, when Ornette Coleman’s alto saxophone goes skittering into action, like an errant flashlight beam across a velvet curtain.

Samantha J.

One saxophonist is in his 30s, and recently hit full stride. Another one is 90, still very much in the game. Both players — Terrace Martin is the former, Jimmy Heath the latter — can be found in Take Five this week, with music that belongs to an African-American continuum irrespective of genre or style. And those are just the bookends.

Pianist and composer Helen Sung was born and raised in Houston, Texas, and received rigorous classical training before pivoting to jazz. She has made up for lost time since, working with mentors like bassist Ron Carter, and releasing several well-received albums of her own. 

Sung appears with vocalist Nicole Zuraitis at Mezzrow on Sunday, with the Mingus Big Band at the Jazz Standard on Monday, and at the Caramoor Jazz Festival on July 15. She recently joined host Sheila Anderson in a conversation on Salon Sessions.

The Montreal International Jazz Festival proclaims to be the largest jazz festival in the world, headlined by some of music's biggest names. But the event also takes pride in spotlighting local talent — like Québécois trumpeter Jacques Kuba Séguin, featured in this Checkout podcast.


Courtesy of the artist

Pianist and composer Onaje Allan Gumbs began playing at age seven, inspired in part by Henry Mancini. A former sideman to aritsts including trumpeters Nat Adderley and Woody Shaw, Gumbs released his own debut album, Onaje, 40 years ago. 

During a recent conversation with Sheila Anderson on Salon Sessions, he reflected on his broad career, his so-called "return" — and the first Bob Cranshaw Community Achievement Award, which he recently received from the Jazz Foundation of America.

UZEB Play FIJM
Victor Diaz Lamich for FIJM

25 years ago, I first came to Festival International de JAZZ de Montreal.

25 years ago, the jazz/rock trio UZEB played the first Grande Evenement.


The relationship between jazz and boxing goes back to the pre-civil rights era, when entertainment and sports were some of only professions in which African Americans could excel. Miles Davis paid tribute to the first African-American world heavyweight champion on his 1971 album, Jack Johnson. Now Steve Coleman has released his own musical tribute to boxing: an album called Morphogenesis.

After Sarah Vaughan moved back to her hometown of Newark, New Jersey in the mid-1960s, she could often be found, on a night off, at the Key Club. She loved to hang out with owner Jean Dawkins, catching up on gossip about mutual friends. There were no pretenses about her; she just wanted to be “one of the guys.”

Riccardo Schwamenthal / CTSIMAGES/Courtesy of Resonance Records

Sarah Vaughan means something special to WBGO. And it's not that she was born and raised in Newark — though that certainly doesn't hurt. Simply put, her magnificent voice has been a beacon on our air, and a steadfast point of agreement. This week sees the publication of a new biography of Vaughan, and we're taking the opportunity to showcase five favorite performances from across her career.

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