• Social Music In An Age Of Social Distancing

    October 16, 2020. Posted by Joshua Jackson.

    (Image Credit: Nickolai Hammar/NPR)

    How is the jazz community in Philadelphia responding to the global pandemic? Jazz Night in America found a few different answers to that question. In this video short, we'll explore how a performer, a private citizen and an entrepreneur are striving for resilience during a time of social upheaval and economic uncertainty. In the radio episode, we'll hear vibrant performances from a front porch, a backyard and a jazz club.

    There's an echo of this struggle in jazz history. Philadelphia in 2020 and New Orleans in 1918 offer two historically distinct versions of America, but it's striking to consider the parallels. In his 1954 memoir, Satchmo: My Life in New Orleans, Louis Armstrong recalled being a teenager when the Spanish flu ground the city to a halt. "Just when the government was about to let crowds of people congregate again so that we could play our horns once more, the lid was clamped down tighter than ever," he wrote, "that forced me to take any odd jobs I could get."

    Pianist and proud Philadelphian Orrin Evans, whose Club Patio series has been a grassroots success story during the coronavirus pandemic, cites the Food Network reality cooking show Chopped. Maybe on some level he's thinking of Armstrong's "Cornet Chop Suey."

    Evans says, "I love Chopped because you have no idea what the ingredients are inside that basket, but they make a meal out of it. That's how I'm looking at life right now. Every morning I open the basket. I have no idea what the ingredients are going to be, but I got to make something happen. And that's what this time has to be for every artist."

    As you'll hear in our show, many artists are rising to the occasion, while aware of the deeper challenge. "Everybody's improvising and making sunlight happen," marvels bassist Alex Claffy, "in a time when it just seemed completely unfathomable."


    Orrin Evans Trio: Orrin Evans: keys; Luques Curtis: bass; Nasheet Waits: drums.

    Heath Allen and Friends: V. Shayne Frederick: vocals; Hailey Brinnel: trombone and vocals; Marcell Bellinger: trumpet; Josh Machiz: bass; Jimmy Coleman: drums; Heath Allen: keys.

    Alex Claffy Trio feat. Mike Moreno: Alex Claffy: bass; Orrin Evans: piano; Byron Landham: drums; Mike Moreno: guitar.

    Radio Set List

    • "Don't Fall Off the Ledge" (Orrin Evans)
    • "Feed The Fire" (Geri Allen)
    • "Gee Baby, Ain't I Good To You" (Andy Razaf and Don Redman)
    • "Give Me The Simple Life" (Rube Bloom and Harry Ruby)
    • "Growing Pains" (Alex Claffy)
    • "Liberia" (John Coltrane)


    This show was produced in partnership with WRTI. Special thanks to Josh Jackson. Video Producer: Nickolai Hammar; Radio Producer: Sarah Geledi; Senior Producer: Katie Simon; Host: Christian McBride; Recording Engineers: Tyler McClure (Club Patio and Molly Murphy's backyard); Sean Svadlenak (Chris' Jazz Cafe); Technical Director: David Tallacksen; 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.

  • Meet the NEA Jazz Masters, Class of 2020

    September 18, 2020

    Bobby McFerrin, Dorthaan Kirk, Roscoe Mitchell and Reggie Workman. (Image Credit: Carol Friedman, David Tallacksen, Richard Kohler, Ken Weiss /NEA)

    Every year since 1982, the National Endowment for the Arts selects a new class of NEA Jazz Masters, a formal recognition reserved for seasoned musicians and jazz advocates.

    On this episode of Jazz Night in America, we throw the spotlight on the class of 2020, beginning with a storied bassist whose career parallels the history of jazz from the early 1960s onward. Reggie Workman grew up in Philadelphia with Lee Morgan and Archie Shepp, and played in the John Coltrane Quartet and Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers, before collaborating with almost every big name in the book for half a century.

    Then we'll profile another jazz lifer, although avant-garde saxophonist and composer Roscoe Mitchell would take issue with that limiting definition. While most jazz fans know of his work in The Art Ensemble of Chicago, his career also veered into the realm of performance art and classical music.

    We also celebrate one of the most beloved people in the jazz community: Dorthaan Kirk, the First Lady of Jazz in Newark, N.J. She's been a behind-the-scenes force of nature for over 40 years, and this year she received the A.B. Spellman Fellowship for Jazz Advocacy.

    Last but certainly not least, we salute Bobby McFerrin, an undefinable vocal improviser who not only changed the paradigm of what singing could be, but also pushed the boundary of the human voice. His daughter, singer-songwriter Madison McFerrin, helps us pay tribute.

    Set List

    • John Coltrane, "Greensleeves" (traditional, arranged by McCoy Tyner)
    • Rahsaan Roland Kirk, "Dorthaan's Walk" (Kirk)
    • Art Ensemble of Chicago, "Odwalla Theme" (Roscoe Mitchell)
    • Bobby McFerrin and Chick Corea, "Even For Me" (McFerrin / Corea)
    • Bobby McFerrin and Chick Corea, "Autumn Leaves" (Bernie Hanighen / Thelonious Monk / Cootie Williams)


    Special thanks to the NEA and Josephine Reed for the Masters interviews. Watch The 2020 NEA Jazz Masters Tribute Concert From SFJAZZ here.

    Writer and Producer: Sarah Geledi; Senior Producer: Katie Simon; Host: Christian McBride; Project Manager: Suraya Mohamed; Technical Director: David Tallacksen; 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.

  • Bird Lives! A Charlie Parker Centennial, With Strings Attached

    August 28, 2020. Posted by Alex Ariff.

    "Charlie Parker With Strings" album cover (Image Credit: /Verve Records)

    Charlie Parker, the incandescent avatar of modern jazz, didn't live to see 35. His centennial is upon us, and with it comes a chance to celebrate his legacy — as a quicksilver alto saxophonist, a voracious musical thinker and a crucial link in the chain of jazz tradition. Bird, as he was fondly known, gave us a lexicon as well as a literature. Like Louis Armstrong before him and just a few others since, he redrew the possibilities of the art form, and he did it with absolute panache.

    For our "Bird at 100" show, Jazz Night in America locks in on a Parker tribute featuring two alto saxophonists well suited to the task: leading bebop practitioner Charles McPherson and the ever-soulful Wess "Warmdaddy" Anderson. They joined forces for a Jazz at Lincoln Center concert organized by trombonist Vincent Gardner, with a focus on the iconic Charlie Parker with Strings recordings — a crossover landmark, and a byproduct of Parker's sincere interest in classical modernism.

    We'll hear vibrant music from the concert — not only standard fare like "Just Friends," but also pieces like George Russell's "Ezz-thetic," which Parker never had the chance to record. We'll also hear insights from Carl Woideck, one of Parker's biographers, and violinist Teddy Blume, a key member of his string section. What it all amounts to is a reaffirmation of Parker's continuing relevance, as McPherson succinctly puts it. "When you do these kinds of projects," he reflects, "in a way, this is when you realize how great Bird was."

    Set List

    • "Easy to Love" (Cole Porter, arr. Jimmy Mundy)
    • "Just Friends" (John Klenner, arr. Jimmy Carroll)
    • "Laura" (David Raksin, arr. Joe Lipman)
    • "Rocker" (Gerry Mulligan)
    • "Repetition" (Neal Hefti)
    • "Ezz-Thetic" (George Russell)
    • "Scootin' " (John Lewis)


    Vincent Gardner, trombone and music director; Charles McPherson, alto saxophone; Wess "Warmdaddy" Anderson, alto saxophone; Ehud Asherie, piano; Ben Wolfe, bass, Victor Lewis, drums.

    The Philharmonic Orchestra of the Americas: Ben Wendel, conductor; Daniel Andai, violin and concertmaster; Brooke Quiggins-Saulnier, violin; Elizabeth Young, violin; Cecee Pantikian, violin; Regi Papa, violin; Audrey Lo, violin; Irene Momchilova, viola, principal; Lev "Ljova" Zhurbin, viola; Benjamin Capps, cello; Keve Wilson, oboe and english horn; Kristi Shade, harp.


    Special thanks to: Carl Woideck and Kerry Farrell. And to Phil Schaap for letting us use his interview with Teddy Blume. Hear the entire interview and many more of Phil's radio episodes here.

    Writer and Producer: Alex Ariff; Senior Producer: Katie Simon; Host: Christian McBride; Project Manager: Suraya Mohamed; Music Engineer: Rob Macomber; Technical Director: David Tallacksen; 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.

  • Stream The 2020 NEA Jazz Masters Tribute Concert From SFJAZZ

    August 20, 2020

    2020 NEA Jazz Masters (Image Credit: Courtesy of the artist)

    The NEA Jazz Masters fellowship, America's highest honor reserved for jazz musicians, is typically bestowed by the National Endowment for the Arts in grand fashion with a gala and all-star tribute concert. This year it was set to take place at San Francisco's SFJAZZ Center in April, but it had to be rescheduled due to the coronavirus pandemic. And so, like the artists being honored, the NEA opted to improvise, transforming the event into a virtual presentation with musicians beaming in from locales across the country.

    Among them, of course, are the 2020 NEA Jazz Masters themselves, a truly inspiring and expansive group: bassist Reggie Workman, saxophonist Roscoe Mitchell, vocalist Bobby McFerrin and jazz advocate Dorthaan Kirk. They'll each deliver remarks, as will NEA chairperson Mary Anne Carter and SFJAZZ founder and executive artistic director Randall Kline.

    And the event — hosted by 2017 NEA Jazz Master and former NPR JazzSet broadcaster Dee Dee Bridgewater — will feature musical contributions from an impressive range of musicians, including saxophonists Oliver Lake and James Carter, trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire, and vocalists Lisa Fischer and Madison McFerrin. As she did for last year's concert, Grammy-winning drummer and composer Terri Lyne Carrington will serve as musical director. After the webcast, SFJAZZ will host a virtual "Meet the Jazz Masters" reception, featuring the inductees and Kline in a lively Q&A. Tune in at 8 p.m. ET.

    Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

  • The Modern All-Stars: A Newport Jazz Festival Special

    July 25, 2020. Posted by Alex Ariff.

    Top (L to R): Antonio Hart, Carl Allen, Christian McBride, Roy Hargrove, Benny Green. Bottom (L to R): Marlon Jordan, Tim Warfield, Mark Whitfield (Image Credit: Ken Franckling /Jazz Times)

    Christian McBride was 19, a vigorous young bassist just making his name on the scene, when he paid his first visit to the Newport Jazz Festival as a member of Jazz Futures. Skip ahead some 30 years, and McBride is the artistic director of the festival, as well as our esteemed host at Jazz Night in America. It's in these dual capacities that he helped curate the music in our three-part Newport Jazz Festival Special.

    We're calling this third episode The Modern All-Stars, and the name really fits. We'll be hearing from several stellar performances at Fort Adams State Park — everything from an acoustic Herbie Hancock Trio in 1988 to singer Cécile McLorin Salvant with Artemis in 2018. Also in the mix: a 2001 set by the late trumpeter Roy Hargrove, and even a bit of that Jazz Futures hit, which featured Hargrove alongside McBride and others.

    It's a fun and fitting conclusion to our series, which began with a celebration of the Newport Jazz Festival's first decade (The Golden Age) and continued with a look at its spectacular second phase (The Stars Shine). And as McBride would say, it's also a reminder that this story is still ongoing. Newport Jazz Lives! See you out there.


    Newport House Band: Coleman Hawkins, tenor sax; Zoot Sims, tenor sax; Clark Terry, trumpet; Howard McGhee, trumpet; Joe Zawinul, piano; Wendell Marshall, bass; Roy Haynes, drums.

    Herbie Hancock Trio: Buster Williams, bass; Al Foster, drums; Herbie Hancock, piano.

    Jazz Futures: Benny Green, piano; Christian McBride, bass; Carl Allen, drums; Marlon Jordan, trumpet; Tim Warfield, tenor sax; Antonio Hart, alto sax; Roy Hargrove, trumpet; Mark Whitfield, guitar.

    Roy Hargrove, trumpet; Larry Willis, piano; Bruce Williams, alto sax, Gerald Cannon, bass, Willie Jones III, drums.

    Artemis: Renee Rosnes, piano; Ingrid Jensen, trumpet; Melissa Aldana, alto sax; Noriko Ueda, bass; Allison Miller, drums; Anat Cohen, clarinet; Cécile McLorin-Salvant, vocals.

    Set List

    • "Undecided" (Newport House Band)
    • "Just One Of Those Things" (Herbie Hancock Trio)
    • "Captain Hook" (Jazz Futures)
    • "Nature Boy / To Wisdom The Prize" (Roy Hargrove)
    • "Fine and Mellow" (Artemis)


    Special thanks to Jay Sweet, Charles Raggio, Billy Glassner, Christopher "Caps" Capotosto, and George Wein from the Newport Festivals Foundation.

    Producers: Trevor Smith, Sarah Geledi, Nate Chinen, Alex Ariff; Senior Producer: Katie Simon; Project Manager: Suraya Mohamed; Executive Producers: Gabrielle Armand, Anya Grundmann; 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.