Music

Reports focusing on the latest music news and trends along California's Central Coast.

Harry 'Sweets' Edison On Piano Jazz

May 18, 2018

Harry "Sweets" Edison (1915 - 1999) was a legendary stylist of jazz trumpet.

Ron McCarley

Cuesta Community College, with campuses in San Luis Obispo and Paso Robles, boasts an award-winning jazz program. Some of the college’s student-musicians play in small combos, and a Cuesta quartet recording was recently named best in the nation.

Virginia Mayhew On Piano Jazz

May 11, 2018

Saxophonist, composer and bandleader Virginia Mayhew has appeared in major New York jazz venues from the Blue Note to Carnegie Hall, toured internationally and twice represented the U.S. as a Jazz Ambassador. She is also an active jazz educator and founded the Greenwich House Music School Jazz Workshop.

On this 1998 episode of Piano Jazz, Mayhew and McPartland join forces to perform "All the Things You Are" and "Body and Soul." They wrap up the show with a free piece, improvised live in studio, and McPartland closes the hour with "Darn that Dream."

It isn't typically news when a jazz group makes a change in personnel. But The Bad Plus isn't a typical jazz group, and its announcement, this time last year, landed like a bombshell. In short: Ethan Iverson, the band's pianist, would be leaving to pursue his own projects. Orrin Evans, an esteemed peer, would be stepping in. For a group that has always stood for musical collectivism — and never accepted any substitutions — this was a shakeup of existential proportions.

Imagine you're at a party with your most favorite music geek friends. The conversations range from favorite new albums, and favorite Smiths or Belle and Sebastian B-sides to best Neil Young guitar solos and Drake features. Then comes the big one: What was the greatest year in music? That's a question that we discuss and debate regularly in the World Cafe offices.

Last month, the National Endowment for the Arts crowned four new NEA Jazz Masters, including Todd Barkan, a jazz advocate whose early interest in Latin jazz piano turned into a successful five-decade career as a prominent impresario, club owner and record producer. Guitarist Pat Metheny continues to redefine the parameters of his instrument through innovative technique and signature sound. Pianist Joanne Brackeen's unique style commands attention, and Dianne Reeves has become one of the world's preeminent jazz vocalists, whose genius in retrospect seems ceaseless.

Eliane Elias On Piano Jazz

May 1, 2018

Brazilian pianist, composer, and vocalist Eliane Elias grew up with an affinity for both the music of her home country as well as American jazz. She got her start performing with two renowned Brazilian artists, singer-songwriter Toquinho and poet Vinicius de Moraes, before moving to New York in the 1980s, where she took the American jazz scene by storm.

This past fall, when news of the Harvey Weinstein scandal was galvanizing the #MeToo movement, some of us who work in the performing arts had a peculiar experience: Colleagues started asking if they'd sexually harassed us. A few of these colleagues may have been attempting to head off allegations, but many of them genuinely didn't know if they'd crossed a line.

Even though he's had his hand in more than 100 albums, watching Chick Corea play piano feels like seeing him fall in love with his instrument for the first time. Maybe that's why he called his latest album (a collaboration with drummer Steve Gadd) Chinese Butterfly. In Chinese symbolism, the butterfly represents the excitement and fluttering heart of young love.

Logan Richardson's latest project, Blues People, is a condition, a state of being. The album was derived from the early slave calls that inspired the earliest American jazz and blues musical traditions. Here at the Tiny Desk, the saxophonist revisits that history with four remarkable songs from the album, all performed with a hope that our country's future will be less painful than its past.

Willie Pickens On Piano Jazz

Apr 20, 2018

Piano Jazz remembers Willie Pickens (April 18, 1931 – Dec. 12, 2017), who passed away at the age of 86. A master of digital speed and harmonic sophistication, the Chicago pianist was McPartland's guest for this 1997 program.

Recorded live at the Manchester Craftsmen's Guild in Pittsburgh, the set kicks off with an improvised boogie-woogie that shows why Pickens' contemporaries revered him as "one of the foremost piano players in jazz."

Orquesta Akokán takes its name from the Yoruba word meaning "from the heart." The group's self-titled debut album, released in March, draws deep from the soul and history of Cuba, reviving the spirit of the big-band orquestas of decades past like Buena Vista Social Club and Orquesta Aragón.

Cleo Brown On Piano Jazz

Apr 13, 2018

Pianist and vocalist Cleo Brown (1909 – 1995) was one of the early innovators of the boogie-woogie style and the first female instrumentalist to be named an NEA Jazz Master. She retired from performing in the 1950s and focused her attention on religious music, bringing her gifted voice and strong left hand to gospel tunes.

The following text was originally published alongside the live web stream of the 2018 NEA Jazz Masters, which took place on April 16. A recording of the event can now be viewed by clicking on the video above.

Nicholas Payton On Piano Jazz

Apr 6, 2018

Trumpeter Nicholas Payton has been hailed as one of the greatest musicians of his generation. A native of New Orleans, Payton learned the art of improvisation from Wynton Marsalis and as a teen performed with the late trumpet master Clark Terry.

Cecil Taylor, whose stunning and bravely unorthodox piano language made him one of the most important postwar American avant-gardists in any artistic medium, leaves more than a legacy of musical provocation after his death yesterday evening.

Cecil Taylor encompasses a never-ending range of sound and emotion. On his way to the Piano Jazz studio in 1994, the avant-garde jazz pianist and his cab driver discovered that they went to the same high school, opening up a whirlwind of small worlds, and inspiring the improvised piece that opens this episode.

There is no one universe for Ben LaMar Gay, he just sonic booms from one sound to another. His solo debut, Downtown Castles Can Never Block the Sun, is really a patch-work of seven albums, recorded over seven years but never released. It moves from fuzz-caked weirdo-psych to mutant synth-funk to giddy electronics to progressive jazz at a seamless, whiplash-free warp speed.

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.

Jim Ed Brown playing sax with President Bill Clinton
Courtesy "Arkansongs"

Guest host, Steve Koch, is the producer of the syndicated show "Arkansongs" a celebration of Arkansas music. Koch shares insights about Arkansawyer Jim Ed Brown who was born in Sparkman in Dallas County, Arkansas, and grew up in Pine Bluff, Ark.

“J.E.” achieved fame singing with his sisters as The Browns before he went solo in the mid-1960s.

Brown charted more than fifty singles, but was nearly as famous for his TV appearances, including being longtime spokesman for Dollar General Stores. 

Bill Clinton playing the sax
Courtesy "Arkansongs"

Associate Producer for Journeys of Discovery,  Steve Koch is host of the syndicated show Arkansongs in Little Rock. Koch shares insights about Bill Clinton's passion for music and his life in Arkansas.

Gil Goldstein On Piano Jazz

Mar 30, 2018

Composer and arranger Gil Goldstein came to the piano by way of the accordion, which he has rediscovered and added to the jazz lexicon. Collaborations with Jaco Pastorius and Bill Evans fostered his career and led to work with David Sanborn, Michael Franks and Al Jarreau.

Maybe you became aware of Jazzmeia Horn five years ago, when she took first prize at the Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition. Maybe you got hip when her debut album, A Social Call, was released last year. Maybe you caught her turn on the most recent Grammy Premiere Ceremony, when she knocked a scat chorus into the stratosphere.

Mission College Prep student Cayden Wemple performs in the KCBX studios in San Luis Obispo
Thomas Wilmer

Cayden Wemple is a passionate indie-folk singer/songwriter and a senior at Mission College Prep in San Luis Obispo. Wemple describes his songwriting techniques and practices. He also shares insights about how he draws inspiration for his songs from the political world around him. 

When Johann Sebastian Bach compiled the first book of the Well-Tempered Clavier in 1722, he wrote that the 24 preludes and fugues were "for the profit and use of musical youth desirous of learning, and especially for the pastime of those already skilled in this study."

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