WBGO Blog
  • The Bad Plus: The Band That Never Stops

    May 10, 2018

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    The Bad Plus (Image Credit: Colin Marshall/NPR)

    It isn't typically news when a jazz group makes a change in personnel. But The Bad Plus isn't a typical jazz group, and its announcement, this time last year, landed like a bombshell. In short: Ethan Iverson, the band's pianist, would be leaving to pursue his own projects. Orrin Evans, an esteemed peer, would be stepping in. For a group that has always stood for musical collectivism — and never accepted any substitutions — this was a shakeup of existential proportions.

    Jazz Night in America kept up with The Bad Plus as it made this momentous transition: at Orrin Evans' home in Philadelphia, where he raced to get up to speed; in a Brooklyn studio, during sessions for its album Never Stop II; and at Jazz at the Bistro in St. Louis, Mo., where Evans made his public debut with the band.

    In this show we'll hear music from that explosive set, and reflections from Evans as well as the remaining founders of The Bad Plus, bassist Reid Anderson and drummer Dave King.

    All three members of the band, as it now stands, open up about the challenges of preserving a group identity while reinventing the dimensions of the group. "I'm not adjusting to a new Bad Plus; I'm just adjusting," is how King puts it. "This is The Bad Plus now." Join us in making their acquaintance.

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

  • Mike Reed: The World That I'm In

    February 2, 2018

    Some experiences stick with you. They cry out for reflection, for the transfigurative potential of an artistic response. That was the case for Mike Reed, the intrepid Chicago drummer and bandleader, after his harrowing encounter with white supremacists in 2009.

    Reed was on tour in Eastern Europe with his flagship band, People, Places & Things. While passing through the Czech Republic by train, they were menaced by a gaggle of neo-Nazi skinheads, narrowly escaping harm through the intervention of riot police. Later, mulling over these events, Reed decided to create a suite called Flesh & Bone. After its concert premiere at the Art Institute of Chicago in 2015, it was released as an album last year, and captured by Jazz Night in America at Reed's venue, Constellation, in Chicago.

    Jazz Night in America asked Reed to recount that instigating flare of racial tension, which hasn't lost any of its relevance in the years since. "It's not that I want to sensationalize this thing that happened," he says. "I believe the greatest things that we can make [are] derived from our own experiences, or our ability to look at experiences."

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

  • A David Murray Double Bill

    January 2, 2018

    For decades, David Murray was known as one of New York's most monstrously talented and astoundingly prolific artists — a tenor saxophonist who played and wrote for just about every imaginable context. He's still these things, but he lives in Europe now. So this year's Winter Jazzfest — already jam-packed with over 100 acts in two nights — saw fit to give New York audiences a proper saturation of what they'd been missing, presenting David Murray in three completely different sets.

    Jazz Night In America filmed two of those sets at the Minetta Lane Theatre as part of Winter Jazzfest in early 2015. A four-man clarinet summit — featuring Murray with fellow reedmen Hamiet Bluiett, David Krakauer and Don Byron — echoes the project he played in with clarinetist John Carter in the 1980s. And a new collaboration with Geri Allen (piano) and Terri Lyne Carrington (drums) found the three improvising openly around loose themes.

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

  • Abdullah Ibrahim: How Improvisation Saved My Life

    October 13, 2017

    The music of pianist and composer Abdullah Ibrahim conveys an extraordinary depth in stillness. More than perhaps any other improvising artist, he knows how to turn the solitary act of introspection into a communal experience that's both transporting and immersive.

    There's a history behind that sorcery, which you could say was hard-won. Ibrahim grew up in apartheid-era South Africa under the name Dollar Brand, one of the most prominent members of that country's first generation of jazz musicians. With a band called The Jazz Epistles (which featured trumpeter Hugh Masekela and trombonist Jonas Gwangwa), he made an album called Verse +1 that had an enormous impact on South African jazz, even though it was printed in a small edition and quickly censored and buried.

    Jazz Night caught up with Ibrahim during his visit to New York this spring, when he headlined Town Hall in a concert for South Africa Freedom Day. In this episode, we'll hear his band, Ekaya, playing music from that concert — songs from The Jazz Epistles repertoire, as well as more recent Ibrahim compositions like "Dream Time." We'll also hear insight from some scholars on the development of South African jazz, and wisdom from the maestro himself, on the path that led him here and what freedom means to him today.

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

  • Wadada Leo Smith's Defiant And Fearless Elegy For Emmett Till (In 360˚ VR)

    August 28, 2017. Posted by Josie Holtzman.

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    (Image Credit: NPR)

    62 years ago today, Emmett Till was killed in a lynching that became a spark in the civil rights movement. In April of this year, Jazz Night in America recorded Wadada Leo Smith performing a portion of his original composition "Emmett Till: Defiant, Fearless" while canoeing down the Little Tallahatchie River in Glendora, Miss. You can see that 360˚ VR video above.

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