WBGO Blog
  • Christian McBride's Christmas Jazz Playlist

    December 17, 2015

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    Trumpeter Wynton Marsalis' version of "We Three Kings" goes on Christian McBride's holiday playlist. (Image Credit: Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images for Brooks Brothers)

    Maybe you are one of those people who could listen to the umpteenth version of "Baby, It's Cold Outside." A jazz bassist and host of Jazz Night In America, Christian McBride has a soft spot for the holiday music time forgot.

    "I'm at a point where I like to find the most obscure Christmas music I can find," McBride says. "I mean, I was hoping that Sun Ra had done a Christmas album, because I would play that in the house. I probably would get kicked out of the house, but I would play that."

    McBride recently spoke with All Things Considered host Audie Cornish about some of his favorite picks, jazz and otherwise.

    Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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  • Jazz At Lincoln Center's Big Band Holidays Concert

    December 14, 2015

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    Vocalist Audrey Shakir will join the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra for this year's holiday show. Her son, saxophonist Walter Blanding, is a long-time Orchestra member. (Image Credit: Frank Stewart/Jazz at Lincoln Center)

    When the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra returns to the newly renovated Rose Theater, it'll bring one of its most popular traditions: its annual concerts of holiday music. The Orchestra, led by Wynton Marsalis, will present new arrangements of favorite seasonal songs with guest vocalists Denzal Sinclaire and Audrey Shakir.

    NPR Music will stream a live performance of the JLCO's Big Band Holidays concert on Thursday, Dec. 17 at 8 p.m. ET.

    Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

  • The Ladybugs Do Disney

    December 11, 2015

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    (Image Credit: Courtesy of the artist)

    The Ladybugs are a young band who draw on elements of hot swing, American folk music and blues. But their most salient features, the voices of dual frontwomen Martina DaSilva and Kate Davis, immediately recall an era when intricate vocal harmonies were more common in jazz. Appropriately enough, the quintet recently took on a program drawn from classic Walt Disney films at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola within Jazz at Lincoln Center.

    Jazz Night in America dives into how the group developed on the New York "hot" jazz scene and what new things can be done with the Disney songbook.

    Copyright 2015 WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/series/347139849/jazz-night-in-america.

  • The Guy Who Makes The Best Cowbells

    December 10, 2015

    In The Bronx, there's a man who builds instruments for the world's great Latin percussionists: Tito Puente, Eddie Montalvo, Giovanni Hidalgo, Bobby Sanabria. He has no signs, no storefront, no advertising of any kind, but people from around the world call him for work. After all, nothing sounds quite like one of his handmade cowbells.

    Calixto "Cali" Rivera's father was a guitar maker, and his son picked up the tradition of craftsmanship. But Cali gravitated to the drums — he's a timbale player — and made congas, bongos and other percussion instruments. These days, he specializes in high-quality cowbells of all sorts. He's in his late 70s, with only his wife for administrative support, yet he cranks out dozens a week.

    Jazz Night In America recently visited Rivera at his JCR Percussion workshop to find out how, for nearly 40 years, he's transformed strong metal into strong bells.

    Copyright 2015 WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/series/347139849/jazz-night-in-america.

  • Wayne Horvitz: The Pianist And The Poet

    December 3, 2015

    The last time we went to Seattle, we met a piano player and bandleader named Wayne Horvitz. Among other things, he books a club called the Royal Room, teaches at Cornish College of the Arts, directs a high-school ensemble, and writes and performs many different sorts of music. Jazz and improvised music frames a lot of what he does, but as an artist, it's certainly not the only language he speaks.

    "I'm an American composer, not a jazz composer," he says. "My whole life, I've [never] thought of myself as a jazz composer. I've always been in this weird gray area where jazz musicians were the only people who don't consider me a jazz musician. Everybody else does."

    Ever since he moved westward from New York in 1988 — he's still remembered by some as the keyboardist in John Zorn's band Naked City — Horvitz has integrated himself deep into Seattle's music community. Fittingly, one of his latest projects was inspired by a Seattle-born poet named Richard Hugo, who wrote often about the American West (and the small-town bars he found therein). The songs based on the poems are collected in a new album called Some places are forever afternoon — a line taken from a poem about the working-class Seattle neighborhood of White Center.

    That music takes two of Horvitz's bands — a chamber-music group called the Gravitas Quartet and an Americana-tinged outfit called Sweeter That The Day — and melds them into a larger ensemble. Jazz Night In America recently went to the Earshot Jazz Festival in Seattle to catch a performance of this music, and to learn how exactly the poet triggered the pianist.

    Personnel

    Wayne Horvitz, piano; Ron Miles, cornet; Sara Schoenbeck, bassoon; Peggy Lee, cello; Tim Young, guitar; Keith Lowe, bass; Eric Eagle, drums.

    Copyright 2015 WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/series/347139849/jazz-night-in-america.