WBGO Blog
  • Simón Bolívar Big Band Jazz In Concert

    April 21, 2015

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    Simón Bolívar Big Band Jazz performs at Jazz at Lincoln Center. (Image Credit: Frank Stewart/Jazz at Lincoln Center)

    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.

    Jazz Night In America presents Simón Bolívar Big Band Jazz during a recent stateside sojourn, from Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola within New York's Jazz at Lincoln Center.

    Copyright 2015 WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center. To see more, visit .

  • The 2015 NEA Jazz Masters Concert

    April 20, 2015

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    George Coleman. (Image Credit: Ray Foley/Courtesy of the artist)

    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.

    The NEA honors four individuals in 2015: composer and pianist Carla Bley, saxophonist and composer George Coleman, saxophonist and composer Charles Lloyd and venue proprietor Joe Segal.

    The honor is the most substantial federally supported award for jazz artistry; those recognized each receive a $25,000 grant. This concert includes performances by Bley and Lloyd, as well as appearances by other NEA Jazz Masters and guest artists from multiple generations. Bassist Christian McBride, who is also host of NPR's Jazz Night In America, will emcee.

    Since 1982, the NEA has now recognized 136 Jazz Masters (or group awards), all of whom were living at the time of their selection. In addition to the one-time grant, recipients are also invited to participate in NEA-sponsored performances and education programs across the country.

    Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

  • Celebrating Billie Holiday's Centennial With Cassandra Wilson

    April 17, 2015

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    Cassandra Wilson. (Image Credit: Mark Seliger/Courtesy of the artist)

    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.

    Copyright 2015 WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center. To see more, visit .

  • A Young Jazz Saxophonist Wants You To 'Get Up And Move'

    April 11, 2015

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    Saxophonist Hailey Niswanger's new album is PDX Soul. (Image Credit: Courtesy of the artist)

    Since she was a teenager, saxophonist Hailey Niswanger has been drawing attention in the jazz world, and not just because she's a woman in bands most often populated by men. Niswanger's alto- and soprano-sax mastery is captivating. Now 25, she's just released her third album as a bandleader, PDX Soul, and is preparing to go on tour with fellow Portland, Ore., native Esperanza Spalding.

    The funk-influenced PDX Soul, which finds Niswanger embracing heavy production and certain elements of smooth jazz, represents a departure from her straight-ahead jazz albums.

    "I wanted to show another side of my passion," says Niswanger, who points to Cannonball Adderley, Herbie Hancock and Miles Davis as models of artists who have moved easily among musical styles. "Maybe it's more prone for festival-type vibes and outdoor, standing venues — dance, get up and move."

    Niswanger says she sees an opening among her generation for jazz in the way it crosses genre boundaries.

    "I think jazz is starting to break into other areas," she says. "I know that this big hip-hop album that just came out, Kendrick Lamar's To Pimp A Butterfly, there's jazz all over the album. There's improvisation; there's jazz saxophone playing all up in there. It's definitely starting to cross over, and I think there might be a new wave of interest, especially for the younger crowd."

    NPR's Tamara Keith spoke with Niswanger about PDX Soul, the story of how the saxophone first called to her, and the unique challenges of playing the soprano sax. Hear their conversation at the audio link.

    Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

  • Home Cooking: The Philadelphia Jazz Organ Tradition In Concert

    April 9, 2015

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    Sonny Keaton performs during the Home Cooking concert. (Image Credit: WXPN)

    The Hammond electronic organ was developed with churches in mind, as a lower-cost alternative to pipe organs. But in Philadelphia, a keyboard player named Jimmy Smith was inspired by early jazz experiments on the instrument, and found a devastating way to adapt the new bebop style to the Hammond B-3. It seeded a new tradition of organ players in Philadelphia — major figures like "Groove" Holmes, Jimmy McGriff, Papa John and Joey DeFrancesco, and Trudy Pitts — and kickstarted a new sound in jazz at large.

    Jazz Night In America visits Philadelphia for a history lesson and dance party: a tribute to organ masters Smith, Shirley Scott and Charles Earland with six local organists, multiple bands and three guest vocalists. With WXPN, WRTI and the Philadelphia Jazz Project, Jazz Night visits World Cafe Live for a B-3 jam featuring many of the city's finest musicians.

    Copyright 2015 WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center. To see more, visit .