Take Five

Kelly Jensen Photography

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

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.

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.

courtesy of the Artist

Roscoe Mitchell, “EP 7849”

The composer, multi-instrumentalist and educator Roscoe Mitchell has been a profound force in American experimental music for more than half a century – since the earliest stirrings of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, in the mid-1960s. His new double album is Bells For the South Side, recorded at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago and just out on ECM.

T.J. Huff

First up in Take Five this week is a track from a notable left-of-center debut. You’ll also hear a John Coltrane classic played by two of his spiritual heirs, and a Mal Waldron standard finessed by a sturdy working band. Rounding out the lineup: a Cuban pianist in a meditative mood, and a self-described Timorese-Taiwanese-American vocalist and multi-instrumentalist transforming folk tales from around the world.

Bart Babinski / ECM Records

What’s on your agenda toward the end of this week? If you live within reach of New York City, Take Five has some fantastic options for you — three competing shows on Friday night, and another one at lunchtime on Thursday. But even if you’re already booked (or situated out of range), you can hear some of the music we’re talking about, right this second.

Jean Marc Lubrano

Two brilliant pianists. Two ebullient Cubans. Two intrepid young Englishmen. Two lovable standards, in new colors. The math may not seem to add up in this edition of Take Five, but the music — five winning tracks from as many different acts — most certainly does. (But who's counting, anyway?)

John Abbott

The tracks in Take Five this week cover a range from heartsick to hopeful, from resigned to anything but. One track was recorded almost 80 years ago, but sounds as fresh as anything you’re likely to hear. Another has a political thrust clearly aligned with current events. That’s enough preamble for this week; let’s dive right in.

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.

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!

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.

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. 

William P. Gottlieb / Library of Congress

The immortal Ella Fitzgerald, First Lady of Song, was born a century ago — April 25, 1917 — and there has been no shortage of commemorative celebration. We caught the spirit and asked some of our on-air hosts at WBGO to curate this edition of Take Five. Their enthusiasm compelled us to expand the column to six tracks, spanning the golden era of her roughly five-decade recording career.

Ernest Gregory / courtesy Chick Corea Productions

This week, Take Five is all about duos: from all-star summit meetings, like the one pictured above, to collaborative new partnerships like the Upstate Project, jointly led by singer-songwriter Rebecca Martin and pianist-composer Guillermo Klein. The unifying thread is deep colloquy bound by mutual respect — along with the sheer quality of the music.

John Rogers

Take Five this week turns out to be a celebration of working bands — from the Bandwagon, led for more than a dozen years by pianist Jason Moran, to Natural Information Society, which bassist Joshua Abrams established not quite a decade ago. We'll also hear brand-new tracks by the Tomasz Stanko New York Quartet, a new-breed organ trio called Hearing Things, and the agile group led by bassist Linda May Han Oh.

Benedict Smith / Courtesy of the artist

The NEA Jazz Masters program, now in its 35th year, has been an engine of prestige in our culture: It's still the nation's highest honor reserved for living jazz musicians. In advance of this year's ceremony and concert, which will be live-streamed from the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., we're devoting this edition of Take Five to the incoming class of NEA Jazz Masters, who represent a healthy range of styles.

Jacob Blickenstaff

What’s in a name? You could pose that question to Jazzmeia Horn, whose grandmother envisioned a destiny for her, or the Jazz Passengers, whose founders had designs both tongue-in-cheek and sincere. Or ask Supersilent, which is often anything but silent. Or Sexmob, which... actually, never mind. Here are five great tracks from all of the above, plus Roxy Coss, whose name you should know by now.

Dimitri Louis

A basket. A box. A notebook. A bumper. Every track in this week's Take Five has a title that evokes some material object, for reasons both comic and constructive. Beyond that commonality, there's a staggering range here, with one recording that's almost 80 years old and one or two others that sound like the near future. 

Jazz musicians are forever adept at taking the old and making it new. That skill is on brilliant display in Take Five this week, notably on a remake of a tune first heard on a Miles Davis album in 1963. You'll also hear a spin on a rustic old fiddle tune, and an emulation of Ornette Coleman's melodic language — a reminder that "new" can be as much a state of mind as a place in time.

Jay Gilbert

There are many paths to a killer groove, and few fixed parameters. The most important criterion is an intangible: just how good, how essentially right, does it feel? Every new track featured in this installment of Take Five is a winner in that respect, whether we’re talking about a hard-swinging churn or a minimalist swirl. As a bonus, you’ll see a first-rate drummer do a goofy dance.

Craig Taborn Quartet
Bart Babinski / for ECM Records

Sometimes a theme emerges by chance, revealing itself in the moment. That’s true of this week’s installment of Take Five, featuring new music by a range of smart and searching pianists. A couple of these tracks are from brand-new albums, and a couple are from albums due later in the year. Each is an illustration of deep focus and alert chemistry, along with first-rate pianism.

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.

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.

 

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 installment of Take Five, our weekly playlist, you'll find fathers and sons, a couple of farewells, and more than one refurbished jazz standard. We'll start with one of those, featuring a singer you may know, giving a performance you'll want to see.

Take Five: Jimmy Cobb

Jan 20, 2017
Jimmy Cobb in the kitchen of the Village Vanguard, 2013
John Rogers / WBGO/NPR

Jimmy Cobb, who turned 88 on Jan. 20, will probably always be hailed first in the popular conversation as the drummer on the Miles Davis album Kind of Blue. That’s how a cultural touchstone works, and Cobb, a 2009 NEA Jazz Master, hasn’t shied away from the distinction. But of course there’s an entire career full of other highlights to celebrate, moments that underscore Cobb’s strong glide with the beat and agile attunement to a band. Here are five tracks to savor.