Music

Old and new, invention and reinvention: this week, Take Five is a study in contrast and dualities. It's also a heads-up for several albums we're looking forward to this spring, and some gigs that you should have on your calendar. Listen up and dive in.

 

Jacob Collier capped off an already wild year by winning two Grammy awards a few weeks ago for "Flintstones" (Arrangement, Instruments and Vocals) and “You And I” (Arrangement, Instrumental or A Cappella). This was the year where the British multi-instrumentalist says he took his sonic wonderland playground – his “room” in his parent’s home in the UK – and take it on the road.

Clyde Stubblefield, the funk drummer whose work with James Brown made him one of the most sampled musicians in history, died Saturday morning in Madison, Wis., his publicist confirmed. Stubblefield was 73; his publicist did not provide a cause of death.

Mark Whitfield and his family band with Gary Walker at WBGO
Isaiah McClain


Guitarist Mark Whitfield’s skillset is so varied. He’s been on the road with Brother Jack McDuff, Dizzy Gillespie, Carmen McRae and Chris Botti. He’s friends with George Benson.

Mark says he’s most proud of his most recent events – his first recording in 7 years was just released, and the fact that it was made alongside his two sons; pianist Davis and drummer Mark, Jr. Both father and sons are Berklee grads - and so is band bassist, Yasushi Nakamura.

Or would the better title be “FACEMELT”? In any case, the tune is an original from  saxophonist Donny McCaslin's recent album Beyond Now. Take a look at this galvanizing, live-wire video, which has its full premiere here, and you be the judge.

Ted Nash won twice at Sunday's Grammy Awards: for Best Large Ensemble Album and Best Instrumental Composition. His big band album, "Presidential Suite - Eight Variations on Freedom" interprets Presidential speeches across the last century. 

Solitude can be a complicated proposition for Keith Jarrett. He’s the most celebrated improvising solo pianist in the world, and has held that distinction for the last 40 years. But he will be the first to inform you that his concert performances are a social interaction — an experiment in which he responds to the mood and psychic energy of a room, like a sensitive instrument.

Interview originally aired August 17, 2004.

Late multi-Grammy winning singer Al Jarreau joined Michael Bourne for this chat in 2004. Covering topics including his influences from Jon Henricks and Johnny Mathis to his ability to switch genres, Jarreau enjoys the conversation so much that before it ends he's asking Bourne for a copy so he can hear it again.

John Abbott

Love is a many-splendored thing, as the songbook lyric goes, and as Clifford Brown and Max Roach reminded us just over half a century ago. For this Valentine’s-week edition of our Take Five column, we thought it would be fitting to explore the theme of love and romance — and heartbreak — from a few different angles. Here are five tracks selected by some of the on-air hosts of our popular programs at WBGO.

 

Barbara Carroll was definitive. As an elegant pianist. As a sophisticated singer. As a beautiful lady. And like another great Lady, her good friend Billie Holiday, Barbara Carroll was down-to-earth and always swinging.

Guitarist John Scofield, Snarky Puppy, Gregory Porter, and the late David Bowie are some of the big winners.  The 59th Grammy Awards brought a mix of established artists and up-and-comers. Here are some of the winners.

Jazz Night in America / WBGO and NPR

 

"It can be maddening to deal with a political environment where it seems like the truth has no purchase anymore," says Darcy James Argue, the hyper-literate composer who leads the Secret Society, a postmodern big band. Argue has spent a lot of time recently thinking about that maddening environment — not just as a matter of civic engagement during a chaotic election season, but also because it forms the crux of Real Enemies, his most recent work.

 

Al Jarreau, a nimble, charismatic singer who bridged contemporary jazz and smooth soul in a career that yielded both popular success and critical regard, died on Sunday at Los Angeles. He was 76.

 

His death was confirmed by his manager, Joe Gordon. Jarreau had announced his retirement from touring just last week, after being hospitalized in Los Angeles for exhaustion.

 

The music industry can thank Glenn Miller's record label for the idea of gold records. Seventy-five years ago today, his song about a train trip became the world's first solid-gold hit.

"Chattanooga Choo Choo" is about a man going home, and promising his sweetheart he'll never roam. By February 10, 1942, more than 1.2 million copies of the song had been sold — and that was no small thing, the biggest seller in years. The record label, RCA Victor, celebrated by presenting Glenn Miller with a trophy during a live radio broadcast.

Detroit native Aretha Franklin sings the national anthem prior to the start of the Detroit Lions and the Minnesota Vikings game at Ford Field on Nov, 24, 2016.
GREGORY SHAMUS / Getty Images

 

Al Jarreau and Aretha Franklin announced their plans to slow down or stop their public performances.

Ang Santos / WBGO

When the city of Newark announced the Mulberry Commons Project last month, transforming lot and warehouse space on Prudential Centers Mulberry St. side into a 22-acre park, was it possible for something to outshine the ambitious project.  I guess that depends on if you like music more than shops and recreational activity.  The Grammy Museum Experience will use 8,000 square feet of Prudential Center space to bring its history to New Jersey.  Daniel Cherry is the Chief Marketing Innovation Officer for the New Jersey Devils.  He says they’re a perfect match.

Miguel Zenón
Jimmy Katz / Courtesy of the Artist

 

Miguel Zenón, the ever-insightful Puerto Rican alto saxophonist and composer, has garnered enviable credentials over the last 15 years, since first stepping out as a leader: a MacArthur “genius grant,” a Guggenheim, a handful of Grammy nominations, widespread critical acclaim. But the achievement that’s most meaningful to him, and ultimately the most consequential, is his longtime stewardship of a working band. 

Radar: Carmen Lundy

Feb 10, 2017

 

Carmen Lundy never disappoints.  She's a vocalist who seems to have a full understanding of her vocal range and ability and knows how to use it.  Whether on her own albums or as a guest on her brother Curtis Lundy's, Carmen makes every song a personal story that you can relate to. Code Noir talks about love, family, life, and the current affairs of the world, topics we all find ourselves having in our day to day.  

You probably don't know the pianist by name, but you may heard of the band he co-founded. Bill Laurance is the keyboard wiz for Snarky Puppy, the band known for its indefatigable work ethic, communal spirit, and almost cult-like following. Now, Laurance brews up some projects of his own that imbibe that "Snarky" vibe.  In this podcast, the artist talks about that -- his fetish for the clavinet, rarefied synth, and anything 88-key related; his affinity for Afrobeat; and the Miles Davis recording that made him not cancel his studio session, Aftersun. We'll also hear Laurance, in a special acoustic setting, as part of a new 360 video shoot with his London band, featuring Joshua Blackmore (drums), Chris Hyson (bass), and Felix Higginbottom (percussion).

Lee Konitz with Kenny Barron
John Abbott

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” Marcel Proust couldn’t have been thinking about the chord changes to “Cherokee” when he first articulated this idea, writing in France a century ago. But his point feels perfectly suited to the example of alto saxophonist Lee Konitz, who at 89 is still extracting fresh insight from familiar places, as he proves on an effervescent new album, Frescalalto.

Diana Krall has announced a new studio album and world tour, with  dates beginning in June. The album — Turn Up the Quiet, due out on May 5 — will reunite her with Tommy LiPuma, who has had a hand in producing most of her previous releases, going back to 1995. Turn Up the Quiet also signals Krall’s return to the Great American Songbook in a jazz context, after a few seasons of branching out.

Jeremy Pelt
Sally Pritchard

One track in this week’s Take Five column is a call to make some noise; another is a contemplative ode to silence. There’s also an early Valentine, a long-lost face-off, and a freeform depth charge. We’re going to cover some serious ground here, so let’s dive in.

In this episode of The Checkout, WBGO's Simon Rentner speaks with pianist Kenny Barron on the occasion of his induction as an NEA Jazz Master.

First published January 13, 2010.

Nate Smith
Johnalynn Holland

Nate Smith is a drummer in high demand, and he could have gone in almost any direction on his debut album as a leader. What he explores on Kinfolk: Postcards from Everywhere is his family history — from his grandfather, who worked a blue collar job in the Jim Crow South, to his parents, who earned enough to send him to college.

What they sing is harder than it sounds. Much harder. And always swinging. When the three singers of Duchess — Amy Cervini, Melissa Stylianou, Hilary Gardner — sing in the style and spirit of the Boswell Sisters, the harmonizing trio from New Orleans, popular especially on the radio in the 30’s, they articulate each note of the melody, each word of the lyric, often almost supersonically. Really, really, really fast! And in perfect harmony! And having a helluva lotta fun!

Elvin Bishop called his first Alligator album Big Fun.  Aptly-titled. He’s always having fun. And his newest Alligator album continues in the same spirit, Elvin Bishop’s Big Fun Trio. He was having so much fun jamming with a couple of friends, guitarist/pianist Bob Welch and percussionist/singer Willy Jordan, that they became a band.

John Boutté
Jazz Night in America

Jazz vocalist John Boutté feels he can no longer afford to live in his hometown of New Orleans. He's not alone. Rising housing costs are pushing many musicians and service workers — the backbone of New Orleans' tourism economy — further and further outside the city limits. This suburbanization of the working class poses more than an inconvenience: It's fraying the culture of New Orleans and splintering the very neighborhoods that have nurtured the city's music for decades.

It's become a January tradition for NPR to look ahead to some of the most anticipated jazz albums of the year. Bassist Christian McBride, who hosts NPR's Jazz Night In America, and jazz critic Nate Chinen of NPR Member station WBGO join NPR's Audie Cornish to preview three albums coming out in 2017.

Read some of McBride's and Chinen's thoughts below, and hear more of their discussion — including a reflection on the relationship between musicians and critics — at the audio link.

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