Music

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!”

Chris Tobin / WBGO

Not many jazz musicians possess a scope as wide as Dave Burrell’s.

A pianist who first emerged during the late 1960s, in wild-and-woolly ensembles led by saxophonists Pharoah Sanders and Archie Shepp, he also has a firm grasp on the stride language of James P. Johnson and Fats Waller. His body of work as a composer includes operatic and chamber works — but he remains a fearless paragon of free improvisation, with peers like bassist William Parker and saxophonist David Murray.


courtesy of the artist

The Jazz Journalists Association announced the results of its jazz awards today, with winners including tenor saxophonist Benny Golson, drummer Matt Wilson and composer-arranger Maria Schneider. 

Eric Lee / NPR

Last month, the National Endowment for the Arts crowned four new NEA Jazz Masters, including Todd Barkan, a jazz advocate whose early interest in Latin jazz piano turned into a successful five-decade career as a prominent impresario, club owner and record producer. Guitarist Pat Metheny continues to redefine the parameters of his instrument through innovative technique and signature sound. Pianist Joanne Brackeen's unique style commands attention, and Dianne Reeves has become one of the world's preeminent jazz vocalists, whose genius in retrospect seems ceaseless.

Isaiah McClain / WBGO

Kat Edmonson writes music for the present in a style firmly rooted in the past. Her new album, Old Fashioned Gal, showcases all original songs — but if you look past the lyrics, her sound clearly harks back to the mood and attitude of Fred Astaire movies from the 1930s.

Edmonson and her band recently joined WBGO’s Michael Bourne in celebration of her album, just out on Spinnerette Records.

Ben Stechschulte

Taylor Haskins admits he might be kind of cyborg. The trumpet player contracted a cyber-bug of sorts when he first discovered the music of Herbie Hancock. The dancing robots in the music video for "Rockit" haunted him for decades, until Haskins finally decided to put down his brass and plug in a rare wind instrument known as the EVI (Electronic Valve Instrument).

 


Jab'o Starks, the drummer who provided the steady beat for James Brown's iconic mid-'60s band and who stayed with the King of Soul through the early '70s, died at the age of 79 Tuesday morning at his home in Mobile, Ala. According to his manager, Kathie Williams, Starks was diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndromes, a bone marrow disorder, in January 2017, which developed into acute leukemia one week ago, after which he entered hospice care.

Roger Thomas

Jazz and blues artists make up a small but substantial contingent in the 40th anniversary season of the BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn! Festival, announced today.

This past fall, when news of the Harvey Weinstein scandal was galvanizing the #MeToo movement, some of us who work in the performing arts had a peculiar experience: Colleagues started asking if they'd sexually harassed us. A few of these colleagues may have been attempting to head off allegations, but many of them genuinely didn't know if they'd crossed a line.

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