Music

Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz

Monday, April 30 was International Jazz Day, with events in nearly 200 countries worldwide.

The 2018 global host city is St. Petersburg, Russia, where a flagship concert was broadcast at 4 p.m. EST. Pianist Herbie Hancock, a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador and the chairman of the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz, is co-artistic director of the concert along with saxophonist Igor Butman, one of Russia’s most prominent jazz artists.

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Guitarist Stephane Wrembel was born in Paris and raised in Fontainebleau, the home of Impressionism and Django Reinhardt.

It's the perfect dual influence that Stephane embraces, taking the gypsy master's creativity, pushing it forward, and avoiding being categorized as a museum-piece player.

Anton Kruger

Cape Town, South Africa is home to the Cape Town International Jazz Festival, so it’s no wonder that the largest jazz school in the region is also in Cape Town.

The jazz program at SACM is in its 30th year, and was founded by Cape Town Native Professor Michael Campbell after he graduated from the University of North Texas and began his music career in the United States. Students come to the school from all over South Africa and neighboring countries.

Mark Seliger

Bettye LaVette's new album of Bob Dylan tunes is titled "Things Have Changed."

Indeed they have, and for LaVette each change has informed the depth of her musicality. Early days in Detroit at the conception and birth of Motown. A top 10 R&B hit, "My Man — He's a Lovin' Man," at the tender age of 16. A role on Broadway alongside Cab Calloway, in the Tony Award-winning musical Bubbling Brown Sugar.

Bob Dorough, who died on Monday at 94, was a bebop piano player, a lifelong hipster, and a songwriter who made it all look easy (while always staying one step ahead of you).

He was also an irreplaceable singer — and an important figure in the life of WBGO's Michael Bourne, who offers this reminiscence alongside Dorough's last appearance on Singers Unlimited.

The University of North Texas College of Music — headed by John Murphy, Chair of the Division of Jazz Studies — is housed within America’s largest music school. The university was the first in the world to offer a degree program in jazz, and has spawned the careers of numerous top musicians and educators, including a few who lead some of the other school ensembles featured in WBGO’s JAM celebration this year, like NYU’s Dave Pietro and UCT’s Mike Campbell.

Jazz super bands don’t come together all that often — so when an ensemble like Aziza forms, take notice. Chris Potter, who joins us here on The Checkout, was the one who first brought together the formidable talents of bassist Dave Holland, guitarist Lionel Loueke, and drummer Eric Harland.


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Karrin Allyson is about to release a new album of all her own songs. She came by WBGO to play and sing and talk with Michael Bourne for Singers Unlimited.

She’ll perform this week (Tuesday through Saturday) at Birdland, with Miro Sprague on piano and Fender Rhodes, Jeff Johnson on bass and Jerome Jennings on drums.

Simon Rentner

Jazz House Kids is a community-based arts organization located in Montclair, New Jersey, with a mission to provide year-round musical, educational, and cultural programs to students in grades K-12, teachers, adults, and families from diverse backgrounds. The "Jazz House" provides the framework for students to cultivate the talent, discipline, skills and principles they need to play, sing, and appreciate America's original musical art form. Through music, mentoring and education, Jazz House Kids cultivates tomorrow’s global citizens so they may build vibrant communities where they live.

Simon Rentner / WBGO

Since the Jazz Program at City College began in 1974, distinguished musicians like Jaki Byard, John Lewis, Sheila Jordan and Jimmy Heath have passed through its doors as educators. These days Associate Professor Steve Wilson, a well-regarded jazz saxophonist and bandleader, leads the Jazz Studies program at CCNY, and he brought one of the school's multiple ensembles to perform at the WBGO studios for our Jazz Appreciation Month Celebration.

Pianist and composer Pete Malinverni serves as coordinator and head of the Purchase College Conservatory of Music’s Jazz Studies Program at the State University of New York.

Jean-Pierre Leloir

The guitarist Grant Green may have left us nearly 40 years ago, but his influence is still being felt today — and not only in jazz circles.

 

On this Record Store Day episode of The Checkout, we talk to Zev Feldman of Resonance Records about the new archival releases Grant Green: Funk In France from Paris to Antibes (1969 - 1970) and Grant Green: Slick! Live at Oil Can Harry’s.


The Genius of Eddie Jefferson is the new album from singer Allan Harris. It’s something of a musical sidestep for the crooner. After years of singing in a Nat-like creamy baritone, he’s at his jazziest as he celebrates the godfather of vocalese — the art of creating songs with lyrics to classic jazz records and solos.  

Isaiah McClain / WBGO

The spare, evocative poetry of Emily Dickinson has inspired no shortage of musical interpretation — notably by classical composers ranging from Samuel Barber to Aaron Copland to Elliot Carter. But the soprano saxophonist Jane Ira Bloom finds a new register for this impulse with Wild Lines: Improvising Emily Dickinson, originally released on Outline Music last fall.

We know New Orleans is a top destination for those seeking to understand the roots of jazz. But there’s another American city you should consider for a pilgrimage, to pay homage not only to jazz, but also the blues. That’s Clarksdale, Mississippi.


John Rogers / Courtesy of the artist

Ben Monder's sound world has a Jekyll-and-Hyde quality. Since the early '90s, the guitarist's fluid, lambent, often borderline-ambient contributions have accented and elevated a vast array of projects, from the Maria Schneider Orchestra to his longstanding duo with vocalist Theo Bleckmann.

Isaiah McClain / WBGO

The jazz program at William Paterson University has been helmed by Bill Charlap since 2015. There are 24 active ensembles, and Charlap, who serves as the school's Director of Jazz Studies, joined saxophonist and author Dr. David Demsey in bringing one of them to perform in our studio for Jazz Appreciation Month.

Isaiah McClain / WBGO

Acclaimed vibraphonist Stefon Harris leads the Jazz Arts Department at the Manhattan School of Music. The school features an array of ensembles and combos, and Stefon brought one to perform for us live in the WBGO studio for Jazz Appreciation Month.

Group members are Savannah Harris (drums), Hwansu Kang (bass), Brandon Woody (trumpet), Abdulrahman Amer (trombone), and Matthew Malanowski (piano), who take turns composing the music they perform.

Every year since 1982, the National Endowment For the Arts has inducted a new class of NEA Jazz Masters, honoring lifetime achievement across a broad range of personalities and backgrounds.

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Montreal is home to the largest jazz festival in the world, the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal. So it’s no surprise that the city is also the home to one of the most prestigious music schools in Canada, The Schulich School of Music of McGill University. Pianist Jean-Michel Pilc is Associate Professor and Jazz Area Chair at McGill.

Allan Harris and I go back a ways — 30 years, maybe more. I first heard him in an upstairs lounge on Greene Street (I've never forgotten the joint's comfy chairs), and Allan has come in for interviews and performances on Singers Unlimited ever since. Last year, he brought a band to play songs from Cross That River, his musical about black cowboys on the cattle drives of the American west after the Civil War.  


Orquesta Akokán takes its name from the Yoruba word meaning "from the heart." The group's self-titled debut album, released in March, draws deep from the soul and history of Cuba, reviving the spirit of the big-band orquestas of decades past like Buena Vista Social Club and Orquesta Aragón.

Nathan West

The Nels Cline 4, led by its namesake guitarist and composer, occupies a thoughtful present tense. All but one song on the band’s excellent album Currents, Constellations, out today on Blue Note, bears Cline’s credit as a composer. The lone exception is “Temporarily,” a tune by Carla Bley.

In an exclusive video premiere below, find footage of the band — Cline, guitarist Julian Lage, bassist Scott Colley, drummer Tom Rainey — performing that song in the recording studio.

Under the direction of trombone masters Ed Neumeister and Conrad Herwig, the Rutgers University Scarlet Knights Trombone Ensemble was named winner of the 2018 Winding Awards at the Kai Winding Jazz Trombone Ensemble Competition, organized by the International Trombone Association.

Sister Rosetta Tharpe's electric gospel sound was crucial in paving the way for rock and roll, and the late singer and guitarist is finally getting her day at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. She joins this a class of inductees that includes big-name rock bands like Bon Jovi, Dire Straits and The Cars.

Jacob Hand

 

Rising musician Caroline Davis may have a Ph.D. in matters of brain function (the cognitive science of music, to be precise) but her new album, Heart Tonic, focuses on another crucial part of the human anatomy.

Davis is an alto saxophonist with a cosmopolitan upbringing: born in Singapore to a Swedish mother and a British father; raised in the American south, mainly Texas; schooled in Chicago, where she earned her advanced degrees and connected with a thriving scene; and based for the last five years in New York City.

The Plummer Jazz Combos, named in honor of Indiana saxophonist Paul Plummer, features students from the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music. Led by the renowned saxophonist and IU Jazz faculty member Walter Smith III, the groups perform original music composed by each member of the band, and fresh interpretations of standards and songs by modern composers.

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