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Braided Together: Jazz United Reflects on Trauma and Resilience in Our Year in Review

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Jimmy Katz
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Saxophonist Mark Turner, bassist Rashaan Carter and drummer Nasheet Waits in Central Park on Sept. 26, for the Giant Step Arts series Walk With the Wind, honoring congressman and civil rights icon John Lewis.

So many of us are more than ready to put 2020 into the rearview.

The dues have been heavy. The losses have been great. The two of us certainly had no way of knowing that our first hang together — in February, at Jazz Standard — could represent a microcosm of the catastrophe and creation that were only weeks away.

As we sat enraptured by the sound of the Ravi Coltrane Quartet, neither of us would have predicted that the Standard, one of the world’s most renowned rooms for improvisational music, would be forced to close shop permanently as a result of a global pandemic. But that evening also planted the seeds for this podcast.

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Credit Dara Tucker
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Greg Bryant and Nate Chinen in Beacon, N.Y., Aug. 2020.

On our final episode of 2020, we reflect on the year that was. Our arts and music community endured its largest series of challenges in many years: removal of livelihood; deaths in our community (some as a result of COVID-19); civil unrest to demand justice for Black lives; a divisive political climate; the uncertainty of resuming pre-pandemic socialization.

But it wasn’t all darkness. We’ve been amazed by the perseverance of so many musicians over the past ten months. All in all, 2020 was an exceptional year for music from both rising stars (Immanuel Wilkins, Nubya Garcia, Giveton Gelin) and established masters (Maria Schneider, Brad Mehldau, JD Allen.)  

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Credit Nate Chinen
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Mary Halvorson, Craig Taborn and Ches Smith at Roulette in Brooklyn on Nov. 6, 2020, for Jazzfest Berlin.

We’ll talk about some of their efforts, and some of our standout moments from before and after lockdown — like a Nasheet Waits Trio performance in Central Park, as part of the Giant Step Arts series Walk in the Wind (pictured above); and a Craig Taborn / Mary Halvorson / Ches Smith set at Roulette in Brooklyn, for Jazzfest Berlin.

There’s a lot to be grateful for — and we encourage you to remember and share some of your favorite moments of 2020 as well, in the comments below.

Music Featured in This Episode:

Jazz United is produced by Sarah Kerson. Our senior producer is Simon Rentner.

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Greg Bryant has been a longtime curator of improvisational music. At the age of 3 in his hometown of Nashville, Tennessee, he was borrowing his father’s records and spinning them on his Fisher Price turntable. Taking in diverse sounds of artistry from Miles Davis, Les McCann, James Brown, Weather Report and Jimi Hendrix gave shape to Greg's musical foundation and started him on a path of nonstop exploration.
A veteran jazz critic and award-winning author, Nate Chinen is editorial director at WBGO and a regular contributor to NPR Music.