Jazz News

A little over 75 years ago, Rita Hayworth and Fred Astaire introduced "I'm Old Fashioned," a graceful, guileless ballad that dismisses the latest trends in favor of timeless romantic verities: the glow of moonlight, the holding of hands, "the starry song that April sings."

Lorraine Desmarais On Piano Jazz

Jan 5, 2018

Lorraine Desmarais made her first appearance in the United States at the 1986 Great American Jazz Competition, where she took the highest honors. In 2012 she was awarded the prestigious Order of Canada for her work bringing Canadian jazz to the world. She was Marian McPartland's guest for this 1991 episode of Piano Jazz. Desmarais performs a few of her own compositions, including "The Third King" and "Memoir," along with a set of standards.

Every year, each of the eight members of the SFJAZZ Collective is tasked with two writing assignments. The first: Compose a new piece specifically for the band, which gathers some of the most outstanding performers on the modern jazz scene. The second: Rearrange a composition by the elder artist that the Collective has chosen to feature that year. For the 2014-15 season, SFJAZZ is paying tribute to a tenor saxophone titan, a composer of classic tunes and a long-time San Francisco resident: the late Joe Henderson.

The Hammond electronic organ was developed with churches in mind, as a lower-cost alternative to pipe organs. But in Philadelphia, a keyboard player named Jimmy Smith was inspired by early jazz experiments on the instrument, and found a devastating way to adapt the new bebop style to the Hammond B-3. It seeded a new tradition of organ players in Philadelphia — major figures like "Groove" Holmes, Jimmy McGriff, Papa John and Joey DeFrancesco, and Trudy Pitts — and kickstarted a new sound in jazz at large.

It's not as if there were ever clear paths for cello players beyond the European classical tradition, but Akua Dixon made one for herself. The New York City native found work in the pit band of the Apollo Theater, the multi-racial Symphony of the New World, and the bands of many jazz musicians — including drummer Max Roach's Double Quartet. As she developed her jazz chops, she also started her own string quartet, featured prominently on her new self-titled album. Akua Dixon also features her crafty arranging for strings over jazz standards and Afro-Latin grooves.

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.

Toast Of The Nation 2018

Dec 31, 2017

NPR's New Year's Eve tradition returns in this year's Toast of the Nation jazz party. Spirited and swinging, each hour of our annual all-night broadcast features a different live performance sure to get you ready for 2018.

Right now, you can enjoy all six hours of music any time of day or night — complete with festive Happy New Year messages throughout. Hosted by Christian McBride, it's the perfect complement to your holiday festivities.

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.

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.

This was an excellent year for jazz on record, across every possible iteration of style. (If you're seeking evidence for the claim, consult the 2017 NPR Music Jazz Critics Poll.) But it's always worth pointing out that albums only tell part of the story, which often assumes different dimensions at street level, where the music pulses in real time.

The 2017 NPR Music Jazz Critics Poll

Dec 20, 2017

A couple of weeks ago, saxophonist Jeff Coffin called up two musician friends. His first question to them was simple: How would you like to make a Christmas album? His next question was a little more pressing: Are you free over the next few days?

In three-quarter profile, half-smiling at the camera over his elaborately tattooed shoulder, New Orleans trumpeter Irvin Mayfield, Jr. appeared on the cover of the April 2015 issue of the venerable Louisiana music monthly Offbeat.

What are the holidays without Charlie Brown?

Nowadays, the quietly elegant and celebratory recordings by pianist Vince Guaraldi have become as much a part of the holidays as the sound of unwrapping presents. And every year we are treated to at least one interpretation of that classic Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack by one of the pianists on NPR's A Jazz Piano Christmas. This year is no exception.

Don Pullen On Piano Jazz

Dec 15, 2017

Pianist Don Pullen (1941–1995) was known for his melodic brilliance, swirling chords and glissandos; his kinetic, cascading piano attack could ignite any band. He gained his first experiences playing African-American church music and R&B, and his career took off when he joined Charles Mingus' band in the 1970s. He went on to form his own quartet with saxophonist George Adams.

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