• Jason Moran, Curator

    December 16, 2011. Posted by Becca Pulliam.

    Jason Moran. (Image Credit: Shaul Schwarz/Courtesy of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation)

    The 2011 edition of the annual holiday special A Jazz Piano Christmas is now playing on public radio stations and at NPR Music. One of this year's performers was pianist Jason Moran — making his first performance at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts after being named its artistic advisor for jazz. WBGO's Becca Pulliam, who produces the program JazzSet, recently caught up with Moran via telephone to talk about his new job — and combed through the JazzSet archives for Moran's first Kennedy Center appearance.

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  • Replace Head With Instrument: Surrealist Music Photography

    December 13, 2011. Posted by Joshua Jackson.

    Bootsy Collins. (Image Credit: Michael Weintrob)

    New-York-based Michael Weintrob is the official photographer of the 43rd Barcelona Voll-Damm International Jazz Festival. "I met him when I needed a photo of [jazz concert producer] George Wein when we presented the great impresario with his trio last year," says Joan Anton Cararach, the festival director. (Barcelona is a sister festival to the Newport Jazz Festival, founded by Wein.) "I saw Michael working very hard in New York and Newport, and I really liked his approach to live concert photography."

    Weintrob occupied the Gran Hotel Havana, festival headquarters, starting Oct. 26. During the festival, he became something of an anchor resident and a self-described "camp counselor" to journalists covering the events on a temporary basis.

    Fifteen images from Weintrob's portraiture series, InstrumentHead, were exhibited in the hotel lobby, thanks to support from the U.S. Consulate in Barcelona. "InstrumentHead is a project I've been working on for five years," says Weintrob. "They're surrealist portraits of musicians, and I'm trying to tell their story without seeing their face. The idea is to leave hints in the images, so their fans can guess who they are without seeing their face."

    More than 200 artists have participated in the project so far. There have been discussions about a book and a fan-funded online archive, as well as a 2013 exhibition at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

    In Barcelona, Weintrob spent his days shooting artist clinics, conducting student workshops, and speaking at the Catalan Institute for Photography. At night, he captured the concerts and special events, spread over a month, that are collectively known as the Barcelona Jazz Festival. "It's a big honor to have a surrealist exhibition in Catalonia, the home of surrealist art and a place where Dali, Miro and Picasso all made an impact."

    "Michael was already set to come to Barcelona, so I thought it could be a great idea to make him our official photographer," Cararach says. "I loved the idea of having a photographer from abroad discover the festival — our venues, our public, our love for food and wine. He's working hard, but he's having fun. I'm delighted to see my festival through his eyes. He has become a true Barcelonian."

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  • Seamus Blake Quartet: Live In Concert

    December 7, 2011. Posted by Joshua Jackson.

    Seamus Blake performs live at Berklee College of Music. (Image Credit: Armeen Musa/Courtesy of Berklee College of Music)

    He's not quite a global icon, but a jury of his peers would surely judge the tenor saxophonist Seamus Blake one of the top improvisers working today. In fact, a jury of peer and elder saxophonists officially deemed it so in 2002, when he won the prestigious Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition. Unofficially, he's long held the distinction — since landing in New York in the early 1990s, really — serving with Victor Lewis, Dave Douglas, John Scofield and the Mingus Big Band, among other headliners, all the while finding time to record and perform in multiple settings as a bandleader.

    He brought several of his trusted collaborators back to his alma mater for the next installment of The Checkout: Live At Berklee series, featuring alumni of the Berklee College of Music. In a live radio broadcast on WBGO and live online video webcast at NPR Music, the Seamus Blake Quartet performed live at Berklee's Cafe 939 on Wednesday, Dec. 7. For more information about this series and the full concert archive, visit npr.org/checkoutlive.

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