WBGO Blog
  • No Man's Band: All-Female Jazz Orchestras Then and Now

    March 14, 2019

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    (Image Credit: Courtesy of the artist)

    "When I was younger," Sherrie Maricle says, "it was almost a mission to blend in with all the men I was playing with. Not to be viewed as female in any way." But Maricle, a drummer inspired by the precision and power of Buddy Rich, found her calling as a leader of women — specifically, as leader of The DIVA Jazz Orchestra, which recently marked 25 years as a proving ground, a pipeline and a rejoinder to any lingering bias that this music is a masculine domain.

    Jazz Night in America recently caught up with Maricle and the band at Dizzy's Club in New York during an album celebration for The DIVA Jazz Orchestra 25th Anniversary Project. In this radio episode, we'll hear some of that new original music. And we'll hear from a few DIVA musicians, including Alexa Tarantino, an excellent saxophonist who was born in the same year as the band.

    There's a rich, important and often under-recognized legacy of all-female big bands, so we'll also spend some time in this show paying tribute. Our host, Christian McBride, traveled to California to sit down with 93-year-old saxophonist Roz Cron — one of the last surviving members of the International Sweethearts of Rhythm, which caused a sensation in the 1940s. You'll want to hear Cron's recollections of the road, which underscore why Earl "Fatha" Hines once characterized the International Sweethearts of Rhythm as "the first freedom riders."

    SET LIST

    • "Jami's Tune" (Barbara Laronga)
    • "East Coast Andy" (Leigh Pilzer)
    • "Caravan" (Duke Ellington)
    • "Square One" (Alexa Tarantino)
    • "La Americana" (Tomoko Ohno)

    MUSICIANS

    Core band with leader/drummer Sherrie Maricle; pianist Tomoko Ohno; bassist Noriko Ueda; alto saxophonists Alexa Tarantino and Mercedes Beckman; tenor saxophonist/clarinetist Janelle Reichman; tenor saxophonist Cynthia Mullis; baritone saxophonist Leigh Pilzer; trumpeters Liesl Whitaker, Jami Dauber, Rachel Therrien, and Barbara Laronga; trombonists Jennifer Krupa, Hailey Brinnel, and Leslie Havens. Special featured guest trumpeter Ingrid Jensen.

    CREDITS

    Producers: Sarah Geledi with Alex Ariff; Production Assistant: Sarah Kerson; Senior Producer: Katie Simon; Senior Director of NPR Music: Lauren Onkey; Executive Producers: Amy Niles, Gabrielle Armand, Anya Grundman; Recording Engineer: Rob Macomber

    Copyright 2019 WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center. To see more, visit WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center.

  • Makaya McCraven: The Brain Behind The Mind-Bending Beats

    February 28, 2019. Posted by Alex Ariff.

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    (Image Credit: Carolina Sanchez/Red Bull Content Pool)

    Makaya McCraven — a drummer-producer-bandleader-composer who sums up his MO with the evocative term "beat scientist" — has lately been on the hottest of hot streaks. His album Universal Beings was hailed as one of the best albums of 2018, by outlets ranging from The New York Times to Rolling Stone. (In the NPR Music Jazz Critics Poll, it came in at No. 4.) For McCraven, who lives in Chicago, this vaulting acclaim is just the latest evidence that he's onto something vital and new.

    Jazz Night in America devotes this episode to McCraven, his innovative process, and the creative background that continues to inform his work. We'll look at the precedent of record producers splicing tape in the studio, and how it applies to McCraven's constructive methods. We'll meet his earliest influences — his parents, African-American drummer Stephen McCraven and Hungarian folk artist Agnes McCraven. We'll join McCraven in a thrilling recent performance at the Red Bull Music Festival Chicago, on the South Side, with partners including Nubya Garcia on tenor saxophone, Brandee Younger on harp, Jeff Parker on guitar and Joel Ross on vibraphone.

    "I don't think what I'm doing is necessarily that far off of the legacy of jazz that I grew up in," McCraven observes, before acknowledging the persistence of debates about what jazz is, or should be. "I think one of the things that gives it strength is that people want to argue over it. That's a good sign. That means there's life here."

    SET LIST

    • "Atlantic Black" (McCraven)
    • "Wise Man, Wiser Woman" (McCraven)
    • "Hungarian Lullaby" (Peter Dabasi)
    • "Song of the Forest Boogaraboo" (Stephen McCraven)
    • "Suite Haus" (McCraven)

    MUSICIANS

    Makaya McCraven: drums;Nubya Garcia, tenor saxophone; Joshua Johnson, alto saxophone; Miguel Atwood Ferguson on electric violin; Brandee Younger, harp; Jeff Parker, guitar; Junius Paul, Dezron Douglas; bass, Carlos Niño, percussion; Joel Ross, vibraphone

    CREDITS

    Producer: Alex Ariff and Sarah Kerson; Senior Producer: Katie Simon, Senior Director of NPR Music, Lauren Onkey; Executive Producers: Amy Niles, Gabrielle Armand, Anya Grundman; Recording engineer: Dave Vettraino; Concert producer: Red Bull Music Festival Chicago

    Copyright 2019 WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center. To see more, visit WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center.

  • Oscar-Nominated Terence Blanchard On 30 Years Of Jazz And Film Scoring For Spike Lee

    February 15, 2019. Posted by Alex Ariff.

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    (Image Credit: Henry Adebonojo)

    Terence Blanchard wrote his first piece of music for a Spike Lee joint nearly 30 years ago. The movie was Mo' Better Blues, which revolves around a brooding jazz trumpeter played by Denzel Washington. Blanchard was on set to ghost those trumpet parts, but at one point, Spike heard him playing a theme at the piano, and asked him to write an accompanying string arrangement.

    That moment kicked off a collaboration that has now spanned well over a dozen films, from Jungle Fever and Malcolm X up through BlacKkKlansman, which yielded first-time Academy Award nominations for both artists (in the categories of Best Director, Best Picture and Best Original Score.) Blanchard's haunting main theme for BlacKkKlansman, "Blut Und Boden (Blood and Soil)," also just won Best Instrumental Composition at the 61st Annual Grammy Awards.

    Beyond the accolades, Blanchard's extensive work in film has transformed his capacities as a composer and bandleader. In this radio episode of Jazz Night in America, we'll consider not only how jazz influences his scoring, but also how he brings cinematic perspective to the bandstand. Along with Blanchard and Spike, we'll glean perceptive insights from pianist Fabian Almazan and critic and scholar Jason King.

    We'll also hear a lot of music from the Tri-C Jazz Festivals in Cleveland where Blanchard performed with his band, The E-Collective; played original themes from The Comedian; and unveiled a sweeping new commission, "Our Voices: Democracy RE:visited," featuring The E-Collective with orchestral and choral reinforcements.

    SET LIST

    • "Jackie in the Rain" (Blanchard)
    • "Electricity on MacDougal" (Blanchard)
    • "See Me As I Am" (Blanchard)
    • "Our Voices: Democracy RE:visited" (Blanchard)

    MUSICIANS

    "Jackie in the Rain" and "Electricity on MacDougal" - Terence Blanchard: trumpet; Khari Allen Lee: alto saxophone; Ravi Coltrane: tenor saxophone; Kenny Barron: piano; David Pulphus: bass; Carl Allen: drums

    "See Me As I Am" - Terence Blanchard: trumpet; Charles Altura: guitar; Fabian Almazan keyboards; Donald Ramsey: bass; Oscar Seaton: drums

    "Our Voices: Democracy RE:visited" - Terence Blanchard: trumpet; Charles Altura: guitar; Dale Black: bass; James Francies: keys; Oscar Seaton: drums; Orlando Watson, RA Washington: vocals

    ENSEMBLES

    CityMusic Cleveland:

    Ellen Breakfield-Glick, Andrew Stefaniak: clarinet; David Snyder: bass clarinet; John Wetherill: bassoon; Lisa Fink, Andrew Symington: horn; Nina Dvora Bell, Heather Zweifel: trumpet; Morgan Wynn, Sebastian Bell: trombone; Kenneth Heinlein: tuba; Dylan Moffit, Evan Mitchell: percussion; Miho Hashizume, Paul Meyer, Susan Britton, Tobiah Murphy, Aaron Schwartz: violin I; Minju Kim, Aniela Eddy, Ann Yu, James Larson: violin II; Yaël Senamaud-Cohen, Katerina Istomin: viola; Anna Hurt, Nataliya Pshenychna: cello; Joel Negus: bass; Brany Hudelson: flute; Justine Meyers: oboe.

    Spirit of the Groove Gospel Choir:

    Led by Jimmie Parker with Raziya Hernton, Sierra Robinson, Tasheka Washington, Latasha Brown , Jeanneice Jackson, Mirna Nock, June Burrage, Linda Jackson, Laveta Parker, Valerie Mathis: soprano; Kate Kooser, Adrianna Miller, Qiong-Mei Ngo, Nancy Osgood, Leslie Perkins, Kimille Webb, Zeta Wilkins, Tamara Shelton, Jubilee Jones, Leah Sanders, Marla Travick, Manalisa Williams, Diana Harris: alto; Alex Berko, Patricia Buckingham, Deitrick Burgess, D'Brian Cross, Ian Morgan, Charlie Pride, Ramone Wilkins, Carlin Jackson, Quentin Pope, Brandon Edwards, Willie Pope, Charles Harris: tenor; Reginald Bowens, Robert Grant, Jordan Shores, Joél Tucker, Caleb Wright: bass.

    CREDITS

    Producer: Alex Ariff; Production Assistant: Sarah Kerson; Senior Producer: Katie Simon, Senior Director of NPR Music, Lauren Onkey; Executive Producers: Amy Niles, Gabrielle Armand, Anya Grundman; Recording engineers: Bruce Gigax, David Pietk.

    Copyright 2019 WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center. To see more, visit WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center.

  • A Reunion Of Brotherly Love: Joey DeFrancesco Traces His Roots

    January 24, 2019

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    Bassist Christian McBride (left) and Blues artist Joey DeFrancesco (right). (Image Credit: Courtesy of the artist)

    There are probably better uses for a time machine — but if you could drop in on the band room at Philadelphia's High School for Creative and Performing Arts, sometime in the late 1980s, you'd encounter some historic jazz talent in the making. I'm referring in particular to the untouchable organ virtuoso Joey DeFrancesco and the irreproachable bassist Christian McBride.

    They were musical brothers then, bound by a deep love of the jazz tradition and the impressive scope of their youthful abilities. And while each has followed his own path since — leading bands, making albums, achieving preeminence in the field — that fraternal bond hasn't faded or faltered. So for this soulful episode of Jazz Night in America, it was only fitting that McBride, our host, reconnects with DeFrancesco in the City of Brotherly Love.

    Over the course of the show, we'll hear music from some sharp, recent DeFrancesco gigs at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola, as well as a taste of his spiritually-minded new album, In the Key of the Universe. And we'll hear what it sounds like when a couple of outspoken Philly cats lock into a groove. Pull up a chair and enjoy some reminiscing, some reflecting, some repartee ­— even a bit of spontaneous singing — as Chris McB catches up with Joey D.

    Copyright 2019 WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center. To see more, visit WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center.

  • 'Jazz Night In America' Remembers Artists We Lost In 2018

    December 20, 2018

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    Grammy-winning trumpeter Roy Hargrove passed away at age 49. (Image Credit: Courtesy of The Roy Hargrove Estate)

    This time each year, amidst the warmth of year-end highlights and holiday wishes, we pause to remember those we have lost. But while it's an occasion for sadness, it's also an opportunity to celebrate their legacies in full. That's the spirit with which Jazz Night in America offers this In Memoriam episode, featuring testimonials by some of those who knew the artists best.

    The mercurial genius of pianist Cecil Taylor is vividly captured by a longtime friend, poet Steve Dalachinsky. Singer-songwriter Bob Dorough receives a toast from Nellie McKay, while the tireless Village Vanguard owner Lorraine Gordon is remembered by pianist Fred Hersch. The iconic South African trumpeter and freedom fighter Hugh Masekela is memorialized in a reflection by vocalist Somi. The New Orleans piano maestro and singer Henry Butler receives his encomium from a close collaborator, trumpeter Steven Bernstein. And the bridge-building trumpeter Roy Hargrove receives his tribute from a longtime friend and collaborator: our host, Christian McBride. (Nancy Wilson, the elegant singer and former host of NPR's Jazz Profiles, died just as this episode was coming together.)

    Which brings us to an important fact about this show: It's full of music to go along with the memories. The subjects of these tributes, after all, would hardly have it any other way.

    Copyright 2018 WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center. To see more, visit WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center.