NPR Jazz

Baltimore's Lafayette Gilchrist is a jazz pianist, but when his band the New Volcanoes backs him up, listeners also get something different: a go-go beat.

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.

Willie Nelson And Jackie King On Piano Jazz

Jul 21, 2017

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.

Gerald Wiggins On Piano Jazz

Jul 14, 2017

Piano Jazz remembers jazz piano master Gerald Wiggins (1922 – 2008). Born in Harlem, Wiggins began learning classical piano at a young age, but he discovered jazz through the music of pianists Teddy Wilson and Art Tatum.

"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.

From the sounds of things on the phone, Lizz Wright is going about the business of her daily life while she gives thoughtful responses to her interviewer's questions. There's the ding of a bell as a shop door closes behind her, a whispered "Hi" and, later, the electronic chiming that reminds you to fasten a car's seatbelt.

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.

Vocalist Sandy Stewart first emerged as a star of the cabaret scene during the 1960s, and her marriage to Broadway composer Moose Charlap kept her plugged into a vibrant music community. In 2005, Stewart and her son, pianist Bill Charlap, collaborated on their first album together, Love Is Here to Stay.

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.

Duke Jordan On Piano Jazz

Jun 30, 2017

This episode of Piano Jazz remembers one of the great innovators of the bebop style: pianist Duke Jordan (1922 — 2006).

Eddie Gomez On Piano Jazz

Jun 23, 2017

A two-time Grammy winner, bassist Eddie Gomez has been on the cutting edge of music for more than four decades. He has held down rhythm sections and set the groove for some of the heavyweights of jazz — from Bill Evans to Miles Davis to Chick Corea.

In 1959, the peak of his playing years, Thelonious Monk did something he'd never done before: record music for a film. Released in the U.S. as Dangerous Liaisons, the French film Les Liaisons Dangereuses featured nearly 30 minutes of Monk's music, none of which ever made it to a record. But the master tapes resurfaced last year, and were first released as a vinyl exclusive on Record Store Day this April.

Trumpet virtuoso Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah is stretching modern jazz music to include the flavors of hip-hop, trap and West African percussion. His latest release, Ruler Rebel, is his first in series of three albums marking the 100th anniversary of the first commercially recorded jazz music. As Adjuah tells it, that recording, made by the Original Dixieland Jass Band in New Orleans in 1917, was originally conceived as satire with a racially-charged subtext.

The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Jazz Masters award, which comes with a $25,000 prize, is widely described as United States' highest honor for jazz. Today, the NEA announced its four newest recipients of the prize: pianist Joanne Brackeen, guitarist Pat Metheny, singer Dianne Reeves and producer Todd Barkan.

Nat Hentoff On Piano Jazz

Jun 9, 2017

A prolific author and jazz critic for more than half a century, the late Nat Hentoff (1925 — Jan. 7, 2017) wrote for publications including the Village Voice, Down Beat, The New Yorker and The Washington Post.

For a long stretch of his early performing career, vibraphonist Gary Burton was always the youngest man on the bandstand. A child prodigy from Indiana, and then an onrushing force on the scene, he apprenticed with the great Nashville guitarist Hank Garland before going on tour with pianist George Shearing, followed by tenor saxophonist Stan Getz.

Joyce DiCamillo On Piano Jazz

Jun 2, 2017

For more than 30 years, pianist and composer Joyce DiCamillo has led her own trio, which critics hail as "a compact unit that breathes almost as one." A dedicated educator, DiCamillo appears in high schools and universities around the country and is a model for women in jazz.

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.

Terence Blanchard On Piano Jazz

May 26, 2017

Grammy award-winning trumpeter and composer Terence Blanchard carries the torch of New Orleans jazz in the tradition of the great Louis Armstrong, who shares his hometown. In 2004, Blanchard was Marian McPartland's guest on Piano Jazz.

The music of the late Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda, the wife of the jazz giant John Coltrane, has always rested somewhat in the shadows. It didn't help that she gave her career up — to become a spiritual leader.

Dee Dee Bridgewater On Piano Jazz

May 19, 2017

Grammy Award-winning vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater began her career as the lead vocalist of a jazz band. She honed her talent and headed in 1975 to Broadway, where her performance in The Wiz was honored with a Tony Award.

On this episode of Piano Jazz from 2003, Bridgewater exhibits her knowledge and enthusiasm in her performances of "September Song" and "Beginning To See The Light."

Originally broadcast in the fall of 2003.

Set List

The Preservation Hall Jazz Band has been at it for over 50 years, and, outside of New Orleans, its name has come to be pretty much synonymous with the spirit of the city. The band's new album, So It Is, is a collection of original material heavily inspired by a trip to Cuba, including "La Malanga."

SET LIST

  • "La Malanga"

Photo: Brian Feinzimer/KCRW.

The low end has always been terra firma for Buster Williams, one of the all-time great bassists in modern jazz.

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