Jazz News

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.

Airing on the second Sunday and Wednesday of each month, Piano Excursions celebrates the broadest range of jazz piano, hosted by Jed Distler, the Classical Network's Artist-in-Resident, and host of the 2017 ASCAP Deems Taylor/Virgil Thomson Award winning program Between the Keys.

Beegie Adair On Piano Jazz

Dec 8, 2017

Beegie Adair, the Nashville native with a distinctive flair for the piano, has worked with jazz, pop and country. She's played for movie and TV soundtracks, been in concerts, festivals and clubs, and put in many orchestra appearances.

In this session, we've got Bootsy in the house, baby! Bootsy Collins has a new album, his first in six years, called World Wide Funk. Bootsy grew up in Ohio and turned to the bass as his instrument because his older brother Catfish grabbed the guitar first. The two had a group together, and later became James Brown's backing band, The J.B.'s.

Claudio Roditi On Piano Jazz

Dec 1, 2017

Integrating both post-bop elements and Brazilian rhythmic concepts into his palette with ease, Claudio Roditi plays with power and lyricism. This versatility has kept the trumpeter and flugelhorn player in demand as a leader, studio musician and sideman.

Having made his way from Brazil to the New York jazz scene in the 1970s, he was Marian McPartland's guest for this 1996 Piano Jazz session. With McPartland at the piano, Gary Mazzaroppi on bass and Roditi on his horn, the three dish up "I Remember April" and "Speak Low."

Ellyn Rucker On Piano Jazz

Nov 24, 2017

Ellyn Rucker's light, sensual vocals and smooth, swinging piano produce a wonderfully intriguing mixture. Hailing from Colorado, Rucker broke into the jazz big leagues in the 1980s after she took up her musical career full-time. She remains a staple on the Denver music scene.

Cécile McLorin Salvant has been called "the finest jazz singer to emerge in the last decade."

One way or another, you've heard Grover Washington Jr.'s saxophone. Perhaps on "Mister Magic" or another of his instrumental hits, like "Winelight." Or on "Just the Two of Us," the smash hit featuring Bill Withers.

José James, the eclectic, groove-minded jazz singer, has made no secret of his fondness for Bill Withers. There's a medley that James has been singing in concert for years, linking Withers' despondent anthem "Ain't No Sunshine" with an upturning grace note, "Grandma's Hands."

Ruth Laredo On Piano Jazz

Nov 10, 2017

One of the premier classical pianists of her generation, Ruth Laredo (1937–2005) was known as America's First Lady of the Piano. In partnership with Marian McPartland and Dick Hyman, Laredo produced wildly popular Three Piano Crossover Concerts, exploring the boundaries between classical music and jazz.

Unfathomable. Unimaginable. These are among the words used to describe the recent mass shooting in a rural Texas church, which left more than two dozen parishioners dead, eight of them children. For many of us, the inhuman horror of this act literally defies comprehension. The dimensions of the tragedy are all too familiar for Jimmy Greene.

Teri Thornton On Piano Jazz

Nov 3, 2017

Piano Jazz remembers vocalist and pianist Teri Thornton (1934–2000), who lost her battle with cancer in the year after this 1999 session. Thornton first wowed audiences in 1963 with her hit recording of "Somewhere in the Night" from the television series Naked City. Her comeback to the jazz world was highlighted in 1998 when she won the Thelonious Monk Vocal Competition.

Louis Hayes spent his youth creating the pulse of hard-bop, as a top-shelf drummer with artists like Cannonball Adderley and Horace Silver. He turned 80 this year, marking the occasion with his own Blue Note Records debut as a leader, Serenade for Horace.

Rhythm is the foundation for many a musical experience. Its driving pulse yields a power that quite often demands movement - a toe to tap, a body to sway. But drummer Nate Smith provides more than just a beat. He intentionally weaves nuanced rhythmic counterpoint in and out of his catchy melodies and dulcet harmonies.

Just try to discern the multiple time signatures in the first tune, "Skip Step" Syncopated yet steady, its rhythmic motifs bolster Jon Cowherd's keyboard riff and the song's melodic statement, played in unison by saxophonist Jaleel Shaw and guitarist Jeremy Most.

Miguel Zenón was 12 when he first experienced the devastation of a major hurricane in his homeland, Puerto Rico. That was Hugo, which hit as a Category 3 in 1989, and drove nearly 30,000 residents from their homes.

Makoto Ozone On Piano Jazz

Oct 27, 2017

In 1984, when pianist Makoto Ozone was Marian McPartland's guest for the first time, he had become known as a rising jazz star. In his early 20s, he was already a master technician with many keyboard influences, including Oscar Peterson, but he first heard jazz from his father at home in Kobe, Japan.

Norah Jones didn't have much time to scale up her operation. She was a singer-songwriter of immense talent but intimate affect, accustomed to playing Lower East Side dives and folk cafés, when her debut album, Come Away With Me, became a sleeper smash in 2002. Then came the deluge: major television appearances, enormous stages, armloads of Grammy awards.

This week we present the first episode from the 2017-2018 Pickathon Woods Series. These videos are hand-picked by opbmusic to showcase some of the most exciting performances captured at the Woods Stage during Pickathon, a three-day festival held annually just outside Portland, Ore.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify or Apple Music playlist at the bottom of the page.


What kind of man is Gregory Porter? As it happens, he's already told us himself. "I'm a real good man," he sang in "Real Good Hands," one of a handful of sturdily built original songs from his 2012 album, Be Good. He was extending a suitor's reassurance there, addressing a future father-in-law. But we were invited to listen in and draw our own conclusions.

The music of pianist and composer Abdullah Ibrahim conveys an extraordinary depth in stillness. More than perhaps any other improvising artist, he knows how to turn the solitary act of introspection into a communal experience that's both transporting and immersive.

After Midnight: Thelonious Monk At 100

Oct 10, 2017

Thelonious Monk, the incomparably influential jazz composer and pianist, would have turned 100 today, and across the country a healthy range of commemorative tributes is already underway. But the flagship event that bears his name has quietly been put on hold: the next Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition, which at one point had been scheduled for this week at the Kennedy Center in Washington, will not happen in 2017.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released.

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