WBGO Blog
  • Inspired By Injustice, Wynton Marsalis Reflects On His Music

    July 2, 2020. Posted by Alex Ariff.

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    (Image Credit: Frank Stewart/Jazz at Lincoln Center)

    Wynton Marsalis has always been deeply engaged in the subject of American race relations. The issue was a crucial part of his education as a young musician in New Orleans, and it has been a core preoccupation of his own work going as far back as Black Codes (From the Underground), a trailblazing album from 1985.

    "Our racial problems have been so documented that we have a tendency to not realize that we're all on this same boat," Marsalis told Good Morning America in 1997 after he became the first jazz artist to win a Pulitzer Prize for his oratorio Blood on the Fields. "When I write the music, it's not just the history of Blacks, it's an American story."

    In this episode of Jazz Night, Marsalis expands on that idea and more in a conversation with our host, Christian McBride. Reflecting on our current wave of protests and the removal of public monuments, they connect this moment with a historical struggle. We'll also hear some of the music Marsalis has made to this end, from Black Codes to Blood on the Fields to a small-group work, From the Plantation to the Penitentiary.

    SET LIST

    All music and words written by Wynton Marsalis

    • "Black Codes" from Black Codes (From The Underground) (1985)
    • "Work Song (Blood on the Fields)" from Blood on the Fields (1997)
    • "Find Me" from From the Plantation to the Penitentiary (2007)
    • "El 'Gran' Baile de la Reina" from All Rise (2002)

    CREDITS

    Writer and Producer: Alex Ariff; Senior Producer: Katie Simon; Host: Christian McBride; Project Manager: Suraya Mohamed; Executive Producers: Anya Grundmann and Gabrielle Armand; Senior Director of NPR Music: Lauren Onkey.

    Copyright 2020 WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center. To see more, visit WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center.

  • Michela Marino Lerman And Russell Hall: Alone Together Duets

    June 19, 2020. Posted by Simon Rentner.

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    Michela Marino Lerman and Russell Hall perform at home. (Image Credit: /Courtesy of the artist)

    Virtuosity shows itself in many forms, but rarely do we see it exuberantly displayed on an electric tap board. Michela Marino Lerman's customized contraption allows her feet to mimic break beats, raging tabla solos and warm marimbas.

    But at the very beginning of this unique performance, the tap dancer and bassist Russell Hall rattle our senses by taking us to America's city streets, sonically evoking the sound of "helicopters and tear gas." The couple thought about that name for this potent composition, before they landed on "The Race."

    "We feel that people of color are constantly racing against a system that is trying to oppress and essentially erase them," Lerman and Hall explain. They say a version of the piece was created three years ago in memory of Mike Brown, Sandra Bland, and more. "Then came the news of Ahmaud Arbery, then George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, and we knew we wanted to do something."

    Fittingly, their Alone Together Duets video is released on the same day as their Juneteenth Jubilee, a Black artist-led event aimed at spreading joy in a time when we most need it. It will feature performer George Faison, DJ Stretch Armstrong, vocalist Michael Mwenso and more.

    Produced by Jazz Night in America and The Checkout from WBGO.

    Copyright 2020 WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center. To see more, visit WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center.

  • Camille Thurman And Darrell Green: Alone Together Duets

    June 16, 2020. Posted by Simon Rentner.

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    Camille Thurman and Darrell Green perform in their home. (Image Credit: /Courtesy of the artist)

    Six weeks ago, we launched this video series to give us a glimpse of some fabulous creative partnerships manifesting in isolation. But at this moment, as America slowly opens up, our nation has found itself in the midst of a vital discussion on race and equality.

    For this Alone Together Duet, tenor saxophonist and member of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra Camille Thurman joins drummer Darrell Green to offer a firm musical message to the community: "Stand Tall."

    "We have witnessed members of our community being senselessly murdered since the inception of slavery in America, as well as losing many loved ones and elders due to COVID-19," Thurman says. "This song is in memory of all of their lives, but also serves as a reminder and encouragement to us as a community to keep standing tall."

    Produced by Jazz Night in America and The Checkout from WBGO.

    Copyright 2020 WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center. To see more, visit WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center.

  • The Law Police Used To Discriminate Against Musicians Of Color

    June 3, 2020

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    (Image Credit: Colin Marshall/NPR)

    Jazz musicians have always faced systems of discrimination in America. One insidious example was the cabaret card, a form of identification required for any musician to work in a New York nightclub from 1940 to 1967. The New York Police Department administered these licenses and revoked them for any minor infraction. As a result, some of the biggest names in the music at the time, like Billie Holiday and Charlie Parker, lost their right to work at a crucial points in their careers. In this Jazz Night in America video short, we trace the history of the cabaret card from its racist origins to its toll on the music, and we'll reflect on what might have been.

    Special thanks to Nate Chinen, whose JazzTimes piece "The Cabaret Card and Jazz" was referenced for this video.

    Copyright 2020 WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center. To see more, visit WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center.

  • The Evolution Of Jon Batiste

    May 28, 2020. Posted by Alex Ariff.

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    (Image Credit: Becky Harlan/WBGO )

    Jon Batiste spent his 33rd birthday playing an intimate, private concert with his band in the round while Jazz Night in America captured the show. He kept it classy, donning a suede jacket and playing selections from his two latest Verve releases, Chronology of A Dream and Anatomy of Angels.

    You probably know Jon Batiste as bandleader and musical director on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. But his credentials are deep as the roots of the Batiste family tree. He's the co-artistic director of the National Jazz Museum in Harlem, and has been a collaborator with everyone from pop singer Tori Kelly to the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. He's graduate of both the New Orleans Center of the Creative Arts and the Juilliard School, and an alumni of both Wynton Marsalis' and Roy Hargrove's bands.

    For the past decade, he's developed his version of "jazz 2.0," which includes what he calls "social music." Its lineage stems from Batiste's native New Orleans but also runs through his adopted hometown of New York City, thanks to elders like Lionel Hampton and Dr. Billy Taylor, who brought jazz from the concert halls to the streets. But Batiste is also a part of yet another lineage: jazz musicians in late-night television. On our radio show — with help from Batiste's Late Show predecessor Paul Shaffer, its current Executive Producer, Chris Licht, and NPR television critic Eric Deggans — we'll trace some of that history, learning how Jon Batiste developed his role.

    Video Set List:

    • "If You're Happy And You Know It" (Joe Raposo, arr. Jon Batiste)
    • "PRINCE"
    • "HIGHER"
    • "Round Midnight" (Thelonious Monk, Bernard D. Hanighen, Charles Cootie Williams)
    • "PWWR"
    • "BLACCK"
    • "SOULFUL" (Roy Hargrove)
    • "ORDR"

    Musicians:

    Jonathan Batiste: piano, vocals, bandleader; Giveton Gelin: trumpet; Jon Lampley: trumpet, tuba; Eddie Barbash: alto saxophone; Tivon Pennicott: tenor saxophone; Endea Owens: bass; Joe Saylor: drums; Negah Santos: percussion.

    Credits:

    Producers: Alex Ariff, Colin Marshall, Katie Simon; Concert Recording Engineer: David Tallacksen; House Audio Engineers: Greg Hanson, Meghan England; Concert Video Director: Colin Marshall; Director of Photography: Nickolai Hammar; Videographers: Tsering Bista, Jack Corbett, Annabel Edwards, Nickolai Hammar, Niki Walker; Editor: Annabel Edwards; Lighting Designer: Igor Yachmenov; Lighting Board Operation: Zack Lobel; Lighting Deck Electrician: Tricia Swietek; Project Manager: Suraya Mohamed; Senior Producers: Colin Marshall, Katie Simon; Supervising Editor: Keith Jenkins; Executive Producers: Gabrielle Armand, Anya Grundman; Senior Director of NPR Music: Lauren Onkey.

    Copyright 2020 WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center. To see more, visit WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center.