Archive for January, 2014

Jim Hall On Piano Jazz

Thursday, January 30th, 2014

Widely admired as a gifted and innovative player, jazz guitarist Jim Hall had a career that spanned more than five decades. In a session recorded in 2003, the NEA Jazz Master teamed up with host Marian McPartland and bassist Gary Mazzaroppi for “Blue Monk,” and performed solo in “All the Things You Are.”

Hall was born in 1930 in Cleveland, Ohio. He got his first guitar at age 9, and was gigging professionally by the time he was a teenager. He graduated from the Cleveland Institute of Music in 1955 and moved to Los Angeles, where he studied with classical guitarist Vincente Gomez.

Hall began playing with Chico Hamilton’s quintet shortly after arriving on the West Coast, but it was his three-year stint with the Jimmy Giuffre Three, beginning in 1956, that shaped his lifelong preference for working in duos and trios. From the 1950s through the mid-’60s, he worked with Ben Webster, Ella Fitzgerald, Lee Konitz, Sonny Rollins, Art Farmer, Paul Desmond, Gary Burton, Bob Brookmeyer and Bill Evans.

In 1965, Hall retired from music to fight a personal battle against alcoholism. He returned to professional work shortly thereafter, working in the house band on The Merv Griffin Show. By 1966, he had quit the show and was again working as a full-time jazz musician.

Hall’s creative output over the intervening years continued to emphasize improvisation in duos and trios, as well as challenging arrangements for larger ensembles. He went on to play with Ron Carter, Terry Clarke, George Shearing, Pat Metheny and Itzhak Perlman. His playing influenced generations of players, including John Scofield, Bill Frisell, Nels Cline and Julian Lage. In 2004, he was awarded an NEA Jazz Masters fellowship.

Hall died in his sleep in New York on Dec. 10, 2013. He was 83.

By Grant Jackson
Originally published on

To Preserve ‘America’s Gift To The World,’ A Jazz Elder Becomes A UCLA Professor

Wednesday, January 29th, 2014

Just before 11 o’clock on a crisp Monday night in Hollywood, 82-year-old Kenny Burrell put his Gibson guitar in its velvet-lined case and said goodnight to several members of the Los Angeles Jazz Orchestra Unlimited. He had just finished an intermission-free, two-hour-plus set with the large ensemble, as he has done once a month since the summer. Waiting patiently among the suits and smiles was a 21-year-old guitarist eager to meet his idol. When the room finally cleared, Burrell was amiable and inquisitive, talking to the young fan about music and Michigan, where he grew

Thirty-five years after entering music education, Burrell has never been more involved with young people interested in jazz. He is passionate and a little concerned about preserving the legacy of the musical genre he helped define. So he’s doing everything he can to ensure that his students have the opportunity to share what he calls “America’s gift to the world.”

Fifteen years ago, I was one of those kids waiting outside the green room. I later became one of his students at UCLA, where he told firsthand accounts of interacting with Thelonious Monk and Dizzy Gillespie while also driving small ensembles with a steely strum.

“There are thousands of fine jazz musicians who have no jobs to look forward to,” Burrell says a few days after the concert in his UCLA office. “There is nothing waiting for people who graduate from jazz programs like these schools. There is nothing waiting for them like an L.A. Philharmonic or the New York Philharmonic. No nothing. There are no jobs, and to me that’s a shame.”

From 10 Weeks To Tens Of Millions

Burrell is a rare musician for his generation. While in his early 20s, he acquired a bachelor’s degree in music theory and composition.

“When I was at Wayne State University in the ’50s, it was a problem studying jazz, even talking about it in some cases,” he says. “So I decided if I had a chance, I would teach jazz.”

While waiting for that teaching opportunity, he made himself an essential character in the history textbooks. Burrell made his recording debut in 1951 with Dizzy Gillespie, and has since recorded more than 100 albums under his own name. He also lends his soulful tone to a handful of career-defining Jimmy Smith records, as well as notable LPs by Paul Chambers and Coleman Hawkins. His energy and tone today sound just as assured and unmistakable as they did when he started.

Burrell first became involved in jazz education in 1978, when he taught a 10-week overview of Duke Ellington for UCLA’s Center for African American Studies. When he was first offered the position, Burrell says he wasn’t quite sure how to approach a subject as broad as jazz.

“I had to figure out in my mind what would be the most effective thing I could teach for one quarter,” he says. “Both logically and spiritually, the name Ellington rose to the top, because much of the history of jazz was in his hands.”

In 1996, his success with the Ellingtonia course and an expanding academic interest in the art form encouraged UCLA to offer a jazz studies degree. Burrell was the logical choice to head the program; he enlisted fellow storied musicians like bandleader Gerald Wilson, saxophonist Harold Land and drummer Billy Higgins to help teach ensembles and history classes.

“Kenny started the jazz studies program while I was there, so there were a lot of exciting things happening at that time,” trombonist and former student Alan Ferber says. “He always had such a joyful spirit and an elegance with the way he carried himself around campus.

Nearly 20 years later, the program has expanded considerably, thanks to the music-industry heavyweights who live in the surrounding hills. Trumpeter Herb Alpert donated $30 million to UCLA’s varied music programs, music executive Mo Ostin donated $10 million to help build a much-needed expansion of the music building, and the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz moved in last year, bringing musicians like Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter to the linoleum hallways.

Of the more than 28,000 undergraduate students at the school, only 35 are jazz majors. But the list of alumni includes not only Ferber, but also saxophonist Kamasi Washington, trombonist Isaac Smith and vocalist Gretchen Parlato.

“[Burrell] is inspiring, warm, very passionate about keeping the jazz tradition alive and well,” Parlato says. “I remember, sometime leading up to graduation, he sat me down in a talk of encouragement and preparation. He looked me in the eyes and said, ‘You’ve got it.’ That meant the world to me.”

A Big Band In Every City

Clearly, not every graduate can be a headliner, and Burrell says he owes all of his students more than just a handshake and a diploma. That led to the Los Angeles Jazz Orchestra Unlimited, Burrell’s unofficial post-graduate opportunity for his students as well as the broader Los Angeles jazz scene. It’s a swinging large ensemble dedicated to classic jazz repertoire and the writing and arranging of band members.

The Los Angeles Jazz Orchestra Unlimited is not a part of the UCLA jazz studies curriculum, but it does include UCLA staff (trumpeter Bobby Rodriguez, saxophonists Charles Owens and Justo Almario) and graduates (saxophonist Hitomi Oba, trombonist Nick DiPinna) who get plenty of opportunities to solo and earn a regular paycheck.

“What I’m doing there is an orchestra born out of need, out of necessity,” Burrell says. “One of the things that prompted me to start this organization is what we were just talking about — better, proper and more accurate recognition of the importance of this music by the community, by the powers that be, by the culture guardians.”

Burrell says he hopes to expand his concept of resident jazz orchestras to cities across the U.S., hopefully underwritten by cultural organizations and corporations in much the same way symphony orchestras survive. The potential is rich, but it hasn’t proven particularly easy to enact. Nonetheless, at a time when most people are enjoying retirement, Burrell lends his celebrity, his time and his guitar to make his dream happen.

“This is not Kenny Burrell’s big band,” he says. “This is for Los Angeles. That’s what this is about. I welcome all the help I can get. I just want to see it happen. It’s good not only for the musicians and the people, but the history of the music. If we don’t do something, it’s going to slowly disintegrate.”

By Sean J. O’Connell
Originally published on

Patrick Cornelius At Berklee College Of Music

Wednesday, January 29th, 2014

Inspired by A.A. Milne’s 1924 book of poetry, When We Were Very Young, Cornelius presents a composition commissioned by Chamber Music America. It features Bill Evans-like voicings and Ellingtonian ideas.

While growing up in San Antonio, Patrick Cornelius listened to JazzSet on KRTU. Off the air, he taped the Carnegie Hall Jazz Band playing Lalo Schifrin’s Gillespiana in the 1990s and more. Cornelius went on to complete degrees and diplomas from Berklee College of Music, the Manhattan School of Music and The Juilliard School.

In 2012, Cornelius won a New Jazz Works: Commissioning and Ensemble grant from Chamber Music America, and this episode of JazzSet features the composition for which he applied for support, titled While We’re Still Young.

WBGO’s The Checkout: Live is at Berklee College of Music’s Café 939 in Boston for the premiere performance, broadcast and webcast. Onstage, four horns — trumpet, two saxes including Cornelius’, trombone — are in front of guitar, piano, bass and drums. Among the players are Berklee grads, as they contemplate how far they’ve come since they were still young.

When We Were Very Young by A.A. Milne is the inspiration. Writing in England in the 1920s, Milne introduced Winnie-the-Pooh, Christopher Robin and more sweet characters. Cornelius’ grandmother read the verses to his mother, his mother read them to Cornelius, and now he reads Milne to his daughter and her baby brother James.

“From the moment I started reading [the verses] to Isabella, my daughter, ideas for melodies came into my head,” Cornelius told The Checkout’s Josh Jackson. “I want to write tunes that are almost singable, but have a high level of craft. I want melodic simplicity to mesh with complexity,” Patrick recently told a hometown journalist on Cornelius lists Gil Evans, Benny Golson, Duke Pearson, Duke Ellington, French turn-of-the-century composers Debussy, Satie and Ravel, and contemporaries such as Alan Ferber among his many influences.

Before the first four movements, Patrick reads a Milne verse. The words launch the melodies. “Jonathan Jo” has Evans-like voicings, and I hear Ellingtonian choices in “The Invaders.” “Vespers” is the lullaby. But While We’re Still Young isn’t really for children, Cornelius says. It’s for parents who read to their children, or whose parents read to them.

Originally published on

Robert Glasper Experiment: Tiny Desk Concert

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014

The pianist builds R&B with old-school values: singers who don’t need software, live improvising, hand-built beats. They’re jazz aesthetics, essentially — readily evident when members of his Grammy-winning Experiment band jam with singer Marsha Ambrosius.

The third song in this Tiny Desk Concert, explains the jocose pianist Robert Glasper, first appeared on one of his trio’s albums of acoustic, instrumental jazz. It was called “F.T.B.” then, though it later acquired words and a singer and was retitled “Gonna Be Alright” on the record which won the 2013 Grammy for Best R&B Album. That in itself provides a sense of the worlds to which Glasper has access; depending on your point of view, he either freely traverses or explodes those boundaries.

Glasper has released two albums of what you might call neo-soul, or maybe organic R&B, featuring a core band (The Robert Glasper Experiment) and guest stars like Erykah Badu, Lupe Fiasco and Norah Jones. Black Radio and last year’s sequel, Black Radio 2, aren’t heard much on “urban” radio, but the point is that they ought to be. Glasper builds his songs with old-school values: singers and MCs who don’t need software to carry a melody, improvising within a band, hand-building beats and vamps with live instruments.

That’s what you see at the Tiny Desk. “Trust” features Marsha Ambrosius, formerly of the duo Floetry, and it’s a good example of the Black Radio concept in raw, unpasteurized form. The middle tune is an ad hoc improvisation, and a good example of how Glasper and his Experiment have so dialed in their communication that they can plant seeds of noise and harvest blooms of music. By the time “F.T.B” (a.k.a. “Gonna Be Alright”) rolls around, the mood is familiar and at ease. It’s the sound of a band whose members speak many musical languages, but decide to converse in one that feels like its native tongue.

By Patrick Jarenwattananon
Originally published on</em>

Lafayette Gilchrist: An Old Soul, At Ease In A Modern World

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014

For someone who came to piano rather late, at 17, Lafayette Gilchrist has dug deep into its history. He loves the old piano professors who’d pack the punch of a dance band into two hands at the keyboard. Players like Eubie Blake, James P. Johnson and Willie “The Lion” Smith could keep going for hours without exhausting their folkloric materials. If there’s one thing Lafayette Gilchrist loves, it’s feeding a groove like that, as on his new solo album The View From Here.

Despite his old-timey tremolos and thundering bass figures, Gilchrist doesn’t really sound like the old masters; something different is going on in his timing and pile-driving left hand. He lives in Baltimore but grew up in D.C., knee-deep in the city’s go-go music and hip-hop, and he also leads a loud, horn-intensive funk band, the New Volcanoes. Go-go dance beats inform his piano the same way freight-train boogie-woogie does.

There’s something trance-inducing about dance music in general, and in the textured patterns that Lafayette Gilchrist plays at the keyboard. His two-handed piano also has techno and minimalism behind it. It’s not just about the notes; it’s also about the waves in which they come, and the troughs in between.

His tune “D.C. Slick” is partly based on Gilchrist’s impressions of Washington while growing up. It reminds me of a Duke Ellington character sketch, inspired by the specific way someone walked down the street: music grounded in everyday particulars. Gilchrist’s percussive trancing also connects back to the old West African drum choirs and their dance marathons, so he’s tapping into jazz’s spiritual, historical and cultural roots. He’s an old soul at ease in the modern world.

By Kevin Whitehead
Originally published by

WNCU Black History Month Specials

Monday, January 27th, 2014

The Big Red Couch – 5 Decades of Black Music

Saturday, Feb. 8,15 and 22, from 9-10 pm

The Big Red Couch produced and hosted by Peabody Award Winner Jim Luce is a nod to five decades of black music that has shaped popular musical culture all over the world. Luce mixes tunes like eclectic gemstones by musicians who have had a great impact on music worldwide over the past fifty years. A music lover himself, he does not go for the low-hanging fruit; he goes deeper into each artist¿s discography to create a refreshing retrospective.

Artists heard in this 3-hour special include Joe Henderson, Curtis Mayfield, Duke Ellington, Moacir Santos, John Hicks, Irma Thomas, Earth Wind & Fire, Albert King, Sly & the Family Stone, Jackie McLean, Jimmy Cliff, Arthur Blythe, The Temptations, Michael Jackson, Dorothy Coates & the Gospel Harmonettes, Luciana Souza, Donny Hathaway, War, Aretha Franklin, Gregory Porter– and more!

Mandela-An Audio History

Wednesday, Feb. 5, from 8-9 pm

Click here to learn more.

The Writ Writer-The Story of Scipio Africanus Jones

Wednesday, Feb. 12, from 8-10 pm

The Writ Writer-The Story of Scipio Africanus Jones, and one man’s gallant and courageous effort to fight murder convictions brought against 134 black sharecroppers, 12 of whom were sentenced to die in the electric chair.

Very few are aware of what became known as “The Elaine Massacre,” where hundreds of blacks were murdered and five white men were killed. Nor are many aware that Scipio Jones, a black attorney from Little Rock, Arkansas succeeded against all odds, and brought about the reversal of several lower court decisions. His tenacity resulted in the release of all of the imprisoned black sharecroppers; this included the 12 men sentenced to die.

Newport Jazz Festival Lineup

Monday, January 27th, 2014

Three days of music. Three stages. Five groups on each stage. 45 of some of the finest jazz groups in the world. Click here to visit the website.

Friday, August 1, 2014 Fort Adams State Park

GATES: 10:00AM / MUSIC: 11:30 AM- 6:00PM

  • Jon Batiste & Stay Human
  • John Zorn’s Masada Marathon: Dave Douglas, Marc Ribot, Cyro Baptista, Mark Feldman, Erik Friedlander, Ikue Mori, Greg Cohen, Joey Baron, Kenny Wollesen & many others
  • Miguel Zenón Big Band
  • Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society
  • Snarky Puppy
  • Cécile McLorin Salvant
  • Rudresh Mahanthappa – A Charlie Parker Project, A World Premier
  • Amir ElSaffar Quintet
  • Mostly Other People Do The Killing: Steve Bernstein, Jon Irabagon, Dave Taylor, Brandon Seabrook, Ron Stabinsky, Moppa Elliott & Kevin Shea
  • Berklee Global Jazz Ambassadors
  • URI Jazz Festival Big Band

Friday, August 1, International Tennis Hall of Fame at the Newport Casino

GATES: 6:30PM / MUSIC: 8:00PM

  • Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis
  • Dee Dee Bridgewater – To Billie With Love

Saturday, August 2, Fort Adams State Park

GATES: 10:00AM / MUSIC: 10:30 AM – 7:00PM

  • Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis
  • Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue
  • Dave Holland Prism with Kevin Eubanks, Craig Taborn & Eric Harland
  • Gregory Porter
  • Robert Glasper Experiment
  • SFJAZZ Collective: Miguel Zenón, Avishai Cohen, David Sanchez, Robin Eubanks, Warren Wolf, Edward Simon, Matt Penman & Obed Calvaire
  • Cécile McLorin Salvant
  • Brian Blade & The Fellowship Band with Jon Cowherd, Chris Thomas, Melvin Butler & Myron Walden
  • Pedrito Martinez Group featuring Ariacne Trujillo, Alvaro Benavides, & Jhaire Sala
  • Dick Hyman, Howard Alden & Jay Leonhart
  • Kurt Rosenwinkel New Quartet
  • Newport Now 60 Band: Anat Cohen, Karrin Allyson, Randy Brecker, Mark Whitfield, Peter Martin, Larry Grenadier & Clarence Penn
  • Umbria Jazz presents Stefano Bollani & Hamilton de Holanda

Sunday, August 3, Fort Adams State Park

GATES: 10:00AM / MUSIC: 10:30 AM – 7:00PM

  • Bobby McFerrin spirityouall
  • David Sanborn & Joey DeFrancesco with Billy Hart & Warren Wolf
  • Dr. John & The Nite Trippers
  • Gary Burton New Quartet with Julian Lage, Scott Colley & Marcus Gilmore
  • Vijay Iyer Sextet with Graham Haynes, Mark Shim, Steve Lehman, Stephan Crump & Marcus Gilmore
  • Danilo Perez Panama 500 with Ben Street, Adam Cruz
  • Django Festival All-Stars featuring Samson Schmitt, Ludovic Beier, Pierre Blanchard, DouDou Cuillerier & Brian Torff
  • Ron Carter Trio with Russell Malone & Donald Vega
  • Lee Konitz Quartet with special guest Grace Kelly
  • Ravi Coltrane
  • The Cookers: Gary Bartz, Billy Harper, Eddie Henderson, David Weiss, George Cables, Cecil McBee & Billy Hart
  • Mingus Big Band
  • The Brubeck Brothers
  • George Wein & Newport All-Stars with Anat Cohen, Howard Alden, Randy Brecker, Lew Tabackin, Jay Leonhart & Lewis Nash

NCCU MLK Celebration

Wednesday, January 15th, 2014

Thursday, Jan. 16

University MLK Convocation
9:45 a.m., B.N. Duke Auditorium
Guest speaker: Author and media commentator Dr. Marc Lamont Hill

Sunday, Jan. 19

MLK Community Builder
1:30 p.m., A.E. Student Union

Monday, Jan. 20

MLK Bell Ringing
9:15 a.m., Shepard Bell

United Way of the Greater Triangle MLK Service Project
9 a.m. – 1 p.m., LeRoy T. Walker Complex

MLK Food Pantry Project
9 a.m. – 1 p.m., Dent Human Science Building, 2nd floor

Day of Service with McDougald Terrace Community
9:30 a.m. – 1 p.m., LeRoy T. Walker Complex

For more information, contact Dr. Deborah Bailey at [email protected] or 919-530-6143.

The 2014 NEA Jazz Masters Concert

Wednesday, January 15th, 2014

In a concert and ceremony at Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York City, the National Endowment for the Arts recognized its 2014 class of Jazz Masters.

The honor is the highest federally supported award for jazz artistry; those recognized receive a $25,000 grant and a tribute performance. The event was webcast live on the NEA’s website, XM Satellite Radio and, as well as on NPR Music.

The NEA honors four individuals in 2014. Jamey Aebersold is best known as an educator, whether in person, through his camps and clinics, or with his popular Play-A-Long recordings series. Anthony Braxton explodes idiom through compositions with unique fundamental structures, with virtuosic saxophone playing to match. Richard Davis is, simply, one of the greatest bassists in the music’s history (and is, like Braxton, a long-time educator). And Keith Jarrett is well known for his influential brand of pianism, whether he’s playing standards, exploring classical repertoire or improvising freely.

Journalist Soledad O’Brien hosted the event, which featured performances by NEA Jazz Masters and guest artists, including a number of up-and-coming musicians.

Since 1982, the NEA has recognized 132 Jazz Masters (or group awards), all of whom were living at the time of their selection. In addition to the one-time grant, recipients are also invited to participate in NEA-sponsored live performances and education programs across the country.

By Patrick Jarenwattananon
Originally published at

5 Must-See Projects At Winter Jazzfest

Tuesday, January 14th, 2014

This week’s Winter Jazzfest seems to be a kind of turning point — for the festival, and maybe for jazz in New York City. What started 10 years ago as a one-night showcase under one roof has expanded to five days at 10 venues, featuring more than 90 groups in a vast array of styles.

The underground edge is still there, but this year’s acts include multiple Grammy winners, beyond-jazz acts such as singer Keren Ann, and three midweek marquee concerts. One show teams star pianists Robert Glasper and Jason Moran to celebrate the 75th anniversary of Blue Note Records.

Still, much of the festival’s excitement still resides in its signature two-night marathon this Friday and Saturday, where acts perform in quick succession in neighboring Greenwich Village nightclubs. For the price of a single ticket, concertgoers can choose — or try to choose — between groups, which range from Balkan and New Orleans brass to Latin and straight-ahead jazz. The 18-piece orchestral pop ensemble Mother Falcon, with cello and glockenspiel, will also appear.

At WBGO HD2 we’ll stream a mix of all 92 groups at this year’s Winter Jazzfest around the clock to prepare for these new sounds. (For more insights, check out the conversation between WBGO’s Josh Jackson and NPR Music’s Patrick Jarenwattananon on our weekly new-music magazine, The Checkout.) Here are five of the acts performing in this year’s WJF marathon, and a rundown of what they plan to perform.

Click here to learn more about the 5 must-see projects.

By Tim Wilkins
Originally published at