In 1984, when a young Steven Bernstein first encountered the blind virtuoso New Orleans pianist and singer Henry Butler, he was astonished. "This is it," he recalls thinking. "This is like the music that I always imagined. Everything you ever loved about music, all being in one place. But now it's all coming from one person." Nearly two decades later, Butler and Bernstein finally had the chance to collaborate when they were booked for a run together at New York's Jazz Standard.
For decades, David Murray was known as one of New York's most monstrously talented and astoundingly prolific artists — a tenor saxophonist who played and wrote for just about every imaginable context. He's still these things, but he lives in Europe now. So this year's Winter Jazzfest — already jam-packed with over 100 acts in two nights — saw fit to give New York audiences a proper saturation of what they'd been missing, presenting David Murray in three completely different sets.
Grammy Award-winning singer and songwriter Melissa Manchester performed with Bette Midler as "Toots in the Middle" in the original group The Harlettes. Manchester co-wrote and produced a number of hits through the '70s and '80s, and her songs have been recorded by such artists as Barbra Streisand, Alison Krauss and Johnny Mathis.
Originally published on Thu January 22, 2015 3:38 pm
Like many a jazz label throughout history, Prestige Records was a small, independent company which happened to document greats: musicians like Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins and Thelonious Monk, among others. Last year marked its 65th anniversary.
Originally published on Wed January 21, 2015 11:32 pm
Blue Note Records celebrated its 75th anniversary last year, marking three-quarters of a century issuing music by the biggest names in jazz history. The company continues to aspire to that standard, with a contemporary roster ever on the lookout for today's movers and shakers. The supergroup Our Point Of View — the name references a 1963 Herbie Hancock album — combines six of those Blue Note artists for a program of originals and classics heard on Blue Note Records alike.
Originally published on Wed January 21, 2015 10:56 pm
Henry Butler comes from a line of New Orleans piano geniuses, virtuosi who command any style under the syncopated sun. Steven Bernstein comes from a career of collaboration, blowing a slide trumpet all over downtown New York and writing arrangements for just about any medium and context. Both share a love for Jelly Roll Morton and Bessie Smith — Butler grew up in New Orleans, and Bernstein leads the pre-war Millennial Territory Orchestra — and for injecting personal, modern twists into anything they do. And when they met on stage recently, they knew they had to collaborate deeper.
Originally published on Mon January 12, 2015 3:08 pm
If you've ever gone to the NYC Winter Jazzfest — specifically, the marathon of overlapping sets in roughly adjacent venues that sometimes lasts more than eight hours per night — you know that you're bombarded with choices. Stay in one theater where it's warm, or graze for three songs and move on? Stand in that slow-moving line, or find a new plan? See one of your favorite musicians, or take a risk on something you've never heard of before? Experimental, deep in-the-pocket, or somewhere in between?
Known as the longtime bandleader for NBC's Late Night With David Letterman — and, later, CBS' Late Show — Paul Shaffer first received training in the classics. But, thanks to rock 'n' roll, he grew up to lead what Letterman has called "the world's most dangerous band."
Originally published on Fri January 23, 2015 8:38 am
As a pianist and bandleader, Marian McPartland was a decorated jazz artist, recording and performing for well over half a century. At the same time, she was one of the music's great champions, as host of NPR's Piano Jazz for 33 years.
Guitarist Mimi Fox is in the vanguard of invigorating the jazz guitar tradition. She possesses a pure tone and an amazing set of chops and cooks whether playing bebop or ballads.
Her compositional abilities are evident on this 2006 Piano Jazz as she plays her own tune "Perpetually Hip." With host Marian McPartland on piano and Gary Mazzaroppi on bass, Fox tears up the fret board on "What is This Thing Called Love."
For one weekend each January, the epicenter of the New York jazz community is the Winter Jazzfest, a marathon where dozens of bands play a cluster of adjacent downtown venues over two frigid nights. At its peak, lines flow out the doors of clubs to see the famous and obscure alike, often presenting their newest projects for thousands of ticketholders.