WBGO Blog
  • More Than Keeping Time: A Melodic Drumming Demo

    August 17, 2018

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    Drummer, Allison Miller (Image Credit: Colin Marshall/NPR)

    What would you say if I told you that drums can sing? The best jazz drummers have always understood this as fact. Allison Miller has even made it a core part of her artistic mission — as drummer, a composer and a bandleader, notably with her ensemble Boom Tic Boom.

    Jazz Night in America recently caught up with Miller, who skillfully demonstrates the concept of "melodic drumming" — using her drums and cymbals, a Duke Ellington tune, and a new piece of technology — in our video short. We also dropped in at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola for portions of an engaging set by Boom Tic Boom, featuring Miller alongside violinist Jenny Scheinman, cornetist Kirk Knuffke, clarinetist Jeff Lederer, pianist Carmen Staaf and bassist Tony Scherr.

    In our radio show, we'll also hear from Miller about how playing in high-profile folk-rock settings (with Natalie Merchant, among others) informs her playing. We'll learn how female empowerment is thriving in the jazz community plus Miller's firsthand experiences with sexism and gender inequality in our institutions and on the scene.

    And we'll consider how it all connects: melody and harmony, the individual and the whole. "There's something about the platform of jazz," Miller says, "that it lays this palette of having such deep communication with your other bandmates. And for me that's why I play this music."

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

  • How Benny Green Saw His Jazz Horizon

    July 19, 2018

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    (Image Credit: Frank Stewart/JALC)

    Jazz has always been a music of continuum, its secrets passed down across generations. Benny Green is a shining embodiment of this process: A pianist originally inspired (and eventually endorsed) by mid-century modernists like Oscar Peterson; An apprentice to two of the music's greatest mentors, Betty Carter and Art Blakey; A conservationist of the bebop idiom, and a joyful guardian of its lexicon.

    Green is now 55, and has come a long way since the days when he was featured in a group called Jazz Futures, with fellow up-and-comers like bassist Christian McBride. He inhabits a midpoint in the music, not yet as an elder but certainly a mature artist, and an influence on more than a few players himself. In this episode of Jazz Night in America, we'll catch a recent set of his at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola, featuring his spit-and-polish trio with drummer Kenny Washington and bassist David Wong.

    We'll also be a fly on the wall as Green catches up with McBride — one of his oldest friends, and our show's multifaceted host. They'll reminisce about Green's youth in Berkeley, Calif., where his father, saxophonist Bert Green, instilled a reverence for jazz. They'll talk about what the younger Green learned from Betty Carter, and how he tactfully left her band to join Blakey's Jazz Messengers, turning heads right away. And they'll talk shop about Green's experience working with Ray Brown, who happens to be McBride's foundational bass hero, and another bridge from one jazz era to the next.

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

  • The GroundUP Music Festival Brings Even More Heat to Miami

    July 12, 2018. Posted by Alex Ariff.

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    (Image Credit: Stella K. /WBGO)

    The first "destination" jazz festival took place in Newport, R.I., in 1954 — multiple days, one stage and gorgeous scenery. These days, Newport is going strong, as is Monterey in California, and the festival model has expanded to multiple stages and far beyond big-brimmed hats and lawn chairs.

    Still, Snarky Puppy leader Michael League saw a void and an opportunity. After years of performing at festivals around the world, the 34-year-old bassist founded the GroundUP Music Festival in order to bring musicians and fans together in an intimate setting: the beach. Miami Beach, to be exact.

    At GroundUP, "the line between stage and audiences doesn't really exist," says musician Magda Giannikou, who led a massive drum and vocal session on the sand. "It's a very interactive and creative festival. It feels like spending three days with your family."

    Jazz Night in America takes you to the GroundUP Music Festival, practically plopping you on South Beach for an hour of exploration. We'll get a taste of League's vision for music festivals: healthy local food, a cap of 2,000 tickets sold per day, and no overlapping sets. Our show is a sampler of sorts, featuring banjo adventurist Bela Fleck; a new quartet led by Snarky Puppy trumpeter Jay Jennings and saxophonist Bob Reynolds; some solo work by Snarky keyboardist Bill Laurance; and a funky, one-time meeting of League, saxophonist Joshua Redman, guitarist Lionel Loueke and drummer Larnell Lewis.

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

  • Crosscurrents: Converging Jazz And Indian Classical Music

    June 22, 2018

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    Bassist Dave Holland and tabla player Zakir Hussain perform as part of Crosscurrents at Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York City. (Image Credit: Lawrence Sumulong/Jazz at Lincoln Center)

    Virtuosity — of a dazzling, ebullient, yet altogether generous sort — might be the most obvious bridge between David Holland and Zakir Hussain. But there's also a deep cultural foundation behind their musical dialogue, which forms the beating heart of a project called Crosscurrents.

    Hussain, a peerless master of the Indian tabla, and Holland, an English-born bassist of sterling jazz renown, were both shaped in some way by the 1960s, a decade of awakening and convergence. In this episode of Jazz Night in America, we'll explore the influence of Indian music on the jazz and rock scenes of that era — as well as the less familiar story of jazz's influence on the subcontinent, embodied by musicians like pianist and composer Louiz Banks.

    We'll hear music from a recent Jazz at Lincoln Center concert led by Hussain and Holland. Crosscurrents also features Banks, his son, drummer Gino Banks, along with acclaimed American saxophonist and flutist Chris Potter, Bollywood vocal star Shankar Mahadevan and Mumbai-based jazz guitarist Sanjay Divecha. We'll also get some valuable outside perspective from percussionist Sameer Gupta and other musicians in Brooklyn Raga Massive, which pursues a similar form of thrumming exchange.

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

  • At The Helm: Harold Mabern, Stalwart Accompanist, At 82

    May 29, 2018

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    Harold Mabern (Image Credit: Alan Nahigian/Courtesy of the artist)

    Harold Mabern has never had any hang-ups about not being the center of attention. "I get joy out of being an accompanist," the pianist affirms, likening himself to an offensive lineman on a football team. "When you can do something to make the soloist happy and proud," he says plainly, "you've done your job."

    Small wonder that Mabern, who recently turned 82, has been one of jazz's stalwart accompanists over the last 60 years, a valuable yet unflashy asset for everyone from Wes Montgomery to Sarah Vaughan. In this episode of Jazz Night, we'll explore some of that history, including Mabern's early years in Memphis and his deep connection with Lee Morgan — which ended with the trumpeter's shocking death at 33.

    But we'll also point the spotlight squarely on Mabern as a composer and bandleader — focusing on a recent hit at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola, where he led a trio with bassist Nat Reeves on bass and Joe Farnsworth on drums.

    Among the tunes in the set are "Edward Lee" and "Bobby, Benny, Jymie, Lee, Bu," both bearing dedications to Morgan. We'll also have some fun with a digression about the art of the musical quote — another of Mabern's many talents, which have a way of hiding in plain sight.

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