Jazz and Blues

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


The KPLU Travel Club trip to Cuba was a great success, and the days and nights were filled with music! 

Use the arrows above the picture to flip through the slide show of 15 of my music-related photos from Cuba.


The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) encourages us to acknowlege World Radio Day

"...a day to celebrate radio as a medium; to improve international cooperation between broadcasters; and to encourage major networks and community radio alike to promote access to information and freedom of expression over the airwaves. "

Joel Mann

It’s one of the most iconic songs from New Orleans, and like the city, it’s origin and meaning are a product of may different influences.

Its meaning is still being debated by scholars and linguists, but “Iko Iko” was first recorded in 1953 by James “Sugar Boy” Crawford, who wrote the pop song “Jock-A-Mo” based on 2 different Mardi Gras Indian chants. The Mardi Gras “Indians” are actually African-American groups who have been parading as Indian tribes at Mardi Gras since the mid-19th Century.

Justin Styer / KPLU

Cuban bandleader, composer and arranger Juan de Marcos González is known as the "Quincy Jones of Cuba" and as the architect of the Afro-Cuban All Stars (the foundation for The Buena Vista Social Club), and the founder of another successful Cuban band, Sierra Maestra.

His father was a singer for Arsenio Rodriguez's Orchestra; his uncle was Ruben González, famed pianist for the Buena Vista Social Club.

Juan's mission is the preservation of his rich musical heritage.

Last month more than 4,600 votes were cast by our listeners for the songs they felt were the greatest jazz vocal of all time.

The votes have been counted and the top 50 songs are now available below in our 24/7 stream!

When your grandfather is the greatest living drummer

Feb 6, 2013

The drummer Marcus Gilmore is coming off a major year in his career. In 2012, DownBeat magazine named him its top Rising Star Drummer in its long-running Critics Poll; pianist Vijay Iyer's trio, of which Gilmore is a member, also took the Jazz Album and Jazz Group of the Year categories.

Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup has been called the “father of rock and roll” for writing the song that launched Elvis Presley’s career. His own career had a rough start-- after migrating from Mississippi around 1940, he was living on the Chicago streets, playing for tips.

His unique, though unpolished sound was distinctive enough to land him a record deal, and he had several songs on the mid-40’s r & b charts. Despite the success of his songs, he was never paid fairly for the music he composed and worked as a laborer to support his family.

After a slew of multidisc sets devoted to key points in the career of Miles Davis, you'd think Columbia Records would have unearthed every speck of consequential music by now. But not quite.

This week, Columbia brings out Live in Europe 1969: The Bootleg Series Vol. 2 — a three-CD, one-DVD set devoted to the jazz maverick's "lost" quintet, his touring band from 1969.

In the Western Hemisphere, January is typically the coldest month of the year.  Most of us feel that if we can somehow drag ourselves through January, things will begin to turn around and we’ll be on the road to springtime. 

But January is also typically the month that feels as if it will never end.  So as we slog through the cold rain and snow, awaiting January’s demise, here are five winter blues songs to help get us through:


Latin Jazz artists are well-represented at the new SFJAZZ Center in San Francisco, which had its grand opening this week with an all-star concert, broadcast and video streamed on public radio stations.

Thirty years after presenting its first concerts in San Francisco, the organization SFJAZZ has built a permanent home and performance venue. The SFJAZZ Center, conceived as the first stand-alone building for jazz in the U.S., opens with a star-studded concert tonight, hosted by Bill Cosby. 

Artists include: McCoy Tyner, Chick Corea, Esperanza Spalding, Joshua Redman, Joe Lovano, Bobby Hutcherson, Mary Stallings, John Handy, Pete Escovedo, Eric Reed, and more! 


Thirty years after presenting its first concerts in San Francisco, the organization SFJAZZ has built a permanent home and performance venue. The SFJAZZ Center, conceived as the first stand-alone building for jazz in the U.S., opened with a star-studded concert on Jan. 23.

Listen to the concert. Video will be available in the following days. 


On the day we celebrate the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., let's revisit his thoughts on Jazz and Blues from his address to the 1964 Berlin Jazz Festival:


This native of the South Bronx grew up with jazz and Cuban music simultaneously.  Playing trumpet and conga drums, he came up in the bands of Dizzy Gillespie, Eddie Palmieri and Manny Oquendo. 

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of joining Bob Boilen and Robin Hilton on All Songs Considered as they previewed some of the big upcoming releases of 2013. My pick was No Beginning, No End by the chameleonic vocalist Jose James.

Blind Willie Johnson was a bluesman and a preacher. His lyrics were spiritual, and his music was blues.

Though he only made 30 recordings, his work is a lasting part of the blues legacy. Early players like Son House and Fred McDowell played his tunes, and his influence reached people like Bob Dylan and Led Zeppelin. In 1930 he recorded “The Soul of a Man” accompanied by his wife, Willie B. Harris.

Juan Cruz / eddiepalmierimusic.com

Pianist, composer and bandleader Eddie Palmieri will be one of four National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Masters honored this year on Monday January 14 at Lincoln Center.

We are putting together a list of the 50 Quintessential Jazz Vocals of All Time. 

According to who? Well, according to you!  

This is your chance to cast your vote for the songs you think should be on a 'best-of'' jazz vocals list. Vote for up to three songs, and please include the song title and artist's name. 

After we compile the results, the quintessential 50 will be available for streaming on Jazz24.org and KPLU.org.


"I believe I’ll dust my broom" is an old saying meaning to make a new start.

With that catchy phrase, and a distinctive guitar riff Robert Johnson created an important piece of blues history when he recorded “I Believe I’ll Dust My Broom” in 1936.

Bobby Sanabria

The nominees for Best Latin Jazz Recording for the Grammy Awards in 2013 have been announced, and the winners of the Latin Grammys have already been awarded.

This is the best of the rest, the Latin Jazz that you might have missed this year, and there are some stellar performances here.  With gratitude to Latin Jazz Network and Latin Jazz Corner, let me encourage you to explore some of the lesser-known and newer artists of Latin Jazz.

Henry Thomas is literally a link to an earlier time.

Born in 1874, his music is a patchwork of blues, rags and folk songs. His use of quills, or pan-pipes, is a relic of a nearly vanished African American tradition. Listening to Henry Thomas gives a glimpse of what music might have sounded like before “the blues."


There's nothing quite like a Latin Jazz celebration of any occasion.  It's the ultimate party music!  If you're in Seattle, WA or in Oakland, CA, you can spend New Year's Eve with one of the masters of the Latin groove:

Poncho Sanchez Latin Jazz Band at Jazz Alley, Seattle

Multiple Grammy award winner, and this year's Lifetime Achievement Award recipient from the Latin Grammys, Poncho and his band mix jazz, latin and soul for a tasty and dance-able feast.

What's on KPLU Christmas Day

Dec 24, 2012

We’ll have a full-day of Holiday Jazz and some specials on Christmas Day. Here’s the line-up:

Sonny Boy Williamson’s career had a wide range. He played with Robert Johnson in the 1930’s and with Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page in the 1960’s. His ability to span eras is a testament to the timelessness of his voice and harmonica.

Sonny Boy Williamson recorded “Help Me” in 1963, and it bears a striking similarity to the instrumental “Green Onions," from Booker T and the MGs one year earlier. It is unusual because it uses minor chords, and has a sort of dark and foreboding sound.

Here are the top 10 Blues albums of 2012 according to KPLU's John Kessler, host of "All Blues" and "The Blues Time Machine" and co-host of "Record Bin Roulette".

JOAN OSBORNE:  BRING IT ON HOME,  Saguaro Road Records

A Cuban Christmas

Dec 20, 2012

Christmas Eve is celebrated in Cuba, not Christmas Day.  

It's called Noche Buena, and it includes food, music, dancing and gatherings.

A traditional Cuban Noche Buena feast consists of plenty of roast pig (yes, a whole one), black beans and rice, fried plantains and yucca with garlic.  To wash it all down:  mojitos, cuba libres, or a sidra (sparkling hard cider).  Desserts include rice pudding and rum cake.  I can feel the food coma starting already.

This song emphasizes the “rhythm” in “rhythm & blues."

“Mercy, Mercy” or “Have Mercy” was recorded by Don Covay in 1964. It features 22-year-old Jimi Hendrix on guitar. He’s still a few years away from his own solo career, but his guitar playing is recognizable.

Justin Steyer / KPLU

KPLU’s much-anticipated free holiday concert, featured guest artists, Gypsy-Jazz masters Pearl Django live from Lagerquist Hall in the Mary Baker Russell Music Center on the Pacific Lutheran University campus. 

Pearl Django performed Christmas selections with the University Jazz Ensemble under the direction of Dr. David Deacon-Joyner. The event, hosted by Nick Morrison, can be listened to in its entirety above, and will also re-broadcast on KPLU Christmas Day from 2 p.m. - 3 p.m.

Dani Gurgel

This year's Grammy Awards will see the reinstatement of the Latin Jazz category that was deleted in the recent "consolidation" of ethnic music categories by the Recording Academy.

Nominated for 2013 Best Latin Jazz Album: