• Marian McPartland: A Centennial Celebration

    March 16, 2018

    (Image Credit: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

    No jazz musician has ever been heard more on public radio than the late Marian McPartland, the host of NPR's Piano Jazz for more than 40 years. But for all her ubiquity, how well did we really know her?

    This special episode of Jazz Night in America — a celebration of McPartland's centenary as well as a timely offering for Women in Jazz month — features personal insights from her longtime producer, Shari Hutchinson, and her granddaughter, Donna Gourdol. We'll also hear outtakes from Piano Jazz, featuring guests like singer Sarah Vaughan and pianists Mary Lou Williams and Geri Allen. And of course, we'll hear the voice and piano of McPartland herself, a grande dame and NEA Jazz Master who was never anything but herself.

    Copyright 2018 WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center. To see more, visit WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center.

  • Lizz Wright: Finding Grace In The South

    March 1, 2018

    (Image Credit: Jesse Kitt)

    Lizz Wright is well acquainted with the storytelling power of a journey. Her music, rooted in the gospel truths and rustic byways of this country, could be seen as a sustained meditation on movement: not just the flow of bodies in rapturous rhythm, but also the trajectories that mark a life story.

    For this episode of Jazz Night in America, she welcomes us to her home in Asheville, N.C. — and takes us on the road in an exploration of her own roots, around south Georgia. She also digs into some of the songs from her recent album, Grace, in concert at the Variety Playhouse in Atlanta.

    "I just kind of circled my whole lineage and just tracked what people were saying and doing," Wright says. "I felt like I needed to get the pulse of the South and my people in it."

    Copyright 2018 WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center. To see more, visit WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center.

  • Fred Hersch And The Art Of Introspection

    January 19, 2018

    (Image Credit: Frank Stewart/Jazz At Lincoln Center)

    Fred Hersch is no stranger to the art of introspection. As a pianist, a composer, a bandleader and a sideman, he has always combined clarity of projection with a willingness to go deep. His latest expression of interiority is a graceful and revealing memoir, Good Things Happen Slowly, which takes shape as a gradual declaration of selfhood, in personal as well as artistic terms.

    This week, Jazz Night in America joins Hersch in conversation at his loft in SoHo, to talk about his upbringing in Cincinnati, and the early realization that he was gay; about his scrappy arrival on the scene in New York, back when certain gigs stretched past dawn; about his death-defying recovery from a coma in 2008; and about the creative breakthrough he had a few years before that, adapting the work of a personal hero, the American poet Walt Whitman.

    Hersch developed Whitman's Leaves of Grass into an elegant song cycle, featuring two articulate vocalists, Kurt Elling and Kate McGarry. The piece has been widely celebrated since its premiere, and Jazz Night consulted a noted Whitman scholar, along with Elling and others, for insights. We'll hear excerpts from a recent performance of the piece, at Jazz at Lincoln Center.

    "It's taken me many years and a lot of lumps to realize who I am," Hersch reflects. To that end, Jazz Night in America had the good fortune of catching up with him at a moment of fullest self-realization. It's your good fortune, too.

    Copyright 2018 WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center. To see more, visit WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center.

  • Wayne Shorter: Artist In Residence At The Detroit Jazz Festival

    December 28, 2017

    Wayne Shorter performs at the 2017 Detroit Jazz Festival. (Image Credit: Farrad Ali)

    Wayne Shorter didn't release any new music in 2017. But that's not to say the eminent saxophonist, composer and NEA Jazz Master had anything less than a banner year. In the spring he returned to Newark, for the first time in ages, as the honored guest of a festival at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center. He turned up as a sage witness in two notable documentary films, I Called Him Morgan and Chasing Trane. And over Labor Day weekend he was artist in residence at the Detroit Jazz Festival, the largest free outdoor event of its kind in the country.

    This episode of Jazz Night In America focuses on Wayne in Detroit. We were there for the duration of his residency, catching him in two magnificent concerts. For the first performance, he led his working quartet, a magically telepathic unit that has been well chronicled in this century. The second concert featured a special-edition band that had only played together twice before — a quartet with Terri Lyne Carrington on drums, Esperanza Spalding on acoustic bass and vocals, and Leo Genovese on piano. That's the set we're bringing to you in this show, along with words of wisdom from the man of the hour.

    The set included reimagined versions of "Endangered Species" and "Someplace Called Where," from Shorter's 1980s fusion period; a new take on "Encontros e Despedidas," from Native Dancer, his collaboration with Milton Nascimento; and "Midnight in Carlotta's Hair," from the 1995 album High Life. We'll hear flashbacks to the original versions of these themes as we shine a light on Shorter, with special guests, on an open-air plaza in the Motor City. You'll hear fireworks going off not only in the distance, but also right there, onstage.

    Copyright 2017 WBGO. To see more, visit WBGO.

  • 'Jazz Night In America' Remembers Artists We Lost In 2017

    December 21, 2017

    Every year around this time, the jazz community takes the measure of its highlights and bright moments — along with a tally of its losses. And while it's true that important jazz artists leave us every year, 2017 was tougher than most. We bade farewell to avant-garde pioneers like Muhal Richard Abrams and Sunny Murray, genre-blending synthesists like John Abercrombie and Larry Coryell, and behind-the-scenes giants like Nat Hentoff and George Avakian.

    The list goes on and on, and we've paused to pay homage often during the year. But in this episode of Jazz Night In America, we'll focus on a small handful of departed artists, fondly toasted by three friends of the program. Kurt Elling remembers two of his vocal heroes, Jon Hendricks and Al Jarreau. Matt Wilson reflects on the genius of three major drummers: Grady Tate, Ben Riley and Mickey Roker. And another drummer, Terri Lyne Carrington, memorializes her dear friend and bandmate, pianist and composer Geri Allen.

    We're saddened by these departures, of course, but the show is a celebration of the lives they led. So there's humor and deep insight here — along with plenty of music, which is something we think every one of these great artists would have wanted.

    Copyright 2017 WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center. To see more, visit WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center.