WBGO Blog
  • The Evolution Of Jon Batiste

    May 28, 2020. Posted by Alex Ariff.

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    (Image Credit: Becky Harlan/WBGO )

    Jon Batiste spent his 33rd birthday playing an intimate, private concert with his band in the round while Jazz Night in America captured the show. He kept it classy, donning a suede jacket and playing selections from his two latest Verve releases, Chronology of A Dream and Anatomy of Angels.

    You probably know Jon Batiste as bandleader and musical director on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. But his credentials are deep as the roots of the Batiste family tree. He's the co-artistic director of the National Jazz Museum in Harlem, and has been a collaborator with everyone from pop singer Tori Kelly to the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. He's graduate of both the New Orleans Center of the Creative Arts and the Juilliard School, and an alumni of both Wynton Marsalis' and Roy Hargrove's bands.

    For the past decade, he's developed his version of "jazz 2.0," which includes what he calls "social music." Its lineage stems from Batiste's native New Orleans but also runs through his adopted hometown of New York City, thanks to elders like Lionel Hampton and Dr. Billy Taylor, who brought jazz from the concert halls to the streets. But Batiste is also a part of yet another lineage: jazz musicians in late-night television. On our radio show — with help from Batiste's Late Show predecessor Paul Shaffer, its current Executive Producer, Chris Licht, and NPR television critic Eric Deggans — we'll trace some of that history, learning how Jon Batiste developed his role.

    Video Set List:

    • "If You're Happy And You Know It" (Joe Raposo, arr. Jon Batiste)
    • "PRINCE"
    • "HIGHER"
    • "Round Midnight" (Thelonious Monk, Bernard D. Hanighen, Charles Cootie Williams)
    • "PWWR"
    • "BLACCK"
    • "SOULFUL" (Roy Hargrove)
    • "ORDR"

    Musicians:

    Jonathan Batiste: piano, vocals, bandleader; Giveton Gelin: trumpet; Jon Lampley: trumpet, tuba; Eddie Barbash: alto saxophone; Tivon Pennicott: tenor saxophone; Endea Owens: bass; Joe Saylor: drums; Negah Santos: percussion.

    Credits:

    Producers: Alex Ariff, Colin Marshall, Katie Simon; Concert Recording Engineer: David Tallacksen; House Audio Engineers: Greg Hanson, Meghan England; Concert Video Director: Colin Marshall; Director of Photography: Nickolai Hammar; Videographers: Tsering Bista, Jack Corbett, Annabel Edwards, Nickolai Hammar, Niki Walker; Editor: Annabel Edwards; Lighting Designer: Igor Yachmenov; Lighting Board Operation: Zack Lobel; Lighting Deck Electrician: Tricia Swietek; Project Manager: Suraya Mohamed; Senior Producers: Colin Marshall, Katie Simon; Supervising Editor: Keith Jenkins; 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.

  • Stefon Harris: A Generation's Preeminent Voice Of The Vibraphone

    May 21, 2020

    From Lionel Hampton to Milt Jackson, to Bobby Hutcherson and beyond, every jazz generation has had its swinging heroes on the vibraphone. Since around the turn of the century, we've had a leading light in Stefon Harris.

    Harris may in fact be the preeminent voice of his instrument, but he says that's not that important. "The vibraphone, in my opinion, is just a bunch of metal and wood. Instruments are just tools," he says. "What's important is the mission behind the individual who's utilizing the tool."

    For Harris, that mission is the proliferation of empathy. "I want my audience to feel the connection between human beings," he adds. "I want them to witness five brothers who are on the stage, who've known each other for a long time, who are willing to take chances in the moment to discover beauty. I want them to feel that sense of synergy, that sense of struggle and that sense of courage."

    Harris applies those experiences onstage with his band Blackout. Join us for a ferocious and intuitive set they delivered in February at Clement's Place, a small club at Rutgers University, in Newark, N.J.

    Musicians:

    Stefon Harris: vibraphone and marimba; Marc Cary: keys; Ben Williams: double bass; Jaleel Shaw: saxophone; Terreon Gully: drums.

    Set List:

    • "Bye Bye Blackbird" (Ray Henderson)
    • "Chasin' Kendall" (Stefon Harris)
    • "Dat Dere" (Bobby Timmons)
    • "Gentle Wind" (Marc Cary)
    • "Now" (Bobby Hutcherson)
    • "Thanks For The Beautiful Land On The Delta" (Duke Ellington)

    Credits:

    Writer and Producer: Sarah Geledi; Senior Producer: Katie Simon; Host: Christian McBride; Project Manager: Suraya Mohamed; Music Engineer: 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.

  • Jazz And Art Take Center Stage To Form 'Portraits Of America'

    May 7, 2020. Posted by Alex Ariff.

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    The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis performs 'Portraits of America: A Jazz Story.' (Image Credit: Frank Stewart /WBGO )

    Jazz and the visual arts have always enjoyed a mutually beneficial relationship. Last year the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis put that bond front and center with an ambitious original program called Portraits of America: A Jazz Story.

    The concert featured new compositions by members of the orchestra, directly inspired by works in the collection of the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Ark. So in this special episode of Jazz Night in America, we'll not only hear the resulting music but also get inside the inspiration — learning how Grace Hartigan's abstract painting Rough, Ain't It motivated alto saxophonist Sherman Irby, and which qualities in the Romare Bearden collage Sacrifice spoke to tenor saxophonist Walter Blanding.

    At a moment when it's not possible to visit an art museum in person, Portraits of America invites us to experience color and shape in a new way. "I love the fact that you can take a painting, a piece of art that isn't changing, and then create something that's constantly changing to represent it," reflects multi-reedist Ted Nash. "It almost seems like it wouldn't work, but the music can actually make the painting move."

    Musicians: Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis

    Wynton Marsalis: Music Director, trumpet; Ryan Kisor: trumpet; Kenny Rampton: trumpet; Michael Rodriguez: trumpet; Vincent Gardner: trombone; Chris Crenshaw: trombone; Elliot Mason: trombone; Sherman Irby: alto saxophone, flute, piccolo; Ted Nash: alto saxophone, flute, piccolo; Victor Goines: tenor saxophone, clarinet; Camille Thurman: tenor saxophone, clarinet; Carl Maraghi: baritone saxophone, bass clarinet; Dan Nimmer: piano; Carlos Henriquez: bass; Jason Marsalis: drums.

    Set List:

    • "Summer Day" (Elliot Mason)
    • "Black Balloon" (Chris Crenshaw)
    • "Au Café (Synchromy)" (Ted Nash)
    • "A Hot Jam on Grand" (Sherman Irby)
    • "For Never and Forever" (Walter Blanding Jr.)
    • "One Understands" (Vincent Garnder)
    • "Salvation, Serenity, Reflection" (Marcus Printup)

    Credits:

    Writer and Producer: Alex Ariff; Senior Producer: Katie Simon; Host: Christian McBride; Project Manager: Suraya Mohamed; Music Engineer: James P. Nichols; Tech Director: David Tallacksen; Thanks to Linda Freemen from L&S Video; 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.

  • 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.