WBGO Blog
  • Chick Corea: Back In Boston

    November 1, 2018

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    (Image Credit: Niki Walker/NPR)

    Pianist Chick Corea has lived many lives as a musician, from post-bop wunderkind to free-jazz maverick to fusion explorer to chamber-jazz eminence. That imprecise tally leaves out a lot in an expansive career — but, more to the point, it creates the false impression that Corea compartmentalizes his musical output, when the truth suggests something far more holistic.

    Jazz Night in America caught up with Corea during a recent gig at Scullers in Boston — just across the river from Chelsea, Mass., where he was born and raised. He was on tour with a new trio he calls Vigilette, with Carlitos Del Puerto on bass and Marcus Gilmore on drums. The set list combined songbook standards like "On Green Dolphin Street" with originals like "Rhumba Flamenco," each number delivered with Corea's brand of articulate flair.

    A few days after the performance, Corea sat down with Christian McBride — our host, and his longtime musical collaborator — for a collegial and far-ranging conversation. They discuss the first time Corea saw Miles Davis, an experience that changed his life, and one he recalls with absolute detail. Corea also reflects on the role of an artist: "We have a mission to go out there and be an antidote to war, and all of the dark side of what happens on Planet Earth," he says. "We're the ones that go in and remind people about their creativity."

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

  • Into the Vault: Erroll Garner Uncovered

    October 11, 2018. Posted by Alex Ariff.

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    (Image Credit: Nico van der Stam/Octave Music)

    What makes a first-tier jazz legacy? A signature instrumental style, recognizable within a phrase or two. A body of exceptional recordings, in the studio and in concert. A legion of imitators, great and small. A sense of broad cultural relevance. Maybe even a hit song or two.

    Pianist-composer Erroll Garner met all of these requirements, and at least one more: He had a tireless champion, Martha Glaser, whose influence on his career went beyond her official role as manager and business partner. Her ministrations didn't end when Garner died in 1977, at 53; she just shifted modes, protecting his name and serving his interests as guardian of his estate, until her own passing in 2014.

    In this episode of Jazz Night in America, we'll get a close look at Garner's ebullient magic — the sparkling touch that kept countless other pianists in awe, the wild improvisational flights that somehow always resolved just so — while also considering his reputation. We'll hear from Garner and Glaser, as well as contemporary admirers like noted scholar Robin D.G. Kelley.

    And with unprecedented access, we'll join a small delegation from the Erroll Garner Jazz Project as they open up a trove of previously sealed boxes in a remote storage facility — uncovering Garner's own record collection, rare photographs and awards, and an array of personal effects. (Stetson dress shoes? Check.)

    One of the would-be Indiana Joneses in that storage unit is Christian Sands, the creative ambassador for the Jazz Project, and a pianist unabashed about Garner's influence. In the show, we'll hear Sands' trio interpreting standards associated with Garner. And of course, there's some music by the man of the hour himself — including an exclusive outtake from the 1964 recording recently released as an album, Nightconcert.

    "My hope," Sands remarks, "is for other people to understand that this is someone who is very important to not only just jazz history, but just history as a whole, American history." This special Jazz Night lines up a rich abundance of resources in service of that aim.

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

  • Wilco Guitarist Nels Cline Reclaims Mood Music In The City Of Brotherly Love

    September 13, 2018

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    Nels Cline (Image Credit: NPR)

    Nels Cline has earned his place as a guitar hero for our times, with a track record stretching back four decades and a marquee gig with Wilco. But if you mainly associate him with squalls of feedback, you're missing a big part of the picture. "The Avant Romantic" is how Rolling Stone pegged him about a decade ago, in its list of Top 20 New Guitar Gods. And lately, Cline has been focusing his efforts, without pause or irony, on the romantic part of that equation.

    Lovers, released on Blue Note in 2016, was Cline's fond reclamation of "mood music" albums from midcentury, with his guitar in an earnest melodic role. It's a suave collaboration with trumpeter Michael Leonhart, who wrote the orchestrations for a handful of versatile players like cellist Erik Friedlander and bassoonist Sara Schoenbeck. As Cline put it at the time in a conversation with NPR's Fresh Air, Lovers was a project he'd been dreaming about for more than 25 years.

    Lovers (for Philadelphia) didn't require such a long gestation. Commissioned by the nonprofit Ars Nova Workshop, it was a sequel of sorts to Lovers intended to reflect a clear sense of place — the City of Brotherly Love, which of course has a great musical legacy not only as a jazz town but also an epicenter of soul. Cline made several trips to Philly for intensive research, visiting local institutions like the Curtis Institute of Music and the Germantown headquarters of the Sun Ra Arkestra. (He even helped create a Lovers saison at Tired Hands Brewing Company.)

    The first and only performance of Lovers (for Philadelphia) took place at Union Transfer on June 2, and Jazz Night in America was there. See the video above for an up-close-and-personal view of the concert, and listen to our radio show for more insights on just how Cline and Leonhart made new tapestries of sound out of classic tunes like Benny Golson's "Whisper Not," McCoy Tyner's "Aisha," and The Delfonics' "La-La (Means I Love You)."

    "I wanted it to be sweet but I didn't want it to be sugary," Cline says of the Lovers project at large. He strikes that balance on this love letter to a musical city — which has now enfolded Cline in a reciprocal embrace.

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

  • Nashville: Not Just A Country Scene But A Place To Go For Jazz

    August 23, 2018. Posted by Alex Ariff.

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    Christian McBride performs with The Time Jumpers. (Image Credit: Colin Marshall/NPR)

    "It used to be: 'Nashville — that's where you come to play country music.'"

    Joe Spivey is voicing a prevailing view of his adopted hometown, one that has endured for the better part of a century. But Spivey — a fiddler in The Time Jumpers, the swingingest band in Music City — knows better. He definitely plays his share of country music, but he's also one of a burgeoning number of musicians who make up the robust and soulful Nashville jazz scene.

    Jazz Night in America had been hearing great things about that scene, which largely flies under the national radar. A couple of years ago I did some recon at ground level, meeting with players like Spivey, guitarist Andy Reiss and saxophonists Jeff Coffin and Evan Cobb. Everybody told me the same thing: that Nashville has always nurtured a small but serious jazz culture, and that its constituency, like so much else in this booming city, is growing at a prodigious rate.

    Our host, bassist-composer-bandleader Christian McBride, who's performed in Nashville several times, had also flagged it as a place for further exploration. So the Jazz Night team hit the road to scope out the scene and meet up with some of its enterprising artists.

    In this episode of our radio show, we'll spend time with the musicians mentioned above, as well as trumpeter Jennifer Hartswick; bassist John Estes and saxophonist Doug Mosher; and the twin brothers Rahsaan and Roland Barber, who respectively play tenor saxophone and trombone. We'll hear music from Rudy's Jazz Room, the happening new club in town, featuring bands on Coffin's label, Ear Up Records. We'll get a crash course in Nashville's hidden jazz history, at the Country Music Hall of Fame.

    Oh, and we'll hear what happens with McBride sat in with The Time Jumpers on their legendary Monday-night gig at 3rd & Lindsley. Nashville — that's where you come to play jazz. It may not be the case for everyone, but it was true for Jazz Night, and it's getting truer all the time. — Nate Chinen

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

  • More Than Keeping Time: A Melodic Drumming Demo

    August 17, 2018

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    Drummer, Allison Miller (Image Credit: Colin Marshall/NPR)

    What would you say if I told you that drums can sing? The best jazz drummers have always understood this as fact. Allison Miller has even made it a core part of her artistic mission — as drummer, a composer and a bandleader, notably with her ensemble Boom Tic Boom.

    Jazz Night in America recently caught up with Miller, who skillfully demonstrates the concept of "melodic drumming" — using her drums and cymbals, a Duke Ellington tune, and a new piece of technology — in our video short. We also dropped in at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola for portions of an engaging set by Boom Tic Boom, featuring Miller alongside violinist Jenny Scheinman, cornetist Kirk Knuffke, clarinetist Jeff Lederer, pianist Carmen Staaf and bassist Tony Scherr.

    In our radio show, we'll also hear from Miller about how playing in high-profile folk-rock settings (with Natalie Merchant, among others) informs her playing. We'll learn how female empowerment is thriving in the jazz community plus Miller's firsthand experiences with sexism and gender inequality in our institutions and on the scene.

    And we'll consider how it all connects: melody and harmony, the individual and the whole. "There's something about the platform of jazz," Miller says, "that it lays this palette of having such deep communication with your other bandmates. And for me that's why I play this music."

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