Kevin Whitehead

Kevin Whitehead is the jazz critic for NPR's Fresh Air with Terry Gross.

Whitehead's articles on jazz and improvised music have appeared in such publications as Point of Departure, the Chicago Sun-Times, Village Voice, Down Beat, and the Dutch daily de Volkskrant.

He is the author of Why Jazz: A Concise Guide (2010), New Dutch Swing (1998), and (with photographer Ton Mijs) Instant Composers Pool Orchestra: You Have to See It (2011).

His essays have appeared in numerous anthologies including Da Capo Best Music Writing 2006, Discover Jazz and Traveling the Spaceways: Sun Ra, the Astro-Black and Other Solar Myths.

Whitehead has taught at Towson University, the University of Kansas and Goucher College. He lives near Baltimore.

Copyright 2016 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air . TERRY GROSS, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. Three years ago, the prolific guitarist Mary Halvorson put out a CD by a seven-piece band. Their follow up is for the same lineup plus one new member. Jazz critic Kevin Whitehead says much as he liked that previous album, this new arrival really shakes things up. (SOUNDBITE OF MARY HALVORSON OCTET SONG, "AWAY WITH YOU - NO 55") KEVIN WHITEHEAD, BYLINE: Guitarist Mary Halvorson's octet sounding like...

Copyright 2016 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air . TERRY GROSS, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. Our jazz critic Kevin Whitehead says five decades after Wadada Leo Smith began recording, the trumpeter and composer is having his moment with a Pulitzer nomination three years ago and a bounty of institutional support. Smith's Golden Quintet is both a jazz band and a chamber ensemble. Their new album is called "America's National Parks." Here's Kevin's review. (SOUNDBITE OF WADADA LEO SMITH...

Copyright 2016 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air . TERRY GROSS, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. Andrew Cyrille is a particularly versatile jazz drummer who came up swinging behind Coleman Hawkins and Mary Lou Williams and then played free jazz with Cecil Taylor. Cyrille has led his own bands and percussion ensembles and has explored the rhythms of Haiti and played in duos that blur the sound of drums and electronics. Andrew Cyrille has two new albums out. Our jazz critic Kevin Whitehead has a...

Copyright 2016 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air . TERRY GROSS, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. In the 1990s, Jim Black was one of the busiest drummers in New York's downtown jazz scene playing behind saxophonist Tim Byrne and Ellery Eskelin and trumpeter Dave Douglas, among many others, and in the co-operative band Human Feel. Later, he began leading his own groups. Jazz critic Kevin Whitehead says Jim Black's current trio packs a punch. (SOUNDBITE OF JIM BLACK TRIO SONG, "BLACK: CHINCHILLA")...

Copyright 2016 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air . TERRY GROSS, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. A 1980 concert recording by the late cornet player Don Cherry has just been released. Jazz critic Kevin Whitehead says by 1980, Cherry had led a couple of jazz lives as the brass-playing alter ego for saxophonist Ornette Coleman and Albert Ayler and as an international pied piper, mixing it up with players everywhere from Scandinavia to Turkey. That 1980 concert surrounded him with colleagues from...

Copyright 2016 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air . DAVE DAVIES, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. The late tenor saxophonist Teddy Edwards, who was based in Los Angeles, was the rare musician to record with both trumpet giant Clifford Brown and singer Tom Waits. Jazz critic Kevin Whitehead says Edwards could be equally hair-raising playing uptempo or lingering over a ballad. Kevin reviews two Edwards reissues from the 1970s. (SOUNDBITE OF TEDDY EDWARDS COMPOSITION) KEVIN WHITEHEAD, BYLINE: Teddy...

Copyright 2016 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air . DAVE DAVIES, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. Alto saxophonist Charlie Parker, nicknamed Bird, was one of the single most influential jazz musicians. Critic Kevin Whitehead says it wasn't just other horn players who started phrasing like him, pianists, drummers and everyone else did too. Now a batch of previously unknown Parker performances from 1949 to '52 is out. Here's Kevin's review. (SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "AN OSCAR FOR TREADWELL: INCOMPLETE...

Copyright 2016 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air . TERRY GROSS, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. This Friday marks the centennial of the birth of electric guitarist Charlie Christian, who was one of the most influential musicians of the last century. Jazz critic Kevin Whitehead has this appreciation. (SOUNDBITE OF CHARLIE CHRISTIAN SONG) KEVIN WHITEHEAD, BYLINE: Charlie Christian was the single-greatest influence on the signature 20th century instrument, the electric guitar, even though he died...

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Copyright 2016 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air .

Copyright 2016 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air .

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Copyright 2016 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air . Transcript TERRY GROSS, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. Our jazz critic Kevin Whitehead has the review of a new recording by pianist Aruan Ortiz, who grew up in Cuba and lived in Spain a few years before moving to the U.S. in 2002. Musicians he's worked and recorded with since then include Esperanza Spalding, Wallace Roney, Greg Osby and Steve Turre. Kevin says Ortiz's new trio music is fully bilingual. (SOUNDBITE OF ARUAN ORTIZ TRIO ALBUM, ...

Copyright 2016 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air . Transcript DAVE DAVIES, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. In February 1966, New York's Village Vanguard booked the new Thad Jones/Mel Lewis big band to play two Monday nights. That engagement got extended to a month and then some. The orchestra they founded is still playing Mondays at the Vanguard 50 years later. A new live set includes some music from their opening night. Jazz critic Kevin Whitehead says they got it right the first time. ...

Copyright 2016 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air . Transcript TERRY GROSS, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. In New York around 1920, three pianists reigned - Willie The Lion Smith, Fats Waller and James P. Johnson. Johnson was considered the greatest of the three. Jazz critic Kevin Whitehead says Johnson was a formidable piano soloist, supportive accompanist and writer of hit songs. A new boxed set shows off James P. Johnson's technique, drive, and versatility. Here's Kevin's review. (SOUNDBITE...

Copyright 2016 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air . Transcript TERRY GROSS, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. A year from now, we'll be hearing a lot about the hundredth anniversary of the Original Dixieland Jazz Band's first recording in February, 1917, which is usually cited as the first jazz record. But our jazz critic, Kevin Whitehead, says there are a couple of earlier records that may be contenders, one of them recorded on February 3, 100 years ago. Before we hear them, let's hear the...

Copyright 2016 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air . Transcript DAVE DAVIES, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. British writer Tessa Hadley has published many of her short stories in the New Yorker, and she's also written six novels. Her latest novel is called "The Past." Book critic Maureen Corrigan says readers shouldn't be misled by that rather bland title. MAUREEN CORRIGAN, BYLINE: Tessa Hadley's novel "The Past" doesn't make a first great impression. Its title is bland, and its plot promises...

Copyright 2016 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air . Transcript TERRY GROSS, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. For years, saxophonist Scott Hamilton has been touring as a soloist without a band of his own. So he often works with new acquaintances. Jazz critic Kevin Whitehead says that can be risky, but sometimes everybody gets along - like on a recent meeting in Switzerland with drummer Jeff Hamilton's trio. (SOUNDBITE OF SCOTT HAMILTON & JEFF HAMILTON TRIO SONG) KEVIN WHITEHEAD, BYLINE: Tenor...

Copyright 2015 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air . Transcript TERRY GROSS, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. Our jazz critic Kevin Whitehead describes Kenny Barron as one of the great all-around jazz pianists. An official NEA Jazz Master - Barron played in the co-op quartet Sphere - has led many groups of his own and has backed Dizzy Gillespie, Yusef Lateef, Stan Getz and many others. A 1981 Kenny Barron solo album has been reissued. Here's Kevin's review. (SOUNDBITE OF KENNY BARRON SONG, ...

Copyright 2015 Fresh Air. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/programs/fresh-air/ . Transcript TERRY GROSS, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. In the last 25 years, New York pianist Matthew Shipp has led his own bands and played with leading lights of new jazz, including William Parker, David S. Ware, Roscoe Mitchell and Evan Parker. Shipp has a new trio record out. Jazz critic Kevin Whitehead says Shipp's music can be heavy in a good way, like a holiday dinner. (SOUNDBITE OF MATTHEW SHIPP SONG, "THE...

Copyright 2015 Fresh Air. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/programs/fresh-air/ . Transcript DAVE DAVIES, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. In September of last year, Toronto-born English trumpet player Kenny Wheeler passed away after an illness at 84. In July, his longtime pianist John Taylor died suddenly at 72. A duo record they made 10 years ago is now out for the first time. Jazz critic Kevin Whitehead says it's a snapshot of a partnership. (SOUNDBITE OF ALBUM, "ON THE WAY TO TWO") KEVIN...

Copyright 2015 Fresh Air. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/programs/fresh-air/ . Transcript TERRY GROSS, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. In 1977, Jim and Susan Neumann of Evanston, Ill., started a mainstream jazz record label called Bee Hive. They released 16 LPs over the next seven years. Now the complete Bee Hive recordings have been reissued on CD for the first time. Our critic, Kevin Whitehead, says that hive contained a lot of honey. (SOUNDBITE OF "BARITONE MADNESS" SONG, "DONNA LEE")...

Copyright 2015 Fresh Air. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/programs/fresh-air/ . Transcript TERRY GROSS, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. Chicago cellist Tomeka Reid was headed toward a career as a classical musician when she got drawn into playing jazz and improvised music. But she still loves the intimacy of chamber ensembles. Jazz critic Kevin Whitehead says Tomeka Reid's new Chicago-New York quartet is tightly synchronized. (SOUNDBITE OF ERIC DOLPHY SONG, "17 WEST" PERFORMED BY TOMEKA REID...

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript TERRY GROSS, HOST: Jazz critic Kevin Whitehead has a review of a new album by singer Jen Shyu. She was born in Illinois and studied classical voice and performed jazz standards coming up. She sung in saxophonist Steve Coleman's bands and recorded in a duo with bass player Mark Dresser. Jen Shyu has also spent years in East Asia studying regional musics, languages and literature. Kevin says that research that research...

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript TERRY GROSS, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. Sixty years ago, in September, 1955, pianist Erroll Garner's trio played a concert at a hall in Carmel, Calif. A fan recorded it, and that tape became the jazz bestseller, "Concert By The Sea." A new complete edition has just been released with twice as much music. Jazz critic Kevin Whitehead says it's more of the same in the best way. (SOUNDBITE OF ERROLL GARNER SONG, "CARAVAN") KEVIN...

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