• Watch Béla Fleck And Edmar Castañeda's Stunning Collaboration In A Cathedral

    October 24, 2019

    Béla Fleck and Edmar Castañeda perform at St. John's Cathedral in Knoxville, Tenn., as part of the 2019 Big Ears Festival. (Image Credit: NPR)

    Béla Fleck, the world's preeminent banjo player, and Edmar Castañeda, a peerless master of the Colombian harp, share more than a penchant to pluck magic out of strings. Both musicians are keen listeners with lightning reflexes and the ability to pounce on any digression. They're both alchemists of style, unbound by the rules of genre. And each has a way of making virtuosity feel generous, disarming any look-at-me heroics with a spirit of welcome.

    They had never played together before this performance at the 2019 Big Ears Festival. The concert, at Saint John's Cathedral in Knoxville, Tenn., features an equal portion of compositions by Fleck and Castañeda, as well as a flamenco-charged classic by Brazilian composer Jacob do Bandolim. The notes rain in cascades, or flow like rivulets, but always in service of bright communion.

    Copyright 2019 WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center. To see more, visit WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center.

  • Turning The Tables: Celebrating Eight Women Who Invented American Popular Music

    October 2, 2019

    Turning the Tables at Lincoln Center (Image Credit: NPR)

    Whose faces would you put on a musical Mount Rushmore? The question amounts to a facile parlor game, but for the team behind the annual series Turning the Tables – an annual collaboration between NPR Music and Lincoln Center dedicated to recalibrating music history so that underrepresented, overlooked and hidden-in-plain-sight pioneers get their due – it opened up a set of possibilities as wide as a whole mountain range.

    This year, Turning the Tables focused on music's "founding mothers," eight women without whose contributions jazz, blues and myriad other musical styles would be unrecognizable: Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday, Maybelle Carter, Marion Anderson, Ella Fitzgerald, Mary Lou Williams, Celia Cruz and Sister Rosetta Tharpe. Over eight weeks, NPR Music shared essays, videos and reported stories illuminating the rich histories of these women. The season-opening concert produced by Jill Sternheimer and the team at Lincoln Center Out of Doors was itself an historic occasion bringing together three generations of stellar musicians and writers.

    Musical director Terri Lyne Carrington, herself well on the way to legend status via her own compositions and dazzling drumming, assembled a band that navigated from the Appalachian country of the Carter Family to "Guantanamera," the unofficial Cuban anthem and a favorite of salsa pioneer Cruz. The night's mood ranged from down and dirty to sacred and funky to dramatic and somber as some of the best singers working today shared the microphone on some of the finest songs in the American repertoire. Lizz Wright stunned with her meditative version of "Strange Fruit." Rhiannon Giddens got everyone dancing with the gospel roof-raiser "Up Above My Head." Americana's rising star Courtney Marie Andrews shared the program with the venerable jazz pianist Amina Claudine Myers. With something for everything, from Charenée Wade's savvy spin on "Cotton Tail" to Valerie Simpson's no-holds-barred breakdown on Bessie Smith's "Send Me to the 'Lectric Chair," the concert showed that women indeed laid the floorboards upon which we all dance.

    Featured performers: Courtney Marie Andrews, Rhiannon Giddens, Xiomara Laugart, Valerie Simpson, Charenée Wade, Lizz Wright.

    Lea-Lorién Alomar (voice)
    Gerardo Contino (voice)
    Terri Lyne Carrington (drums and bandleader)
    Jeremy Bosch (flute)
    Tanya Darby (trumpet and backing voice)
    Lakecia Benjamin (saxophone and backing voice)
    Edmar Colón (saxophone, piano and backing voice)
    Felicia Collins (guitar)
    Adam Rogers (guitar)
    Jon Cowherd (keyboard and piano)
    Alex Tosca Laugart (piano)
    Ben Williams (bass)
    Crystal Vargas (percussion)

    Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

  • Gregory Porter: Personal Stories For Universal Songs

    September 20, 2019

    Gregory Porter (Image Credit: Jonathan Chimene/Courtesy of Jazz At Lincoln Center)

    The smooth, booming voice of Gregory Porter brought a galvanizing force to jazz when he broke onto the scene about a decade ago. It's a voice of exhortation, flowing out of the gospel church. A voice of dignity, in the mode of his hero, Nat King Cole. A voice of reassurance, whether aiming for the heavens or toward a single soul across the room.

    It's also, crucially, the voice of experience — Porter's own, going back to his childhood in Bakersfield, Calif. For this episode of Jazz Night in America, the two-time Grammy-winning jazz vocalist opens up about that journey in conversation with our host, Christian McBride. We'll hear about Porter's transition from sports to theater to music and about the meaning behind some of his soul-baring songs, like "Don't Lose Your Steam."

    We'll hear that song and others in performance as Porter and his band electrify a crowd at the 2019 St. Lucia Jazz Festival, produced in collaboration with Jazz at Lincoln Center.


    Gregory Porter: vocals; Chip Crawford: piano; Jahmal Nichols: bass; Andre Jay: organ; Emanuel Harrold: drums; Tivon Pennicott: saxophone


    Host: Christian McBride; Producers: Trevor Smith with Alex Ariff; Senior Producer: Katie Simon; Recording Engineer: Cory Carson; Technical Director: David Tallacksen; Executive Producers: Amy Niles, Gabrielle Armand, Anya Grundmann; Senior Director of NPR Music: Lauren Onkey; Production Assistant: Sarah Kerson; Project Manager: Suraya Mohamed

    Copyright 2019 WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center. To see more, visit WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center.

  • A Toast To The Montreal International Jazz Festival At 40: Jazz, Blues & Much More

    September 12, 2019

    Aerial view of the Festival International de Jazz de Montreal. (Image Credit: © Victor Diaz Lamich/Courtesy of Festival International de Jazz de Montreal)

    The city of Montréal in the Canadian province of Quebec is known for a number of things: Great bagels, a thriving art scene, a certain je ne sais quoi. It's also home to the largest jazz festival in the world, the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal, which just celebrated its 40th anniversary.

    For this episode of Jazz Night in America, we'll pay a visit to the festival with its co-founder and legendary artistic director, André Ménard. Since the beginning, Ménard wanted an international festival that presents jazz as a constantly evolving artform, with many branches and styles. A place where he could present not only the best of jazz but also, say, Argentinian tango master Astor Piazzolla, and American blues giants like Muddy Waters.

    Join us as Ménard shares some of his favorite festival memories from the last four decades, including guitarist Pat Metheny's performance for an outdoor crowd of 100,000, Diana Krall's springboard to jazz-vocal stardom and unforgettable concerts by legends like Ella Fitzgerald, Dave Brubeck and Oscar Peterson.

    Set List

    • Ella Fitzgerald, "They Can't Take That Away From Me"
    • Oscar Peterson, "Cakewalk"
    • Oscar Peterson, "Bach's Blues"
    • Pat Metheny, "Are You Going With Me"
    • Dave Brubeck, "Tritonis"
    • Dee Dee Bridgewater, "Lonely Woman"
    • Diana Krall, "Dream a Little Dream of Me"
    • Christian McBride Quartet, "McThing"


    Producer: Sarah Geledi; Senior Producer: Katie Simon; Executive Producers: Amy Niles, Gabrielle Armand, Anya Grundmann; Senior Director of NPR Music: Lauren Onkey; Production Assistant: Sarah Kerson; Project Manager: Suraya Mohamed. Special thanks to Kelly Peterson, Philippe Chayer and Simon Rentner. Excerpts from the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal, L'Equipe Spectra Inc.

    Copyright 2019 WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center. To see more, visit WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center.

  • Electric Miles: Behind The 'Brew'

    August 15, 2019

    Miles and Betty Davis in color in Miles' New York westside brownstone, 1969 (Image Credit: Baron Wolman)

    Electric Miles. Few word pairings in the jazz lexicon are apt to inspire so much contention and challenge and ferment. What the phrase refers to, of course, is a period in the career of trumpeter Miles Davis, spanning the last third of his life. And while there are other important antecedents, the big bang of this period is an album recorded 50 years ago by the name of Bitches Brew.

    This episode of Jazz Night in America takes us behind the furious mystique of that album, illuminating the musical and cultural forces Miles was metabolizing at the time. We'll hear from an array of authorities on the subject — notably his second wife, funk heroine and fashion icon Betty Davis, who inspired his outrageous transformation in the Age of Aquarius. ("Whatever I would wear, he would wear," says Betty with a laugh, in this rare, can't-miss interview.)

    Among the other essential voices in the show is electric bassist Marcus Miller, who served as musical director and record producer for a later edition of Davis' band. We'll hear highlights from an Electric Miles concert that Miller put together for Jazz at Lincoln Center — featuring not one but two blazing trumpeters, Russell Gunn and Marquis Hill, along with stone killers like guitarist Vernon Reid.

    "When you create music," Miller asserts, "your primary responsibility is to reflect the times that you live in." That's one of many explanations for the current that flows through Electric Miles — and the charge that it can still deliver.

    Set List

    • "Directions" (Joe Zawinul)
    • "Bitches Brew" (Miles Davis)
    • "Spanish Key" (Miles Davis)
    • "Black Satin" interlude (Miles Davis)
    • "Tutu" (Marcus Miller)


    Marcus Miller – Music Director, Bandleader, Bass Guitar, Bass Clarinet ; Brett Williams – Keyboards; Alex Han – Saxophone; Marquis Hill – Trumpet; Russell Gunn – Trumpet; Vernon Reid – Guitar; Alex Bailey – Drums; Mino Cinelu – Percussion.


    Host: Christian McBride; Producers: Sarah Geledi with Trevor Smith; Editor: Alex Ariff; Senior Producer: Katie Simon; Recording Engineer: Rob Macomber; Executive Producers: Amy Niles, Gabrielle Armand, Anya Grundman; Senior Director of NPR Music: Lauren Onkey; Production Assistant: Sarah Kerson; Project Manager: Suraya Mohamed

    Copyright 2019 WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center. To see more, visit WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center.