WBGO Blog
  • Winter Jazzfest 2014: Tips Of The Iceberg

    January 13, 2014. Posted by Tim Wilkins.

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    Rene Marie. (Image Credit: John Rogers for NPR/johnrogersnyc.com)

    The logo for the 2014 Winter Jazzfest, marking the festival's 10th anniversary, is a giant iceberg floating into New York harbor. Like the iceberg, this year's edition was both big — 90-plus groups over five nights, representing just a small portion of a larger scene — and cold and wet, in that it rained both nights of the music marathon last Friday and Saturday evening. But Winter Jazzfest was hot on the inside, as we soaked up great music like a sponge.

    It's a lot to process. So on Sunday, after some strong coffee and sleep — more coffee than sleep — we compared notes via online chat with WBGO colleague Alex Ariff and fellow travelers David Adler, Derrick Lucas and Brad Farberman — who covered the fest for the Village Voice, Jazz 90.1 FM in Rochester, N.Y., and Time Out New York, respectively.

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  • 5 Must-See Projects At Winter Jazzfest

    January 8, 2014. Posted by Tim Wilkins.

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    Lionel Loueke (left) and Miguel Zenon (right) join Jeff Ballard in the drummer's rhythm-oriented trio. (Image Credit: Andrea Boccalini/Courtesy of the artist)

    This year's Winter Jazzfest seems to be a kind of turning point — for the festival, and maybe for jazz in New York City. What started 10 years ago as a one-night showcase under one roof has expanded to five days at 10 venues, featuring more than 90 groups in a vast array of styles.

    The underground edge is still there, but this year's acts include multiple Grammy winners, beyond-jazz acts such as singer Keren Ann, and three midweek marquee concerts. One teams star pianists Robert Glasper and Jason Moran to celebrate the 75th anniversary of Blue Note Records.

    Still, much of the festival's excitement still resides in its signature two-night marathon, where acts perform in quick succession in neighboring Greenwich Village nightclubs. For the price of a single ticket, concertgoers can choose — or try to choose — between groups, which range from Balkan and New Orleans brass to Latin and straight-ahead jazz. The 18-piece orchestral pop ensemble Mother Falcon, with cello and glockenspiel, will also appear.

    At WBGO HD2 we'll stream a mix of all 92 groups at this year's Winter Jazzfest around the clock to prepare for these new sounds. (For more insights, check out the conversation between WBGO's Josh Jackson and NPR Music's Patrick Jarenwattananon on our weekly new-music magazine, The Checkout.) Here are five of the acts performing in this year's WJF marathon, and a rundown of what they plan to perform.

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  • Opera Star Jessye Norman Picks Her Favorite Jazz Singers

    September 20, 2013. Posted by Tim Wilkins.

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    In a conversation aired on WBGO, Jessye Norman credits the study of jazz with her understanding of song interpretation. (Image Credit: Carol Friedman/Courtesy of the artist)

    Jessye Norman's commanding soprano voice makes her the quintessential operatic diva for many listeners. But she frequently draws inspirations from jazz: She ranks singers like Billie Holiday, Mabel Mercer and Sarah Vaughan high on her list of influences.

    "I love singing jazz," Norman says. "I don't like the idea that classical music should be over here and jazz should be someplace else. It's all wonderful, and we should be open to enjoying it all."

    Early in her career, Norman says, hearing singers like Holiday taught her that interpretation is as important as a written score. In her view, this applies to opera as much as it does to improvised music.

    "One has to draw upon one's own musical thoughts, and one's own musical acumen, and not to be afraid to let that come into one's work," she says. "Perhaps that comes with more experience, but perhaps it also comes with daring, and believing that you should."

    Norman sat down recently with WBGO's Rhonda Hamilton to play some of her favorite jazz records, and to discuss her musical inspirations.

    "We singers have a different level of responsibility from other musicians," Norman says. "We have words that we must convey; we have meanings that we must convey through these lyrics."

    Jessye Norman also hosts a special performance in New York on Sept. 24 of the musical Lady Day, which stars singer Dee Dee Bridgewater, to benefit WBGO. The musical opens at Broadway's Little Shubert Theater on Oct. 3.

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