Jazz and Blues

News about jazz, blues, Studio Sessions, and music samplings from jazz artists in the northwest and around the world.


Bessie Smith started out as a street musician in Chattanooga.  She was mentored in traveling shows and vaudeville by Ma Rainey.

By the early 1920s she was one of the most popular Blues singers in vaudeville.

Lonnie Johnson was one of the first American guitar masters, with a style that bridged jazz and blues, as well as country styles. Though often labeled as a “blues” player, he was versatile and accomplished enough to be a guest artist with Louis Armstong’s Hot Five in 1927, and with Duke Ellington in 1928.

Among his many contributions, he is considered the first to play single-string guitar solos and was a major influence on jazz guitar pioneers Charlie Christian and Django Reinhardt. He recorded “Somebody’s Got To Go” in 1941.


Pianist, bandleader, composer and producer Herbie Hancock has had a career that's lasted five decades and garnered 14 Grammy® Awards.

(Credit: Alejandro Perez/HiRes)

Ry Cooder called him a "guitar wizard."

Jon Pareles of The New York Times wrote in 2003:  “Mr. Galbán was one of the wonders of Cuban music in the 1960s.  His playing pulled together two almost contradictory approaches: the floating reverb of surf guitar and the percussive, snapping sound of the tres, the small guitar that’s a fulcrum between rhythm and melody in Cuban son groups.”

The 12th official Jazz Appreciation Month began when April did. But today, the Smithsonian Museum of American History, which founded the JAM campaign, kick started its own celebration with a series of performances, discussions and ceremonies.


The incredibly talented organist Joey DeFrancesco comes from a musical family, brought up in the rich Philadelphia jazz scene: his grandfather played reeds, his dad Papa John DeFrancesco is a fine jazz organist.  Joey went to jazz clubs with his father and learned the piano and the B-3, and by age 6, he was sitting in on his father's gigs.

Ron Hudson

Singer, composer, pianist, and actress Carmen McRae was considered one of the most influential jazz vocalists of the 20th century. 

Willie Dixon didn’t make his career writing songs about people who behaved themselves, and “Back Door Man” is no exception — it’s about a guy who cheats and then brags about it.

Songs like this were well suited to the larger-than-life Howlin’ Wolf, who was already a well-established, middle-aged bluesman when he recorded it in 1961.

Francis Wolff / Mosiac Records

His unmistakable big warm sound was based in the blues, and he polished it on the road as a 17 year-old addition to bluesman Lowell Fulson's band in the early 1950s.  That band also included Ray Charles.


Paulinho da Costa was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brasil, and like many master percussionists, started exploring rhythms at a very early age.

Playing over two hundred percussion instruments, he has participated in thousands of recording sessions, Grammy Award-winning albums, hit songs, movie soundtracks, radio and television commercials.  He's collaborated with everyone from Dizzy Gillespie and Quincy Jones to Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie.

© Jack Vartoogian/FrontRowPhotos

One of the most popular jazz and blues organists, Jimmy McGriff was born in Philadelphia, a city which was known for its many great Hammond B-3 players:   Jimmy Smith, Trudy Pitts and Charles Earland, to name just a few.


Jazz April has begun! 

Many influential jazz musicians were born in this month, and we'll be celebrating both the legendary and the lesser-known by telling you a little more about their lives and music on their birthdays.

Booker Little was one of a handful of trumpeters born in 1938 (the list includes Lee Morgan and Freddie Hubbard) who were touched by Clifford Brown’s genius and ready to take be-bop to the next level.

Sleepy John Estes was a master of country blues with a “down-home” feeling. A little rough around the edges, but loaded with emotion. Though his music wasn’t complex, his songs have lasted through the years, and have been sung by Led Zeppelin and Bob Dylan.

In his 1935 recording of “Someday Baby Blues”, the guitar is barely heard, the mix dominated by Hammie Nixon’s harmonica and Estes’ plaintive voice.

Celebrate Jazz April!

Mar 29, 2013
Jazz Journalists Association

Jazz April is the combination of Jazz Appreciation Month and the second annual International Jazz Day, April 30, 2013.


Bebo Valdes, Cuban pianist, composer, arranger and bandleader died Friday March 22, 2013.  He was 94.

It’s one of the defining songs of the Blues, written by one of its formative figures, Son House. The opening lyric “Woke up this morning…” would be considered trite today, but its 1930 recording date makes it more iconic than anything.

With its simple but insistent guitar rhythm and mournful lyrics, “Walkin’ Blues” is a virtual blueprint for Delta Blues, and a powerful influence on the development of modern blues.


A protégé of the legendary jazz master Dizzy Gillespie, a founding member of the innovative Cuban group Irakere, a renowned classical musician who performs regularly with symphony orchestras around the world:  trumpeter, pianist and composer Arturo Sandoval returns to Seattle's Jazz Alley this week.

Verve Records

Over the past few years, Take 5’s theme-based music lists have covered a wide variety of subjects. We’ve covered all the seasons of the year, all the holidays, different types of weather, the careers of jazz legends, the cutting-edge work of up-and-coming jazz artists and have gotten into the musical minutiae of things like flowers, birds, baseball, prohibition and civil rights.  And now it’s time for Take 5 to go meta and present a five-song list of songs about….LISTS.  It had to happen sooner or later.

Louis Jordan is one of the pioneers of American music, and an important force in the transition from the Jazz Era to Rock and Roll. He was one of the first to down-size the big band format to a combo of five or six players, pounding out high energy jump, swing and rhythm and blues for dance audiences.

One of the early bands to use electric guitar, he established a musical style that rock originators like Bill Haley followed closely. Louis Jordan’s 1947 recording of “Early in the Morning” is an example of the influence of Afro Cuban rhythms on American music.

Joe Conzo, Jr.

“If it wasn’t for the Puerto Rican community of Spanish Harlem, of the South Bronx, Afro Cuban music would never have survived in this country, and expanded to the heights that it has.”—Bobby Sanabria from the film “From Mambo to Hip Hop”

John Froschauer

KPLU's Midday Jazz Host Dick Stein is one smart cookie. And his ideas aren’t half-baked, either.  

Stein was honored today by the Girl Scouts of Western Washington on the Pacific Lutheran University campus for coming up with a good idea that really stuck.

Like thousands of other Western Washington residents, Stein buys Girl Scout Cookies every year. 

Most blues started in the country before becoming urbanized, and Bukka White brought his brand of Mississippi blues to Chicago in the 1930’s and 40’s.

It is likely that he met and learned from elemental bluesman Charley Patton, and he was known for playing a National steel guitar with a slide. He recorded “Shake ‘Em On Down” in 1937 and established the cutting edge.


The pioneering Cuban jazz band, Irakere, nurtured some of Cuba's leading musicians who went on to gain international fame.

Time is on their side: Ageless jazz drumming

Mar 6, 2013

I've been listening to two very good new albums led by drummers. After learning that both men are in their early 70s, I can't help but wonder how I process that fact in what I hear.

"Killer" Ray Appleton (b. 1941) and Barry Altschul (b. 1943) practice different styles. But they both came of musical age in the hard-bop era, spent many years living in Europe and eventually returned to New York. In other words, they've each got a lot of experience.

Little Walter made a harmonica sound like nothing that had been heard before – somewhere between a saxophone and an electric guitar. By the early 1950’s he not only used amplification, he used the amp to creatively alter his sound with distortion and sonic effects.

You might say he was the Jimi Hendrix of the harmonica. One song in particular has rolled through history: 'Mellow Down Easy.'


William Correa was born to Puerto Rican parents in Brooklyn, and was raised surrounded by music in El Barrio.  At 14 he began learning to play bongos, later graduating to conga, timbales and trap drums.  

It’s another one of those mysteries — who actually wrote “One Way Out”?

Elmore James recorded it in 1961, but didn’t release it until ’65. Sonny Boy Williamson released a version in 1961 and 1965 and G.L. Crockett had a 1965 hit with the same song under a different name.

Daniel Sheehan

Seattle is home to a number of very talented musicians whose focus is Latin Jazz.  Here are three bands well worth searching for in the clubs and concert halls of the Emerald City:


Three Seattle-area high school jazz bands have been selected from nearly 100 schools across the country to compete in this year’s prestigious Essentially Ellington Competition in New York City.

Jazz bands from Garfield and Roosevelt in Seattle as well as Edmonds-Woodway were the only three high schools selected from a region that includes 11 states and several Canadian provinces.

Can you learn to like music you hate?

Feb 19, 2013

You hear some music you hate. That's fair. We all do on occasion. But can you learn to love — or at least not loathe — that music? Can you intentionally transform the visceral response you have to certain pieces and styles, or does that happen at some more incalculable, subtle level?

Researchers at Australia's University of Melbourne say that the more dissonance (which they describe as "perceived roughness, harshness, unpleasantness, or difficulty in listening to the sound") that we hear in music, the less we enjoy said music. Seems obvious enough, right?