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The Year in Jazz: Our farewell to 2021, from the National Jazz Museum in Harlem

Greg Bryant, Nate Chinen and Jordannah Elizabeth at the National Jazz Museum in Harlem on Dec. 15, 2021.
Martin Johnson
Greg Bryant, Nate Chinen and Jordannah Elizabeth at the National Jazz Museum in Harlem on Dec. 15, 2021.

Well, that was some year. We started out 2021 with hope and wariness, encouraged by the promise of new stirrings, unsure about how we'd get there. And as this year draws to a close, it's hard not to feel that we came Right Back 'Round Again, to borrow a recent turn of phrase from Joshua Redman. This, still?

But a lot of light came through this year, as we've noted before on Jazz United. So for this final episode of 2021, we decided to converge our podcast with a longstanding tradition of Nate's: The Year in Jazz, a critics' roundtable discussion held since 2012 at the National Jazz Museum in Harlem. We got together in mid-December, just before the omicron variant of the coronavirus made in-person gatherings feel foolhardy again.

Our special guest for this conversation is Jordannah Elizabeth, jazz critic and author of She Raised Her Voice!: 50 Black Women Who Sang Their Way In Music History. Jordannah, who came up from Baltimore for the occasion, brought clear insights and a fresh perspective to our conversation, which touched on the surprising possibilities revealed by pandemic restrictions; the restless struggle for gender equality and racial justice; the aftershock of some personal losses; and the "lightbulb" moment that has stuck with each of us throughout the year.

Speaking of lightbulbs, we felt this was a truly illuminating discussion, and hope it will resonate with you too. Thanks for hanging with us in 2021; we look forward to more engaging sounds and banter in the new year!

Jazz United is produced for WBGO Studios by Trevor Smith.

This episode was co-presented and co-produced by the National Jazz Museum in Harlem, with special thanks to Ryan Maloney.

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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.