WBGO Blog
  • '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.

  • A Mambo Expedition In The Valley Of The Sun

    November 21, 2019. Posted by Alex Ariff.

    image
    Orquesta Akokán performs onstage at the MIM Music Theater in Phoenix. (Image Credit: Emma Barber/Courtesy of the Musical Instrument Museum)

    Not quite a decade ago, "the world's only global musical instrument museum" opened in Phoenix. The Musical Instrument Museum, or MIM, now boasts almost 14,000 objects and instruments in their collection, with 370 exhibits from all over the globe — a testament to music's universal human truths. "We're doing the same stuff in different parts of the world," says Lowell Pickett, Artistic Director of the MIM Music Theater, "and we're using the same materials to make the instruments. We're using them to express the same emotions."

    That borderless conviction also shines bright in the music of Orquesta Akokán, a Cuban big band. Formed by a couple of Americans, pianist Michael Eckroth and guitarist Jacob Plasse, the band is a living salute to mambo's mid-century heyday — the domain of legends like Pérez Prado and Benny Moré. With a roster of Cuban musicians, including lead singer José "Pepito" Gómez, Orquesta Akokán plays new, original music in that style, with a balance of humility and pride.

    We hope this episode leaves you with a dual admiration for mambo and the connecting tissue of the human experience through global music cultures. We'll hear about the MIM's massive collection with members of Akokán as our guide, as well as listen to highlights from the band's recent performance at the world-class MIM Music Theater.

    Set List:

    • "No Te Hagas"
    • "La Cosa"
    • "Akokán #1"
    • "Un Tabaco Para Elegua"
    • "Yo Soy Para Tí"

    *All songs by Michael Eckroth, José Gómez, Jacob Plasse

    Musicians:

    José "Pepito" Gómez, vocals; Michael Eckroth, piano; Jacob Plasse, tres, César López, alto saxophone and flute; Jamil Schery, tenor saxophone; Joshua Lee, baritone saxophone; Harold Madrigal and Reinaldo Melián, trumpet; Yoandy Argudin and Heikel Fabián, trombone; David Faya, bass; Reinier Mendoza and Roberto Junior Vizcaino Torre on percussion.

    Credits:

    Host: Christian McBride; Producer: Alex Ariff; Senior Producer: Katie Simon; Music Recorded by Nathanael Stutz; Mix by David Tallacksen. Thanks to Sophia Mena, Anna Irizarria, Daniel Rivera, Carlos Flores, Aaron Ross, Emilyn Badgley, David Wegehaupt, Raj Dayal, Patrick Murphy. Also, thanks to Daniel Rivero, reporter and producer for WLRN. All field recordings and archival audio was used courtesy of the Musical Instrument Museum. 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.

  • Take Three: Three Different Styles of Jazz Vocalists

    October 31, 2019

    No jazz instrument is more personal — or relatable — than the human voice. Jazz singers come in every conceivable style, each with their own expressive signature. This episode of Jazz Night in America offers a chance to spend time with some of the brightest newer voices in the genre.

    We'll get to know Quiana Lynell, who made a name for herself in New Orleans and Baton Rouge, La. before winning the 2017 Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition. We'll check in with Jeremy Bosch, lead singer of the Spanish Harlem Orchestra and a bandleader with his own busy profile in Latin jazz. Finally, a three-for-one deal in Duchess, the harmonizing vocal trio composed of Amy Cervini, Hilary Gardner and Melissa Stylianou.

    All of these artists were caught in performance recently at Dizzy's Club, which has taken pride in showcasing all manner of jazz singers over the years. In Lynell, Bosch and the women of Duchess, we have a shining illustration of the range of talent stepping on and off the stage.

    Musicians:

    Quiana Lynell's band

    Quiana Lynell, voice; Alex Wintz, guitar; Willerm Delisfort, piano; Noah Young, bass; Joe Dyson, drums.

    Jeremy Bosch's band:

    Jeremy Bosch, vocals and flute; Felipe Fournier, vibraphone and vocals; Yeissonn Villamar, piano; Daniel Torres, bass; Marcos López, timbales and vocals; Marcos Torres, conga and vocals.

    Duchess:

    Hilary Gardner, vocals; Melissa Stylianou, vocals; Amy Cervini, vocals; Michael Cabe, piano; Jesse Lewis, guitar; Matt Aronoff, bass; Jared Schonig; drums; Jeff Lederer, tenor sax; Anat Cohen, clarinet.

    Credits:

    Host: Christian McBride; Producer: Christpher Johnson; Senior Producer: Katie Simon; Recording Engineer: Rob Macomber; 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.

  • Andy Bey At 80: A Love Letter To A Jazz Legend

    October 25, 2019. Posted by Alex Ariff.

    image
    (Image Credit: Jonathan Chimene/Courtesy of the Artist)

    Here are a few indisputable truths about Andy Bey. First things first: as he approaches 80, Bey occupies the first rank of living jazz singers. He has led a circuitous career — starting out as a prodigy, slipping into obscurity, experiencing a late renaissance. And he's an original: nobody else has ever sounded quite like him and it's almost certain nobody else ever will.

    "I've always been a loner, and I was looking for nobody's approval," Bey reflects. "I never tried to follow anybody, musically or otherwise." And in this episode of Jazz Night in America, we're celebrating his unique artistry and telling his story.

    We'll listen in on an illuminating conversation between Bey and his producer, Herb Jordan. We'll hear tributes from collaborators, like guitarist Paul Meyers, and longtime admirers, like jazz-vocal guru Dominique Eade. And of course, we'll hear plenty of music — an exquisite, previously unissued concert recorded at the Stanley H. Kaplan Penthouse in New York in 2002.

    Set List:

    • "Pick Yourself Up" (Jerome Kern, Dorothy Fields)
    • "Invitation" (Bronisław Kaper, Paul Francis Webster)
    • "Tuesdays In Chinatown" (Herb Jordan, Dorian Elliot)
    • "Riverman" (Nick Drake)
    • "All The Things You Are" (Jerome Kern, Oscar Hammerstein II)

    Musicians:

    Andy Bey, voice and piano; Paul Meyers, guitar; Joe Martin, bass; Mark McLean, drums.

    Credits:

    Host: Christian McBride; Producer: Alex Ariff; Senior Producer: Katie Simon; Music Recorded by Ed Haber and George Wellington; Thanks to: Ashley Kahn, Jane Gilvin, Olivia Meyer, Kay Wolff, Joseph Fridman, and James Crawford. 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.