Jazz and Blues

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

AP Photo

Known as the "First Lady of Jazz" singer Ella Fitzgerald was born April 25, 1917, in Newport News, Virginia.

From rather humble beginnings Fitzgerald and her smooth, silky voice climbed to the top of the jazz world, reports Biography.com. During her long career she worked with greats from Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong to Dizzy Gillespie and Frank Sinatra. In all Ella recorded over 200 albums and around 2,000 songs in her lifetime. She died on June 15, 1996.

Here’s five videos celebrating the great singers career:

Join KPLU for an exciting trip to the 28th TD Victoria International JazzFest, Friday, June 22 through Sunday, June 24. 

JazzFest features musical performances from around the world on 12 stages in the downtown area.  (This year's JazzFest is June 22-July 1.)  We've put together a fun-filled package for two that's specially priced (reflecting a 10% discount) for KPLU listeners!

More information

Because of their skill and versatility, a lot of jazz-trained musicians occasionally find themselves playing wedding gigs. But what happens when jazz musicians themselves get hitched? How do they decide who, among their many musician friends, gets the gig?

The trumpeter Ingrid Jensen is married to drummer Jon Wikan. Weeks before their 2004 wedding, NPR's Weekend Edition interviewed Jensen. Naturally, the subject came up:

Originally, a limited vinyl release by the National Press Club in 1972, one of the last recordings of Louis Armstrong will be available widely for the first time via Smithsonian Folkways Recordings on April 24th as part of the Smithsonian’s celebration of the 11th annual Jazz Appreciation Month.

Armstrong often signed letters “Red Beans and Rice-ly Yours,” which makes for an apt title for the recording especially since his favorite recipes ― everything from Louisiana Caviar to the Sazerac ― are included in the liner notes, as they were in the original pressing.

Read more on Groove Notes.

The Associated Press

Every so often, a barrage of articles and blog posts come out claiming that jazz has found the musician or musicians that are going to “save” jazz. More often than not, these musicians are achieving some current commercial success and popularity among a broad audience outside of the typical “jazz head” community.

But what would it mean to "save jazz"? And, what exactly does it need "saving" from?

Read more on Groove Notes.

As another successful pledge drive ends this season we hope you will continue to enjoy the commercial-free programming on KPLU, especially knowing you did your part to make it happen.

If you missed the pledge drive and would like to support KPLU, you can still be counted through April 9th!

We would also like to thank the various businesses who supported our volunteers and staff during the Spring Pledge Drive

Michael Loccisano / Getty Images

Dick Hyman was born March 8, 1927, in New York City. Classically trained, Hyman was drawn to jazz at an early age. Today, he's a living, breathing, swinging encyclopedia of jazz piano history, from ragtime and stride to bebop and beyond.

To hear my conversation with KPLU's Morning Edition host Kirsten Kendrick, click on the listen button above.

Jazz icon Ella Fitzgerald’s voice is recognized by millions around the world. But few know about her career-defining friendship with Marilyn Monroe, to whom Fitzgerald said she “owe a real debt.”

While touring in the ’50s under the management of Norman Granz, Fitzgerald, like many African-American musicians at the time, faced significant adversity as a result of her race, especially in the Jim Crow states. Granz was a huge proponent of civil rights, and insisted that all of his musicians be treated equally at hotels and venues, regardless of race.

Skerik’s most recent project released this week – Skerik’s Bandalabra: Live at the Royal Room – includes working with Seattle musicians Andy Coe (electric guitar), Evan Flory-Barnes (upright bass), and Donne Lewis (drums).

Skerik explains that it is a change of pace from the rock bands since a lot of the music is created in the moment.

Read more on Groove Notes.

Ray Pettis

Guitarist Peter Bernstein's recent appearance at Egan's in Seattle will be featured on Jazz Northwest on Sunday March 4 at 1 PM Pacific on 88.5 KPLU. Peter has been a part of the jazz scene in New York and abroad since 1989. He has played on over 60 recordings as well as festival, concert and club performances with musicians from all generations. His latest recording as a leader is Live At Smalls featuring Richard Wyands, John Webber, and Jimmy Cobb.

The Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival is back for another year at the University of Idaho in Moscow. Now ten years after the death of its namesake, the festival, like many such celebrations, is challenged by a changing jazz industry.

Read more on Groove Notes.

Jazz at Lincoln Center announced this morning the 15 finalist bands and one winning community band for its prestigious 17th Annual Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Competition & Festival. Among the finalists were three bands from Washington State.

Read more on Groove Notes.

Justin Steyer / KPLU

The Grammy Awards were given out in the jazz categories during the pre-telecast ceremonies on Sunday. Check out the winners and the results of our reader poll.

Read more on Groove Notes.

The Associated Press

When the Grammy Awards revealed last year that they were reducing the number of award categories from 109 down to 78, it didn’t take long for those affected to show their displeasure. And, the passion hasn't died down. This year, members of the Latin jazz community will be protesting the awards ceremony.

Read more on Groove Notes.

For non-playing participants, jam sessions can be difficult musical experiences. As "hangs," or social gatherings, they aren't so bad — sometimes you learn a lot by talking to the musicians there. But the quality of the music itself often varies. It only takes a mediocre performance to sour the mood, and a poor showing can turn you off altogether, especially if you've paid money to see it.

library of congess

Blues evolved from many different sources including spirituals, work songs, and chants. “Rock Island Line” began as a work song, first recorded in 1934 by prisoners at Cummins Farm in Arkansas. The rhythm of physical labor is integral to songs like these.

James Demaria, photographer, filmmaker and soul searcher, became friends with trumpeter Kermit Ruffins about 5 years ago. They decided to try to make a film about Kermit’s musical upbringing in New Orleans’ Treme neighborhood.

The result, "Treme Life," turned into a love letter to New Orleans.

Read more on Groove Notes.

Alison Wise / AP Photo

The "Matriarch of the Blues" has died. Music legend Etta James died at Riverside Community Hospital in California from complications of leukemia. She was 73. In tribute, here are five songs from James.

The "Matriarch of the Blues" has died. Music legend Etta James died Friday morning at Riverside Community Hospital in California of complications from leukemia. She was 73.

She was born Jamesetta Hawkins in Los Angeles in 1938. Her first manager and promoter cut up Jamesetta's name and reversed it: Etta James.

Associated Press

My best effort to summarize trumpeter Nicholas Payton’s post On Why Jazz Isn’t Cool Anymore is that he is saying the word “jazz” is racist, that jazz died in 1959, and “Jazz is a marketing ploy that serves an elite few. The elite make all the money while they tell the true artists it’s cool to be broke.”

Read more on Groove Notes.

We hope you will use these lists to seek out jazz albums you haven’t heard before, or revisit an old favorite. And as always, we want your thoughts on any or all of these albums.

Either way, let’s get started with this week, and in no particular order, albums 821 through 830.

Read more on Groove Notes.

Top 10 blues CDs of 2011

Dec 28, 2011

Here are the top 10 blues CDs of 2011, according to KPLU's John Kessler, Host of “All Blues.”

NPR's links to recent jazz coverage on the internet

Dec 23, 2011

Happy Holidays all. The blog will be active with fresh content early next week, though I will be away. Thanks for reading, and see y'all in 2012.

John Froschauer / PLU

KPLU was pleased to welcome back our special guest from last year, award-winning Northwest jazz vocalist Gail Pettis to the 15th Annual Christmas Jam on December 8. Along with the PLU Jazz Ensemble, under the direction of Dr. David Deacon-Joyner, Pettis performed numerous holiday classics.

Trumpeter, composer, bandleader and jazz educator Clark Terry will be 91 years old this week. His 70-plus year career is being celebrated with a couple of biographical events.

Read more on Groove Notes.

Groove Notes writer and KPLU jazz host Kevin Kniestedt lists the 10 releases that stood out to him over the past year (with an informal ranking).

Read more on Groove Notes.

Randy Brecker Website

The nominations have been released for the 2011 Grammy Awards, and there are some great selections for jazz categories. The winners are named on Feb. 12. Until then, vote on Groove Notes for your favorite.

Vote on Groove Notes.

Justin Steyer / KPLU

I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to sit down in the KPLU performance studio last Friday with jazz legend Chick Corea for an interview and live performance.

One of the topics we covered was how he has remained so versatile over the years.

“I keep a student kind of mentality in my life, so that I am always learning something, and that keeps me fresh,” he said.

Read more on Groove Notes.

Wikimedia Commons

Each week in a new feature on our jazz blog – Groove Notes – we'll tell you about a few of the songs added to KPLU’s "All That Jazz" rotation by our music director Nick Francis.

This week’s picks are three tracks from Sarah Vaughan’s first long-play album “In Hi-Fi.”

Read more on Groove Notes.

Chick Corea's Website

On the heels of a nearly month-long celebration of his 70th birthday at the Blue Note in New York City (which included performances with ten different bands and 30 musicians) legendary jazz pianist Chick Corea will offer a rare opportunity for radio listeners tomorrow afternoon on KPLU.

At 12:15 p.m. Pacific Time Corea will be joining Kevin Kniestedt in the KPLU Seattle performance studio for a live interview and solo piano performance. This is a real treat for us as Corea so rarely offers performances of this type.

Read more on Groove Notes.

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