Jazz

This Saturday, April 30, marks the fifth anniversary of International Jazz Day, a celebration organized by UNESCO to celebrate jazz across the globe. To do our part, we're highlighting some of our favorite jazz musicians to play behind Bob Boilen's desk. Rising stars, young virtuosos, NEA Jazz Masters and veteran ensembles alike have played in NPR's D.C. offices. Here are five standout jazz performances at the Tiny Desk.

Preservation Hall Jazz Band

Sony Pictures Classics

"Don't play what's there.  Play what's not there." -Miles Davis

Taking the iconic trumpeter's advice to heart, writer/producer/director/lead actor Don Cheadle begins the film "Miles Ahead" with what (or who) wasn't there:  Miles Davis from late 1975 through 1980, his "lost" or "silent" years.

It's 9:30 on a Thursday night and Chinese and foreign jazz fans descend on the JZ Club in Shanghai's former French Concession. Glasses clink and the splashing sound of cymbals ripple through a cabaret setting bathed in soft red light.

Andrew Field, an American historian, says clubs like JZ represent a return to Shanghai's cosmopolitan past.

Jazz Northwest features music and musicians not only from the Seattle-Tacoma area, but also from Portland Oregon to Victoria and Vancouver BC.  This week's show (Sunday, 2 PM Pacific on 88.5 KPLU and kplu.org) includes Vancouver BC saxophonist Cory Woeeds from the 100th release of the Cellar Live label.  Cory started the label in 2001 and it has been the source of much good music from BC.

Buddy Guy — 2014 Born to Play Guitar RCA  

You don’t have to read a book to learn the story of Buddy Guy’s life; it’s all here on this album. Back in 2008, Buddy Guy started collaborating with Nashville songwriter and producer Tom Hambridge, and four albums later that partnership is still flourishing, with a unique combination of Nashville songwriting sensibility and Buddy’s hard-core electric blues. At age 79, Buddy hasn’t exactly mellowed with age—he’s still a wild genius guitarist; his voice remains inviting and he tells his stories with utmost believability. He’s certainly on the short list of all-time greatest blues players, and this is my favorite blues release of the year.

Parker Miles Blohm / KPLU

It’s not every day that you come across a jazz trio consisting of a saxophonist, a bassist and a vocalist.  But that’s what we have with Anton Schwartz (sax), Chuck Deardorf (bass) and Inga Swearingen (vocals).  When this interesting configuration of musicians came to KPLU for a live studio session, we knew we were going to hear something new.  And indeed we did.

Parker Miles Blohm / KPLU

Guitarist Lee Ritenour has been playing with pianist Dave Grusin on and off since he was a teenager in the 70s, Dave plays on much of Lee’s new album A Twist Of Rit, but they haven’t played much in a duet setting.

Parker Miles Blohm

Tenor saxophonist, Kareem Kandi, has been a lynchpin of northwest jazz for 20 years, and when it comes to be-bop, he’s the real deal.  His classic tone (think Dexter Gordon and Pete Christlieb) and straight-ahead approach lays the music on the line.  Kareem plays with different groups in different instrumental configurations but when he came in for his first KPLU studio session, it was just Kareem on tenor sax, DeVonne Lewis on drums and Delvon Lamarr tearin’ it up on the Hammond B-3 organ.  Want a be-bop smack-down?  Here it is.

Something about late Summer encourages reminiscence and as we planned this show, that seemed to emerge as a theme.  Included are a couple of songs from the 60s, "Wichita Lineman" and "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right" in new versions by Marc Seales and Alex Guilbert.   Wayne Horvitz' new CD "Some Places are Forever Afternoon" was inspired by the NW poet Richard Hugo (1923-1982).  Wayne Horvitz visited some of the places and people that inspired Hugo as he composed this music that balances between nostalgia and the future, chamber music and improvisation.

In 2003, Seattle jazz singer, Stephanie Porter released her debut CD, Mood Swings.  The CD presented Stephanie’s unmistakable voice, singing a selection of excellent songs from The Great American Songbook (like, Cheek To Cheek, Get Out Of Town and Misty). Her second CD, How Deep Is The Ocean, released in 2010, showed the world that she had grown tremendously as a singer and, here again, the songs on the disc were wonderfully-done standards.

The first in a series of radio shows from the 41st Jazz Port Townsend airs Sunday, August 16 at 2 PM Pacific.  An all-star sextet drawn from the faculty of the Jazz Workshop opens the festival on the first of three nights of "Jazz In The Clubs" in several small venues in downtown Port Townsend.  After a week of sharing their knowledge with students, they’re ready to swing with their peers. In this group, we’ll hear musicians from New York and LA, Seattle and Portland... Terell Stafford on trumpet, Steve Wilson on alto, Eric Reed is the pianist, Dan Balmer on guitar, Chuck Deardorf is on bass, Matt Wilson is at the drums.  They play both standards and jazz classics, but in some non-standard arrangements.  

Alto saxophonist Lou Donaldson is an innovator.

He teamed up with trumpeter Clifford Brown and pianist Horace Silver to develop hard bop in the early '50s, featured brilliantly on drummer Art Blakey’s classic live album “A Night At Birdland.”

In the 6'0s, he helped create soul jazz with a number of hit records using a Hammond organ backing, including his biggest hit, “Alligator Boogaloo.”

Now at age 88, Donaldson brought the house down at this year’s Portland Jazz Festival, and took the time to talk with me about his long and successful career.

Photo by John Ulman

Frank Boyd admits he is neither a jazzhead nor a jazznerd. He’s a newcomer to appreciating the music — music that he says has a public perception problem.

Kelly O

Ahamefule J. Oluo was not doing well. After seven years of marriage, he was divorced, a single father and living in a basement apartment. He had a day job he hated. And though his night job of trying to make it as a musician and as a stand-up comedian was much better, all the juggling was wearing him down.

Justin Steyer

    

The group Omaha Diner is made up of four of the most gifted and adventurous musicians in jazz: drummer Bobby Previte, trumpeter Steven Bernstein, guitarist Charlie Hunter and saxophonist, Skerik.  

Along with the almost scary level of talent, the other thing that makes Omaha Diner unique is their musical repertoire.  They won’t even think about playing a song unless it has reached #1 on the Billboard Pop Music chart.

That’s right, Omaha Diner is a jazz band that plays only pop music. But boy, do they turn that pop music inside out.  

Jason Marsalis Vibes Quartet Live Studio Session

Nov 13, 2014
Justin Steyer / KPLU

The Marsalis family is The First Family Of Jazz with father Ellis and sons Branford, Wynton, Delfeayo and Jason. Jason, the youngest brother, has been making great music for years as a jazz drummer.  

Recently, though, he broadened his percussion palette by mastering the vibraphone. We were pleased to host the newly-minted Jason Marsalis Vibes Quartet in the KPLU Performance Studio. The band played three original compositions. In between songs, Jason and KPLU’s Abe Beeson talked about Jason’s love for the vibes and the new projects the band is working on.  

Aaron Hushagen

Note: Each month, KPLU invites a teen guest DJ to play his or her favorite pieces on the air. The program is part of KPLU's School of Jazz.

North Thurston High junior Eli Moffatt is KPLU's guest DJ for the month of November. To get to know him better, we asked 16-year-old Eli to answer a few questions about jazz:

Justin Steyer / KPLU

Although actor/singer/guitarist Tom Wopat is best known for his role as Luke Duke in the long-running television series "The Dukes Of Hazzard," his best artistic work was still ahead of him when that series ended.

Instead of seeking more television work, Wopat pursued his first love, music. He has recorded 10 albums in a variety of genres, and has performed in several Broadway musicals including "Annie Get Your Gun" with Bernadette Peters.

Wopat is currently touring with his jazz group, and we were very pleased that he could make time to visit the KPLU Performance Studio. All he brought with him was a guitar, his fine voice and some good stories.

Justin Steyer / KPLU

One of Seattle's most sought-after bands, Industrial Revelation, performed live in the KPLU studios hosted by Abe Beeson.

Track List:

  • End Of Courtesy
  • Old Man Soul
  • Ingathering

Justin Steyer / KPLU

Jon Cleary has the rare ability to transcend his geographical background. As you will learn in his interview with All Blues host, John Kessler, Cleary grew up in England and was exposed to the New Orleans sound by his uncle at a young age. 

Cleary saved up enough money to visit New Orleans, planning to stay a few weeks, but 33 years later he is still there and has become one of the city's best known musicians. 

Justin Steyer / KPLU

We were thrilled to welcome back this week singer/saxophonist Curtis Stigers. 

The last time Curtis visited the KPLU Performance Studio, he had just released his ‘break up’ CD.  Well, time heals all wounds and this time around he touring with his ‘happy’ CD—Hooray For Love.  

Jim Levitt

Trombonist Wycliffe Gordon & Friends' Jazz Port Townsend concert aired on Jazz Northwest on 88.5 KPLU. The popular and critically acclaimed brass player (he plays several brass instruments) was recently named top trombonist by the DownBeat Critics Poll for the third year in a row and top trombonist by the Jazz Journalists Association. 

Daniel Sheehan

Pianist Bill Anschell is a Seattle native, though he's lived and toured around the US and internationally. Returning to Seattle to live, he quickly established himself as one of the key players through his own trio, accompanying singers and his regular appearance with Floyd Standifer at The New Orleans during the trumpet player's last years.

Justin Steyer / KPLU

We were very excited to welcome back singer/songwriter, Sara Gazarek, a graduate from the Roosevelt High School jazz program who has since made a home in the L.A. jazz scene. 

Sara stopped by the KPLU Seattle studios for this interview and performance while in town at Jazz Alley with Band members Josh Nelson (piano), Hamilton Price (bass), Zach Harmon (drums) and Larry Koonse (guitar).

Lesley Bohm

Jazz Northwest offers a preview of Centrum's Jazz Port Townsend. Jazz Port Townsend is Washington State's longest running jazz festival, and regularly presents internationally-renown, poll-winning jazz artists on the last weekend of July each Summer. Among the artists who'll be heard on the radio preview and at the festival are NEA Jazz Master Bill Holman who will directed the Festival All Star Big Band in his compositions and arrangements.  Others include sisters Christine and Ingrid Jensen who first attended the festival as students in the jazz workshop, trombone master Wycliffe Gordon, pianist George Cables who will be the subject of a piano tribute, Matt Wilson's Arts & Crafts, the Benny Green Trio, a singer's showcase with Sachal Vasandani, Dena DeRose and Johnaye Kendrick, and more. 

Highlights from the final concert of the season by the Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra is featured on this week's Jazz Northwest

Justin Steyer / KPLU

Though this was not guitarist John Scofield's first stop into the KPLU Seattle studios this time he was joined John Medeski (piano), Billy Martin (drums), and Chris Wood (bass).

As you will hear in this session, the group mixes jazz, funk and modern soul to create what host Abe Beeson called a groovy sound of their own. 

  There are jazz festivals at each end of the Salish Sea this week, from The American Classic Jazz Festival in Lacey to the Vancouver International Jazz Festival. 

There's also jazz in the Seattle area ranging from the ambitious Alchemy Project premiering original music by Sumi Tonooka, Erica Lindsay, Salim Washington, David Arend and Samantha Boshnack with Max Wood and Willem De Koch, playing at The Royal Room Sunday. 

Justin Kauflin: A Pianist And His Mentor

Jun 26, 2014
Aaron Hushagen / KPLU

Justin Kauflin is a 23-year-old jazz pianist who is also one of the subjects of a new documentary film called Keep On Keepin’ On.

The other subject of the film is Justin’s musical and spiritual mentor, jazz trumpet legend, Clark Terry. Kauflin has been a musician since childhood. He’s also been blind since age 11. The film deals with Justin’s apprenticeship and friendship with the 93-year-old Terry.

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