• Evolution Of A Song: 'St. Louis Blues'

    August 10, 2011. Posted by Simon Rentner.

    Sheet music for W.C. Handy's "St. Louis Blues." (Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

    W.C. Handy, known as the "Father of the Blues," didn't exactly invent the blues, as his nickname might imply. Instead, this savvy African-American songwriter and publisher tapped into the soul of his people and took their rustic sound — a combination of work songs, field hollers and spirituals — and shared it with the rest of the world. He popularized The Blues.

    "St. Louis Blues" was his best-known tune. It made Handy millions in royalties, inspired multiple motion pictures and was recorded by America's top jazz artists. Nine decades since its original release, the song continues to be reinvented in every imaginable setting, from classical music orchestras to rock 'n' roll acts. Here are a few "jazzy" versions.

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  • Marcus Strickland Quartet + Eric Harland's Voyager: Live From 92Y Tribeca

    August 9, 2011. Posted by Simon Rentner.

    Marcus Strickland (left) and Eric Harland, during their bands' performances at 92Y Tribeca. (Image Credit: John Rogers for NPR/johnrogersnyc.com)

    This installment of The Checkout: Live From 92Y Tribeca features two heavy hitters. Saxophonist Marcus Strickland's upcoming double album Triumph of the Heavy, Vol. 1 & 2 is so named because it seeks the weight of substance and integrity. Drummer Eric Harland pounds the skins with heft and finesse alike; now in his mid-30s, he's already played on a lifetime's worth of records.

    Perhaps you know Strickland from the bands of Roy Haynes, Dave Douglas and Jeff "Tain" Watts. Perhaps you know Harland from bands of Charles Lloyd, Dave Holland, McCoy Tyner or Joshua Redman. You get the point: The biggest jazz musicians want these guys for their bands.

    Strickland and Harland are beginning to emerge as bandleaders themselves. Strickland has been working with a quartet; it features the lean muscularity of his horn and is grounded by rapport with his twin brother, drummer E.J. Strickland. Harland has just released his debut CD as a leader in the U.S.: Voyager: Live By Night highlights the polychromatic firestorm of his playing as he drives a crackling young band.

    The Marcus Strickland Quartet and Eric Harland's Voyager quintet performed a live radio broadcast and online video webcast on WBGO's The Checkout: Live From 92Y Tribeca Tuesday, Aug. 9.

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  • Newport Jazz 2011: Dancing In The Rain

    August 8, 2011. Posted by Tim Wilkins.

    (Image Credit: Erik Jacobs for NPR)

    At the Newport Jazz Festival this weekend, I was joined by WBGO web producers Tim Wilkins and Alex Rodriguez, who were helping with our broadcast and recording. You can see what Alex and Tim were up to at wbgo.org/newport. And remember, you can hear NPR Music recordings of Newport sets at npr.org/newportjazz.

    Somehow in all that, we all found time to hear some music. This morning, we got up early — even before coffee — to recap what we heard via Instant Messenger.

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