Music

Chris Tobin / WBGO

When pianist Bill O’Connell finished his schooling at Oberlin, he returned home to New York City and got to work right away with Mongo Santamaria.

Bill would go on to play with Sonny Rollins and Chet Baker, too, but his love of Latin, Afro-Cuban and Brazilian music would draw him closer. His passion for jazz with Latin seasoning led him to work with Jerry Gonzalez, Papo Vazquez — and, in a long and fruitful association, flutist Dave Valentin.

Frank Stewart / Jazz at Lincoln Center

Jazz has always been a music of continuum, its secrets passed down across generations. Benny Green is a shining embodiment of this process: A pianist originally inspired (and eventually endorsed) by mid-century modernists like Oscar Peterson; An apprentice to two of the music's greatest mentors, Betty Carterand Art Blakey; A conservationist of the bebop idiom, and a joyful guardian of its lexicon.

 

Valerie Gay Bessette

BIGYUKI, born Masayuki Hirano in Japan, looks up to the stars. His modern synth-jazz suggests a cosmic aesthetic. And he has aligned himself with other luminous artists, from Meshell Ndegeocello to A Tribe Called Quest. Hirano says he tries to make his music “as accessible as possible,” with the intention of attaining a measure of stardom for himself.


Gabe Palacio

The 25th annual edition of the Caramoor Jazz Festival takes place on Saturday, with a daylong series of performances and a marquee evening concert by vocalist Dianne Reeves. But the appeal of this fest goes beyond its headliners, at least for many loyal fans making their return.

John Rogers / WBGO

The Winter Jazzfest has announced the dates, and a small part of its programming, for its 15th annual edition. Scheduled for Jan. 4-12, 2019, it will unfold according to custom in a range of spaces in and around Greenwich Village in New York City.

Jean Francois Laberine / Courtesy of the artist

He was one of the master crafters of bebop. Beyond that, Dizzy Gillespie’s influence was legendary — an inspiration to countless players, and a magnet bringing new folks to jazz around the world.

To celebrate this legacy, Bill Charlap — Grammy-winning pianist, and artistic director of Jazz in July at the 92nd Street Y — recruited the ideal person, Jon Faddis.

Jazzheads / Courtesy of the artist

Introspection is the new recording from guitarist Roni Ben-Hur and bassist Harvie S.  Along with drummer Tim Horner, they share an emotional bond, with a call and response that puts us in the sidecar as they explore. 

The fluid nature of their rapport, honed together over the years, sharpens this album’s appeal. But it’s also in the range of compositions on the album — by Billy Strayhorn, George Shearing, Kenny Dorham, Tadd Dameron, Joe Henderson and Thelonious Monk.

Stella K. / WBGO

 

The first "destination" jazz festival took place in Newport, R.I., in 1954 — multiple days, one stage and gorgeous scenery. These days, Newport is going strong, as is Monterey in California, and the festival model has expanded to multiple stages and far beyond big-brimmed hats and lawn chairs.

Still, Snarky Puppy leader Michael League saw a void and an opportunity. After years of performing at festivals around the world, the 34-year-old bassist founded the GroundUP Music Festival in order to bring musicians and fans together in an intimate setting: the beach. Miami Beach, to be exact.

Courtesy of the artist

Don’t let the heavy African grooves fool you — Photay is pale in complexion.

He’s also a forward-thinking electronic artist raised in upstate New York, where he’s also known by his given name, Evan Shornstein. Photay means “white” in Susu, one of the native languages spoken in Guinea. On a trip to West Africa, the artist fell in love with the balafon, a marimba-like instrument featured on his 2017 album Onism.


The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Jazz Masters award, bestowed every year since 1982, is often characterized as the United States' highest honor reserved for jazz. This morning the NEA announced four new recipients of the prize: pianist and composer Abdullah Ibrahim, composer-arranger-bandleader Maria Schneider, critic and novelist Stanley Crouch, and singer-songwriter and pianist Bob Dorough.

Benoit Rousseau

Maison Symphonique is like Dr Who's TARDIS. Bigger on the inside.

I remember when the upper right corner of Place Des Arts was a mostly empty and small plateau. There were stairs up from the street. There were amusements for kids. And then they built a large concert hall in that corner.

Blond wood everywhere, wooden seats, wooden slats in the walls, an enormous array of silver-grey organ pipes above the stage. And with acoustics perfect for singers.

John Abbott

Monument-National is about a block from Place des Arts on Boulevard Saint-Laurent. When I first came to Montreal, the corner of the block was virtually red-lighted. Sexy lingerie shops. Sexy porn shops. And actual sex for sale.

Janis Siegel of the Manhattan Transfer and Lauren Kinhan Kinhan of the New York Voices host concerts they call “Vocal Mania” every month at the Zinc Bar. Lauren sings. Janis sings. They welcome friends to sing. 

Bela Fleck and the Flecktones
Valeriegay Bessette for FIJM

The Montreal Jazz Festival every year presents awards named for some of the greatest artists who've played at the festival. All of the awards were created to celebrate an artist's life's work.

I couldn't see all of the awards shows this year. Some of the shows were happening at the same time. George Thorogood, honored with the BB King Award for a blues artist, was playing down the hall from Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, honored with the Miles Davis Award for an international musician whose work and influence the jazzfest acknowledges as "regenerating the jazz idiom."

The Gesu
David Tallacksen for WBGO

"Gesu" is an Italian name for Jesus. "Le Gesu" is the name of the Jesuit church near Place des Arts in the heart of Montreal.

"The Jesus?" I wondered.

Marc-Andre shrugged and laughed. "The whole name is Le Gesu--Centre de creativite."

He's been a festival friend for years. Now he's the major domo of the arts center at the church -- which includes a theatre down below that seats 240 or so fest-goers -- which includes me throughout Festival International de JAZZ de Montreal.

Stevie Wonder performs at Montreal Jazz Festival 2009.
YouTube

BRULANT !!

"Chaud" is the everyday French word for "hot" -- but "brulant" is le mot juste: the perfect word. Translates (according to Babylon) as "burning, scorching." Also "scalding, roasting."

Every day that I've been in Montreal this time, someone I know or strangers at the festival gasps something about the heat. "Is it always this hot when you come here?" a sweating fellow in an elevator wondered.

The immense popularity of pianist Erroll Garner was certified in 2015 with the issuing of The Complete Concert By The Sea — 60 years after Garner made the original 1955 recording. It was the best-selling jazz album of its era! So one can imagine the excitement of new, previously unheard material, this time taken from a 1964 midnight concert at The Royal Concertgebouw in Amsterdam.

Sarah Geledi

Laurent Saulnier isn't shy when pushing the boundaries of jazz. For 19 years, the V.P. of Programming for the largest jazz festival on the planet has made the case that jazz is much more than swing and bebop, but a style that informs many of the popular sounds we listen to today.

George Thorogood
Victor Diaz Lamich for FIJM

"I first played in Montreal in 1978," said George Thorogood from the stage at the Montreal Jazz Festival. 

Dee Dee Bridgewater
Victor Diaz Lamich for FIJM

"I'm trying to define what it means to be a woman in her 60's," said Dee Dee Bridgewater, catching her breath, leaning back on a stool, and laughing. In the middle of the stage. In the middle of the show.

Not that she was done.

Dee Dee was quickly up and dancing, singing another of the soul classics she's revisited on her newest album, "Memphis...Yes, I'm Ready."

Henry Butler
Tim Ellis

New Orleans-born pianist Henry Butler, known for his stylistic fluency and musical power, died yesterday at the age of 68 after a battle with cancer.

Ulli Gruber

Dave Holland keeps it moving. After being active in music for well over half a century, the English bass legend is arguably busier and more open-minded than ever — collaborating with musical masters from India and Tunisia as well as the United States.

 


Victor Diaz Lamich for FIJM

Toujours ici -- I am always here.
At the jazzfest in Montreal.  26 years.
And it's not as if I've come back year after year.   A plane to Montreal feels no different to me than a train to Newark.
I'm always at WBGO.  It's where I live every day.
I'm always in Montreal.  It's the same life.

This trip, right away, I've been hearing Charles Aznavour singing.  All of the songs about time.  Especially his song "Je n'ai pas vu le temps passer." "I have not seen the time go by."

AFP/AFP/Getty Images

Jazz is often described as the original American art form. Here are five choice cuts, by everyone from Louis Armstrong to Carla Bley, that make the connection explicit.

Grant Green is the subject of two newly released recordings of incredible jazz guitar: one from the late 60’s in France, and the other showing Green’s transformation from straight-ahead playing to a more funk-influenced style, captured in Vancouver.

Jim Marshall / Jim Marshall Photography LLC

You’ve surely seen reports about the newly discovered studio session by the John Coltrane Quartet, recorded on March 6, 1963.

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