WBGO Blog
  • José James And Taali: Alone Together Duets

    May 5, 2020. Posted by Simon Rentner.

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    José James and Taali perform from home. (Image Credit: Courtesy of the artist)

    In this crazy quarantine moment, we're all frozen in place. Many of us are spending more time with our families and significant others than ever before. That goes double for musician couples, who regularly spend months apart from one another on tour — and some cases, those duos are connecting in ways they never anticipated. Jazz Night in America is providing an inner window into some of these creative partnerships with a new series: Alone Together Duets.

    Partners living in isolation are likely to discover a lot about each other. That's true for José James and Taali (née Talia Billig), vocalists and founders of Rainbow Blonde Records, who "found a love" together in this song they co-wrote. For our first Alone Together Duet and on their first wedding anniversary, we issue a warning: This song may induce some very lovely feelings.

    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.

  • 'Smile' With A Performance By Pianist Monty Alexander And Bassist Ray Brown

    April 23, 2020

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    JNIA Monty Alexander and Ray Brown (Image Credit: (Photo Courtesy of the Artist))

    On this episode of Jazz Night in America, we check out a concert from the archives that I just had to take a listen to. It features one of the greatest pianists ever, Monty Alexander, and my mentor and hero, the late bassist Ray Brown.

    Ray, who held down the bass chair in the Oscar Peterson Trio for years, had a very close bond with many pianists after Oscar, including Gene Harris, André Previn, Hank Jones, Cedar Walton and Benny Green. But his connection with Monty was special. No matter what Ray's primary group was at a particular time, he always found time to play with Monty, who could make the piano feel like a one-man band. Couple that with Ray's titanium pulse, and you have a beat and a groove that could shake the Rock of Gibraltar to rubble.

    Everything about this gig is so "quintessential" for the both of them: hardcore swingin'; plenty of blues and standards; Monty's reference both to his Jamaican roots ("Fungii Mama" and "No Woman, No Cry") and R&B ("Got To Go"); Ray's obvious happiness (listen to how he shouts during "Straighten Up and Fly Right"). When Ray felt good about a groove, he would almost yell out a karate chop type of "HYAH!" — and he does that a lot in this set. — Christian McBride

    Musicians:

    Monty Alexander: piano; Ray Brown: bass.

    Set List:

    • "Straighten Up and Fly Right" (Nat King Cole, Irving Mills)
    • "Fungii Mama" (Blue Mitchell)
    • "Got to Go" (Monty Alexander)
    • "Duke Ellington Medley" (Duke Ellington)
    • "Sweet Georgia Brown" (Ben Bernie, Maceo Pinkard, Kenneth Casey)
    • "No Woman, No Cry / I Shot the Sheriff" (Bob Marley)
    • "In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning" (Bob Hilliard, David Mann)
    • "Take the A Train" (Billy Strayhorn)
    • "Smile" (Charlie Chaplin, John Turner, Geoffrey Parsons)

    Credits:

    Producer: Trevor Smith; Concert Recording: Murray Street Productions; Project Manager: Suraya Mohamed; Senior Producer: Katie Simon; 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.

  • Jazz Vocalist René Marie Is Determined To Craft Songs With Moral Conscience

    March 26, 2020. Posted by Alex Ariff.

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    Vocalist and songwriter René Marie. (Image Credit: Lawrence Sumulong)

    "It just takes time, time to get it right." René Marie wrote that line for a tender song about an extramarital affair, but it could easily apply to the arc of her jazz career, which began when she was in her 40s.

    Marie has built her career on the foundation of truth-telling songs like that one, "Go Home." She's the rare jazz vocalist who has put songwriting at the very heart of her enterprise, addressing the human condition through an unvarnished personal lens.

    In this episode of Jazz Night in America, we'll get to know the person behind that personality: how Marie came up in Virginia, telling stories and making up songs; how she left the Jehovah's Witnesses and her first marriage in search of freedom; how she found her true voice as an artist of political and moral conscience.

    "I don't see the sense in singing empty songs, or songs void of some type of oomph," she says.

    We'll hear Marie in concert with her working band at Dizzy's Club in New York, and you'll see what she means.

    Set List:

    • "I Like You"
    • "Go Home"
    • "Colorado River Song"
    • "Surrey With The Fringe On Top"

    All songs written by René Marie, except "Surrey With The Fringe On Top," written by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II.

    Musicians:

    René Marie: vocals; John Chin: piano; Dan Wilson: guitar; Elias Bailey: bass; Quentin Baxter: drums.

    Credits:

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

  • Camille Thurman Finds Her Voice On A Journey To Jazz At Lincoln Center

    March 19, 2020

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    (Image Credit: Frank Stewart)

    As both a saxophonist and vocalist, Camille Thurman is a rare jazz double threat. She says "the horn is a voice, and the voice is a horn," and this consideration of the interconnectivity of her instruments informs her work as a performer, composer and educator.

    On this segment of Jazz Night In America, we hear music from Thurman's band at Dizzy's Club, and parts of a performance with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra in which she is the first woman to play a full season in 30 years.

    We also explore the jazz history of her neighborhood in Queens, where Thurman grew up minutes from the former homes of jazz royalty like Count Basie, Fats Waller and Ella Fitzgerald.

    Musicians:

    Camille Thurman: vocals and tenor saxophone; Darrell Green: drums; Keith Brown: piano; Devin Starks: bass.

    The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra: Wynton Marsalis: Artistic Director and trumpet; Chris Crenshaw: trombone; Vincent Gardner: trombone; Victor Goines: saxophone; Carlos Henriquez: bass; Sherman Irby: saxophone; Elliot Mason: trombone; Ted Nash: saxophone; Paul Nedzela: baritone saxophone; Dan Nimmer: piano; Marcus Printup: trumpet; Kenny Rampton: trumpet; Camille Thurman: tenor saxophone.

    Credits:

    Producer: Sarah Kerson; Senior Producer: Katie Simon; Host: Christian McBride; Project Manager: Suraya Mohamed; Music Engineers: Rob Macomber and James P. Nichols; Senior Director of NPR Music: Lauren Onkey; Executive Producers: Anya Grundmann and Gabrielle Armand.

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

  • Bassist Linda May Han Oh Is A Musician Rooted In Curiosity

    March 13, 2020. Posted by Alex Ariff.

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    (Image Credit: Becky Harlan/NPR)

    "I think a part of growth in general is being comfortable in your own skin," Linda May Han Oh says, "and being comfortable with really who you are."

    What that means in her case is manifold: A jazz bassist of undeniable authority, with the working affiliations to show for it; a Malaysia-born, Australia-raised resident of Harlem, N.Y.; a composer-orchestrator of burgeoning stature; an artist working to change perceptions of "women in jazz," both through positive action and just by being her bad self.

    Jazz Night in America spends this episode delving into Oh's unique background and broadminded musical intentions. We'll hear music performed by her hybrid chamber-jazz ensemble Aventurine, recorded live at NPR's Studio One in Washington, D.C. — a companion to the captivating concert film we shared last fall.

    Musicians:

    Linda May Han Oh: acoustic and electric bass; Greg Ward: soprano and alto saxophones; Matt Mitchell: piano; Ches Smith: drums; Fung Chern Hwei: violin; Curtis Stewart: violin; Benni von Gutzeit: viola; Jeremy Harman: cello.

    Set List:

    • "Song Yue Rao (Moon in the Pines)"
    • "Yoda"
    • "Ebony"
    • "Lucid Lullaby"
    • "The Sirens Are Wailing"
    • "Au Privave" (Charlie Parker; arr. Linda May Han Oh)

    All songs written by Linda May Han Oh unless otherwise noted.

    Credits:

    Writer and Producer: Alex Ariff; Senior Producer: Katie Simon; Host: Christian McBride; Project Manager: Suraya Mohamed; Music Engineer: Andy Huether, assisted by James Willetts.; Tech 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.