WBGO Blog
  • Gregory Porter: Personal Stories For Universal Songs

    September 20, 2019

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    Gregory Porter (Image Credit: Jonathan Chimene/Courtesy of Jazz At Lincoln Center)

    The smooth, booming voice of Gregory Porter brought a galvanizing force to jazz when he broke onto the scene about a decade ago. It's a voice of exhortation, flowing out of the gospel church. A voice of dignity, in the mode of his hero, Nat King Cole. A voice of reassurance, whether aiming for the heavens or toward a single soul across the room.

    It's also, crucially, the voice of experience — Porter's own, going back to his childhood in Bakersfield, Calif. For this episode of Jazz Night in America, the two-time Grammy-winning jazz vocalist opens up about that journey in conversation with our host, Christian McBride. We'll hear about Porter's transition from sports to theater to music and about the meaning behind some of his soul-baring songs, like "Don't Lose Your Steam."

    We'll hear that song and others in performance as Porter and his band electrify a crowd at the 2019 St. Lucia Jazz Festival, produced in collaboration with Jazz at Lincoln Center.

    Musicians:

    Gregory Porter: vocals; Chip Crawford: piano; Jahmal Nichols: bass; Andre Jay: organ; Emanuel Harrold: drums; Tivon Pennicott: saxophone

    Credits:

    Host: Christian McBride; Producers: Trevor Smith with Alex Ariff; Senior Producer: Katie Simon; Recording Engineer: Cory Carson; Technical Director: David Tallacksen; Executive Producers: Amy Niles, Gabrielle Armand, Anya Grundmann; Senior Director of NPR Music: Lauren Onkey; Production Assistant: Sarah Kerson; Project Manager: Suraya Mohamed

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

  • A Toast To The Montreal International Jazz Festival At 40: Jazz, Blues & Much More

    September 12, 2019

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    Aerial view of the Festival International de Jazz de Montreal. (Image Credit: © Victor Diaz Lamich/Courtesy of Festival International de Jazz de Montreal)

    The city of Montréal in the Canadian province of Quebec is known for a number of things: Great bagels, a thriving art scene, a certain je ne sais quoi. It's also home to the largest jazz festival in the world, the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal, which just celebrated its 40th anniversary.

    For this episode of Jazz Night in America, we'll pay a visit to the festival with its co-founder and legendary artistic director, André Ménard. Since the beginning, Ménard wanted an international festival that presents jazz as a constantly evolving artform, with many branches and styles. A place where he could present not only the best of jazz but also, say, Argentinian tango master Astor Piazzolla, and American blues giants like Muddy Waters.

    Join us as Ménard shares some of his favorite festival memories from the last four decades, including guitarist Pat Metheny's performance for an outdoor crowd of 100,000, Diana Krall's springboard to jazz-vocal stardom and unforgettable concerts by legends like Ella Fitzgerald, Dave Brubeck and Oscar Peterson.

    Set List

    • Ella Fitzgerald, "They Can't Take That Away From Me"
    • Oscar Peterson, "Cakewalk"
    • Oscar Peterson, "Bach's Blues"
    • Pat Metheny, "Are You Going With Me"
    • Dave Brubeck, "Tritonis"
    • Dee Dee Bridgewater, "Lonely Woman"
    • Diana Krall, "Dream a Little Dream of Me"
    • Christian McBride Quartet, "McThing"

    Credits

    Producer: Sarah Geledi; Senior Producer: Katie Simon; Executive Producers: Amy Niles, Gabrielle Armand, Anya Grundmann; Senior Director of NPR Music: Lauren Onkey; Production Assistant: Sarah Kerson; Project Manager: Suraya Mohamed. Special thanks to Kelly Peterson, Philippe Chayer and Simon Rentner. Excerpts from the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal, L'Equipe Spectra Inc.

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

  • 'The Black Messiah' And The Legacy Of Cannonball Adderley

    July 26, 2019. Posted by Alex Ariff.

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    Cannonball Adderley sits with his saxophone. (Image Credit: JP Jazz Archive/Redferns/Getty Images )

    Cannonball Adderley was a mere 46 when he died, of a brain hemorrhage, in 1975. An alto saxophonist of robust intellect and irrefutable soul, he left a monumental legacy during his two decades in the spotlight — as a member of the Miles Davis Sextet, an exemplar of 1960s soul jazz and the leading avatar of a brand of post-bop modernism with popular appeal.

    This episode of Jazz Night in America takes a fond look at that legacy, illuminating it from multiple angles. Guided by our host, self-avowed Cannonball fanatic Christian McBride, we'll hear from some of Adderley's former bandmates, like drummer Roy McCurdy and tenor saxophonist Ernie Watts. We'll spend quality time with Patrick Bartley Jr., a young alto saxophonist who has taken Cannonball Adderley's music and message to heart. And we'll pull the curtain back on The Black Messiah, a 1971 album that has come to be seen as a classic.

    "The Mighty Cannonball Adderley" band

    Patrick Bartley: alto saxophone; Julian Lee: tenor saxophone; Bruce Harris: trumpet; Chris Pattishall: piano; Alexander Claffy: bass; Evan Sherman, drums

    "The Chocolate Nuisance" from The Black Messiah

    Julian "Cannonball" Adderley: alto saxophone; Nat Adderley: cornet; George Duke: electric piano; Mike Deasy: guitar; Walter Booker: bass; Roy McCurdy: drums; Airto Moreira, Buck Clarke: percussion

    Credits

    Host: Christian McBride; Producer: Alex Ariff; Senior Producer: Katie Simon; Recording Engineer: Rob Macomber; Executive Producers: Amy Niles, Gabrielle Armand, Anya Grundman; Senior Director of NPR Music: Lauren Onkey; Production Assistant: Sarah Kerson; Project Manager: Suraya Mohamed

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

  • Turtle Island Quartet Joins Cyrus Chestnut With Global Gospel Offering

    June 6, 2019. Posted by Alex Ariff.

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    Turtle Island String Quartet with Cyrus Chestnut (Image Credit: Courtesy of the artist)

    "I don't believe America was founded to be one dimensional," pianist Cyrus Chestnut asserts. "It's various different people coming together, quote unquote, to develop something hip."

    Chestnut is referring, in part, to a conversation between jazz, gospel and classical music that has been ongoing for well over a century. But he's also describing Carry Me Home,his decade-long collaboration with the Turtle Island Quartet, the subject of this episode of Jazz Night in America.

    Now approaching its 35th year, Turtle Island — violinists David Balakrishnan and Gabriel Terracciano, violist Benjamin Von Gutzeit and cellist Malcolm Parson — stands apart from most other string quartets in its capacity to improvise and truly swing.

    Jazz Night caught the fourth-ever concert performance of Carry Me Home, at the Anne and Ellen Fife Theatre in the Moss Arts Center at Virginia Tech. The program — ranging from gospel spirituals to Senegalese chants to jazz standards — illustrates what Balakrishnan calls "a blend kind of mentality." He was using that phrase to describe Chestnut, but on some level he could have been talking about the American experiment, which can only ever be a work in progress.

    Set List

    • "Subconscious-Lee" (Lee Konitz, arr. B. von Gutzeit)
    • "Wade In The Water" (trad, arr. Cyrus Chestnut)
    • "Down In The Depths" (Wayne Shorter, arr. B. von Gutzeit)
    • "Chant Mouride" (Diame Beniot, arr. M. Parson)
    • "Jeannine" (Duke Pearson, arr. D. Balakrishnan)
    • "Come Sunday" (Duke Ellington, arr. Cyrus Chestnut)
    • "Will The Circle Be Unbroken" (Charles Gabriel, arr. Cyrus Chestnut)
    • "Lean On Me" (Bill Withers, arr. Cyrus Chestnut)

    Musicians

    Turtle Island Quartet with Cyrus Chestnut: David Balakrishnan, violin, leader; Benni von Gutzeit, viola; Gabe Terracciano, violin; Malcolm Parson, cello; Cyrus Chestnut, piano

    Credits

    Producers: Alex Ariff; Production Assistant: Sarah Kerson; Senior Producer: Katie Simon; Senior Director of NPR Music: Lauren Onkey; Executive Producers: Amy Niles, Gabrielle Armand, Anya Grundman; Project Manager: Suraya Mohamed; Recording Engineer: Robert Gainer, mixed by David Tallacksen

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

  • ECM At Big Ears: A Boundless Label Meets A Broadminded Festival

    May 24, 2019

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    Carla Bley Trio (Image Credit: Eli Johnson/Courtesy of Big Ears Festival)

    At one point during the final stretch of this year's Big Ears Festival in Knoxville, Tenn., you could have pried yourself away from a distortion-jacked Sun of Goldfinger show to join a clutch of fans hurrying over to see The Art Ensemble of Chicago. In making that calculation (a typical one, for Big Ears), you'd have been weighing two wildly different experiences with one notable thing in common: Both groups have an affiliation with the sonically adventurous label ECM Records.

    ECM is observing its 50th anniversary this year and its largest celebration took place at Big Ears, where artists from its roster played some 20 concerts. Jazz Night in America's intrepid team caught about half of these — including a gorgeous solo bass recital by Larry Grenadier and a coolly mesmerizing dual-piano concert by Craig Taborn and Vijay Iyer.

    In this episode of our show, we bring you along to three of the very best performance we heard, each illuminating a different facet of ECM. We'll begin with composer, pianist and NEA Jazz Master Carla Bley, leading her chamber-like trio with bassist Steve Swallow and saxophonist Andy Sheppard. Next up is an agile post-bop quartet led by Israeli-born trumpeter Avishai Cohen. And we end by locking into the matrix of Nik Bärtsch's Ronin, whose leader is a Swiss pianist and composer specializing in what he calls "zen-funk."

    Each of these compelling artists has insights on the broadminded legacy of ECM, and the meticulous vision of its founder, Manfred Eicher. We'll hear from them — and from the brain behind Big Ears, producer Ashley Capps, who says there has always been an ECM presence in Knoxville, if you just knew where to look.

    Set List

    • "Utviklingssang" (Carla Bley)
    • "Sex with Birds" (Carla Bley)
    • "Life and Death" (Avishai Cohen)
    • "Will I Die Miss? Will I Die?" (Avishai Cohen)
    • "Module 46" (Nik Bärtsch)
    • "Module 36" (Nik Bärtsch)

    Musicians

    • Carla Bley Trio: Carla Bley, piano; Steve Swallow, bass; Andy Sheppard, saxophone
    • Avishai Cohen Quartet: Avishai Cohen, trumpet; Marcus Gilmore, drums; Barak Mori, bass; Fabian Almazan, piano
    • Nik Bartsch's Ronin: Nik Bärtsch, piano; Sha, bass/contrabass clarinet; Kaspar Rast, drums; Thomy Jordi, bass

    Credits

    Producers: Sarah Geledi and Nate Chinen; Production Assistant: Sarah Kerson; Senior Producer: Katie Simon; Senior Director of NPR Music: Lauren Onkey; Executive Producers: Amy Niles, Gabrielle Armand, Anya Grundman; Recording Engineer: Rob Macomber

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