Jazz News

Willie Pickens On Piano Jazz

Apr 20, 2018

Piano Jazz remembers Willie Pickens (April 18, 1931 – Dec. 12, 2017), who passed away at the age of 86. A master of digital speed and harmonic sophistication, the Chicago pianist was McPartland's guest for this 1997 program.

Recorded live at the Manchester Craftsmen's Guild in Pittsburgh, the set kicks off with an improvised boogie-woogie that shows why Pickens' contemporaries revered him as "one of the foremost piano players in jazz."

Cleo Brown On Piano Jazz

Apr 13, 2018

Pianist and vocalist Cleo Brown (1909 – 1995) was one of the early innovators of the boogie-woogie style and the first female instrumentalist to be named an NEA Jazz Master. She retired from performing in the 1950s and focused her attention on religious music, bringing her gifted voice and strong left hand to gospel tunes.

Nicholas Payton On Piano Jazz

Apr 6, 2018

Trumpeter Nicholas Payton has been hailed as one of the greatest musicians of his generation. A native of New Orleans, Payton learned the art of improvisation from Wynton Marsalis and as a teen performed with the late trumpet master Clark Terry.

Cecil Taylor, whose stunning and bravely unorthodox piano language made him one of the most important postwar American avant-gardists in any artistic medium, leaves more than a legacy of musical provocation after his death yesterday evening.

Cecil Taylor encompasses a never-ending range of sound and emotion. On his way to the Piano Jazz studio in 1994, the avant-garde jazz pianist and his cab driver discovered that they went to the same high school, opening up a whirlwind of small worlds, and inspiring the improvised piece that opens this episode.

There is no one universe for Ben LaMar Gay, he just sonic booms from one sound to another. His solo debut, Downtown Castles Can Never Block the Sun, is really a patch-work of seven albums, recorded over seven years but never released. It moves from fuzz-caked weirdo-psych to mutant synth-funk to giddy electronics to progressive jazz at a seamless, whiplash-free warp speed.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify or Apple Music playlist at the bottom of the page.

Gil Goldstein On Piano Jazz

Mar 30, 2018

Composer and arranger Gil Goldstein came to the piano by way of the accordion, which he has rediscovered and added to the jazz lexicon. Collaborations with Jaco Pastorius and Bill Evans fostered his career and led to work with David Sanborn, Michael Franks and Al Jarreau.

Maybe you became aware of Jazzmeia Horn five years ago, when she took first prize at the Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition. Maybe you got hip when her debut album, A Social Call, was released last year. Maybe you caught her turn on the most recent Grammy Premiere Ceremony, when she knocked a scat chorus into the stratosphere.

When Johann Sebastian Bach compiled the first book of the Well-Tempered Clavier in 1722, he wrote that the 24 preludes and fugues were "for the profit and use of musical youth desirous of learning, and especially for the pastime of those already skilled in this study."

Milford Graves and Jason Moran were listening hard at the Big Ears Festival on Friday evening, and in this they were far from alone. Their spontaneous musical dialogue, onstage at the elegant Bijou Theater in Knoxville, Tenn., suggested a merging of the ancient and the ultramodern, aglow with an ephemeral sort of grace. At one point, Moran's deep, mournful sonorities at the piano led Graves toward a murmuring hush at the drums, as if anything else would break the spell.

Earma Thompson On Piano Jazz

Mar 23, 2018

For more than 50 years, Earma Thompson (1923 – 2009) was a constant on the Chicago jazz scene. She was recognized as the reigning queen of Windy City jazz but spent most of her career as a dependable and accomplished side person. At 81, Thompson released her first album as a leader, 2004's Just in Time. The album debuted shortly before her 2005 appearance on Piano Jazz. In this session, Thompson showcases her elegant, bluesy style on "Back at the Chicken Shack" before joining McPartland for "Lullaby of the Leaves."

Since Dizzy Gillespie and Chano Pozo birthed "Manteca" in the '40s just as Cuban musicians like Machito were shaking up New York's jazz scene, Afro-Cuban jazz has continued to entice and fascinate North American musicians into new collaborations and explorations.

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