WBGO Blog
  • 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.

  • Fred Hersch And The Art Of Introspection

    January 19, 2018

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    (Image Credit: Frank Stewart/Jazz At Lincoln Center)

    Fred Hersch is no stranger to the art of introspection. As a pianist, a composer, a bandleader and a sideman, he has always combined clarity of projection with a willingness to go deep. His latest expression of interiority is a graceful and revealing memoir, Good Things Happen Slowly, which takes shape as a gradual declaration of selfhood, in personal as well as artistic terms.

    This week, Jazz Night in America joins Hersch in conversation at his loft in SoHo, to talk about his upbringing in Cincinnati, and the early realization that he was gay; about his scrappy arrival on the scene in New York, back when certain gigs stretched past dawn; about his death-defying recovery from a coma in 2008; and about the creative breakthrough he had a few years before that, adapting the work of a personal hero, the American poet Walt Whitman.

    Hersch developed Whitman's Leaves of Grass into an elegant song cycle, featuring two articulate vocalists, Kurt Elling and Kate McGarry. The piece has been widely celebrated since its premiere, and Jazz Night consulted a noted Whitman scholar, along with Elling and others, for insights. We'll hear excerpts from a recent performance of the piece, at Jazz at Lincoln Center.

    "It's taken me many years and a lot of lumps to realize who I am," Hersch reflects. To that end, Jazz Night in America had the good fortune of catching up with him at a moment of fullest self-realization. It's your good fortune, too.

    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.

  • 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.