Saxophonist Joshua Redman and the collaborative trio The Bad Plus both stand among the most celebrated, thoughtful and prominent jazz acts of the last couple decades. That, and their constrasting aesthetic sensibilities, made it at least news when they first got together in 2011. As it turns out, that collaboration bore lasting fruit: After a series of gigs last summer, they went into the studio with each others' tunes to record The Bad Plus Joshua Redman (say it out loud), to be released in late May.
Saxophonist and composer Kamasi Washington, 34, has been working on releasing his now three-CD, nearly three-hour, choir-and-strings-assisted album The Epic for the better part of five years now. Even longer, if you consider how long his 10-piece working band has known each other: Most of its members, known collectively as The Next Step or The West Coast Get Down, have known each other since at least high school decades ago in South Central Los Angeles, and in some instances well before that.
For 25 years, the baritone saxophone chair of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra has been held by a one Joe Temperley. The Scottish musician, now 85, carries tons of credits to his C.V., especially with big bands: Thad Jones-Mel Lewis, Woody Herman, Buddy Rich, Clark Terry and — most notably — the Duke Ellington Orchestra.
The pianist and composer Vijay Iyer frames his new trio recording, Break Stuff, around the idea of musical breaks: "a break in music is still music: a span of time in which to act," he writes. Formally, he's referring to breakbeats and other musical breakdowns, but more generally, Iyer's trio exploits opportunities to rupture convention.
Marian McPartland hosts pianist Stanley Cowell for this 1999 episode of Piano Jazz, recorded before an audience at NPR's studios in Washington. Known for his brilliant and highly personal approach, Cowell bridges traditional and contemporary styles of jazz. He and McPartland challenge each other in inventive duets, and Cowell performs his composition "Equipoise."
In mid-century Philadelphia, dozens of organists reshaped jazz into a popular, swinging, danceable contemporary music. Often in trios with drums and guitar or saxophone, these organ players made church instruments into portable orchestras — a tradition that continues to the present day in Philadelphia.
Originally published on Fri April 24, 2015 3:49 pm
It's not as if there were ever clear paths for cello players beyond the European classical tradition, but Akua Dixon made one for herself. The New York City native found work in the pit band of the Apollo Theater, the multi-racial Symphony of the New World, and the bands of many jazz musicians — including drummer Max Roach's Double Quartet. As she developed her jazz chops, she also started her own string quartet, featured prominently on her new self-titled album. Akua Dixon also features her crafty arranging for strings over jazz standards and Afro-Latin grooves.
In a concert and ceremony at Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York, the National Endowment for the Arts recognizes its 2015 class of Jazz Masters. The performance will be webcast live Monday at 7:30 p.m. EDT here and via arts.gov, jazz.org, wbgo.org and Sirius XM radio.
Composer, arranger and pianist Henry Mancini (1924–1994) wrote some of the most memorable tunes of the modern era. Throughout his career, he recorded more than 90 albums and won 20 Grammys and four Oscars.
To mark what would have been Mancini's 91st birthday, Piano Jazz brings you this episode from 1985. He discusses his muse — the movie screen — and performs several favorites, including "Days Of Wine And Roses."
Among the celebrations of Billie Holiday's centennial birthday anniversary is a new album from Cassandra Wilson. In Coming Forth By Day, one of today's top jazz vocalists salutes one of her idols, drastically rearranging the Holiday songbook.
Jazz Night In America features Cassandra Wilson's blues, country and folk-tinged delivery as she performs her Billie Holiday tribute, and catches up with some key collaborators of both Wilson and Holiday herself.
Vocalist Carmen McRae (1920-1994) was an expert on rhythm, deft phrasing and personal, bittersweet ballads. Her enigmatic, dark contralto voice helped place her among the pantheon of great female jazz singers.
In 1994, McRae received the Jazz Master Award from the National Endowment for the Arts. On this 1985 episode of Piano Jazz, McRae accompanies herself for "As Long As I Live" and joins host Marian McPartland to perform "Carmen's Blues."
Pianist Ralph Sharon, the longtime accompanist for Tony Bennett, died March 31 at age 91. In the audio link above, Tom Cole has a brief report for NPR's Morning Edition, and below, Walter Ray Watson filed this remembrance for NPR Music.
Originally published on Wed April 22, 2015 9:34 pm
The public youth music education program known as El Sistema has reached hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans, largely through participation in classical music ensembles. In 2007, drummer Andrés Briceño and head of the Simón Bolívar Conservatory of Music Valdemar Rodríguez introduced a jazz program to El Sistema, with the goal of promoting the music throughout Venezuela. The flagship ensemble, Simón Bolívar Big Band Jazz, presents the work of both American jazz masters and Venezuelan composers, and like its orchestral counterparts, has now toured the U.S.