WBGO Blog
  • Gregory Porter: Personal Stories For Universal Songs

    September 20, 2019

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    Gregory Porter (Image Credit: Jonathan Chimene/Courtesy of Jazz At Lincoln Center)

    The smooth, booming voice of Gregory Porter brought a galvanizing force to jazz when he broke onto the scene about a decade ago. It's a voice of exhortation, flowing out of the gospel church. A voice of dignity, in the mode of his hero, Nat King Cole. A voice of reassurance, whether aiming for the heavens or toward a single soul across the room.

    It's also, crucially, the voice of experience — Porter's own, going back to his childhood in Bakersfield, Calif. For this episode of Jazz Night in America, the two-time Grammy-winning jazz vocalist opens up about that journey in conversation with our host, Christian McBride. We'll hear about Porter's transition from sports to theater to music and about the meaning behind some of his soul-baring songs, like "Don't Lose Your Steam."

    We'll hear that song and others in performance as Porter and his band electrify a crowd at the 2019 St. Lucia Jazz Festival, produced in collaboration with Jazz at Lincoln Center.

    Musicians:

    Gregory Porter: vocals; Chip Crawford: piano; Jahmal Nichols: bass; Andre Jay: organ; Emanuel Harrold: drums; Tivon Pennicott: saxophone

    Credits:

    Host: Christian McBride; Producers: Trevor Smith with Alex Ariff; Senior Producer: Katie Simon; Recording Engineer: Cory Carson; Technical Director: David Tallacksen; Executive Producers: Amy Niles, Gabrielle Armand, Anya Grundmann; Senior Director of NPR Music: Lauren Onkey; Production Assistant: Sarah Kerson; Project Manager: Suraya Mohamed

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

  • A Toast To The Montreal International Jazz Festival At 40: Jazz, Blues & Much More

    September 12, 2019

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    Aerial view of the Festival International de Jazz de Montreal. (Image Credit: © Victor Diaz Lamich/Courtesy of Festival International de Jazz de Montreal)

    The city of Montréal in the Canadian province of Quebec is known for a number of things: Great bagels, a thriving art scene, a certain je ne sais quoi. It's also home to the largest jazz festival in the world, the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal, which just celebrated its 40th anniversary.

    For this episode of Jazz Night in America, we'll pay a visit to the festival with its co-founder and legendary artistic director, André Ménard. Since the beginning, Ménard wanted an international festival that presents jazz as a constantly evolving artform, with many branches and styles. A place where he could present not only the best of jazz but also, say, Argentinian tango master Astor Piazzolla, and American blues giants like Muddy Waters.

    Join us as Ménard shares some of his favorite festival memories from the last four decades, including guitarist Pat Metheny's performance for an outdoor crowd of 100,000, Diana Krall's springboard to jazz-vocal stardom and unforgettable concerts by legends like Ella Fitzgerald, Dave Brubeck and Oscar Peterson.

    Set List

    • Ella Fitzgerald, "They Can't Take That Away From Me"
    • Oscar Peterson, "Cakewalk"
    • Oscar Peterson, "Bach's Blues"
    • Pat Metheny, "Are You Going With Me"
    • Dave Brubeck, "Tritonis"
    • Dee Dee Bridgewater, "Lonely Woman"
    • Diana Krall, "Dream a Little Dream of Me"
    • Christian McBride Quartet, "McThing"

    Credits

    Producer: Sarah Geledi; Senior Producer: Katie Simon; Executive Producers: Amy Niles, Gabrielle Armand, Anya Grundmann; Senior Director of NPR Music: Lauren Onkey; Production Assistant: Sarah Kerson; Project Manager: Suraya Mohamed. Special thanks to Kelly Peterson, Philippe Chayer and Simon Rentner. Excerpts from the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal, L'Equipe Spectra Inc.

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

  • Electric Miles: Behind The 'Brew'

    August 15, 2019

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    Miles and Betty Davis in color in Miles' New York westside brownstone, 1969 (Image Credit: Baron Wolman)

    Electric Miles. Few word pairings in the jazz lexicon are apt to inspire so much contention and challenge and ferment. What the phrase refers to, of course, is a period in the career of trumpeter Miles Davis, spanning the last third of his life. And while there are other important antecedents, the big bang of this period is an album recorded 50 years ago by the name of Bitches Brew.

    This episode of Jazz Night in America takes us behind the furious mystique of that album, illuminating the musical and cultural forces Miles was metabolizing at the time. We'll hear from an array of authorities on the subject — notably his second wife, funk heroine and fashion icon Betty Davis, who inspired his outrageous transformation in the Age of Aquarius. ("Whatever I would wear, he would wear," says Betty with a laugh, in this rare, can't-miss interview.)

    Among the other essential voices in the show is electric bassist Marcus Miller, who served as musical director and record producer for a later edition of Davis' band. We'll hear highlights from an Electric Miles concert that Miller put together for Jazz at Lincoln Center — featuring not one but two blazing trumpeters, Russell Gunn and Marquis Hill, along with stone killers like guitarist Vernon Reid.

    "When you create music," Miller asserts, "your primary responsibility is to reflect the times that you live in." That's one of many explanations for the current that flows through Electric Miles — and the charge that it can still deliver.

    Set List

    • "Directions" (Joe Zawinul)
    • "Bitches Brew" (Miles Davis)
    • "Spanish Key" (Miles Davis)
    • "Black Satin" interlude (Miles Davis)
    • "Tutu" (Marcus Miller)

    Musicians

    Marcus Miller – Music Director, Bandleader, Bass Guitar, Bass Clarinet ; Brett Williams – Keyboards; Alex Han – Saxophone; Marquis Hill – Trumpet; Russell Gunn – Trumpet; Vernon Reid – Guitar; Alex Bailey – Drums; Mino Cinelu – Percussion.

    Credits

    Host: Christian McBride; Producers: Sarah Geledi with Trevor Smith; Editor: Alex Ariff; Senior Producer: Katie Simon; Recording Engineer: Rob Macomber; Executive Producers: Amy Niles, Gabrielle Armand, Anya Grundman; Senior Director of NPR Music: Lauren Onkey; Production Assistant: Sarah Kerson; Project Manager: Suraya Mohamed

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

  • Watch U.K. Jazz Group Sons Of Kemet Deliver An Explosive Midnight Set

    July 30, 2019

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    Sons of Kemet perform at Big Ears Festival in Knoxville, Tenn. (Image Credit: Annabel Edwards/NPR)

    "Jazz built for arenas."

    A friend and former rock critic shared this admiring assessment of Sons of Kemet, after seeing the band for the first time at this year's Big Ears Festival. There's obviously truth in it: Over the last eight years, Sons of Kemet has not only fueled the fires of a raging London jazz scene; it has also scaled up the pyrotechnics, in strictly musical terms.

    With Shabaka Hutchings on tenor saxophone, Theon Cross on tuba, and Eddie Hick and Tom Skinner on drums, it's a hardy combustion engine that also feels like a breathing organism. Arenas, sure, but this is also jazz built for street parties. And certain proudly eclectic fests.

    At Big Ears in Knoxville, Tenn., Sons of Kemet brought its exultant blend of carnival rhythm, club abandon and jazz improv to a midnight show that packed The Mill & Mine, a cavernous room that once housed the Industrial Belting and Supply Company. The set drew from a knockout recent album, Your Queen Is a Reptile, but with a spirit of freedom in the moment — whatever setting you think suits it best, it's music made for a perpetual now.

    PERFORMERS
    Shabaka Hutchings: saxophone; Theon Cross: tuba; Tom Skinner: drums; Eddie Hick: drums

    CREDITS
    Producers: Sarah Geledi, Colin Marshall, Katie Simon; Head of Recording: Matt Honkonen; Lead Recording Engineer: Jonathan Maness; Assistant Recording Engineer: Ryan Bear; Concert Audio Mix: David Tallacksen, Josh Rogosin; Concert Video Director: Colin Marshall; Videographers: Tsering Bista, Annabel Edwards, Nickolai Hammar, Kimani Oletu; Editor: Maia Stern; Project Manager: Suraya Mohamed; Senior Producers: Colin Marshall, Katie Simon; Supervising Editors: Keith Jenkins, Lauren Onkey; Executive Producers: Gabrielle Armand, Anya Grundman, Amy Niles; Funded in Part By: The Argus Fund, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, The Ella Fitzgerald Charitable Fund, The National Endowment for the Arts, Wyncote Foundation

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

  • 'The Black Messiah' And The Legacy Of Cannonball Adderley

    July 26, 2019. Posted by Alex Ariff.

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    Cannonball Adderley sits with his saxophone. (Image Credit: JP Jazz Archive/Redferns/Getty Images )

    Cannonball Adderley was a mere 46 when he died, of a brain hemorrhage, in 1975. An alto saxophonist of robust intellect and irrefutable soul, he left a monumental legacy during his two decades in the spotlight — as a member of the Miles Davis Sextet, an exemplar of 1960s soul jazz and the leading avatar of a brand of post-bop modernism with popular appeal.

    This episode of Jazz Night in America takes a fond look at that legacy, illuminating it from multiple angles. Guided by our host, self-avowed Cannonball fanatic Christian McBride, we'll hear from some of Adderley's former bandmates, like drummer Roy McCurdy and tenor saxophonist Ernie Watts. We'll spend quality time with Patrick Bartley Jr., a young alto saxophonist who has taken Cannonball Adderley's music and message to heart. And we'll pull the curtain back on The Black Messiah, a 1971 album that has come to be seen as a classic.

    "The Mighty Cannonball Adderley" band

    Patrick Bartley: alto saxophone; Julian Lee: tenor saxophone; Bruce Harris: trumpet; Chris Pattishall: piano; Alexander Claffy: bass; Evan Sherman, drums

    "The Chocolate Nuisance" from The Black Messiah

    Julian "Cannonball" Adderley: alto saxophone; Nat Adderley: cornet; George Duke: electric piano; Mike Deasy: guitar; Walter Booker: bass; Roy McCurdy: drums; Airto Moreira, Buck Clarke: percussion

    Credits

    Host: Christian McBride; Producer: Alex Ariff; Senior Producer: Katie Simon; Recording Engineer: Rob Macomber; Executive Producers: Amy Niles, Gabrielle Armand, Anya Grundman; Senior Director of NPR Music: Lauren Onkey; Production Assistant: Sarah Kerson; Project Manager: Suraya Mohamed

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