NPR Jazz

Cécile McLorin Salvant has been called "the finest jazz singer to emerge in the last decade."

One way or another, you've heard Grover Washington Jr.'s saxophone. Perhaps on "Mister Magic" or another of his instrumental hits, like "Winelight." Or on "Just the Two of Us," the smash hit featuring Bill Withers.

José James, the eclectic, groove-minded jazz singer, has made no secret of his fondness for Bill Withers. There's a medley that James has been singing in concert for years, linking Withers' despondent anthem "Ain't No Sunshine" with an upturning grace note, "Grandma's Hands."

Ruth Laredo On Piano Jazz

Nov 10, 2017

One of the premier classical pianists of her generation, Ruth Laredo (1937–2005) was known as America's First Lady of the Piano. In partnership with Marian McPartland and Dick Hyman, Laredo produced wildly popular Three Piano Crossover Concerts, exploring the boundaries between classical music and jazz.

Unfathomable. Unimaginable. These are among the words used to describe the recent mass shooting in a rural Texas church, which left more than two dozen parishioners dead, eight of them children. For many of us, the inhuman horror of this act literally defies comprehension. The dimensions of the tragedy are all too familiar for Jimmy Greene.

Teri Thornton On Piano Jazz

Nov 3, 2017

Piano Jazz remembers vocalist and pianist Teri Thornton (1934–2000), who lost her battle with cancer in the year after this 1999 session. Thornton first wowed audiences in 1963 with her hit recording of "Somewhere in the Night" from the television series Naked City. Her comeback to the jazz world was highlighted in 1998 when she won the Thelonious Monk Vocal Competition.

Louis Hayes spent his youth creating the pulse of hard-bop, as a top-shelf drummer with artists like Cannonball Adderley and Horace Silver. He turned 80 this year, marking the occasion with his own Blue Note Records debut as a leader, Serenade for Horace.

Rhythm is the foundation for many a musical experience. Its driving pulse yields a power that quite often demands movement - a toe to tap, a body to sway. But drummer Nate Smith provides more than just a beat. He intentionally weaves nuanced rhythmic counterpoint in and out of his catchy melodies and dulcet harmonies.

Just try to discern the multiple time signatures in the first tune, "Skip Step" Syncopated yet steady, its rhythmic motifs bolster Jon Cowherd's keyboard riff and the song's melodic statement, played in unison by saxophonist Jaleel Shaw and guitarist Jeremy Most.

Miguel Zenón was 12 when he first experienced the devastation of a major hurricane in his homeland, Puerto Rico. That was Hugo, which hit as a Category 3 in 1989, and drove nearly 30,000 residents from their homes.

Norah Jones didn't have much time to scale up her operation. She was a singer-songwriter of immense talent but intimate affect, accustomed to playing Lower East Side dives and folk cafés, when her debut album, Come Away With Me, became a sleeper smash in 2002. Then came the deluge: major television appearances, enormous stages, armloads of Grammy awards.

This week we present the first episode from the 2017-2018 Pickathon Woods Series. These videos are hand-picked by opbmusic to showcase some of the most exciting performances captured at the Woods Stage during Pickathon, a three-day festival held annually just outside Portland, Ore.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify or Apple Music playlist at the bottom of the page.


What kind of man is Gregory Porter? As it happens, he's already told us himself. "I'm a real good man," he sang in "Real Good Hands," one of a handful of sturdily built original songs from his 2012 album, Be Good. He was extending a suitor's reassurance there, addressing a future father-in-law. But we were invited to listen in and draw our own conclusions.

The music of pianist and composer Abdullah Ibrahim conveys an extraordinary depth in stillness. More than perhaps any other improvising artist, he knows how to turn the solitary act of introspection into a communal experience that's both transporting and immersive.

John Rogers / Courtesy of the artist

This morning, the latest crop of MacArthur Fellows was announced — the so-called "genius" awards. Sometimes, a MacArthur fellowship is given as a capstone to honor a long, glorious career. But one of this year's winners, Tyshawn Sorey, is just 37 years old.

After Midnight: Thelonious Monk At 100

Oct 10, 2017

Thelonious Monk, the incomparably influential jazz composer and pianist, would have turned 100 today, and across the country a healthy range of commemorative tributes is already underway. But the flagship event that bears his name has quietly been put on hold: the next Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition, which at one point had been scheduled for this week at the Kennedy Center in Washington, will not happen in 2017.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released.

Holly Hofmann On Piano Jazz

Oct 6, 2017

Classically trained flutist Holly Hofmann was influenced by her father, a fine jazz guitarist. At age five, she chose the flute because she could carry it to play music with him. Hofmann has taken the flute from the orchestra to the jazz stand, making her mark with a bluesy style all her own. In this session from 2002, bassist Darek Oles joins Hofmann and host Marian McPartland to perform a set including "You and the Night and the Music" and "Bohemia After Dark."

Antonio Sánchez, the virtuoso drummer and composer, can often be found on tour — tending rhythmic fires for guitarist Pat Metheny; leading Migration, his own dynamic post-bop band; or performing his solo drum score at screenings of Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), the 2014 Alejandro G. Iñárritu film.

Jazz singing has always been a tree with firm roots, but a wild entanglement of branches. Its sound and shape are mutable, prone to outside influence and local inflection. Take the two artists featured in this week's episode of Jazz Night in America, recorded at the 2017 San Jose Jazz Summer Fest — each a cultural ambassador as well as a cosmopolitan, with the elusive ability to bring any audience along for the ride.

Dave Douglas On Piano Jazz

Sep 22, 2017

A composer, improviser and trumpeter, Dave Douglas develops music that transcends the boundaries of traditional jazz. In 2000, when he was Marian McPartland's guest, he was JazzTimes magazine's "Artist of the Year." On this 2000 episode of Piano Jazz, Douglas talks about his album Soul on Soul, a stunning tribute to Mary Lou Williams.

This essay is one in a series celebrating deserving artists or albums not included on NPR Music's list of 150 Greatest Albums By Women.

Veronica Nunn On Piano Jazz

Sep 15, 2017

Vocalist Veronica Nunn grew up in Little Rock, Ark., absorbing all kinds of music from jazz to funk to gospel. When she moved to New York in 1978, she split her time between Harlem's jazz clubs and the Theology Department at Lehman College.

On this 2008 episode of Piano Jazz, hosted by Marian McPartland, Nunn is accompanied by her husband, pianist Travis Shook. She demonstrates her soulful technique on "One Note Samba" as well as "I'm Old Fashioned."

MATTHEW PANDOLFE / Courtesy of the Artist

Sarah Elizabeth Charles is a teaching artist. That means she's an artist who happens to teach — at Carnegie Hall's Musical Connections program within the Sing Sing Correctional Facility, and at Rise2shine, an early childhood education nonprofit in Haiti. But it also means that her work as a teacher has become more and more inextricable from her work as a composer and artist. That connection, she says, is now the strongest it's ever been. 

Sarah Elizabeth Charles is a teaching artist. That means she's an artist who happens to teach — at Carnegie Hall's Musical Connections program within the Sing Sing Correctional Facility, and at Rise2shine, an early childhood education nonprofit in Haiti. But it also means that her work as a teacher has become more and more inextricable from her work as a composer and artist. That connection, she says, is now the strongest it's ever been.

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