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.

  • Fabian Almazan And Linda May Han Oh: Alone Together Duets

    May 22, 2020. Posted by Simon Rentner.

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    Bassist Linda May Han Oh and pianist Fabian Almazan perform at home. (Image Credit: Courtesy of the artist)

    Before the pandemic hit, bassist Linda May Han Oh and pianist Fabian Almazan were already forces to be reckoned with, but for the most part, they kept their creative practices separate. Oh leads her own groups, including the one for her album Aventurine, and performs as a member of others, such as Pat Metheny's quartet. Almazan is a critically-acclaimed pianist for trumpeter Terence Blanchard and the founder of the environmentally-conscious record label Biophilia.

    Together, dare we say, they are one of today's premiere jazz power couples, especially now as they wrap-up Biophilia's 14-day online jazz festival on May 23.

    "We're adapting to the tech side of streaming/recording, and I'm helping out here and there," Oh says. "He's definitely the brains (and the beauty!) behind bringing people together and creating a platform for all the artists to share their work, all within such a short period of time."

    Watch the couple serenade us with a piano and bass duet from their Harlem, N.Y., apartment.


    Produced by Jazz Night in America and The Checkout from WBGO.

    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.

  • Dezron Douglas And Brandee Younger: Alone Together Duets

    May 19, 2020. Posted by Simon Rentner.

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    Dezron Douglas & Brandee Younger: Alone Together Duets | JAZZ NIGHT IN AMERICA (Image Credit: NPR)

    Before the lockdown, harpist Brandee Younger and double bassist Dezron Douglas were constantly on the road, usually spending time apart as they toured with artists such as Makaya McCraven and Enrico Rava. This quarantine has allowed these college sweethearts to shine radiantly together as a duo. Their weekly "Brunch In The Crib" Facebook live streams from their East Harlem, N.Y., apartment provide many tranquil moments to their fans.

    They both claim to have come up with their Brunch series idea, but Younger says she has the tweet to prove it. "It was totally my idea to do a harp and bass concert in the living room, but it was completely Dezron's idea to make it a brunch and to continue it," she admits.

    They say necessity is the mother of invention, and that's exactly what prompted the couple's co-composition in the time of COVID-19: "Toilet Paper Romance." "When we wrote the song, toilet paper was the theme of the month," Douglas explains. "People were hoarding and getting violent and evil over toilet paper. It just fit with the mood of society."

    SET LIST

    • "Toilet Paper Romance"

    Produced by Jazz Night in America and The Checkout from WBGO.

    Copyright 2020 WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center. To see more, visit WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center.

  • Regina Carter And Alvester Garnett: Alone Together Duets

    May 15, 2020. Posted by Simon Rentner.

    Drummer Alvester Garnett joined MacArthur "genius" violinist Regina Carter's band in 1998. It was purely professional at first, but it soon grew into a romantic relationship; the couple married in 2004. "She's the boss two-times over," Garnett says half-jokingly.

    They're using this quarantine period to experiment together musically. "I actually feel that we are just beginning to scratch the surface of our creative partnership," Garnett says. For this Alone Together Duet, they co-wrote a tune dedicated to both of their mothers called "Mabel and Grace." The violinist recounts the story when both of their moms bonded one Christmas.

    "We spent it with my mom, Grace, in Detroit. She was undergoing chemo treatment," she says. "Alvester and I decided to cook Christmas dinner for the first time. My mom would come in and check to see what we were doing. I think she was afraid we might burn down the house. Unbeknownst to either of us, my mother was calling Alvester's mother around every 20-30 minutes, giving Mabel updates on our 'cooking situation.' We cooked the turkey inside a well buttered paper bag, something neither mother had heard of. The dinner, to everyone's surprise, was very delicious. After my mom passed, Mabel told us my mom said to her, 'They call themselves in there, cooking. I don't know what they are doing.' We laughed so hard."

    SET LIST

    • "Mabel and Grace"

    Produced by Jazz Night in America and The Checkout from WBGO.

    Copyright 2020 WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center. To see more, visit WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center.