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Jazz Singers: A Thirteen Part Series

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This thirteen-hour series hosted by the late award-winning singer Al Jarreau illuminates every style of jazz vocal artistry. From The Smithsonian and PRX

What is jazz singing? Is it the blues-inspired vocals of a legendary singer like Billie Holiday? Or the spiritual sound of the church you hear from Mahalia Jackson? What about scat, bebop, or ballads?

This thirteen-hour series illuminates jazz vocal artistry of every style. Listeners will hear the music and voices of Louis Armstrong, Nat King Cole, Diana Krall, Abbey Lincoln, Kurt Elling and many more. Award-winning recording artist Al Jarreau hosts, taking listeners on a journey through the history of jazz singing -- from the era of the Great American Songbook in the 1930s and 1940s, to contemporary jazz infused with pop and rock.

Originally produced by The Smithsonian in 2001, this series had been re-packaged by PRX with new narration from original producer Jacquie Gales Webb.

Airing Saturdays October 15 through December 3 from 8am - 10am on 88.3 FM

October 15

Hour 1: Steeped in the Blues

Over the years the blues has influenced countless jazz vocalists. In the program, Big Joe Turner, Joe Williams, Lou Rawls, Billie Holiday, Etta Jones, LaVerne Butler and others talk about and demonstrate jazz singing steeped in the blues.

Hour 1: Steeped in the Blues

Hour 2: Saturday Night Function

Jazz was born amidst revelry and ribaldry. Jazz vocals have, from the beginning, dealt with the earthier side of life. Artists such as Dakota Staton, Louis Jordan, O.C. Smith, Oscar Brown Jr., and Jon Hendricks let the good times roll

Hour 2: Saturday Night Function

October 22

Hour 3: Straight Out of the Church

From early spirituals to gospel to blues to jazz, singing as an expression of deep emotion evolved, with the various strains blending into each other. This melding of styles is heard in such singers as Mahalia Jackson, Aretha Franklin, Dinah Washington, Ernestine Anderson, Little Jimmy Scott, Nancy Wilson, Marlena Shaw, Mary Stallings and Carla Cook. This program explores the "church sound," and the spirituality of jazz singing.

Hour 3: Straight Out of the Church

Hour 4: What is Jazz Singing?

The talents of jazz singing legends Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Carmen McRae, and Sarah Vaughan help us understand improvisation, swing and phrasing. Various styles of jazz singing are presented with help from Anita O'Day, Betty Carter, Joe Williams, Ernestine Anderson, Etta Jones, Abbey Lincoln, Dianne Reeves and others.

Hour 4: What is Jazz Singing?

October 29

Hour 5: With a Little Help from My Friends

Jazz singing is usually a very singular art, with individual artists fastidiously honing their deeply personal styles and approaches. But, there is a tradition, almost a subculture within the art form, in which men and women, brothers and sisters, and all combinations in between, have come together to sing. This show looks at the tradition by exploring the music and influence of groups like the Boswell Sisters, the Mills Brothers, Lambert, Hendricks and Ross, The Hi Lo's, Manhattan Transfer, Take 6 and Voicestra. Interviewees include Jon Hendricks, Bobby McFerrin, Gene Puerling, Annie Ross, Andy Bey and others.

Hour 5: With a Little Help from My Friends

Hour 6: Ballads

From Billie Holiday's soulful laments to Johnny Hartman's romantic ballads, jazz singers have used their interpretive powers to express the delight and anguish of love. What makes some singers such great interpreters of love songs? How are such singers as Frank Sinatra and Carmen McRae able to touch our emotional cores? This show highlights the master balladeers and their techniques: Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Carmen McRae, Sarah Vaughan, Johnny Hartman, Nat King Cole, Billy Eckstine, Bill Henderson, Joe Williams, and Shirley Horn.

Hour 6: Ballads

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Jacquie Gales Webb
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November 5

Hour 7: Scat, Bebop, Vocalese, and the Voice as an Instrument

With comments from Louis Armstrong, Anita O'Day, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Mark Murphy, and Kurt Elling, this program will trace the evolution of the intricate art of scat singing. Jon Hendricks, Annie Ross and Janis Siegel of Manhattan Transfer are our guides to 'vocalese' - the art of composing and performing vocal versions of famous instrumental jazz solos. Jazz composer Duke Ellington brilliantly utilized the qualities of the human voice purely as an instrument. Also featuring Bobby McFerrin, Miles Griffith and Al Jarreau.

Hour 7: Scat, Bebop, Vocalese, and the Voice as an Instrument

Hour 8: You Are What You Sing

The best jazz singers are constantly searching for great songs, both old and new. Artists such as Dee Dee Bridgewater, Dianne Reeves, Allan Harris, Kurt Elling, Mark Murphy, Anita O'Day, and Billie Holiday talk about the music they choose, how it's interpreted and how it's recorded. The program looks at how singers find material from the "Great American Songbook" and beyond.

Hour 8: You Are What You Sing

November 12

Hour 9: It's Our World...Sometimes

Jazz singing has always benefited from the innovations and sensitivity of women...from trailblazers Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan to contemporary explorers like Cassandra Wilson, Dianne Reeves and Diana Krall. This program looks at the special concerns of the extraordinary women who juggled family demands and battled gender discrimination while steadfastly pursuing their artists muse and mastering their craft. Interviewees include Abbey Lincoln, Anita O'Day, Nancy Wilson, Carol Sloane, Nnenna Freelon, and others.

Hour 9: It's Our World...Sometimes

Hour 10: On the Road and In the Club

Jazz singers tell it like it really is. Today's singers and yesterday's tell of their experiences, joys, trials and tribulations performing this most intimate and revealing form of music in every kind of venue, from bars and roadhouses to the concert hall. Nat King Cole, Lena Horne, O.C. Smith, Oscar Brown Jr., Louis Jordan, Nellie Lutcher and others share their stories.

Hour 10: On the Road and In the Club

November 26

Hour 11: Jazz Singing and Civil Rights

This program examines jazz singing as a means of social protest. Artists such as Nnenna Freelon, Lena Horne, Abbey Lincoln, Louis Armstrong, Al Hibbler, Oscar Brown Jr., Ray Charles, and Miles Griffith talk about songs with a political or social message and their experiences.

Hour 11: Jazz Singing and Civil Rights

Hour 12: Beyond Each Shining Sea

Jazz music is an indigenous American art form, but if you listen closely, you will hear elements of Africa, Europe, Latin America, and the Caribbean. In this program, jazz singers describe how they've been nurtured by a mutual exchange. Artists such as Dee Dee Bridgewater, Melba Joyce, Helen Merrill, Ernestine Anderson, Flora Purim, Sibongile Khumalo, Annie Ross, Dianne Reeves and Claudia Acuna share their music and stories.

Hour 12: Beyond Each Shining Sea

December 3

Hour 13: Today, Tomorrow...Forever?

Is jazz singing alive and flourishing in this new century...bursting at the seams with both established artists and younger artists who bring diverse influences and nurturing styles to its shores? Or is it floundering and adrift...without the benefit of adequate performance venues, industry support or even up and coming singers who are truly expanding the tradition? We'll examine these questions and more through the music and thoughts of singers like Kurt Elling, Carmen Lundy, Diana Krall, Madeline Eastman, Kevin Mahogany, Dianne Reeves and others.

Hour 13: Today, Tomorrow...Forever?

Brooklyn born Stevan Smith graduated from the exceptional Boys and Girls High School and attended the Earl G. Graves School of Business and Management at Morgan State University (Baltimore, MD), where he decided to switch to a path that would allow him to follow his passion for music. Introduced to Jazz music via Hip-Hop, Stevan started a radio programming internship at the MSU owned WEAA 88.9 FM, where he rose to Assistant Program Director. He then spent 12 years at WBGO as Traffic and Continuity Manager, where he contributed to the station's digital efforts, produced features for broadcast, and filled in as a guest announcer. For three years, Smith then served as Assistant Program Director at WNYC, during which time he continued to produce podcasts for himself and others. He returned to WBGO in 2021 as Chief Content Officer.