June 27, 2013. Posted by Simon Rentner.
Montreal is a city of two cultures: French and English, usually commingling, sometimes colliding. In their fight for cultural relevance, they are often at odds. In literature, they call this "two solitudes": part English, part French, but not quite either.
Yet as Montreal modernizes and these divisions become less noticeable, one thing remains clear: Music, art and food still belong to the French. From chanson to Monet to foie gras, let's face it, France wins.
So, naturally, the Montreal International Jazz Festival — Canada's grandest music event of the year — props up the city's elite Francophones. (See: the new Grévin museum.) Some are formed at home and others come from abroad, yet Americans have no clue about the majority of these artists. Most French musicians, and let's throw the Quebecois in that category, can't find gigs in the U.S.
For American first-timers to the festival, this can be a revelation. Here are five French or Quebecois artists featured this year. Follow WBGO for more annual coverage from Montreal.Read more
© 2013 WBGO
June 5, 2013. Posted by WBGO.
Among jazz musicians, especially in New York City, pianist Kenny Barron is considered an institution. He spent years in bands led by the likes of Dizzy Gillespie, Yusef Lateef and Stan Getz, and brings that wisdom to every note. He's put out dozens of albums, continues to write new music, and turns up in classrooms and on concert stages throughout the city. And he continues to play brilliantly, with clarity and ebullience alike — his latest album pairs him with an all-Brazilian band.
For his 70th birthday week, Barron's band is playing another jazz institution: the Village Vanguard. Included in the repertoire are songs by the late Mulgrew Miller, another pianist of gentle temperament and profound capability. WBGO and NPR Music presented a live video webcast and radio broadcast of the Kenny Barron Quintet.
- "5/4 Blues" (Barron)
- "Second Thoughts" (Mulgrew Miller)
- "Mariposa de Sueño" (Samora Pinderhughes)
- "Rain, Rain" (Barron)
- "DPW" (Barron)
- Kenny Barron, piano
- Vincent Herring, alto saxophone
- Brandon Lee, trumpet
- Kiyoshi Kitagawa, bass
- Lee Pearson, drums
© 2013 WBGO
May 15, 2013. Posted by WBGO.
Ever since he started becoming one of the best alto saxophone players in the world, Miguel Zenón has drawn influence from his upbringing in Puerto Rico. Folk melodies, forms and rhythms have inspired many of his technically astounding yet immediately gratifying works. So it makes sense that he's giving back. He's launched an initiative called Caravana Cultural, presenting free jazz concerts and lectures on the island. His latest album Oye!!! was recorded live in San Juan with Puerto Rican musicians. And his newest book of compositions was based on interviews with Puerto Ricans living in New York.
Zenón too lives in New York, and his stunning U.S-based quartet has supported his every move for 10 years now. It's been invited to play a prestigious home date: It visits the Village Vanguard for a week in mid-May. It's the first time he's led a band at the Vanguard, and he brought his new tunes with him. WBGO and NPR Music presented a live video webcast and radio broadcast of the Miguel Zenón Quartet at this page.
All compositions by Miguel Zenón.
- "Identities Are Changeable"
- "My Home"
- "Same Fight"
- "Second Generation Lullaby"
- "First Language"
- Miguel Zenón, alto saxophone
- Luis Perdomo, piano
- Hans Glawischnig, bass
- Henry Cole, drums
Host and Producer: Josh Jackson; Audio Engineer: David Tallacksen; Production Assistant: Josh Webb. Recorded May 15, 2013 at The Village Vanguard in New York, N.Y.Read more
© 2013 WBGO
April 26, 2013. Posted by Tim Wilkins.Turkish-German vocalist Esra Dalfidan sings in several languages with her band FIDAN. (Image Credit: Courtesy of the artist)
Bremen may be best known for its love of soccer and Beck's beer, but every April, its Jazzahead! festival turns the German port town into a capital city of jazz for a weekend
What began as a small trade fair and showcase for German jazz nine years ago has grown into a four-day festival with more than 80 concerts and 600 exhibits, attracting 20,000 jazz fans and professionals. What sets Jazzahead! apart from other festivals — and makes it a magnet for young performers and industry insiders — is its focus on artist development. Organizers host matchmaking sessions that pair musicians with bookers, agents and the media.
"Everybody who comes gets that positive energy, because they meet, network and make plans about how to improve the situation for jazz together," says Peter Schulze, the festival's artistic director.
Jazzahead! has a European focus, but more and more visitors come from around the world. Many artists premiere new projects — and come from as far away as Finland, Albania and Brazil. A dozen acts are coming from the festival's partner country this year, Israel.
Since many of these artists aren't well-known in the U.S., I've been exploring the Jazzahead! roster at the jazz bee, WBGO's HD2 stream for emerging artists. WBGO is hosting an around-the-clock showcase of recordings by groups at this year's festival, and will broadcast concert highlights on producer Josh Jackson's weekly music magazine, The Checkout, on May 7 and 14. Here's a sneak peek at five acts which surprised me, and may surprise you.Read more
© 2013 WBGO
April 12, 2013. Posted by Simon Rentner.The pianist and saxophonist Kyle Shepherd is one of Cape Town's most highly tipped musicians. (Image Credit: freelenz/Flickr)
Brilliant art often hides in plain sight. Such is the case in South Africa, where, for centuries, the country turned its back on black and "coloured" musicians.
In the mid-'60s, the apartheid government made it impossible for its best musicians to operate or make a living. Being a true jazz musician in the apartheid era was particularly dangerous; artists who played music that symbolized empowerment, integration and freedom posed a direct threat. This is why so few "classic" South African jazz recordings exist in the first place. Now, as South Africa enters a modern age, many of the same problems that frustrate American jazz artists actually plague South Africans. Recording contracts for its elders are few and far between.
That said, there's one bright light in the country: The Cape Town International Jazz Festival, one of Africa's largest music events. Last weekend, jazz — and all that it represents — was celebrated as a vital component of South African identity. This "grandest gathering," as it was called, not only drew a massive audience (26,000 people in two days), but also attracted Africa's top business leaders and dignitaries, including South Africa's president himself.
Here are five South Africans — all featured at this year's festival — whom every jazz aficionado should know.Read more
© 2013 WBGO