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(Back) In The Club: Jazz United Considers the Return of Live Concerts

Robert Glasper during his 2019 residency at the Blue Note Jazz Club.
Robert Glasper during his 2019 residency at the Blue Note Jazz Club.

If you've followed Jazz United at any point since our inception, you know how important live performances are to us. In this latest phase of the pandemic, hearing improvised music in person — with an audience, inside a club — has become all the more precious, and more than a little fraught.

The situation on the ground keeps changing, at a breakneck pace. In June, when the Blue Note Jazz Club announced the return of its summer festival, our entire podcast team felt comfortable enough to catch the series opener, keyboardist Robert Glasper, during his weeklong residency.

Glasper's sets were a perfect blend of contemplation, relief and fire that captured the collective consciousness almost completely. But since that time, COVID-19's new viral mutations are on the rise and forcing the question, "Are we really in the clear yet?"

As this episode drops, the Newport Jazz Festival is underway with COVID-19 protocols in place, and a highly concentrated lineup of talent. Musicians worldwide who have been forced onto the sidelines are now back out on tour.

And venue owners — like Smalls Jazz Club's Spike Wilner, who speaks with us in our show's second half — continue to find ways to honor the music's living legends while keeping the current generation playing for in-person and streaming audiences. There's so much uncertainty, but we're going to (safely) enjoy live music as much as we can.

Be sure to catch Greg Bryant's "In the Club" feature on Jazz After Hours.

Jazz United is produced by Trevor Smith for WBGO Studios.

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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, and a regular contributor to NPR Music.