Wilson is a bandleader dedicated to the infinite possibilities of jazz. Hear a 2006 session.
Assisted by members of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra and Vince Giordano’s Nighthawks, the trumpeter and bandleader offers a celebratory double helping of the early pioneers — and adds an “Auld Lang Syne” for good measure.
The late jazz multi-instrumentalist, a bluesy experimentalist, was known for his soulful, internationally flavored music. He died Monday at 93. For one struggling photographer, he was also close counsel for more than a decade.
The hot and historic band from New Orleans brings us a tuba-wielding Santa and some original holiday cheer and praise — what its members call a Cajun Christmas from the French Quarter. The goal here is simple: to bring you joy.
The Big Phat Band makes its Monterey Jazz Festival debut with “Rhapsody in Blue” and “Hunting Wabbits,” inspired by Carl Stalling’s 1940s scores for Warner Brothers cartoons. The music tumbles all over itself.
American Routes host Nick Spitzer calls in to chat with NPR’s David Greene about a few noteworthy Christmas contributions from some of jazz music’s most revered and beloved artists.
In a year where pop culture looked back at the 1960s, it makes sense that jazz critics lauded the 80-year-old Shorter, who made his first recording in 1959. His latest album displays him as enigmatic as ever — and as committed to finding new sounds.
We asked 136 jazz journalists to pick their favorite albums that came out this year. Out of over 700 nominees, here are their collective top 50 picks, along with top finishers in the Latin jazz, vocal, debut and reissue categories.
You could look at Michele Rosewoman’s New Yor-uba band as reuniting cousins who’ve drifted apart: jazz, and folkloric Cuban music with its own family ties to the slave coast of West Africa.
Cline expertly shifts from one genre to another, with an emphasis on melodic improv and minimalism. Hear the guitarist and composer perform songs from 2009′s Coward in this archived session from the same year.
With a career derailed due to severe hand problems, Amadie found a way to play the music he loved.
Baum’s latest music is inspired by the late Pakistani vocalist Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, one of the most celebrated voices in the world. While Khan died more than 15 years ago, Baum talks about his influence on her new album, In This Life.
NPR’s Melissa Block talks with music critic Tom Moon about three recently released live recordings, all from around 1970, that each capture an artist at a distinct point of change in his career.
Italian pianist Stefano Bollani stretches the limits of imagination with improvisations ranging from quirky to transcendent. Virtuoso technique and a keen harmonic sense bolster Bollani’s improvisations, which are influenced as much by Charlie Parker as Prokofiev and Zappa.
Every year, NPR Music invites some of the world’s best jazz keyboard players to Washington, D.C., for a special performance of holiday tunes. Hear Stanley Cowell, Sullivan Fortner, Michele Rosewoman and Andy Bey play live.
The guitarist, composer and arranger died in his sleep Tuesday at 83. Hall was known for a subtle, lyrical playing style, a gift for innovation and collaborations with a host of talented musicians in a career that stretched more than seven decades. Hear an interview from 1989.
The vocalist mixes funk with electric soul in a live tribute to Jimi Hendrix and James Brown in Chicago. When Dee Alexander launches into the James Brown half of the show, she yells to the crowd, “Everybody down here on the floor. I don’t want to dance by myself!”
Hear public radio stations’ favorite songs of the year — from jazz to indie rock to cutting-edge classical. A wide range of programmers sent NPR Music their Top 10 lists, and we gathered all the tracks into one mighty stream.
“This is it,” Webb said of Fitzgerald. “I have a real singer now. That’s what the public wants.”
The guitarist said he didn’t “really have all that much technique anyway,” but it was clearly enough to influence half a century of jazz musicians. Peers and proteges like Sonny Rollins, Julian Lage and John Scofield reflect on one of the finest ever on his instrument.
One’s seen the world with countless jazz, country and other artists. He’ll be releasing his new album on a new label owned by his big brother and fellow percussionist. The Shreveport, La. siblings talk growing up together and the lessons of gospel master Brady Blade Sr.
Saxophonist Jean Fineberg and drummer Allison Miller join the trumpeter in a 2006 session.
The songs were a byproduct of slavery in the U.S. But after being passed along by generations of African-American musicians, they were later embraced by a variety of improvisers, including Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Grant Green and John Coltrane.
With six concerts spread over eight discs, Wood Flute Songs documents the bassist’s exhaustive and creative live output.
After releasing his fourth album earlier this year, the alto saxophonist premieres a new set of compositions: a suite for jazz octet inspired by A.A. Milne’s poetry for children. He visits his alma mater on Dec. 11 to introduce the music in a live broadcast.
One of the world’s great percussionists leads a band driven by decades-long friendships, emotionally resonant anthems and flying drumsticks. With a new album on the way, the Fellowship reunites in New York for a week. Watch a live webcast on Dec. 10.
In 1986, the iconic jazz pianist experimented with drums, bass and electric guitar in his home studio. Decades later, he’s finally released the tapes. Reviewer Banning Eyre says that on No End, Jarrett seems to cherish rediscovering a side of his younger self.
Jazz bassist and composer Ben Allison looks back on an era when sci-fi sounds began infiltrating popular music, and discusses his new album, The Stars Look Very Different Today.
Host Rachel Martin is joined by pianist Batiste and his band, who hope to make jazz transcend genres and generations, as they play live at NPR’s headquarters.
Hear the former Bill Evans Trio bassist play “Stella by Starlight” with host Marian McPartland.
At the KC Jazz Club, Moran sets up two tunes with pre-produced field recordings and sound montages, including a unique take on Fats Waller’s “Honeysuckle Rose.” Hear Moran’s long-running trio The Bandwagon in a set recorded in Washington, D.C.
A linchpin of “cool” jazz in the 1950s and ’60s, he assembled bands that came to be described as chamber jazz, full of unusual textures and future star talent. Hamilton, who continued performing into his ninth decade, was 92.
Grammy-winning musician Esperanza Spalding is pushing for the closure of the Guantánamo Bay detention center in a new protest music video called “We Are America.” She tells guest host Celeste Headlee why she feels it’s an important cause.
The pianist is a musician for whom creativity is a credo and improvisation a way of life. Transforming brilliant technique into unbridled creativity is not only Werner’s musical mission; it’s also the subject of his popular book, Effortless Mastery. Hear an interview and performance.
The pianist’s first visit to France and the 3,000-seat Salle Pleyel concert hall ended in disaster. Fifteen years later, after he became an international star, Monk returned to the same stage with his own band, planning a surprise.
Singer-songwriter and pianist Anthony Strong, 29, waited until he could create something “authentic” before launching his solo career. Now, he’s mining the classic jazz-pop tradition on his new album, Steppin’ Out.
The jazz multi-instrumentalist and composer embarked on a spiritual journey that spanned years before he was able to complete his new record. In a discussion with NPR’s Arun Rath, Nash talks about starting from square one in educating himself about Hindu philosophy.
Glasper jams with host Marian McPartland on Herbie Hancock’s “Dolphin Dance” in a 2006 session.
The trumpeter composes with jazz and Arabic materials, and mixes instruments from both sides of the world. Marvel at the musical flow — even in non-Western modes and odd, long meters at breakneck speeds — in this set, recorded live at the Newport Jazz Festival.
It’ll take at least three guys to move Larry Goldings’ instrument of choice into a basement jazz club. But it also lets the keyboardist explore all his control freak tendencies. He explains the appeal of the legendary electric organ, a staple of gospel and soul music.
Down-home and majestic, the tenor saxophonist’s sound was like a cane stalk shooting up out of rich earth. His 1960 album The Book Cooks features fellow sax-man Zoot Sims in a friendly square-off.
As a bandleader in the 1960s and ’70s, Smith wrote timeless music — and secured that label during the ’80s and ’90s, when hip-hop producers sampled his work left and right. NPR’s Arun Rath speaks with Smith on the occasion of a new album that revives the out-of-print gems of a six-decade career.
The jazz vibraphone pioneer played with Stan Getz and Chick Corea, was an early adopter of jazz fusion, and became the Dean of Berklee College of Music. He’s now past retirement age, but in a session with guitarist Julian Lage, his flying four-mallet technique hasn’t slowed a bit.
An in-demand singer and pianist, Walesch has earned fans across the Midwest, one jazz club and piano bar at a time. Hear him perform three songs live on stage in Grand Marais, Minn.
Anderson shares his “musical memoir” of growing up in 1960s Chicago with a live version of his Sweet Chicago Suite at the Newport Jazz Festival. His scaled-down Pocket Brass Band aims to sound like a full-sized jazz marching band.
Giordano has been obsessed with 1920s jazz since he first heard it on his grandparents’ Victrola. His band the Nighthawks performs the music heard on the HBO series Boardwalk Empire.
When their busy schedules align, the three jazz sidemen come together as a trio. Their format isn’t earth-shatteringly new — it’s built on classic sonorities in which Hammond B3 organ meets electric guitar — but after nearly 25 years as a band, their rapport is. Watch a live concert.
Alchemy is a step forward in defining and refining the trumpeter’s mix of jazz and Iraqi rhythms.
The pianist and club owner plays Cole Porter’s “So in Love” with host Marian McPartland in 2006.
He had gigs before and enjoyed prominent freelance work afterward. But the mellow saxophone and flute player’s career was kickstarted by spending more than a decade in the front row of Count Basie’s “New Testament” band.
In Nicole Mitchell’s words, “The flute and vibes coming together gives us the visual for Ice Crystal.” Hear the adventurous musician and composer play the Mary Lou Williams Women in Jazz Festival with her quartet.
On this 2007 program, recorded before a live audience at the John F. Kennedy Center, Taylor performs his tunes “In Loving Memory” and “If You Really Are Concerned.”
The pianist loves water and music. Inspired by a trip along the Pacific Northwest, The Coastal Suite spins out as one uninterrupted arc. JazzSet captures the broadcast premiere at the Ibeam in New York.
The jazz legend practiced his saxophone 10 to 15 hours a day before he got his big break, and while he wasn’t the most reliable husband, when it came to music, he never wavered. Scholar Stanley Crouch’s Kansas City Lightning is the first of a two-volume biography of Parker.
The trumpeter and bandleader premiered his gospel-jazz Abyssinian Mass back in 2008. But now, accompanied by a 70-voice choir, he’s taking the sprawling work on the road and into African-American churches — whose services were the inspiration for the piece.
Chicago bassist Matt Ulery writes beautiful music in an unpretentious way. It’s intricate stuff, with interlocking parts and multiple sections, but it comes out sounding folky and simple. His small group, featuring bass clarinet and accordion, has it down pat.
The Broadway and screen actress known for her Tony-winning role in Cats, among many other major productions, has recorded 15 solo albums with another on the way. Along with musical director Kenny Werner, she joined Marian McPartland in 2007 for a session of standards.
Professing love for Bob James’ music can yield a side-eye in some circles, as his 1970s work is seen as a progenitor to smooth jazz. But he certainly knew his way around a catchy melody and an infectious riff — as legions of rap and house producers have discovered through sampling.
Costello joins host Marian McPartland and bassist Gary Mazzaroppi to perform “At Last” and more.
At 27, bandleader Trombone Shorty is already an icon in his hometown. So he’s giving back: Through his own foundation, the “supafunkrock” brass player is nurturing even younger talent in local schools.
The saxophonist, 24, came to the U.S. from Chile with little money and less command of English. But she did have some serious ability at the saxophone, which has now found footing in the New York scene. She visits her alma mater to perform with her international band.
The jazz pianist uses his new record to recall works of yesteryear and simultaneously illustrate his new sense of direction.
Growing up in Chile, Melissa Aldana insisted on playing in clubs and transcribed solos like mad — as her father did before her. Now, at 24, she’s won the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition for young musicians, and her youthful dedication is beginning to pay off.
The multi-instrumentalist joins Marian McPartland for Duke Ellington and Gershwin tunes in 1997.
Talent, dedication, a skill at adapting classical dances to jazz formats — these are some of Sung’s musical and personal qualities that make her one to watch and listen to. Hear a set from the Mary Lou Williams Women in Jazz Festival.
By Abe Beeson and Justin OK, maybe “anarchist” is too harsh a word to apply to singer/songwriter/pianist/ukulele player, Nellie McKay, but as you will hear in this interview, Nellie is a woman of strong beliefs, which she presents pleasantly, politely and often with great wit. But in her conversation and in her songs, her opinions […]
Widely recognized as one of the preeminent interpreters of Antonio Carlos Jobim, Eliane Elias has lately begun exploring the works of Bill Evans. She plays and sings a previously unreleased Evans tune, “Here Is Something for You,” for which she has written a lyric, and host Marian McPartland gives her own Evans tribute on “B Minor Waltz.”
By Abe Beeson and Justin Steyer Forty years ago, a band called Eleventh House helped set the standard for what would become known as Jazz-Rock Fusion. The band consisted of Larry Coryell (guitar), Alphonse Mouzon (drums), Mike Mandel (keyboards), Danny Trifan (bass) and Randy Brecker (trumpet). On this leg of the Eleventh House Reunion […]
Cars make great musical metaphors, and they’ve inspired some famous blues songs like “Cadillac Boogie”, “Maybelline” and “Mustang Sally”. K.C. Douglas came out with “Mercury Boogie” in 1949, a song that would go on to be a widely covered blues standard, known as “Mercury Blues”. Ford purchased the rights to the song for advertising (“Crazy […]
Charley Patton was one of the first to play what we might recognize as Delta blues, putting blues into a strong and syncopated rhythm. A powerful singer with an aggressive guitar style, he was also a masterful entertainer, and one of the best-known traveling performers of his time. His popularity made him influential, and you […]
Eric Clapton called Robert Johnson “the most important blues singer who ever lived”. Saying that Johnson was a superlative guitar player, impassioned singer and masterful lyricist seems barely adequate to convey the importance of the work he accomplished in his 27 years. Many of his songs became not only blues standards but would be a […]
Pianist/singer Marcia Ball is one of the best-known players of Louisiana blues, swamp blues and boogie-woogie. While in town for a show at Jazz Alley, we were lucky enough to have Marcia stop by for a solo performance and interview hosted by All Blues’ John Kessler. You can also find our Studio Sessions available […]
“’Nuff said,” is right. When jazz fans hear the names Monty Alexander, John Clayton and Jeff Hamilton in conjunction, they know they’ll be treated great music, played with inspiration, joy and absolutely amazing technical chops. Monty (piano), John (bass) and Jeff (drums) have performed together off and on for almost 40 years. […]