Jazz News

Lorraine Desmarais On Piano Jazz

Jan 5, 2018

Lorraine Desmarais made her first appearance in the United States at the 1986 Great American Jazz Competition, where she took the highest honors. In 2012 she was awarded the prestigious Order of Canada for her work bringing Canadian jazz to the world. She was Marian McPartland's guest for this 1991 episode of Piano Jazz. Desmarais performs a few of her own compositions, including "The Third King" and "Memoir," along with a set of standards.

Every year, each of the eight members of the SFJAZZ Collective is tasked with two writing assignments. The first: Compose a new piece specifically for the band, which gathers some of the most outstanding performers on the modern jazz scene. The second: Rearrange a composition by the elder artist that the Collective has chosen to feature that year. For the 2014-15 season, SFJAZZ is paying tribute to a tenor saxophone titan, a composer of classic tunes and a long-time San Francisco resident: the late Joe Henderson.

The Hammond electronic organ was developed with churches in mind, as a lower-cost alternative to pipe organs. But in Philadelphia, a keyboard player named Jimmy Smith was inspired by early jazz experiments on the instrument, and found a devastating way to adapt the new bebop style to the Hammond B-3. It seeded a new tradition of organ players in Philadelphia — major figures like "Groove" Holmes, Jimmy McGriff, Papa John and Joey DeFrancesco, and Trudy Pitts — and kickstarted a new sound in jazz at large.

It's not as if there were ever clear paths for cello players beyond the European classical tradition, but Akua Dixon made one for herself. The New York City native found work in the pit band of the Apollo Theater, the multi-racial Symphony of the New World, and the bands of many jazz musicians — including drummer Max Roach's Double Quartet. As she developed her jazz chops, she also started her own string quartet, featured prominently on her new self-titled album. Akua Dixon also features her crafty arranging for strings over jazz standards and Afro-Latin grooves.

For decades, David Murray was known as one of New York's most monstrously talented and astoundingly prolific artists — a tenor saxophonist who played and wrote for just about every imaginable context. He's still these things, but he lives in Europe now. So this year's Winter Jazzfest — already jam-packed with over 100 acts in two nights — saw fit to give New York audiences a proper saturation of what they'd been missing, presenting David Murray in three completely different sets.

Toast Of The Nation 2018

Dec 31, 2017

NPR's New Year's Eve tradition returns in this year's Toast of the Nation jazz party. Spirited and swinging, each hour of our annual all-night broadcast features a different live performance sure to get you ready for 2018.

Right now, you can enjoy all six hours of music any time of day or night — complete with festive Happy New Year messages throughout. Hosted by Christian McBride, it's the perfect complement to your holiday festivities.

Wayne Shorter didn't release any new music in 2017. But that's not to say the eminent saxophonist, composer and NEA Jazz Master had anything less than a banner year. In the spring he returned to Newark, for the first time in ages, as the honored guest of a festival at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center.

Every year around this time, the jazz community takes the measure of its highlights and bright moments — along with a tally of its losses. And while it's true that important jazz artists leave us every year, 2017 was tougher than most.

This was an excellent year for jazz on record, across every possible iteration of style. (If you're seeking evidence for the claim, consult the 2017 NPR Music Jazz Critics Poll.) But it's always worth pointing out that albums only tell part of the story, which often assumes different dimensions at street level, where the music pulses in real time.

The 2017 NPR Music Jazz Critics Poll

Dec 20, 2017

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