March 12, 2015Ernestine Anderson performs at the Windsor Jazz Festival in 1966. (Image Credit: David Redfern/Redferns/Getty Images)
Jazz bassist and composer Christian McBride recently finished a week-long West Coast tour in Seattle. It reminded him of how great a town it was for jazz, both historically and presently.
"There's always been a very powerful jazz community in Seattle," McBride says, citing the early careers of Ray Charles and Quincy Jones. "Quietly, it's been one of the most important jazz cities."
All Things Considered's jazz correspondent (and the host of the public radio program Jazz Night In America) recently introduced host Audie Cornish to two more names from Seattle: trombonist Julian Priester and vocalist Ernestine Anderson.
Ernestine Anderson, 'A Very Rare Living Example'
Now 86, Anderson graduated high school in Seattle before launching her professional career.
"Ernestine Anderson, kind of, was very similar to Dinah Washington in the sense that she crossed a lot of different genres," McBride says. "She was very well respected — is still very well respected — not just as a jazz singer, also as a pop singer, also as an R&B singer. She had a very, very strong following with the R&B crowd."
McBride says that Anderson's early experience singing in church, from the time that "the basic rhythm of traditional gospel still was a swing rhythm," also affects how she phrases. He theorizes that a young Aretha Franklin (another musician with gospel roots) must have checked out Ernestine Anderson's records.
"Leaving a lot of tension, that other kind of 'church' thing I talked about — I think Ernestine is a very rare living example of someone who can do that in the jazz language," McBride says. "Kind of, bring that sophisticated elegance of jazz to a more earthy and gritty soul singing.
Julian Priester, 'Like A Great Sixth Man'
Trombonist Julian Priester, 79, still lives in Seattle, where he teaches music at Cornish College of the Arts. McBride spotlighted the work Priester did in the early 1970s with Herbie Hancock's experimental band Mwandishi.
"This period in music — not just in jazz, but all across the board — it seemed like everything was bleeding into one another," McBride says. "Everybody was experimenting with these other sounds. Everything was on the table."
Of course, Priester's career extends well beyond that time. His credits include Muddy Waters, Dinah Washington, Max Roach, Bo Diddley and Lionel Hampton, not to mention his own work as a bandleader. In all those contexts, he stands out for both his quality and versatility, according to McBride.
"I was thinking of a basketball phrase," McBride says. "He's like a utility player, like a great sixth man. If you need somebody to score you some three-pointers, you always know he's there. You always know you have one of the greatest players in your band — not because he's a virtuoso, but he's just really one of the greatest solid musicians on any instrument throughout the years."
'The Mark Of A True Musician'
That adaptability links the two musicians beyond their geographic roots.
"I've always thought the mark of a true musician was being able to adapt to any style," McBride says. "Any changes that happen, you're able to ride with it but still maintain your musical integrity and identity, while still being flexible enough to change with the times."Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.
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March 5, 2015
For trumpeter and composer Igmar Thomas, much in contemporary music is clearly evolved from improvised American music of eras past — jazz, in short. That insight led him to create the Revive Big Band, a large ensemble with a view to connecting the through-lines between hip-hop and its predecessors. With the Big Band, he might reconstruct how a jazz tune lent the sample for a modern classic, or unveil original works, or orchestrate special collaborations with soloists like tap dancer Savion Glover, trumpeter Roy Hargrove, or rapper Talib Kweli.
It's made possible by connections he forged starting at Berklee College of Music — people like the emcee Raydar Ellis, who often appears with the band, or the concert producer Meghan Stabile, whose Revive Music agency helps the band get on stage. In December 2014, the Revive Big Band went back to Berklee and Boston for a series of performances where it all started. Jazz Night In America presents the story behind the band and its homecoming show, in conjunction with WBGO's The Checkout: Live.
© 2015 WBGO
February 26, 2015
Regular visitors to Jazz at Lincoln Center know Marcus Roberts the pianist — as a former member of Wynton Marsalis' bands and the Jazz at Lincoln Orchestra, he still returns often with his own groups. But since leaving Marsalis, he's also become a mentor to many younger musicians, both on the bandstand and in the classroom. His new 11-piece ensemble the Modern Jazz Generation combines his trio with many of his younger protégés, looping the feedback full circle.
Jazz Night In America visits Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola inside Jazz at Lincoln Center to hear original music by Roberts, plus his arrangements of Jelly Roll Morton, Chick Corea and Horace Silver. Along the way, he and his bandmates tell us how the band formed in his Florida State University office, and explore what it means to teach jazz through mentorship.
© 2015 WBGO
February 26, 2015
The jazz clarinetist and saxophonist Anat Cohen comes from Israel, studied and lives in the Northeastern U.S., and maintains a deep affinity for Brazilian music. Specifically, she's a specialist in the Afro-Western, improvisatory, instrumental music known as choro — an analogue of early jazz in the U.S. — where her clarinet is a lead instrument. She now helms a group called Choro Aventuroso, a quartet whose other members hail from Brazil, which takes the style as a launching pad for further adventures.
In fall of 2014, Cohen and Choro Aventuroso had the opportunity to showcase at Jazz at Lincoln Center. Jazz Night In America presents their set from The Appel Room, overlooking New York City's Central Park.
Anat Cohen, clarinet; Vitor Gonçalves, accordion/piano; Cesar Garabini, 7-string guitar; Sergio Krakowski, pandeiro.
© 2015 WBGO
February 22, 2015Clark Terry wasn't just a trumpeter with flawless technique; he was also, according to one peer, a "natural-born educator" who devoted much of his later career to passing on his immense musical knowledge. (Image Credit: Courtesy of the artist)
Jazz trumpeter Clark Terry has died. The musician's ebullient personality reached a nationwide audience as a member of NBC's Tonight Show band, and the sound of his expressive trumpet inspired younger musicians for nearly eight decades. The 94-year-old musician died Saturday.
Clark Terry said he heard the sound of jazz everywhere as a kid in St. Louis in the 1930s: on the radio, in parades and wafting in from river boats floating along the Mississippi River.
He came up with his own sound in a junkyard with a homemade trumpet. In 1995, he described it on the NPR program Billy Taylor's Jazz at the Kennedy Center.
"I made it from an old discarded garden hose — I had it bound up like a trumpet, with an old piece of kerosene funnel, made it look like a bell," he said, laughing. "Then I put a piece of old lead pipe on the end, that was my mouthpiece. I couldn't make any music with it but I sure made a lot of noise with it!"
He said when his neighbors couldn't stand the racket any longer, they pitched in and bought him a real trumpet.
Eventually, Clark Terry learned to play jazz on the bandstand. In 1948, after a stint in the U.S. Navy, Terry hit the big time with the Count Basie Orchestra. Terry said the music education that started under the watchful eyes of older musicians back in St. Louis continued with Basie.
"His most important thing he gave to all of us was the utilization of space and time," Terry said. "He became famous not so much for the notes he played as for the notes he didn't."
After three years with Basie, Terry found himself playing with the bandleader who inspired him to make that childhood junkyard trumpet: Duke Ellington.
Terry spent the late 1940s and most of the '50s crisscrossing the country with Basie and Ellington. But when they went through the South there was another passenger traveling with them: Jim Crow.
Trumpeter Jimmy Owens is a generation younger than his friend and mentor Clark Terry, but he says he's heard Terry's stories.
"When we see someone like Clark Terry and is so happy, so elated at what he is performing, not knowing what he went through, it's just amazing," Owens says.
Clark Terry broke through a color line in the music business in the early 1960s. When the National Urban League lobbied the NBC network to hire black musicians for its orchestra, the white players in the Tonight Show band recommended Clark Terry.
His occasional spotlight in front of a nationwide audience included his character Mumbles, a recording studio gag that was his sendup of some of the blues vocalists he played with back in St. Louis.
Behind the humor was a jazz musician admired by his peers for his flawless technique, his crystal clear tone and musical ideas that reached all the way back to the jazz he heard as a kid.
He devoted the last part of his career to sharing his immense knowledge through jazz education in colleges and universities. Trumpeter Jimmy Owens says jazz has lost a direct link to its earliest history — and a "natural-born educator."
"He knew how to answer that question to not only give the answer to that question but give you further information about a situation," Owens says.
With Clark Terry's passing, the living history he shared through his playing and his teaching is now just history.Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.
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