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

    December 28, 2017

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    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.

  • Nate Chinen's Top 10 (Actually 21) Albums Of 2017

    December 14, 2017

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    Three of Ron Miles' works were among Nate Chinen's favorites of the year. (Image Credit: Thomas J. Krebs/Courtesy of the artist)

    Most of us can agree: 2017 was a beast of a year. The music sometimes reflected our weariness, carrying it like a burden. At other times it engaged directly with the sense of foreboding and crisis in the air. But what spoke to me the most, it turns out, was music that delivered both comfort and challenge, a salve and a spur. To one degree or another, every album on this list fits that criterion — and so do the additional 10 that appear as honorable mentions, any of which could easily have come off the bench and into the game.

    Copyright 2017 WBGO. To see more, visit WBGO.

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  • How Grover Washington Jr. Defined And Transcended 'Smooth Jazz'

    November 17, 2017

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    Grover Washington Jr. performs on stage during the "One Night With Blue Note" concert in New York on Feb. 22, 1985. (Image Credit: Anthony Barboza/Getty Images)

    One way or another, you've heard Grover Washington Jr.'s saxophone. Perhaps on "Mister Magic" or another of his instrumental hits, like "Winelight." Or on "Just the Two of Us," the smash hit featuring Bill Withers. What Washington's sound represents is soul, plain and simple, though it's often been associated with another word: "smooth." A lot of musicians have some choice words to say about that, starting with Washington himself.

    Jazz Night in America recently partnered with WRTI, in Grover Washington's adopted hometown of Philadelphia, to present a tribute concert at the Temple Performing Arts Center. In this episode of the radio show, we'll put you in that room with a wildly enthusiastic crowd, to hear a reunion of Grover Washington band members, like bassist Gerald Veasley and keyboardist Bill Jolly, as well as two saxophonic inheritors, Gerald Albright and Najee. We'll also hear from musicians like David Sanborn, a near-contemporary of Washington's, about the legacy and presumptions surrounding "smooth jazz," and the ways in which Washington both defined and transcended it.

    PERFORMERS

    Najee (tenor and soprano saxophone), Gerald Albright (alto saxophone), Bill Jolly (keyboards, vocals), Donald Robinson (keyboards), Richard Lee Steacker (guitar), Gerald Veasley (bass), Pablo Batista (percussion), Steven Wolf (drums), Carl Cox Jr. (tenor saxophone), Michael Jarosz (trumpet), Brent White (trombone), La' Trese Jones (vocals), Suzanne Burgess (vocals)

    CREDITS

    Recorded by Weston Sound; Location engineers: Joe Hannigan, Clark Conner; Audio produced, arranged and mixed by Bill Jolly; Presented by The Philadelphia Jazz Project, WXPN, Temple Performing Arts Center, PhillyCAM, WRTI

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

  • Louis Hayes Celebrates His 80th Birthday In A Packed Jazz Club

    November 3, 2017

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    (Image Credit: Frank Stewart)

    Louis Hayes spent his youth creating the pulse of hard-bop, as a top-shelf drummer with artists like Cannonball Adderley and Horace Silver. He turned 80 this year, marking the occasion with his own Blue Note Records debut as a leader, Serenade for Horace. As the title implies, it's a tribute to his old mentor and bandleader – but it's also a testament to the beat that endures in Hayes' playing.

    This episode of Jazz Night in America will take you into a packed room at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola, where Hayes celebrated his birthday and the album's release, leading a band with fiery younger talent like trumpeter Josh Evans and saxophonist Abraham Burton. We'll hear host Christian McBride talking with Hayes about some favorite sessions and fond memories. And we'll hear testimonials from Don Was, Blue Note's president (and, like Hayes, a Detroit native) and Maxine Gordon, Hayes' road manager (and the widow of Dexter Gordon, another of his illustrious associates).

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