WBGO Blog
  • Baltimore Rebirth: A New Bloom Of Jazz In Charm City

    February 27, 2020

    image
    (Image Credit: Richard Smith Photography)

    "Growing up where I grew up — it's everything." If there's a touch of defiant pride in Kris Funn's voice as he says these words, maybe that's only natural: Funn, a highly regarded bassist, is talking about Baltimore.

    In the 1920s and '30s, Baltimore was a mecca for African American popular music. It was still a jazz hotbed well into the '60s, but then Baltimore fell into a long series of struggles and setbacks. Funn, who came up in Charm City during the Reagan era, recalls the whir of police helicopters overhead — a sense memory he incorporated into one of his tunes, "Ghettobird."

    The city has recently seen a resurgence, and jazz is one notable part of that story. That's what we'll focus on this episode of Jazz Night in America, featuring music from the Baltimore Jazz Collective — founded by trumpeter Sean Jones, who now leads the jazz program at The Peabody Institute of The Johns Hopkins University. We'll hear the band at Keystone Korner Baltimore, which opened last spring and became the city's first major jazz club in ages.

    We'll also hear tales from the Baltimore jazz scene past and present: from Keystone Korner proprietor and NEA Jazz Master Todd Barkan; from Jones and Funn; and from Todd Marcus, a bass clarinetist and community activist who also plays in the Collective and has made the revitalization of West Baltimore his all-consuming mission, one step at a time.

    Musicians:

    Sean Jones: trumpet; Todd Marcus: bass clarinet; Kris Funn: bass; Mark Meadows: piano; Brinae Ali: tap dancer; Quincy Phillips: drums.

    Set List:

    • "Once Upon A Purple Night" (Mark Meadows)
    • "Glisten" (Todd Marcus)
    • "The Baltimore Collective" (Alex Brown)
    • "Thursday Night Prayer Meeting" (Kris Funn)

    Credits:

    Writer and Producer: Sarah Geledi; Senior Producer: Katie Simon; Host: Christian McBride; Project Manager: Suraya Mohamed; Music Engineer: Josh Rogosin; Tech Director: David Tallacksen; Executive Producers: Anya Grundman 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.

  • Toast Of The Nation 2020: The Jazz Collective Edition

    December 26, 2019

    image
    The SFJAZZ Collective, performing live from the Robert N. Miner Auditorium in San Francisco. (Image Credit: Don Dixon/SFJAZZ)

    Read more

  • 'Jazz Night In America' Remembers Artists We Lost In 2019

    December 26, 2019

    image
    Dr. John performs onstage during Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival on Sept. 26, 2015 in Franklin, Tenn. (Image Credit: Jason Davis/Getty Images)

    Just over 40 years ago, Joseph Jarman published a book of poetry that opens with a chant: "we pray o God / for the ego / death." Jarman, a visionary saxophonist and composer, was writing mainly about transcendence of the self. But he keenly understood the power of a collective, which presses each individual into the service of a greater whole.

    That selfless state of being unites all of the artists on our In Memoriam show. In addition to Joseph Jarman — who is beautifully remembered by a longtime collaborator, pianist Myra Melford — we'll celebrate other brilliant musicians who lifted all around them.

    It's a Jazz Night in America tradition to seek out stories from those who knew the artists best. So we'll hear about post-bop piano virtuoso Harold Mabern from a former student and longtime band mate, saxophonist Eric Alexander. Another brilliant pianist, Larry Willis, is remembered by NBA great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, a childhood friend. The radiant singer Ethel Ennis, known as Baltimore's First Lady of Jazz, gets a testimonial from pianist Cyrus Chestnut, one of many hometown musicians who moved through her orbit. And saxophonist / composer / arranger Ray Santos receives a glowing encomium from Latin jazz titan Eddie Palmieri.

    You could characterize all of these artists as crucial behind-the-scenes types rather than natural headliners. You probably couldn't say the same about Dr. John, the New Orleans pianist and vocalist extraordinaire — but as Jon Batiste notes in his remembrance, he was "the manifestation of a cultural phenomenon." That's another way of saying: he was part of something bigger than himself.

    Set List:

    • "I Walk On Guilded Splinters" (Dr. John)
    • "Old Time Southside Street Dance" (Joseph Jarman)
    • "Hey You" (Ethel Ennis)
    • "To Wisdom, The Prize" (Larry Willis)
    • "Hey There" (Jerry Ross, Richard Adler)
    • "Mi Congo" (Eddie Palmieri) arranged by Ray Santos

    Credits:

    Host: Christian McBride; Producer: Sarah Geledi; Senior Producer: Katie Simon; Project Manager: Suraya Mohamed; Executive Producers: Anya Grundman, Gabrielle Armand and Amy Niles; Senior Director of NPR Music: Lauren Onkey.

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

  • The South African Songbook: Jazz Musicians Who Stayed During Apartheid

    December 19, 2019. Posted by Simon Rentner.

    image
    Herbie Tsoaeli (Image Credit: Steve Gordon/Musicpics.co.za)

    Twenty-five years have passed since South Africa ended the cruel social experiment of apartheid, which divided its citizens, locked up its people of color and brought decades of havoc and pain.

    South Africa's jazz musicians were at the center of the conflict. They symbolized everything the white nationalist regime hated: freedom, thinking and racial mixing. Jazz Night in America has already told the story of pianist Abdullah Ibrahim and trumpeter Hugh Masekela, prominent South African artists who went into exile, seeking refuge overseas.

    This episode focuses on the musicians who stayed. We'll learn about the legacy of saxophonist Winston Mankunku Ngozi, who turned down touring opportunities with Chick Corea and Herbie Hancock to fight for freedom on his home turf, and pianist Moses Taiwa Molelekwa, who was hailed as a bright new hope for the music before his untimely and unsolved death at age 27.

    We'll also travel to the Cape Town International Jazz Festival for its celebration of a living master, bassist Herbie Tsoaeli, with his band, African Time Meeting Legends Overtime. The episode concludes with pianist Thandi Ntuli, from South Africa's so-called "Born Free" generation. Her rise to stardom symbolizes a new era of hope and healing, as she's able to realize artistic ambitions that were never afforded to artists before her.

    The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis puts its stamp on the program by offering fresh arrangements of these great and nearly forgotten composers, in a gala season-opening concert called The South African Songbook.

    Set List:

    • "Gunjoh" (Gilbert Matthews/Ulf Akerhielm) arranged by Chris Crenshaw
    • "A Song For Bra Des Tutu" (Winston Mankunku Ngozi) arranged by Marcus Printup
    • "Hamba No Malume" (Herbie Tsoaeli)
    • "Good Times" (Herbie Tsoaeli)
    • "Abyssinia" (Thandi Ntuli) arranged by Chris Crenshaw

    Musicians: Herbie Tsoaeli and African Time Meeting Legends Overtime, Sydney Mnisi, Feya Faku, Andile Yenana, Ayanda Sikade, The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis, Thandi Ntuli, McCoy Mrubata, Vuyo Sotashe

    Scholars: Percy Mbandu, Gwen Ansell

    Credits: Host: Christian McBride; Producer: Simon Rentner; Editor: Alex Ariff; Senior Producer: Katie Simon; Music from the Cape Town Jazz International Jazz Festival was recorded by Trevor Mbofana from Eastern Acoustics; Music from Jazz at Lincoln Center was recorded by Rob Macomber; All music was mixed by David Tallacksen; Special thanks to Seton Hawkins and Olivia Meyer; Production Assistant: Sarah Kerson; Project Manager: Suraya Mohamed; Executive Producers: Anya Grundman, Gabrielle Armand and Amy Niles; Senior Director of NPR Music: Lauren Onkey.

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

  • Jazz Night In America: A Holiday Celebration

    December 10, 2019

    image
    Wynton Marsalis' Big Band Holidays concert onstage at Jazz at Lincoln Center. (Image Credit: Lawrence Sumulong/Courtesy of the Artists)

    To ring in the season, Jazz Night in America brings you Big Band Holidays, a concert featuring the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis. Together, they perform holiday classics from band's past five seasons, featuring fresh arrangements and entertaining storytelling, recorded live from Rose Theater in New York. We'll also hear from an all-star roster of guest vocalists including Catherine Russell, Vuyo Sotashe, Veronica Swift and Cécile McLorin Salvant.

    Musicians:

    Wynton Marsalis (trumpet), Marcus Printup (trumpet), Greg Gisbert (trumpet), Kenny Rampton (trumpet), Ryan Kisor (trumpet) Vincent Gardner (trombone), Chris Crenshaw (trombone), Sam Chess (trombone), Sherman Irby (alto saxophone), Ted Nash (alto saxophone), Victor Goines (tenor saxophone), Walter Blanding (tenor saxophone), Camille Thurman (tenor saxophone), Paul Nedzela (baritone saxophone), James Chirillo (guitar), Dan Nimmer (piano), Carlos Henriquez (bass), Marion Felder (drums), Charles Goold (drums).
    Featured guests: Monty Alexander (piano), Catherine Russell (vocals), Vuyo Sotashe (vocals), Veronica Swift (vocals), Cécile McLorin Salvant (vocals).

    Set List:

    • "White Christmas" (Irving Berlin) arranged by Victor Goines
    • "Brazilian Sleigh Bells" (Percy Faith) arranged by Carlos Henriquez
    • "Zat You, Santa Claus?" (Jack Fox) arranged by Victor Goines
    • "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" (Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane) arranged by Victor Goines
    • "Winter Wonderland" (Felix Bernard) arranged by Carlos Henriquez
    • "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town" (J. Fred Coots and Haven Gillespie) arranged by Monty Alexander
    • "Merry Christmas Baby" (Johnny Moore and Buddy Baxter) arranged by Sherman Irby
    • "Silent Night" (Franz Xaver Gruber and Joseph Mohr) arranged by Victor Goines
    • "O Tannenbaum" (traditional) arranged by Sherman Irby
    Copyright 2019 WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center. To see more, visit WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center.