Music

Big Jay McNeely, a rhythm-and-blues legend known as “King of the Honkin’ Sax,” died on Sunday, according to multiple sources. He was 91. Bob Porter, the author of Soul Jazz, remembers him here.

Don Schlitten / Courtesy of Resonance Records

When George Klabin started Resonance Records, he had no idea he was planting the seed for a bumper crop of historic jazz recordings.

“We started with living musicians,” says Klabin,  a veteran producer and engineer, “and it didn’t make the impact that it makes even now.”

Craig Lovell / Corbis via Getty Images

Feeling Good with WBGO — that's the theme of our fall fund drive, which kicks off this Friday. We'll be focusing on the music that makes our listeners feel good, and celebrating the ways that it brings us together. As a build-up to the drive, here's a special edition of Take Five featuring feel-good tracks curated by our announcers, ranging from throwback classics to hot-off-the-press new releases. 

Nick Michael / NPR

As we continue to remember pianist and composer Randy Weston, who died on Sept. 1, we’re reminded of his devotion to the motherland, Africa. But how many people know about his ties to Central America — and in particular, his deep connection to Panama?


Nels Cline has earned his place as a guitar hero for our times, with a track record stretching back four decades and a marquee gig with Wilco. But if you mainly associate him with squalls of feedback, you're missing a big part of the picture. "The Avant Romantic" is how Rolling Stone pegged him about a decade ago, in its list of Top 20 New Guitar Gods.

Courtesy of the artist

The Cuban mambo group Orquestra Akokán visited our studio at WBGO yesterday. In this Checkout podcast, you'll hear their full performance, and my conversation with two co-leaders from the band.


LIVIA SA

The Charlie Parker Jazz Festival is a perennial summer favorite in New York City, bringing crowds to both Tompkins Square Park in the East Village and Marcus Garvey Park in Harlem. 

This was the festival's 26th year, and we captured two sets in Harlem, by singer Catherine Russell and trumpeter Keyon Harrold. You can hear them both here, exclusively on WBGO.

Francis Wolff / Blue Note Records

Labor Day weekend is a time to honor our workers, and the spirit of industry they embody. Of course it also carries other connotations: backyard barbecues, furniture sales and family road trips, for starters.

When thinking about a Labor Day edition of Take Five, I decided to bypass the standard fare — like Cannonball Adderley's “Work Song,” which refers to a different set of circumstances than the one that this holiday commemorates. I looked instead to important jazz artists who were born this week in history, within several days of the holiday.

Chester Higgins

Randy Weston, a pianist and composer who devoted more than half a century to the exploration of jazz’s deep connection with Africa, died on Saturday at his home in Brooklyn. He was 92.

His death was announced by his wife and business partner, Fatoumata Weston.

Courtesy of the artist

The Westerlies, a young brass quartet at the intersection of new music and progressive jazz, has teamed up with the equally broadminded vocalist Theo Bleckmann for a pointed new project, Songs of Refuge and Resistance.

Simon Rentner

Before Adrian Younge was writing orchestral music with a hip-hop flair, he was a law professor by day and a DJ by night. During this period, he became obsessed with classic soul from 1968 to 1973 — music that he says resonated in ways this country had never seen before. Younge, a multi-instrumentalist from Los Angels, aspires toward a similar feeling on his new album, The Midnight Hour, with Ali Shaheed Muhammad from A Tribe Called Quest.

Esperanza Spalding Is The 21st Century's Jazz Genius

Aug 28, 2018

In the world of jazz, most musicians choose one single thing and get as good as humanly possible at it, but not Camille Thurman. She's known as a double threat: The rare jazz musician who has mastered both a highly technical instrument — in her case, the saxophone — and sings. Thurman's vocals have been compared to Ella Fitzgerald. Her latest album, Waiting for the Sunrise, is out now.

JEMAL COUNTESS / Getty Images

Doug Doyle spoke with a number of musicians, producers and writers while organizing a WBGO News roundup of tributes to Aretha Franklin. Here are three interviews in longer form, beginning with singer Lizz Wright, who like Franklin came out of the gospel church.


NPR

"It used to be: 'Nashville — that's where you come to play country music.'"

Joe Spivey is voicing a prevailing view of his adopted hometown, one that has endured for the better part of a century. But Spivey — a fiddler in The Time Jumpers, the swingingest band in Music City — knows better. He definitely plays his share of country music, but he's also one of a burgeoning number of musicians who make up the robust and soulful Nashville jazz scene.

Doug MacLeod
courtesy of the artist

Doug MacLeod is a definitive troubadour. He travels. He sings. He tells the stories of the songs. And he's a terrific guitar player.

Albert King, Albert Collins, Joe Louis Walker, Son Seals, and Coco Montoya all have recorded MacLeod's songs, and his own newest album of songs and stories is Break The Chain.

He's playing at Queen's Brewery (Thursday 8/23) in Ridgewood, NY, and at The Town Crier (Friday 8/24) in Beacon, NY.

Chris Tobin / WBGO

In my office there hangs a postcard-sized photograph of Sonny Rollins — captured, I'm sure, in the midst of the umpteenth amazing chorus of some standard we all thought we knew. The pianist in the picture is Mark Soskin, probably best known for his 13-year tenure with the Saxophone Colossus.


RENE GOIFFON

Today's show unfolds in two parts. First Joe Lovano shares his appreciation of fellow tenor saxophonist Ben Webster, whom he first learned about his while growing up in Cleveland, OH. (Lovano expressed his appreciation many years later with an original blues, "Big Ben.") 

 


More Than Keeping Time: A Melodic Drumming Demo

Aug 17, 2018

What would you say if I told you that drums can sing? The best jazz drummers have always understood this as fact. Allison Miller has even made it a core part of her artistic mission — as drummer, a composer and a bandleader, notably with her ensemble Boom Tic Boom.

Caterina Di Perri

A handful of piano students were sweating in a classroom on the first morning of a two-week summer intensive in the Tuscan countryside. These were three women and four men, mostly in their early 20s, from Australia, Korea, Canada, Greece, Israel, and Belgium. Hotshots back home, they ranged from gung-ho eager to white-knuckle anxious about demonstrating their talents here at Siena Jazz Workshop, where everyone could play.

The history of jazz in the 20th century is well known, but the course of the genre in the 21st century is still being charted. According to Nate Chinen, music critic for NPR Music and WBGO, jazz in the new millennium has enjoyed a type of Renaissance thanks to some key players.

Courtesy of the artist

Ted Nash made his first recording as a leader in 1978, and titled it “Conceptions.”

Whether playing saxophone, clarinet or flute, he has shown how magnificently broad his conceptions are: exploring a tango/klezmer/New Orleans brass feel with Odeon; giving sounds to great painters like Van Gogh, Matisse and Pollack with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra; reinventing the music of Henry Mancini, who employed both his father and uncle; or musically reimagining great speeches from John Kennedy, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Nelson Mandela and Winston Churchill.

Bruno Bollaert

Jazz Middelheim is probably the oldest jazz event in Belgium, originally founded in 1969. It can also make a claim as one of the most adventurous with its programming.  


Paul Moore / Blue Note Records

Saxophonist Dave McMurray says that every time he hears an instrumentalist from Detroit, it feels like they’re singing.

The Motown native knows this feeling. He grew up with it, eventually bringing his own versatility to gigs with B.B. King, Herbie Hancock, Johnny Hallyday, Gladys Knight, Nancy Wilson and Geri Allen. This was all in addition to being part of Was (Not Was), whose bassist and cofounder, Don Was, is now president of Blue Note Records.

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