• Vanguard Jazz Orchestra: 50 Years Of Mondays

    May 5, 2016

    In 1965, the trumpeter, composer and arranger Thad Jones and the drummer Mel Lewis found themselves with a book of big-band music originally intended for the Count Basie Orchestra — and nobody to perform it. So they made their own. They handpicked some of New York's top talent and called rehearsals on Monday nights, when the studio musicians could actually make it. And by the time they debuted on a Monday in February 1966 at the famed Village Vanguard, they were already a force to be reckoned with — soon to become the most influential big band of the last 50 years. The Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra, now the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, still plays every Monday night.

    Jazz Night In America heads to the basement jazz shrine to see the band's 50th anniversary show in February 2016, full of cuts from the original Thad Jones songbook. Our radio program tells the story of how the band came to be.


    Mat Jodrell, trumpet; Jon Owens, trumpet; Terell Stafford, trumpet; Scott Wendholt, trumpet; Luis Bonilla, trombone; Jason Jackson, trombone; John Mosca, trombone; Douglas Purviance, bass trombone; Dick Oatts, alto sax/winds; Billy Drewes, alto sax/soprano sax/winds; Rich Perry, tenor sax/winds; Ralph Lalama, tenor sax/winds; Gary Smulyan, baritone sax; Michael Weiss, piano; David Wong, bass; John Riley, drums with Jerry Dodgion, alto sax.

    Copyright 2016 WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center. To see more, visit WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center.

  • Songs We Love: Bill Evans Trio, 'You're Gonna Hear From Me [Alternate Take]'

    April 30, 2016. Posted by David Tallacksen.

    The Bill Evans Trio (Eddie Gomez, Jack DeJohnette and Bill Evans) in 1968. (Image Credit: Giuseppe Pino/Courtesy of Resonance Records)

    Today is International Jazz Day, which you can celebrate with five great jazz performances at the Tiny Desk and a list from Christian McBride — plus a newly unearthed studio recording by a short-lived version of the Bill Evans Trio.

    There are two basic structures that inform the majority of performances by the Bill Evans Trio. The first kind are simple vehicles for Evans to build and flesh out his ideas — pretty standard fare for any jazz ensemble. The second kind, the kind that Evans' fame as one of jazz's greatest improvisers and bandleaders is built on, are less like vehicles and more like conversations. This take on "You're Gonna Hear From Me," a hit for crooner Andy Williams in 1966, is an example of just how fervent the trio's conversations could be.

    The Bill Evans Trio went through countless lineup changes over Evans' 23 years as a bandleader. This particular configuration, featuring Evans' longtime collaborator Eddie Gomez and future fusion titan Jack DeJohnette, is probably the least known. Though Gomez joined Evans in the fall of 1966 and would stay with him for 11 years, DeJohnette's tenure lasted only a few short months. What they did in that time was previously only documented on the Bill Evans At The Montreux Jazz Festival LP. Recorded during that same period in 1968, Some Other Time: The Lost Session From The Black Forest is a new two-disc set that captures this trio's potency in its only studio appearance.

    At times the performance can feel quite spontaneous, as if the musicians came up with every single note on the spot. There's a great deal of truth in that, according to the trio's bassist, Eddie Gomez. "We didn't have too much set-up," Gomez tells NPR. "We were kind of just playing through them. I mean, we hadn't played a lot of these tunes ... we hadn't formulated a real pattern as to how to go about it — who would play first, etc. — so all of it was pretty much off the top of our heads. Which was good, and it made it kind of all the more fun, because we were improvising, totally improvising."

    It feels appropriate that the alternate take of "You're Gonna Hear From Me" closes out disc two, considering the first of the disc's 10 tracks is the "primary" take. What's captured between the opening of the primary take and the closing notes of the alternate is the range that this configuration had as it evolved as a unit in the studio. You hear the results of the players continuing to listen to each other. You hear them grow into each other's grooves and begin to communicate on a level that is closer to pure instinct than simple, shared language. Each man puts forth the same level of intensity and musicality with every note, every stroke, to the point where three distinct improvisations merge into a unified whole. It's the sound of true equals.

    Some Other Time: The Lost Session From The Black Forest is out now on Resonance.

    Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

  • Carlos Henriquez: The Bronx Pyramid

    April 28, 2016

    Carlos Henriquez in The Bronx. (Image Credit: Lawrence Sumulong for Jazz at Lincoln Center)

    Carlos Henriquez spends a lot of time these days in midtown Manhattan as the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra's bassist — a post he's held since he was a teen. But his roots are uptown in the Bronx. In The Bronx Pyramid, his debut album released last year by JALC's Blue Engine Records, Henriquez acknowledges the neighborhood where he was born and raised. In songs like "Joshua's Dream" and "Brook Ave," the young Nuyorican composer brings together Afro-Latin traditions and his jazz pedigree to pay tribute to the family and community that raised him.

    Jazz Night In America takes in a performance led by Carlos Henriquez at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola, inside Jazz at Lincoln Center.

    Copyright 2016 WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center. To see more, visit WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center.

  • 3 Artists From Abroad, For International Jazz Day

    April 28, 2016

    Cyrille Aimée's new album is Let's Get Lost. (Image Credit: Colville Heskey/Courtesy of the artist)

    This Saturday is International Jazz Day. And this year, NPR has a man on the inside.

    Bassist Christian McBride, host of Jazz Night In America, is in town for the all-star show at the White House. So he took the opportunity to swing by NPR headquarters and speak with host Audie Cornish about some of his favorite artists from around the globe.

    Cyrille Aimée

    Vocalist Cyrille Aimée is proficient in the jazz manouche style popularized by Django Reinhardt. But there's much more to her work, and her background. Her mother is from the Dominican Republic, her father is French; she's lived in New York City for many years now.

    "She actually grew up in the same town as Django Reinhardt," McBride says. "So you talk about 'gypsy jazz' — I can't really think of anyone who is carrying on that tradition with more authenticity than Cyrille. What I love about her singing is that not only is she very true to her roots, but she seems to have grasped the sound of American jazz with great strength."

    Cécile McLorin Salvant

    On the topic of Francophone jazz, Cécile McLorin Salvant is from Miami, but she also sings in both French and English, and spent her formative years living and studying in France. (Her parents are French and Haitian.) Her last album For One To Love won the Grammy Award for Best Jazz Vocal Album. "She's another incredible, incredible vocalist," McBride says.

    According to McBride, France has often been welcoming to jazz artists of all stripes.

    "Just artists in general — I believe that the French culture really understands the power and importance of being able to create art. It's not necessarily about selling the art. It's about the power of touching the soul."

    Antonio Sánchez

    The Mexican drummer Antonio Sánchez is probably best known to the general public for his improvised drum score to the Academy Award-winning movie Birdman. But McBride knows him as "Rooney," after many years spent together on the road in guitarist Pat Metheny's band.

    "He's just such a brilliant, brilliant musician," McBride says.

    Sanchez has a degree in classical piano performance, and at first intended to become a rock drummer. Then he came to the U.S. and became a first-call drummer for many jazz musicians.

    "I just love everything about Antonio's personality, his musicianship, and I love playing with him," McBride says. "I've very happy for him that he had this success with Birdman."

    Hugh Masekela

    One of the performers at this year's International Jazz Day main event is the South African trumpeter Hugh Masekela. Throughout his career, he's melded folkloric and popular music with a jazz aesthetic — sometimes to great success, as with his 1968 hit "Grazing In The Grass."

    "I was very honored to play ['Grazing In The Grass'] with Hugh Masekela and Stevie Wonder at the first International Day of Jazz," McBride says. "What an honor to be around Mr. Masekela. He's a very wonderful, wonderful spirit. He and Abdullah Ibrahim were part of the first wave of South African jazz musicians that put South African jazz musicians on the map."

    Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

  • Throwback Thursday: Five Great Jazz Tiny Desk Concerts

    April 28, 2016. Posted by David Tallacksen.

    This Saturday, April 30, marks the fifth anniversary of International Jazz Day, a celebration organized by UNESCO to celebrate jazz across the globe. To do our part, we're highlighting some of our favorite jazz musicians to play behind Bob Boilen's desk. Rising stars, young virtuosos, NEA Jazz Masters and veteran ensembles alike have played in NPR's D.C. offices. Here are five standout jazz performances at the Tiny Desk.

    Preservation Hall Jazz Band

    What better place to start this list than with the birthplace of jazz? New Orleans' Preservation Hall Jazz Band plays in the traditional style of its city, a gumbo of gospel, street marching, blaring brass and so much more.

    Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah

    Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah was born in New Orleans and grew up playing with his uncle, saxophonist and Mardi Gras Indian Donald Harrison, Jr. His aesthetic vision, which he calls "Stretch Music," borrows across musical styles and blurs the elements into a unified whole. His music is also dedicated to protest, as in the ferocious number "K.K.P.D." You can hear the intensity of his purpose in every note he blows.

    Sun Ra Arkestra

    One of the greatest holidays in recent memory came after inviting the jazz astronauts of the Sun Ra Arkestra to play the Tiny Desk on Halloween 2014. Led by then-91 year old alto sax player Marshall Allen, the costumed cosmic explorers played a set that pushed the boundaries of tone and color. It's pretty out of this world.

    Edmar Castañeda

    When you think of jazz, the last instrument you might think of is the harp. But Colombian harpist Edmar Castañeda finds seamless ways of blending jazz melodies with Colombian folk rhythms.

    Gary Burton & Julian Lage

    Gary Burton is one of those undisputed masters on his instrument. He popularized the four mallet technique and brought an unheard harmonic approach to the vibraphone. He played with a tiny desk alumnus, guitar prodigy Julian Lage. The two spin tunes of pure beauty and dedicated an impromptu blues for Bob's Tiny Desk.

    Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.