Music

New York's Village Vanguard may come closer than any other club to embodying the spirit of jazz. For nearly 30 years, the guardian of that spirit has been the Vanguard's formidable impresaria, Lorraine Gordon. Gordon, a jazz champion since her teen years and one of the music's female pioneers, died Saturday at the age of 95.

Shervin Lainez

Amy Cervini sings all across the musical spectrum. She has recorded tributes to Blossom Dearie and country songs. She's sung shows for children and shows that I've called "delightfully naughty." She also often sings alongside Melissa Stylianou and Hilary Gardner in the trio Duchess, tackling everything from jazz standards and pop to the astonishingly fast and hip vocal arrangements of the Boswell Sisters. Having been a saxophonist gives Amy much more improvisational chops as a vocalist.

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DAVE DAVIES, HOST:

Elemental Music

Tenor saxophonist Dexter Gordon and trumpeter Woody Shaw hailed from two different jazz generations, but found common purpose in the music.

Now each artist has a new album on the near horizon, featuring vibrant live performances largely recorded in Japan, and previously unreleased. Dexter Gordon Quartet Tokyo 1975 and Woody Shaw Tokyo 1981 are both due out on July 13, in CD and LP editions, from Elemental Music. 

Simon Rentner

Welcome to the island of St. Lucia, where we soak in deeply African rhythms that morphed into brilliant modern Creole creations in recent years.  The Checkout explores five Caribbean jazz songs you should know curated by Yves Renard, the Artistic Director of the Soleil St. Lucia Summer Festival.


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Chris Tobin / WBGO

Amy Cervini recently came to WBGO for a Singers Unlimited session with Michael Bourne. They talked about her new album, No One Ever Tells You — and, with Michael Cabe playing piano, she sang some of the songs. 

She’ll celebrate the album’s release with a gig June 15 at Subculture in the East Village. She’s been in residence for years at the 55 Bar, and often works with the group Duchess. (Duchess sings next on June 27 at the Jazz Standard.)

Chris Tobin / WBGO

Before her recent engagement at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola and a gig at the Atlanta Jazz Festival, saxophonist Tia Fuller visited Afternoon Jazz. 


Jenelle Ernest

Zara McFarlane may be from England, but she's made it her mission to understand her Afro-Caribbean heritage by investigating the folkloric music of Jamaica, one of England's former colonies, and also the home of her parents. The Checkout caught up with McFarlane at the Soleil Summer Festival, in St. Lucia.

Alan Nahigian / Courtesy of the artist

Harold Mabern has never had any hang-ups about not being the center of attention. "I get joy out of being an accompanist," the pianist affirms, likening himself to an offensive lineman on a football team. "When you can do something to make the soloist happy and proud," he says plainly, "you've done your job."

Chris Tobin

 

At a time when building bridges is more important than ever, flutist Jamie Baum is making musical connections between different cultures too often at odds with each other. Her new album, Bridges, finds the common ground between music she loves from the West with the music she’s discovered from the Middle East and South Asia.


courtesy of Delmark

Earlier this month it was announced that Delmark Records, a Chicago blues and jazz institution, had been sold to new owners. WBGO's Bob Porter offers a reflection on the news, and a look back at his friendship with Delmark founder Bob Koester.

Chris Tobin

Big band leader and multi-reedist Eyal Vilner is facing a mighty challenge: how do you write a chart for three separate large ensembles — over 50 jazz musicians in total — for this Saturday's night blowout event Intrepid: Battle of the Big Bands, on the flight deck of the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum.

Reggie Lucas, who entered his 20s as a guitarist in Miles Davis' touring band and would later help shape the multi-platinum debut of Madonna, died in the early hours of May 19 at the age of 65. The cause was advanced heart failure, his daughter, Lisa Lucas, confirmed to NPR.

Chris Tobin / WBGO

Nellie McKay has a longstanding history with Michael Bourne and Singers Unlimited — all the way back to her major-label debut, Get Away From Me, nearly 15 years ago. Now she has a new solo album of standards called Sister Orchid. She came in to talk about it with Michael, and to perform a few songs in our studio.


WBGO

It’s always a special occasion when artists visit and perform in our studios here in Newark. Every now and then jazz royalty even comes through. Organist Brian Charette brought one of those legends with him when he stopped by to promote his new album, Groovin’ With Big G


John Rogers

Henry Threadgill, the Pulitzer Prize-winning composer, bandleader, saxophonist and flutist, has not exactly settled into the calm of late-career eminence. At 74, he’s nearly as productive as he has ever been — and every ounce the visionary, judging by two albums out today on Pi Recordings.

 


Jimmy Katz

If you happened to be wandering the streets of upper Manhattan one night this winter, you could have stumbled onto a video shoot for pianist Joey Alexander.

The video — for a version of “Moment’s Notice,” by John Coltrane — features an intepretive performance by dancer Jared Grimes, with Joey and a boombox on the sidelines.

Flying Lotus

Flying Lotus performs at The Festival of Disruption, curated by David Lynch, at Brooklyn Steel on May 19 and 20.

A few years back, The Checkout had the rare opportunity to speak with Flying Lotus, aka Steven Ellison, about his acclaimed album You’re Dead!  In this podcast, the electronic music composer, filmmaker and all-around rabble-rouser delves deep into his jazz roots — and talks about how being the grand nephew of Alice Coltrane and first cousin of Ravi Coltrane has influenced his brilliant, beyond-category sound.

 


Frank Stewart / Jazz at Lincoln Center

Newark Academy, a private school in Livingston, N.J., came in second at the 23rd Annual Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Competition, held over the weekend at Frederick P. Rose Hall in Manhattan. The band, led by Julius Tolentino, took home a trophy and a $2,500 award.

Taking first place was Dillard Center for the Arts, from Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. In third place was Tucson Jazz Institute from Tucson, Ariz. Honorable mention awards went to Beloit Memorial High School (Beloit, Wis.) and Roosevelt High School (Seattle, Wa). 

Gulnara Khamatova

There has always been something special about a good drummer-led band, and this installment of our weekly playlist features five new examples, spanning a galactic range of style.

Since arriving in New York from his native Philadelphia in 2006, Chris Beck has made a name for himself as one of today’s premier drummers, traveling the world and working with artists as diverse as Cyrus Chestnut, Oliver Lake, Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, Wynton Marsalis, Rufus Reid and Macy Gray. With his debut release, The Journey, Beck has given us a recording that honestly expresses his emotions and his respect for the straight-ahead jazz tradition.

Colin Marshall / NPR

It isn't typically news when a jazz group makes a change in personnel. But The Bad Plus isn't a typical jazz group, and its announcement, this time last year, landed like a bombshell. In short: Ethan Iverson, the band's pianist, would be leaving to pursue his own projects. Orrin Evans, an esteemed peer, would be stepping in. For a group that has always stood for musical collectivism — and never accepted any substitutions — this was a shakeup of existential proportions.

Bruno Bernard

George Shearing became identified, even in the headlines of some of his 2011 obituaries, as the composer of “Lullaby of Birdland.”

Like many a trademark hit, this could be a mixed blessing. In his autobiography, Lullaby in Rhythm, Shearing struck a perfect chord of ambivalence: “I've played it so many times that it is possible to get quite tired of doing so — although I never tire of being able to pay the rent from it!”

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