Music

John Abbott

With her new album, Beloved of the Sky, pianist Renee Rosnes is once again inspired by her natural environment.

That's a subject with multiple implications: the natural world, her home life, an array of sense memories. They're all transformed by Renee’s depth of pianism, and through amazing exchanges with saxophonist and flutist Chris Potter, vibraphonist Steve Nelson, bassist Peter Washington and drummer Lenny White.

Niki Walker / NPR

Maybe you became aware of Jazzmeia Horn five years ago, when she took first prize at the Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition.

Maybe you got hip when her debut album, A Social Call, was released last year. Maybe you caught her turn on the most recent Grammy Premiere Ceremony, when she knocked a scat chorus into the stratosphere. Or maybe this is the first you're hearing of Jazzmeia, which means you have something to look forward to.

Guitarist Andreas Varady first impressed his bass-playing father by learning Kenny Dorham's "Blue Bossa" when he was 4. His mentor, producer Quincy Jones, became a fan when Andreas appeared at the Montreux Jazz Festival at 15.

Courtesy of the artist

What should jazz sound like in 2018? Keith Witty has some ideas. He's the bassist and co-leader of Thiefs, a band that blends hip-hop, electronic music and politically pointed spoken word.


When Johann Sebastian Bach compiled the first book of the Well-Tempered Clavier in 1722, he wrote that the 24 preludes and fugues were "for the profit and use of musical youth desirous of learning, and especially for the pastime of those already skilled in this study."

Milford Graves and Jason Moran were listening hard at the Big Ears Festival on Friday evening, and in this they were far from alone. Their spontaneous musical dialogue, onstage at the elegant Bijou Theater in Knoxville, Tenn., suggested a merging of the ancient and the ultramodern, aglow with an ephemeral sort of grace. At one point, Moran's deep, mournful sonorities at the piano led Graves toward a murmuring hush at the drums, as if anything else would break the spell.

Emma Lee Photography/Courtesy of the artist

Since Dizzy Gillespie and Chano Pozo birthed "Manteca" in the '40s just as Cuban musicians like Machito were shaking up New York's jazz scene, Afro-Cuban jazz has continued to entice and fascinate North American musicians into new collaborations and explorations.

Kahmeela Adams

What is it that gets any musical organization to the 25 year mark?

Luck, for sure, but that's eclipsed by the creation of great charts, articulate and soulful playing, and a sound unification that goes way beyond theory.

WBGO

Growing up in Chicago, pianist Greg Spero knew by the fifth grade that he wanted to make music his life. Encouraged by his piano-playing father, he would eventually team up with Miles Davis keyboardist Robert Irving III; work with the Buddy Rich Big Band; morph the music of Miles with Radiohead; and tour the world with electro-pop artist Halsey.


Yannick Perrin

If jazz is all about fluidity — in terms of cultural exchange, and convergences of style — that's a situation well suited to the Cuban artist Omar Sosa. His most recent Zen-like album even bears an aquaeous title, Transparent Water


Jean-Pierre Leloir

John Coltrane’s momentous affiliation with Miles Davis was drawing to a close in March of 1960, when he agreed (with some reluctance) to embark on a three-week European tour.

The music made on that tour has circulated in various forms over the years, some of them informal and illicit. A few years ago the British label Acrobat released a boxed set called All of You: The Last Tour 1960. Columbia/Legacy is about to issue a collection of similar heft, titled The Final Tour: The Bootleg Series, Vol. 6.

Sing Sing Correctional Facility is not the sort of place you'd expect to find a flourishing music community, but a workshop run by Carnegie Hall offers inmates the ability to learn in harmony. Twice a month, artists from New York City travel to Sing Sing and spend a day giving 30 inmates enrolled in the Musical Connections program formal training.

Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

No jazz musician has ever been heard more on public radio than the late Marian McPartland, the host of NPR's Piano Jazz for more than 40 years.

But for all her ubiquity, how well did we really know her?

Jazz at Lincoln Center

As the world’s premiere jazz institution, Jazz at Lincoln Center has a combined mission: advancing awareness of the music, giving it new expression, and raising money to keep it all going.

The organization's annual gala, typically packed with guest stars, serves all these purposes. It's only unfortunate that most of us cannot be there. That is, until now.

FPG/Archive Photos/Getty Images

Gene Krupa has to be one of the most misunderstood musicians in jazz history.

In his time, he was a drummer whose energetic charisma propelled him into a rare level of celebrity. A marquee star from the 1930s on, he appeared not only onstage but also in Hollywood films. In 1959 he was even the subject of a major biopic, The Gene Krupa Story, starring Sal Mineo. As an emotional psychodrama with drumming at the center, it’s an obvious precursor to Whiplash, the 2014 Damien Chazelle film.

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Hailey Niswanger has appeared in the Downbeat Critics Poll for five consecutive years as a rising star on alto and soprano saxophone. But this Brooklyn-based artist, now 28, says she still has plenty of room to grow.


Gangi N

Since graduating from the Berklee College of Music, the Israeli tenor saxophonist Daniel Rotem has been busy racking up life experiences — from performing at the White House to touring on behalf of the State Department to apprenticing with legends as part of the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Performance.

WBGO

Helen Sung is a classically trained pianist who discovered jazz and found her passion for writing music when working with master bassist Ron Carter at the Monk Institute. Every day there, she would embark on writing a new piece of music.

Alfredo Rodriguez
Chris Tobin

While he has many fascinating stories to tell, pianist and composer Alfredo Rodríguez is all about the music.  

During his recent visit to our performance studio at WBGO, Rodríguez touched on stories of his life in Cuba and his migration to the United States. There's also his life-changing 2006 Montreux Jazz Festival encounter with Quincy Jones, which has led to “Q” producing two of his recordings for Mack Avenue, including his latest, The Little Dream.

Adama Jollah

One of the artists who left a mark at this year's Winter Jazzfest was newcomer Nubya Garcia. Get to know the firebrand saxophonist from the United Kingdom in another edition of My Music, on The Checkout.


Anna Webber

For as long as we’ve known Kurt Elling, he has been among our most inquisitive jazz vocalists.

John Rogers / WBGO

In this week's playlist, hybridism reigns.

Bernie Williams
Chris Tobin

I’ve known Bernie Williams since his early playing days with the New York Yankees.  He was just another young man trying to make his way in the demanding world of Major League Baseball.  What was different about Bernie the ballplayer was the acoustic guitar that he kept in his locker.  Media might hear him play it on the odd occasion they arrived at the ballpark really early on a game night.

Courtesy of the artist

Allison Miller has held down the pulse for respected artists across multiple genres, including the indie-folk dynamo Ani DeFranco and the soul-jazz legend Dr. Lonnie Smith. Her latest album, Otis Was A Polar Bear, nods to a few other factors informing her bright, inviting sound — from scuba diving to modern art to recent motherhood.

 


Desmond White

The conversation around women in jazz has rarely felt timelier or more pressing than it does at this moment.

Nathan West / Blue Note Records

Nels Cline has a new album on the near horizon.

Blue Note Records has just announced the April 13 release of Currents, Constellations, the debut release by the Nels Cline 4 — an energetic unit made up of Cline, his fellow guitarist Julian Lage, bassist Scott Colley, and drummer Tom Rainey.

Five finalists have been selected for the 2019 American Pianists Awards. The five pianists, all in their mid-to-late 20s — Kenny Banks, Jr., Emmet Cohen, Keelan Dimick, Dave Meder and Billy Test — will take part in a year-long competitive process in Indianapolis, home of the American Pianists Association. One will win the coveted Cole Porter Fellowship at the finals there next April.

Anna Webber

On another edition of My Music, Cuban pianist Alfredo Rodríguez tells his extraordinary story of crossing the border from Mexico to the United States to find Quincy Jones.


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