November 17, 2015Michael Mwenso (left) leads tap dancer Michela Marino Lerman and a cast of Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola regulars in concert. (Image Credit: Lawrence Sumulong/Jazz at Lincoln Center)
After the headliners and their crowds have left for the evening, a community of up-and-coming artists assembles in a corner of Jazz at Lincoln Center. It's a scene driven in large part by Michael Mwenso, a irrepressible vocalist and natural ringleader who curates the Late Night Sessions at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola. But it also came together in off-campus listening sessions, and by the shared experience of being young and eager (and quite talented) musicians in the big city. As it turns out, all the time spent together away from the club translates directly to how Mwenso and the "family" make music on stage.
Jazz Night in America hangs out with this family as it prepares for and seizes an opportunity to present its own music. Hear a performance at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola featuring Michael Mwenso and fellow vocalists Brianna Thomas and Vuyo Sotashe.
© 2015 WBGO
November 5, 2015. Posted by WBGO.
About a year ago, trumpeter Marquis Hill, now 28, traveled to Los Angeles, played five tunes for a panel of judges, and won the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition. You can think of it as a sort of Heisman Trophy for young jazz artists, meaning that a lot more people discovered his talent in a hurry.
Hill's profile may have risen suddenly, but talent like that doesn't spontaneously emerge from nowhere. It takes a village of mentors, peers, opportunities and other educational infrastructure to enable a musician to grow. That's especially true with jazz, an inherently social music historically conveyed through the oral tradition. Besides, in his hometown of Chicago, folks had already known about Hill for some time: That's the "village" that raised him, after all.
Marquis Hill now splits his time between the Windy City and New York City, but still maintains a snappy working band full of catchy melodic ideas — a five-piece outfit he calls the Marquis Hill Blacktet. On one of his trips back home this summer, we asked him to show us "his" Chicago, culminating in a Blacktet performance downtown at one of the city's premier clubs: the Jazz Showcase.
Jazz Night In America travels to one of the great jazz cities to meet some of the people and places which transformed a young trumpeter from the South Side of Chicago into Marquis Hill.
Marquis Hill, trumpet; Christopher McBride, alto saxophone; Justefan (Justin Thomas), vibraphone; Joshua Ramos, bass; Makaya McCraven, drums
© 2015 WBGO
October 29, 2015
Jazz is taught at universities now, and artists like saxophonist Tim Warfield and trumpeter Terell Stafford teach at them. But they know that jazz is taught more through listening than reading; more on the bandstand than the classroom. And they learned those lessons from the organ giant Shirley Scott, who died in 2002.
Known as the "queen of the organ," Scott was one of several Philadelphians who developed the electric Hammond B-3 into a viable instrument for a soulful, bluesy style of jazz. With dozens of recordings to her name, she was already a major voice when she became the leader of the house band at Ortlieb's Jazzhaus. Among the young players who timidly found their way onto the stage at Ortlieb's were Warfield and Stafford — and, in doing so, they got a lot more than they bargained for.
In this documentary short, Jazz Night In America remembers Shirley Scott through the tales of two of her final proteges and bandmates.
© 2015 WBGO