• Do The Astral Plane: Five Songs Where Jazz Meets Electronic Music

    November 15, 2011. Posted by Simon Rentner.

    Jazzanova. (Image Credit: Ben Wolf)

    Remember when jazz was a so-called "dance" music? When swing drove masses to ballrooms and inspired popular dances like the Lindy Hop, Charleston and Jitterbug?

    Probably not; most of us will never know what the '30s and '40s were like, when jazz was more than a spectator sport. But in this age of electronic music, with sampling and loops, getting down to jazz sounds isn't so uncommon — sampled saxophones and ride cymbals have re-emerged in dance halls in innovative forms of house music. Here are few successful fusions of jazz and electronica.

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  • Aaron Parks + Derrick Hodge: Live At 92Y Tribeca

    October 26, 2011. Posted by Simon Rentner.


    Aaron Parks (left) and Derrick Hodge.

    (Image Credit: John Rogers for NPR/johnrogersnyc.com)

    What would it sound like if a jazz bassist who scores films and arranges for live hip-hop and R&B were to put together his own record? What's next for a twenty-something pianist, already one of the great composers of his generation, now that he has a completely new band and repertoire for it?

    Pianist Aaron Parks — once a Blue Note recording artist, and the "A" in the collective band James Farm — has for some time been brewing up a new project. Intriguingly, Pete Rende will be playing analog synthesizers, making for a two-keyboard lineup with bass (Chris Smith) and drums (Marlon Browden). The band has a collection of original tunes, all relatively new; it's yet unrecorded, though when it comes time to document the stuff, Rende's experience as a recording engineer may come in handy.

    Bassist Derrick Hodge plays mean straight-ahead jazz on the acoustic bass — notably, he and Parks served together in Terence Blanchard's quintet. But he's also a film composer like Blanchard, and the electric bassist of choice for many a hip-hop or R&B artist. (He's currently the musical director for Maxwell.) His unclassifiable debut album, Live Today, is soon to be released; it features an even wider palette of references, including gospel, singer-songwriter music and funk. The band he's assembled for this occasion can follow him to all those places.

    On Wednesday, Oct. 26 at 8 p.m. ET, The Checkout: Live From 92Y Tribeca paired the bands of Aaron Parks and Derrick Hodge in a double bill. The concert was broadcast on air via WBGO and in an online video webcast at this page on NPR Music, with live online chat. For more information about this series and the full concert archive, visit npr.org/checkoutlive.

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  • Flamenco Jazz: Five Songs Where Andalusia And America Meet

    October 13, 2011. Posted by Simon Rentner.


    Spanish flamenco guitarist Tomatito joined Dominican pianist Michel Camilo on the Latin Grammy Award-winning Spain.

    (Image Credit: Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty Images)

    Forget Miles Davis' Sketches of Spain and Chick Corea's Spain. There's a whole other world of so-called "flamenco jazz" out there that lives unrecorded, often inside quaint, tiny rooms (in caves, quite literally) on the mountainside near Granada. There and in other cool Andalusian clubs, nightly musical experiments are taking place, where flamenco palos mix with other jazz influences.

    Flamenco is one of Spain's richest musical exports: It parallels jazz in the sense that it's a hodgepodge art form, made up of influences from many cultures that span more than one continent. It's only natural that these styles eventually came together to make something special. Below, we've listed five examples.

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