WBGO Blog
  • Jazz Night In America Wants To Celebrate Jazz Appreciation Month With You

    April 1, 2021

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    Jazz Night in America (Image Credit: NPR)

    April is Jazz Appreciation Month! Whether it be sharing the music with family or friends, going to a concert or playing in a band, NPR's Jazz Night in America is inviting you to tell the world about the role jazz plays in your life.

    We want to know: What is your favorite moment in jazz? Is there a special moment in your life where jazz played an important role? Why is public radio important to jazz? What attracts you to the spirit of improvisation?

    Selected submissions will appear as an audio post (example below) with your picture on Jazz Night in America's social media throughout April and the coming months, as well as a possible compilation video near the end of the project.

    Share your story with us and a producer may contact you to follow up for an opportunity to have your voice included in Jazz Night in America's celebration of this music, whose soul is freedom and exploration.

    Your submission will be governed by our general Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. As the Privacy Policy says, we want you to be aware that there may be circumstances in which the exemptions provided under law for journalistic activities or freedom of expression may override privacy rights you might otherwise have.

    Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

  • Myra Melford's Myriad Sounds

    March 25, 2021

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    Myra Melford at Jazz at Lincoln Center (Image Credit: © Frank Stewart/JALC)

    What does a line from a James Joyce novel sound like on the piano? Or a scribble from the visual artist Cy Twombly? Can you translate the organic architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright into music? For pianist and composer Myra Melford, there is inspiration in all of the above, "a kind of dialogue for me – a thing to bounce my ideas off of."

    For over 30 years, Melford has carved out a musical identity by channeling extra-musical influences while drawing on the history of jazz piano, from James P. Johnson to Thelonious Monk to Cecil Taylor. She can tap into a multitude of styles, any of which might spring to life in an improvisation. In the words of a friend and collaborator, flutist Nicole Mitchell, "she's purely unstoppable."

    On this episode of Jazz Night in America, we'll explore a few of her many facets, as she expresses herself in a variety of ensembles. From her egalitarian unit Trio M, with bassist Mark Dresser and drummer Matt Wilson, to the malleable Snowy Egret quintet, which enables her to take flight in any direction. We'll also hear Melford in a big band setting with Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra.

    Musicians:

    Snowy Egret: Myra Melford, piano; Ron Miles, cornet; Liberty Ellman, guitar; Stomu Takeishi, bass; Tyshawn Sorey, drums.

    Trio M: Myra Melford, piano; Mark Dresser, bass; Matt Wilson, drums.

    Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra: Ali Jackson, drums, tambourine; Dan Nimmer, piano; Carlos Henriquez, bass; Kenny Rampton, trumpet; Marcus Printup, trumpet; Greg Gisbert, trumpet; Elliot Mason, trombone; Chris Crenshaw, trombone; Vincent Gardner; trombone; Victor Goines, tenor sax, soprano sax, clarinet, bass clarinet; Ted Nash, alto sax, soprano sax, clarinet, flute, piccolo; Sherman Irby, alto sax, soprano sax, clarinet, flute; Walter Blanding, tenor sax, soprano sax, clarinet; Paul Nedzela, baritone sax, bass clarinet; Wynton Marsalis, trumpet; Myra Melford, piano.

    Set List (all songs by Myra Melford):

    • Trio M, "Promised Land"
    • Snowy Egret, "City of Illusion"
    • Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Myra Melford, "The Strawberry"
    • Snowy Egret, "Small Thoughts"
    • Trio M, "The Guest House"

    Credits:

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

    Copyright 2021 WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center. To see more, visit WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center.

  • Leni and Mike Stern: Alone Together Duets

    March 11, 2021. Posted by Simon Rentner.

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    Leni & Mike Stern (Image Credit: Youtube)

    Guitarists Mike and Leni Stern are one of those awe-inspiring couples. More than 40 years together, they've had a front row seat in witnessing music history from their flat in Manhattan. Mike's credits include performing with Miles Davis and Jaco Pastorius. Leni was named Gibson's "Female Jazz Guitarist of the Year" five times. They have another guitar hero, Bill Frisell, to thank for making the introduction back in 1977, when Frisell took Leni on as a private student at the Berklee College of Music. She asked Frisell to show her some rock licks, so he took her to a Mike Stern concert, and the rest is history.

    The couple rarely performs together in public, yet they often make a point to jam in private. Before the lockdown, now one year removed, they had a rule that they would not spend more than three weeks apart on tour; otherwise, one would have to join the other on the road. "Now that we've been together for one full year," says Leni, who has an album coming out in June. "It's gonna be so hard to be separated. We are already plotting to minimize our time apart."

    Here, we get to peak into one of their private jams, now on display for everyone to see: Leni's West African-inspired tune "The Cat Stole The Moon." Clearly, their love for each other is as palpable as it was four decades ago.

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

    Copyright 2021 WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center. To see more, visit WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center.

  • Béla Fleck and Abigail Washburn: Alone Together Duets

    March 9, 2021. Posted by Simon Rentner.

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    Béla Fleck and Abigail Washburn (Image Credit: Youtube)

    It's been one year since we first "locked down" together, and yet here we are: back with another Alone Together Duets video.

    These two stars are no strangers to performing onstage together. Early in the crisis, Béla Fleck and Abigail Washburn continued to warm hearts and make beautiful music together from their home in Nashville.

    Their "Banjo House Lockdown" series can almost be viewed as a time capsule of what we all can relate to: two adults (often in their pajamas) trying to work from home without being interrupted by their adorable kids. "Life without other people is fine, but life without banjos would be intolerable," reads a credo on their Facebook page.

    For our video, Washburn plays the largest banjo we've ever seen (it's really a bass banjo). The couple dusts off an old-timey, bluegrass ditty, "My Home's Across the Blue Ridge Mountains," and refurbishes it into a blues – giving the public domain number a healthy injection of soul.

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

    Copyright 2021 WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center. To see more, visit WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center.

  • Pianist Helen Sung: From Classical Outsider To The Jazz Inner Circle

    March 4, 2021. Posted by Alex Ariff.

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    Helen Sung (Image Credit: Ayano Hisa/Jazz at Lincoln Center)

    There's a composition by pianist Helen Sung titled "Into the Unknown," from her 2018 album, Sung With Words. A bright, bustling tune with a melody full of rhythmic feints, it captures the radiant spirit that Sung brings to any bandstand. And the song's title says something about her unconventional path to a life in modern jazz.

    Raised by immigrant parents in Houston, Sung showed early promise on piano — but seemed destined for classical music until her mid 20s. Pursuing improvised music took a leap of faith, but she was soon admitted to the Thelonious Monk Institute for Jazz, where she received affirmation from the masters, and began to lay the groundwork for her own career.

    On this episode of Jazz Night, we'll hear Sung play "Into the Unknown" with her quartet: John Ellis on tenor saxophone, Rueben Rogers on bass and McClenty Hunter on drums. Their set, recorded at Dizzy's Club, also features tunes by (and for) Thelonious Monk, and a note of social conscience. "Jazz is such an honest art form," she says. "And so as an artist, I want to be on the side of truth."

    Musicians

    Helen Sung, piano; John Ellis, tenor saxophone; Reuben Rogers, bass; McClenty Hunter, drums

    Set List

    Songs by Helen Sung unless otherwise noted

    • "Carolina Shout" (James P. Johnson)
    • "Into the Unknown" 
    • "Bye-Ya" (Thelonious Monk)
    • "Brother Thelonious" 
    • "Lament for Kalief Browder" 
    • "Hope Springs Eternally"

    Credits

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

    Copyright 2021 WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center. To see more, visit WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center.