April 22, 2015
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.
Jazz Night In America visits Sistas' Place in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn — a year-round venue which also helps to present an annual month-long grassroots festival in the heavily African-American neighborhood — to take in Akua Dixon's performance at the Central Brooklyn Jazz Festival. In addition to the string ensemble featured on her latest album, Dixon is also joined by her two children: vocalist Andromeda Turre and drummer Orion Turre.
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April 21, 2015Simón 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.
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April 20, 2015
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 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/.
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April 17, 2015
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.
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April 11, 2015
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/.
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