WBGO Blog
  • Dee Dee Bridgewater: Fearless And Free

    April 27, 2017

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    Dee Dee Bridgewater performs at Jazz At Lincoln Center. (Image Credit: Frank Stewart/Jazz At Lincoln Center)

    When Dee Dee Bridgewater learned that she would become a 2017 NEA Jazz Master, a succession of thoughts and feelings flooded her mind. The news came as a total shock, as she tells it: "It was so far out of my orbit and just my whole sphere of thinking," she said in a conversation at NPR this spring, hours before she formally received her award.

    She's 66 — far from retirement age in jazz, and on the extreme forward edge of the NEA Jazz Masters demographic. So she was aware of her relative youth in the field. She also recognized that there haven't been many women in the ranks of NEA Jazz Masters: fewer than 20, out of 145. That idea led her to reflect on her predecessors: legendary singers like Betty Carter, who was inducted back in 1992, and Abbey Lincoln, who received the nod in 2003.

    Bridgewater sought inspiration and counsel from both Carter and Lincoln, as she recalls in this episode of Jazz Night, which features music recorded during the season opener for Jazz at Lincoln Center. On a program called "Songs of Freedom," organized by drummer Ulysses Owens, Jr., Bridgewater sang material associated with Lincoln as well as Nina Simone: furious anthems of the civil rights movement, like "Driva Man" and "Mississippi Goddam," both potent and relevant today.

    A separate concert, "Songs We Love," found Bridgewater singing less politically charged (but still gripping) fare like "St. James Infirmary," which appears on her most recent album, Dee Dee's Feathers. She worked with a different group of musicians on that evening, but still leaned on younger talent — a reminder of the role that she herself has embraced, as a mentor in the music.

    In words as well as music, this episode reveals how seriously Bridgewater takes that responsibility, seeing as how it connects to her own experience in the jazz lineage. But maybe "seriously" isn't the right word when it comes to Dee Dee, whose effervescence shines through even in a reflective mood. Join her here for a while; she's excellent company, no more or less so now that mastery is officially a part of her résumé.

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

  • The 2017 NEA Jazz Masters, In Their Own Words

    April 20, 2017

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    2017 NEA Jazz Masters Dave Holland, Dick Hyman, Dee Dee Bridgewater, and Dr. Lonnie Smith (not pictured: Ira Gitler) at the 2017 NEA Jazz Masters Awards Dinner, sponsored by BMI, on April 2, 2017. (Image Credit: Yassine El Mansouri/Courtesy of the Kennedy Center)

    This year's class of NEA Jazz Masters is as accomplished as they come, with Dee Dee Bridgewater on vocals, Dr. Lonnie Smith on organ, Dave Holland on bass, Dick Hyman on piano and Ira Gitler representing the ranks of jazz journalists. In this episode, Jazz Night in America explores the artists' origin stories: how, why and when they got their starts. Rare, live recordings of Holland and Bridgewater were unearthed from the NPR archive. Hyman joins the program from Jazz at Lincoln Center, and Smith from The Jazz Standard in New York.

    The NEA Jazz Masters Award is often described as the nation's highest honor for a living jazz musician. From the first, its program has celebrated a broad aesthetic range — its inaugural class of honorees, in 1982, consisted of bebop icon Dizzy Gillespie, his trumpet precursor Roy Eldridge and the interstellar visionary Sun Ra. As those initial inductees show, the roll call of NEA Jazz Masters has represented striking diversity within the uppermost echelon of achievement in this music.

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

  • 'Jazz Is The Mother Of Hip-Hop': How Sampling Connects Genres

    April 19, 2017. Posted by Alex Ariff.

    Why do hip-hop producers gravitate toward jazz samples? For a mood, for sonic timbre, for a unique rhythmic component. Swing is a precursor to the boom-bap. "If you're a hip-hop producer that wants a lot of melodic stuff happening," pianist Robert Glasper says, "you're probably going to go to jazz first."

    Glasper has lived in an area of overlap between jazz and hip-hop for more than two decades — and you can hear it in his piano playing, which often drifts into cyclical rhythms akin to a beat-maker's loops. It's all one and the same to Glasper: recasting the music of Miles Davis for an R&B audience or rocking live shows with Q-Tip; playing acoustic jazz with his trio or streamlined soul with his Grammy-winning Robert Glasper Experiment.

    In this short doc, Glasper identifies three jazz samples, from tracks by Ahmad Jamal and Herbie Hancock, that have served as source material for famed hip-hop producers J Dilla and Pete Rock.

    CREDITS:

    Producers: Alex Ariff, Colin Marshall, Nick Michael, Cameron Robert; Editors: Nick Michael, Morgan Noelle Smith; Animator: CJ Riculan; Sound Editor/Audio Engineer: Suraya Mohamed; Videographers: Nick Michael, Cameron Robert; Interviewer: Alex Ariff; Project Manager: Suraya Mohamed; Senior Producer, Radio: Katie Simon; Executive Producers: Gabrielle Armand, Anya Grundmann, Amy Niles; Special Thanks: Robert Glasper, Michael Gonik, Steinway Hall; Funded in part by: The Argus Fund, The Wyncote Foundation, The National Endowment for the Arts, Doris Duke Foundation

    MUSIC:

    • Ahmad Jamal Trio, "I Love Music," The Awakening (1970)
    • Nas, "The World Is Yours," Illmatic (1994)
    • Herbie Hancock, "Come Running To Me," Sunlight (1978)
    • Slum Village, "Get This Money," Fantastic, Vol. 2 (2000)
    • Ahmad Jamal, "Swahililand," Jamal Plays Jamal (1974)
    • De La Soul "Stakes Is High," Stakes Is High (1996)
    Copyright 2017 WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center. To see more, visit WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center.
  • The 2017 NEA Jazz Masters Tribute Concert

    April 3, 2017

    The livestream has concluded.

    The NEA Jazz Masters Award is often described as the nation's highest honor for a living jazz musician. From the first its program has celebrated a broad aesthetic range — its inaugural class of honorees, in 1982, consisted of bebop icon Dizzy Gillespie, his trumpet precursor Roy Eldridge and the interstellar visionary Sun Ra. As those initial inductees show, the roll call of NEA Jazz Masters have represented striking diversity within the uppermost echelon of achievement in this music.

    And every year, the NEA Jazz Masters Concert and Ceremony gathers this stylistically far-flung constituency — current and past masters, younger artists, fans of every disposition — to an event that, for all its glittery pomp, often resembles an extended family reunion. The atmosphere onstage tends toward gracious warmth, wry humor and broad inclusion, and there are usually a handful of sterling musical exchanges to savor. That's no less true of the live concert stream, which I've gratefully watched on those occasions when I couldn't be in the room.

    This year's class is as accomplished as they come, with Dee Dee Bridgewater on vocals, Dr. Lonnie Smith on organ, Dave Holland on bass, Dick Hyman on piano and Ira Gitler representing the ranks of jazz journalists. As always, their legacies will be celebrated in multiple forms, through spoken as well as video tributes, and in performance. I'll be on hand to cover the event, and my recap will appear on Tuesday morning. But this page is where you can watch it unfold in real time.

    Copyright 2017 WBGO and The Kennedy Center. To see more, visit WBGO and The Kennedy Center.

  • Muldrow Meets Mingus

    March 23, 2017

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    Jason Moran (left) and Georgia Anne Muldrow celebrate Charles Mingus during a program at the Kennedy Center. (Image Credit: Jati Lindsay/Courtesy of the Kennedy Center)

    At a glance, Georgia Anne Muldrow isn't the obvious pick to create an interpretive tribute to the bassist and composer Charles Mingus. She was born in 1983, four years after Mingus died at 56. Her music stands well outside the jazz perimeter, aligning more with the Afrocentric current that flows through underground hip-hop, avant-R&B and psychedelic soul. She isn't a bassist like Mingus, but rather a singer, rapper and beat-making producer. Her village elders include the rapper Mos Def, the producer Madlib and the vocalist Erykah Badu.

    But Muldrow, like Mingus, hails from Los Angeles — and that's far from the most salient commonality between them. She grew up with his music courtesy of her father, Ronald, a working jazz musician. And she gravitated to Mingus' example as a creative maverick, a political activist and an outspoken advocate for black America — someone who, in her words, "expressed the truth."

    Jason Moran, the acclaimed pianist and composer, recognized the potential here. As the Artistic Director for Jazz at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., he commissioned a concert program called "Muldrow Meets Mingus." It took place earlier this year at the Kennedy Center's Crossroads Club, and Jazz Night in America was there for the rehearsals as well as the world premiere, which featured audacious musicians like alto saxophonist Darius Jones, trombonist Ku-umba Frank Lacy and drummer Karriem Riggins.

    In this irrepressibly funky episode of Jazz Night, you'll hear excerpts of the concert, including Muldrow's reimagining of Mingus' "Fables Of Faubus" and "Goodbye Porkpie Hat." You'll also hear insights from Muldrow, Moran and the critic Greg Tate, who approvingly calls out the shamanistic aspects of this music.

    "When you hear someone like Georgia, who has such a wide palette of sounds and inspirations and execution," Moran says, "you know that's a real artist." "Muldrow Meets Mingus" represents a celebration of that spirit, full of extravagant risk and equal reward.

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