WBGO Blog
  • South By South Africa: 5 Jazz Acts From The Rainbow Nation

    April 12, 2013. Posted by Simon Rentner.

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    The pianist and saxophonist Kyle Shepherd is one of Cape Town's most highly tipped musicians. (Image Credit: freelenz/Flickr)

    Brilliant art often hides in plain sight. Such is the case in South Africa, where, for centuries, the country turned its back on black and "coloured" musicians.

    In the mid-'60s, the apartheid government made it impossible for its best musicians to operate or make a living. Being a true jazz musician in the apartheid era was particularly dangerous; artists who played music that symbolized empowerment, integration and freedom posed a direct threat. This is why so few "classic" South African jazz recordings exist in the first place. Now, as South Africa enters a modern age, many of the same problems that frustrate American jazz artists actually plague South Africans. Recording contracts for its elders are few and far between.

    That said, there's one bright light in the country: The Cape Town International Jazz Festival, one of Africa's largest music events. Last weekend, jazz — and all that it represents — was celebrated as a vital component of South African identity. This "grandest gathering," as it was called, not only drew a massive audience (26,000 people in two days), but also attracted Africa's top business leaders and dignitaries, including South Africa's president himself.

    Here are five South Africans — all featured at this year's festival — whom every jazz aficionado should know.

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  • SFJAZZ Center Opening Night: Live In Concert

    January 23, 2013. Posted by WBGO.

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    Chick Corea (piano) and Bill Frisell duet during the opening night concert at the new SFJAZZ Center. (Image Credit: Scott Chernis/Courtesy of SFJAZZ)

    Thirty years after presenting its first concerts in San Francisco, the organization SFJAZZ has built a permanent home and performance venue. The SFJAZZ Center, conceived as the first stand-alone building for jazz in the U.S., opened with a star-studded concert on Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2013. WWOZ, WBGO and NPR Music teamed up for a live radio and online video broadcast of the concert.

    Set List

    Note: A full archive of the concert will be made available pending permissions. Video excerpts will also be available shortly.

    • Percussion Invocation
    • John Santos, Pete Escovedo and ensemble, "Ti Mon Bo" (Puente)
    • Mary Stallings with SFJAZZ High School All-Stars, "I Love Being Here With You" (Lee, arr. Eberhart)
    • Jason Moran & Eric Harland, "Yacht Club Swing" (Waller)
    • Chick Corea & Bill Frisell, "It Could Happen To You" (Van Heusen/Burke)
    • Chick Corea, Esperanza Spalding, Jeff Ballard, "Alice In Wonderland" (Fain)
    • Joe Lovano, Joshua Redman and ensemble, "Blackwell's Message" (Lovano)
    • Regina Carter with SFJAZZ High School All-Stars, "Don't Git Sassy" (Jones)
    • SFJAZZ Collective, "Mastermind" (Zenon)
    • Esperanza Spalding & Eric Harland, "Look No Further" (Rodgers)
    • Joshua Redman and ensemble, "Remember" (Berlin)
    • McCoy Tyner and ensemble, "Walk Spirit, Talk Spirit" (Tyner)
    • McCoy Tyner and ensemble, featuring Bobby Hutcherson, Bill Frisell and John Handy, "Blues On The Corner" (Tyner)
    • SFJAZZ Collective featuring Chick Corea, "Spain" (Corea)

    Personnel

    • Bill Cosby, Master of Ceremonies
    • McCoy Tyner, piano
    • Chick Corea, piano
    • Esperanza Spalding, bass/voice
    • Joshua Redman, tenor saxophone
    • Joe Lovano, tenor saxophone
    • Bobby Hutcherson, vibraphone
    • Mary Stallings, voice
    • John Handy, alto saxophone
    • Pete Escovedo, timbales
    • Eric Reed, piano
    • Eric Harland, drums
    • SFJAZZ Center Resident Artistic Directors: Regina Carter, violin; Bill Frisell, guitar; Jason Moran, piano; John Santos, percussion; Miguel Zenón, alto saxophone/percussion
    • SFJAZZ Collective: Miguel Zenón, alto saxophone; David Sánchez, tenor saxophone; Andre Hayward, trombone; Avishai Cohen, trumpet; Stefon Harris, vibraphone; Edward Simon, piano; Matt Penman, bass; Jeff Ballard, drums
    • SFJAZZ High School All-Star Big Band: Paul Contos, director.
    Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.
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  • The 2013 NEA Jazz Masters Awards Concert

    January 14, 2013. Posted by WBGO.

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    The 2013 NEA Jazz Masters. From left: Eddie Palmieri, Mose Allison, Lou Donaldson. Not pictured: Lorraine Gordon. (Image Credit: Michael G. Stewart/NEA)

    In a concert and ceremony at Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York City, the National Endowment for the Arts recognized its 2013 class of Jazz Masters on Monday, Jan. 14, 2013.

    The honor is the highest federally supported award for jazz artistry; those recognized receive a $25,000 grant and a tribute performance. The event was broadcast live at XM Satellite Radio, WBGO-FM and online — with a live video stream — at this page on NPR Music.

    The NEA honored four individuals in 2013. Mose Allison devised a distinctive language as a jazz singer-songwriter, based around his piano; Lou Donaldson's bluesy alto saxophone is never far away from a groove of good feeling; Lorraine Gordon, owner of the Village Vanguard, presides over the longest-running and perhaps most prestigious club in New York; and Eddie Palmieri is one of the finest Latin jazz pianists (and bandleaders) in history.

    Since 1982, the NEA has recognized 128 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 live performances and education programs across the country.

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