WBGO Blog
  • Toast Of The Nation 2017

    December 30, 2016

    image
    The Fred Hersch Trio performs at Blue Note Beijing on Oct. 28, 2016. (Image Credit: Zhang Dongdong)

    The New Year holiday tradition continues with the Toast of the Nation jazz party. Spirited, improvised and swinging, each hour was recorded live at Blue Note venues throughout the country and the world.

    With a new format this year, there are no countdowns to midnight. Instead, you can enjoy six solid hours of music, right for any time of the day or night — complete with festive Happy New Year messages throughout. Hosted by Christian McBride, this is the perfect complement to your holiday festivities.

    Hear Joshua Redman and Brad Mehldau from Blue Note Tokyo, Buika from B.B. King Blues in Times Square, The Dirty Dozen Brass Band from Blue Note Hawaii, the sultry Dee Dee Bridgewater from Blue Note Napa, the Ron Carter Quartet from Blue Note New York and pianist Fred Hersch from Blue Note Beijing.

    Read more
  • Looking Back To Move Forward: Celebrating Jazz Artists We Lost in 2016

    December 28, 2016. Posted by Katie Simon.

    image
    Toots Thielemans. (Image Credit: Jos Knaepen)

    2016 brought a lot of loss to the music community: Leonard Cohen, Sharon Jones, David Bowie and Prince, just to name a few. Jazz also lost great players from Paul Bley to Gato Barbieri to the three we're profiling this hour on Jazz Night in America — vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson, harmonica player Toots Thielemans and bassist Victor Bailey.

    JNIA host Christian McBride interviews Hutcherson's son, Teddy, about his dad; talks to Thielemans' pianist, Kenny Werner; and pays a personal tribute to Bailey. Rare live recordings of Thielemans and Hutcherson come from the Jazz at Lincoln Center archives.

    Copyright 2016 WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center. To see more, visit WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center.

  • Why The 2016 Jazz Critics Poll Belongs To The Avant Gentry

    December 21, 2016. Posted by David Tallacksen.

    image
    Jazz critic Francis Davis says two 2016 projects from Wadada Leo Smith are are must-listens: his solo record, America's National Parks, and his collaboration with Vijay Iyer, A Cosmic Rhythm with Each Stroke. (Image Credit: Scott Groller/Courtesy of the artist)

    The results of this year's Jazz Critics Poll — NPR's fourth annual and my 11th, counting from its 2006 inception in the Village Voice — slightly resemble those of the last two. Henry Threadgill, Jack DeJohnette, Mary Halvorson and Vijay Iyer all are repeaters from last year's Top 10, and Steve Lehman and Wadada Leo Smith are back from 2014's, when they finished No. 1 and No. 2. With Smith, Threadgill and DeJohnette all over 70, and Charlie Haden 76 when he died two years ago, the average age of the musicians in this year's Top 10 might be the oldest since '06, when Nels Cline (No. 7 this year and 10 years older) was the baby at 50.

    That's the troubling news, if you choose to see it as a sign of jazz's dwindling life expectancy. I don't. The 2016 honor roll also includes Halvorson and Lehman, both in their 30s, and two-time winner Iyer, who isn't significantly older. And slightly further down the list, in the Top 20, are Darcy James Argue, Tyshawn Sorey and Jonathan Finlayson, all past winners in Debut (the poll's equivalent of Rookie of the Year). Gregory Porter, who made the Top 50, and Noah Preminger, who just missed, are also previous winners in this category. Besides, watching the polls as long as I have has taught me the folly of drawing conclusions about the state of jazz's creative health from just one year's standings.

    Over the last 11 years, the poll has shown critical consensus forming behind the above-named musicians, plus others including JD Allen (No. 13 this year) and Cecile McLorin Salvant. And if you go by magazine covers and White House invitations, 2016's breakout jazz star was Joey Alexander, a 13-year-old piano prodigy about whom this poll's voters seem to be wisely playing wait-and-see (some of us overheard mumbling about child labor laws).

    But the year belonged to what I think of as avant elders, or better yet, the avant gentry — musicians who have remained in the jazz vanguard for three to five decades now. Threadgill made his recording debut in 1970, on a date by Muhal Richard Abrams that teamed him with Wadada Leo Smith on the front line; both went on to become guiding lights in the Chicago AACM and its New York diaspora. Haden and Carla Bley (who deserves a career retrospective as well as co-leader billing on Time/Lines) were there for the birth of free jazz, as was No. 19 Andrew Cyrille. No. 14 David Murray and the individual members of Smith's rhythm section on America's National Parks (Anthony Davis, John Lindberg and Pheeroan akLaff) were among those who reenergized the avant-garde in the late 1970s and early-1980s. And DeJohnette, though most associated these days with '70s Miles and Keith Jarrett's Standards Trio, has had one foot in the avant-garde since his apprenticeship in Chicago, as an AACM fellow traveler — witness his frequent reunions with Smith. Though they'd be entitled, these musicians aren't riffing on their laurels. Smith and Threadgill, in particular, are making perhaps the most adventurous music of their careers, and this year's poll reflects that.

    My own album choices require explanation. I asserted pollmaster's privilege in splitting some of my votes between different albums. But in each case, in compliance with the rules I set for my colleagues, only one album — indicated by an asterisk — received points and appears on my actual ballot.

    Read more

  • The 2016 NPR Music Jazz Critics Poll

    December 21, 2016. Posted by David Tallacksen.

    image
    Henry Threadgill's Old Locks and Irregular Verbs was voted the No. 1 jazz album of 2016. (Image Credit: John Rogers/Courtesy of the Artist)

    A decade ago, leading jazz critic Francis Davis corralled 30 jazz writers to create a list of the finest jazz albums of 2006 for the Village Voice. For the 2016 NPR Music Jazz Critics Poll, Davis has marshaled more than quadruple the forces — 137 voters — to assess the best of an ever-expanding field.

    Davis himself expounds on the Top 10 (you should read his analysis of this year's list here), and then the next 40 are ranked, followed by several intriguing specialty lists. We've got the year's best vocal albums, debuts and Latin jazz. The Reissue/Rara Avis category collects music by the likes of Bill Evans, Miles Davis, Count Basie and Lester Young. And all the critics' ballots, compiled by Tom Hull, may be seen here.

    In a list this extensive, there's plenty to discover and debate. Even Davis himself admits he's not as fond of one top album as a colleague is. But that's the beauty of this massive annual project. We've got an unparalleled group of contributors with a dizzying range of enthusiasms — some you may share, others you'll come to love. We listen so you can, too.—Mark Mobley

    The Rest

    11. Darcy James Argue Secret Society Real Enemies 126 (20)

    12. Charles Lloyd & the Marvels I Long to See You 117.5 (17)

    13. J.D. Allen Americana: Musings on Jazz & Blues 112.5 (22)

    14. Murray, Allen & Carrington Power Trio Perfection 108 (18)

    15. Jane Ira Bloom Early Americans 105.5 (17)

    16. Tyshawn Sorey The Inner Spectrum of Variables 90 (18)

    17. Greg Ward Touch My Beloved's Thought 80 (14)

    18. Aziza (Dave Holland, Chris Potter, Lionel Loueke, Eric Harland) Aziza 78.5 (15)

    19. Andrew Cyrille Quartet The Declaration of Musical Independence 75 (15)

    20. Jonathan Finlayson & Sicilian Moving Still 67 (12)

    21. Kris Davis Duopoly 61.5 (14)

    22. Sonny Rollins Holding the Stage: Road Shows, Vol. 4 60.5 (11)

    23. John Scofield Country for Old Men 59 (8)

    24. Aruán Ortiz Trio Hidden Voices 57.5 (12)

    25. Tom Harrell Something Gold, Something Blue 55.5 (10)

    26. Fred Hersch Trio Sunday Night at the Vanguard 53 (9)

    27. Barry Guy The Blue Shroud 53 (8)

    28. Jason Moran The Armory Concert 52 (7)

    29. Mark Dresser Seven Sedimental You 51 (9)

    30. George Coleman A Master Speaks 50 (9)

    31. Jaimeo Brown Transcendence Work Songs 49 (9)

    32. Donny McCaslin Beyond Now 48 (9)

    33. Julian Lage Arclight 47.5 (10)

    34. Joshua Redman & Brad Mehldau Nearness 45.5 (8)

    35. Frank Kimbrough Solstice 45 (9)

    36. David Bowie Blackstar 45 (5)

    37. Melissa Aldana Back Home 43 (8)

    38. Carla Bley, Andy Sheppard, Steve Swallow Andando el Tiempo 43 (7)

    39. Cookers The Call of the Wild and Peaceful Heart 43 (6)

    40. Bill Charlap Trio Notes from New York 42 (6)

    41. Brad Mehldau Trio Blues and Ballads 41 (7)

    42. Jeff Parker The New Breed 41 (6)

    43. Wolfgang Muthspiel Rising Grace 40 (7)

    44. Allison Miller's Boom Tic Boom Otis Was a Polar Bear 39.5 (7)

    45. Anthony Braxton 3 Compositions (EEMHM) 2011 39.5 (5)

    46. Logan Richardson Shift 39 (7)

    47. Esperanza Spalding Emily's D + Evolution 39 (6)

    48. Avishai Cohen Into the Silence 37.5 (8)

    49. Taylor Ho Bynum Enter the PlusTet 37 (8)

    50. Gregory Porter Take Me to the Alley 37 (5)

    Read more

  • Preservation Hall Jazz Band: Tiny Desk Concert

    December 21, 2016. Posted by David Tallacksen.

    Our goal for this special holiday Tiny Desk Concert is simple: to bring you joy. Preservation Hall Jazz Band is a hot and historic outfit from New Orleans, and its members brought us a tuba-wielding Santa and some original holiday cheer and praise — what they call a Cajun Christmas from the French Quarter.

    We lit some lights and decorated my desk and shelves as best we could, but it's this amazing band — complete with saxophone, trombone, trumpet, drums and a couple of tubas — that lit this place up. We've never had so much dancing from the NPR crew at a Tiny Desk Concert. So enjoy the show, and happy holidays to all from NPR Music.

    Set List

    • "Sugar Plum"
    • "I Think I Love You"
    • "Happy Holiday"
    • "Dear Lord"

    Credits

    Producers: Bob Boilen, Denise DeBelius; Audio Engineer: Kevin Wait; Videographers: Denise DeBelius, Gabriella Garcia-Pardo, Becky Harlan, Abbey Oldham; photo by John Poole/NPR

    Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.