Music

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Quincy Jones, who will turn 85 next month, retains his ability to electrify audiences.

Vic Damone, a singer who rose to fame along the tail end of the post-war era embodied by The Rat Pack, died yesterday at Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami Beach, Fla., according to a statement from his family. He was 89.

A first-generation Italian-American, Damone grew up closely studying the work of another similarly situated artist, Frank Sinatra, who would later become a cherished friend. "Without Frank there would not have been a Vic Damone," Damone once said.

Jesse Kitt/Courtesy of the artist

Lizz Wright, “Seems I’m Never Tired Lovin’ You”

Lizz Wright delivered a gift last year in the form of her sixth album, Grace. A statement of extravagant self-assurance, it’s also an American affirmation, and in many ways a balm. 

Yusaku Aoki

Before the influential broadcaster and tastemaker Gilles Peterson was breaking talent on the BBC, he was climbing rooftops as a radio pirate, championing great black music. Now he’s the industry standard in creating diverse playlists that explode musical boundaries.


courtesy of the artist

When saxophonist Ken Fowser looks over his shoulder, he hears and feels the rhythms of his Philadelphia birthplace: Jimmy Heath, John Coltrane, Benny Golson, Lee Morgan, McCoy Tyner, Philly Joe Jones. It's a collective spark that has pushed him forward over a dozen-plus years in New York and numerous recordings. Fowser, never one to back away from the scalding sessions at Smoke and Smalls, has been dressing up club stages across the country with his soulful sound.

Monica Jane Frisell

Bill Frisell is no stranger to the solitary urge. Even in an ensemble setting, his graceful, inquisitive guitar playing can feel like the projection of an interior monologue. He’s a warm and generous collaborator but also a paragon of self-containment, complete unto himself.

Anna Webber

Christian Sands, “J Street”

Last year, pianist Christian Sands released an album aptly titled Reach. Among other things, it was a demonstration of that very idea, showcasing Sands’ flexibilities of intention and style. Now there’s a new EP on the horizon that seems likely to expand the canvas still farther, judging by this track, an exclusive premiere.

Giulietta Verdon-Roe

There's a lot of buzz in Europe about Yazz Ahmed. The Bahrain-born, British-based artist says she discovered her voice on trumpet and flugelhorn by stumbling on a Rabih Abou-Khalil recording featuring Kenny Wheeler. On this edition of My Music on The Checkout, she tells her fascinating story behind her own Arabic-jazz recording "La Saboteuse."


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Some experiences stick with you. They cry out for reflection, for the transfigurative potential of an artistic response. That was the case for Mike Reed, the intrepid Chicago drummer and bandleader, after his harrowing encounter with white supremacists in 2009.

Steve Williams / WBGO

Suffice it to say that Jools Holland has a full dance card. He's the presenter of a radio show on BBC 2 and the driving force behind Later…with Jools Holland, the celebrated and inventive BBC TV program he created in 1992. 

But more than anything, Holland is a crafty and fun-loving musician who drops everything for the opportunity to sit behind a piano. So he recently put the busy schedule on hold and flew into New York to celebrate his 60th birthday (January 25) and perform in the Big Apple for the first time in more than a decade. 

Scott Friedlander

Listen to drummer and composer John Hollenbeck reflect on 20 years of his Large Ensemble with his new album, All Can Work, on New Amsterdam Records. The band celebrates the album's release tonight at Le Possion Rouge.


Anna Yatsekevich

John Raymond’s Real Feels, “The Times They Are A-Changin’” 

Direct emotional expression isn’t always easy to come by in jazz’s ultramodern wing, but John Raymond has made it a priority in Real Feels, his primary band. A deeply sympathetic trio featuring Raymond on trumpet and flugelhorn, Gilad Hekselman on guitar and Colin Stranahan on drums, it’s the latest evidence of jazz’s fruitful exchange with melodic indie-rock and singer-songwriter fare.

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The jazz and blues winners at the 60th Grammy Awards are in, and they mostly went to seasoned heads and strong favorites. But this ​year’s Grammys also reinforced just how flexible jazz and blues artists tend to be, moving across a range of categories and in a variety of styles. 

Kerry Kahoe

Kate McGarry has been singing all of her life. She grew up in a family with 10 kids, and they all sang all the time. She eventually studied jazz at UMass-Amherst. Archie Shepp was one of her mentors, and the roiling heart one hears in Shepp's '60s albums can also be heard in McGarry's singing.

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Every time he plays, saxophonist Wayne Escoffery brings a sense memory that includes early days in the church choir in New Haven, Connecticut; the wisdom and watchful eye of the legendary Jackie McLean; time spent with The Mingus Big Band, Ron Carter and Tom Harrell. 


Stella K

It's a bit dizzying keeping up with Michael League of Snarky Puppy and GroundUP Music. He's perpetually on the road, dropping new music videos, signing new artists, and making new connections. But he carved out some time to tell us about a few artists we should be checking out.


Chris Tobin / WBGO

The Baylor Project — a flagship of the vocalist Jean Baylor and the drummer Marcus Baylor, partners in music as in marriage — will be in the running for two Grammy awards this month. Tellingly, the nominations are in different genre categories: Best Jazz Vocal Album and Best Traditional R&B Performance.

Ignatius Mokone

The trumpeter, scholar and freedom fighter Hugh Masekela died this morning in Johannesburg, at 78. The Checkout has periodically checked in over the years with this South African jazz master — though he'd be the first to say that he wasn’t a jazz artist, nor is jazz an American art form.


Peter Gannushkin

Kris Davis and Craig Taborn, "Love in Outer Space"

With his new album, Reaching Out, trombonist Michael Dease clearly demonstrates why he’s met the high level of musicality demanded by discerning bandleaders like Christian McBride and Jimmy Heath.

With this album Dease salutes the genius of legendary pianists Cedar Walton and Kenny Drew, as well as his former trombone teachers Conrad Herwig and Steve Turre. 

Roberto Polillo / CTS Images

Wes Montgomery was one of the world's most accomplished jazz musicians, beginning in his late teens. He went on to perform worldwide, with a catalog of recordings that had significant influence on just about every guitarist who followed.

“All the music in this album was written during a very blue period in my life,” the bassist Charles Mingus observed in the liner notes to Tijuana Moods.

Recorded a little over 60 years ago, on July 18 and August 6, 1957, it’s an album that remains unique not only in the Mingus discography but also in jazz as a whole.

wBGO

Before she honored the life and music of her “friend and sister” Geri Allen with a Winter Jazzfest concert at the New School, drummer Terri Lyne Carrington gave us a live preview last Friday on WBGO’s Afternoon Jazz.

Carrington — leading a group with vocalist Lizz Wright, pianist Helen Sung and bassist Kenny Davis — filled our performance space with the spirit and music of Allen, who passed away last June, two weeks after her 60th birthday.  

By 1938, clarinetist Benny Goodman was already known as "The King of Swing" — the leader of the most popular dance band in America at a time when swing jazz was America's most popular music. But nobody knew how it would be received in Carnegie Hall, America's temple to classical music.

John Rogers / WBGO

“Art hurts. Art urges voyages — and it is easier to stay at home.” Gwendolyn Brooks wrote those words just over 50 years ago, for her poem “Chicago Picasso.” They resurfaced late on Friday night at the New School Tishman Auditorium, as part of the 2018 Winter Jazzfest Marathon.

Ebru Yildiz for NPR

I have a friend who loves gypsy guitar music so much she said she’s going to build a campfire in the backyard, light it, and wait.

Some folks feel pretty connected to their Django Reinhardt. The Django practitioners are just as passionate (maybe without the campfire), with a burn that brings legions to hot clubs, and festivals where the Sinti style lives.

C. Taylor Crothers / Concord Jazz

Chick Corea and Steve Gadd have a musical connection over 50 years deep. So when the iconic keyboardist and legendary drummer found time last year to reunite in the studio I immediately thought of Corea's albums The Leprechaun and My Spanish Heart, and the concert I hosted in Cleveland in 1981 featuring music from the Three Quartets, with Chick, Steve, Eddie Gomez and Michael Brecker. Some nights you’re so glad you showed up.

A bar fight breaks out during a pivotal scene in Django, the musically crisp yet mournful new wartime drama by Étienne Comar. As the fracas unfolds, the band keeps playing, with a blithe bemusement that seems to say: This happens all the time. But these are far from normal times.

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