Music for the final days of December and the beginning of the New Year.
A 20-minute excerpt from the Night Lights show kicks off WBEZ's holiday special.
Some Yuletide offerings from Afterglow and the Night Lights archives.
Night Lights' annual holiday tribute celebrates the season with plenty of cool-Yule jazz from Chet Baker, Bob Brookmeyer, John Coltrane, Shorty Rogers and more, including poet Sascha Feinstein's reading of his "Christmas Eve" poem about the legendary 1954 Thelonious Monk-Miles Davis studio encounter.
Miles is kind of honored, ECM is reissuing some cool back-catalogue titles, Michael Steinman hips us to a great online Billie Holiday photo archive, and more.
Bob Brookmeyer emerged in the 1950s as a trombonist, composer and arranger steeped in both traditional and modern jazz. His musical alliances with Stan Getz, Gerry Mulligan and Jimmy Giuffre helped him build the elegant, understated power that would inform Mulligan's early-60s Concert Jazz Band and other Brookmeyer-associated projects of that era.
Interviews with Sam Rivers and Darcy James Argue, new reissues of Artie Shaw and Duke Ellington, a new online jazz journal and more.
Vince Guaraldi's music is loved by millions of people around the world—forever associated with the TV version of a popular comic strip. Who was the man behind that music? Jazz critic Doug Ramsey, Peanuts producer Lee Mendelson, Guaraldi's son David and others join Night Lights this week for a musical exploration of Vince Guaraldi's jazz legacy.
For 50 years pianist, composer and bandleader Clare Fischer has had one of jazz's most interesting careers, exploring Latin, bossa nova, and other genres.
The songwriting collaborations of Hoagy Carmichael and Johnny Mercer-the hits and the lost and little-known songs as well, with recordings from Nat King Cole, Helen Forrest, Louis Armstrong, Mel Torme, and Hoagy and Johnny themselves.
Companion pieces for this week's "Jazz Impressions of Brubeck" program: a biographical and musical portrait of Voice of America jazz DJ Willis Conover, and an in-depth look at the U.S. State Department's sponsorship of international jazz tours during the Cold War era.
Afterglow honors the centennial of one of America's greatest songwriters, with recordings of Johnny Mercer's songs by Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Billie Holiday, and others. Afterglow founding host and Mercer expert Dick Bishop joins the program to share his insights about the man from Savannah.
The reclamation of an amazing 1950s/60s New York City jazz shrine, through photographs, interviews, and audio recordings of jazz greats and other artists at work and at play.
Eric Dolphy, a highly-skilled musician who played alto sax, bass clarinet, and flute, created a bracing, unique sound forged in both bop and the avant-garde. His last year was one of his greatest, as he worked with pianist Andrew Hill and bassist Charles Mingus, and recorded an album for Blue Note that many consider to be his masterpiece.
Forget time-consuming books or hip artistic koans-the members of Spinal Tap tell you what jazz is really all about:
Haunted late-night love songs and some "spirited" jazz for your Halloween holiday.
In 1957 a fading Depression-era playwright, two hot box-office stars and a West Coast jazz group all played prominent parts in creating a dark portrayal of New York City showbiz life that’s now considered a cinematic masterpiece. Film-expert James Naremore and musicologist Phil Ford us to talk about the look and sound of "Sweet Smell of Success."
Oscar Peterson as singer, a new book of jazz album covers from the 1960s and 70s, and more.
Pianist Art Tatum's speed and harmonic imagination often left other musicians astonished, inspired, or in despair. By way of a centennial tribute, here are some who managed to keep up with him, including Benny Carter, Ben Webster, and Roy Eldridge.
Hank Williams goes pop 'n jazz, Robin D.G. Kelley's new Monk biography is out, and more in the weekly round-up.
A new book takes an in-depth look at the sources and inspirations behind the music of avant-garde artist John Zorn.
Saxophonist John Zorn is a modern avant-garde icon, but in the late 1980s he recorded several tributes to heroes of the 1950s and 60s hardbop era such as Hank Mobley and Sonny Clark, honoring them with an edgy passion that also revealed Zorn's skills in a straightahead jazz setting.
Another release in the offing from Mosaic features the late-1970s, 80s, and mid-90s recordings of saxophonist Henry Threadgill, including three albums that Threadgill made as part of the legendary trio Air.
In the 1970s George Benson was a crossover star with a smooth pop style. Yet years before, he’d established a legacy as a jazz guitarist brimming with talent.
Afterglow's annual autumn tribute program...Night Lights comes to Erie, Pennsylvania...and Sam Rivers and Sinatra/Jobim on NPR.
Past and present tributes to the saxophonist, including reflections on the Coltrane church and a heads-up on a Trane-set bargain.
John Coltrane revolutionized the sound of modern jazz and wrote a number of compositions that have become jazz standards. “The John Coltrane Songbook" celebrates the saxophonist’s birthday with performances of Coltrane pieces such as “Naima,” “Countdown” and “Giant Steps” by Dexter Gordon, McCoy Tyner, Dave Liebman, Steve Kuhn and more.
Mosaic Records will have a collection of mostly-unreleased Crosby recordings out in time for the holidays.
In 1957 tenor saxophonist Sonny Rollins was at the peak of his first great period, playing with a confident, swinging, and radical abandon both as a leader and with Max Roach and Miles Davis.
Labor Day meets the Great American Songbook, as Afterglow takes a look at satirical and political protest music of the 1930s and 40s, performed by Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway, Billie Holiday and others.
Chris Connor, a vo-cool singer and one of the last living vocalist links to the big band era, has passed away at the age of 81.
Impulse Records gained renown in the 1960s for its progressive-vanguard releases by artists such as John Coltrane and Archie Shepp, but the label also released a handful of jazz-vocal albums by singers like Johnny Hartman, Jackie Paris and Lorez Alexandria.
Centennial Prez tributes are rolling in from all over this morning, and Night Lights and Afterglow pay homage as well.
Rumors-of-demise department: Last week jazz writer and blogger Terry Teachout wrote a Wall Street Journal column that cited some rather depressing numbers concerning jazz audiences from a recent National Endowment for the Arts survey. Basically, according to the NEA, over the past 25 years the jazz audience has gotten older and smaller.
Bill Evans is one of the most influential pianists in jazz history, renowned for his lyrically seductive style. But at the beginning of his career he had a different sound, full of rhythmic drive and the bop influences of his early role models. "Very Early: Bill Evans 1956-58" features his recordings with George Russell, Charles Mingus and more.
Claude Thornhill was a pianist, composer, and arranger whose 1940s big bands helped shape the sound of modern jazz, with orchestral bop and ethereal ballads tinged with classical influences that set the stage for later masterpieces by Miles Davis and Gil Evans.
Remember the jazzy little trailer that used to announce a General Cinema feature presentation?
George Russell, the composer, theorist and pianist who passed away Monday night at the age of 86, helped shape the sound of jazz as we know it today. If there was a "birth of the cool" at the end of the 1940s, Russell pointed the way to the "birth of the modal" that came at the end of the 1950s.
In the mid-1950s Cafe Bohemia was one of the most happening jazz clubs in New York City—a Greenwich Village club that caught the vibe of Manhattan’s thriving art and intellectual scene. Those who checked it out might find Charles Mingus, Art Blakey, or Miles Davis either playing or sitting in the crowd.
Billie Holiday died 50 years ago today. From the archives, Night Lights offers several musical and written remembrances.
JazzTimes is coming back, a new photo exhibition of jazz musicians who toured for the State Department, and more.
In honor of the holiday, some previous Night Lights shows with a French theme-programs about American jazz expatriates in France, jazz in the postwar French cinema, and jazz interpretations of songs about Paris.
We are working on developing a podcast for Night Lights, changing the way we make audio files of the program available to you, and also adding more content to the blog. If you have a few moments, could you take this brief online survey and let us know what you'd like to see (and hear)?
Jazz criticism first emerged in the 1930s and has played a role not only in how the music's been heard, but sometimes in the way it's been made. We'll hear some of the music that's inspired the most debate, and we'll also talk with John Gennari, author of a recent history of jazz criticism, BLOWIN' HOT AND COOL.
On Afterglow this week, a festive and reflective tribute to Independence Day with music from Duke Ellington, Nat King Cole, Peggy Lee, Paul Desmond and more.
A note of thanks for the success of the recent Night Lights fund-drive.
Louis Armstrong was a legendary innovative trumpeter, a vocalist who had a profound impact on jazz singing, and a dynamic entertainer-and he got a chance to showcase all these aspects of his talent in 28 full-length films and several short features in which he appeared between 1931 and 1969.
You can now become a fan of Night Lights on Facebook. If you're just discovering the program through Facebook, here are some shows you might want to check out.
Billy Eckstine, the so-called "Sepia Sinatra," shows up in many jazz histories as the leader of a great, cutting-edge big band of the 1940s. But he should be remembered for being an amazing jazz vocalist as well. This week's Afterglow program covers his circa-1960 stint on the Roulette label, including albums made with Count Basie and Billy May.
Michael Jackson changed the landscape of American pop culture-a feat the scale of which we may never see again. Sadly, the culture changed him, too, as he looked to it to give him back something he'd never had.
Mosaic Records has a Shaw set in the works-plus updates on Ellington and Jamal projects.
In 1963 a 22-year-old Frank Zappa went on Steve Allen's TV show and demonstrated some far-out musical sounds on an unusual instrument: the bicycle.
Memphis is renowned throughout the world for its remarkable contributions to 20th-century popular music. But Memphis also has a jazz legacy, and one group of musicians that emerged from the city in the late 1950 gained such notice among their wider-world colleagues that they were eventually dubbed "the Memphis Mafia".
I started Night Lights because I felt passionately driven to do a jazz show about some of its greatest players and most exciting decades. There are also stories to tell of unsung musicians, cities and scenes... and those sounds and stories depend on your support.
A program devoted to the so-called "King of Swing's" late-1940s foray into the revolutionary sounds of bebop, featuring young modernist side musicians such as Wardell Gray, Mary Lou Williams, and Fats Navarro.
The sounds and stories of the year that changed everything, including interviews, news clips, and the music of Bing Crosby, Woody Herman, Charlie Parker and more.
This Memorial Day weekend Night Lights pays tribute to departed musicians with another program of jazz elegies. "Turn Out the Stars V. III" includes musical remembrances of Louis Armstrong, John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderley, Wes Montgomery and more.
Al Cobine, the Indiana bandleader, composer/arranger, and saxophonist who helped raise Bloomington's music scene to national stature, passed away Thursday at the age of 82. A native of Richmond, Indiana, he came to Bloomington in the 1950s to pursue a doctorate in political science but ended up becoming a widely renowned big-band leader instead.
The National Endowment for the Arts just announced their 2010 Jazz Masters recipients-and it's an impressive list.
Wynton Marsalis is respected and scorned as jazz's most prominent spokesperson, but at the dawn of his career he was seen simply as a brilliant young trumpeter.
Buddy Montgomery, the pianist/vibraphonist and last surviving member of the Montgomery Brothers, passed away this Thursday at the age of 79.
The week's jazz news, including Willis Conover, Creed Taylor and pianloless quartets.
Why an English rock band seemed to matter so much in the tumultuous year of 1989.
The Beatles’ explosive arrival on the American music scene in 1964 shook up the jazz world just as much as it did the rest of America—perhaps even more so.
DIY jazz blogging: Ethan Iverson of the Bad Plus invites you to give it a try.
David Young was an unsung hero of the same Indianapolis scene that gave the world Freddie Hubbard, J.J. Johnson, and Wes Montgomery-a musician who began to gain the spotlight in New York City at the dawn of the 1960s and then walked away from it.
In the summer of 1961 pianist Bill Evans hit a new creative peak with his trio. Then the trio's gifted bassist, Scott LaFaro, died in a car wreck. What happened next?
I often curse out loud when I pick up a new issue at my local record store. The editors have a knack for choosing artists whom I find irresistible.
1957 has become Year Zero in the John Coltrane legend, a key turning point for the tenor saxophonist, then 30 and still in the throes of a debilitating drug addiction that had led Miles Davis to twice boot Coltrane out of his group.
A friend writes to pass along the good news: Mosaic Records is still planning on doing a 1930s Duke Ellington Columbia big-band set.
Night Lights debuts on KFSR this week. KFSR is the first California station to carry Night Lights.
A renowned female organist, Scott recorded a number of soul-jazz classics in the late 1950s and 1960s.
Currently in the works? A Night Lights program about David Young, the Indianapolis-based tenor saxophonist who passed away in February.
This week on Night Lights we pay tribute to the pianist and singer who passed away in 2007 at the age of 94. A product of the thriving mid-20th century Central Avenue Los Angeles scene, in the late 1940s Lutcher scored a series of hits such as “Hurry On Down” and “Fine Brown Frame” that blended jazz, pop, blues and R & B in a way that made her one of the era’s first crossover stars.
The April 2009 Downbeat features a cover story on the late trumpeter Freddie Hubbard, featuring reflections from numerous friends and musical colleagues such as James Spaulding, David Weiss, Cedar Walton, and David Baker. Near the end of the article writer Dan Ouellette mentions that Blue Note Records is preparing a springtime CD release of a 1969 Hubbard concert, titled Without a Song: Live in Europe 1969.
When Harry Smith, creator of The Anthology of American Folk Music and dean of American bohemians, received a Grammy just a few months before his death in 1991, he said, "I'm glad to say that my dreams came true-that I saw America changed through music." In the book Strange Fruit: Billie Holiday, Cafe Society, and an Early Cry for Civil Rights, David Margolick proposes that racism-a bedrock element of Americanism-was challenged and ultimately changed by a single song, a song sung by Holiday titled "Strange Fruit."
Ashley Kahn, author of previous books about the landmark jazz albums Kind of Blue and A Love Supreme, has a new one coming out on the history of Blue Note Records.
Long-term love and art go hand-in-hand on this edition of Night Lights, where we're focusing on couplings both romantic and musical.
A tribute to an unsung hero of the Indiana Avenue jazz scene.
Concord engineer Joe Tarantino reportedly says that the label's "Keepnews Collection" reissue series is being cancelled, due to poor sales. The series featured new editions of classic jazz albums such as Sonny Rollins' Freedom Suite, Wes Montgomery's Incredible Jazz Guitar, and Thelonious Monk's Brilliant Corners, all remastered by Tarantino, with updated liner notes by longtime, legendary jazz producer Orrin Keepnews. I've picked up only a couple of the titles-George Russell's Ezz-thetics (comes with extra tracks, plus it's one of the best records from the Russell-David Baker collaborations), Bill Evans' Portrait in Jazz (I love this one so much that I felt compelled to "upgrade" from my old OJC copy)-partly because I already have just about everything Concord has reissued in the series.
"The Benny Golson Songbook" features recordings of Golson's work from the late 1950s and early 1960s by Art Blakey, Lee Morgan, Dizzy Gillespie, Milt Jackson, and Golson himself, including several recordings made by his and Art Farmer's group the Jazztet
Saxophonist David "Fathead" Newman, whose blend of jazz and inimitable Lone Star soul made him an integral part of Ray Charles' orchestra and served him through dozens of impressive leader dates, passed away from pancreatic cancer yesterday at the age of 75
The first song I ever heard by the Who was its anthemic anticipation of punk, "My Generation." It was already an oldie when it juiced up my twelve-year-old spirit; in fact, punk had only recently arrived, and one of the reasons I liked the Who song so much was that its energy seemed similar to two bands of the moment for me, the Ramones and the...
Jazz historian Richard Sudhalter passed away last year at the age of 69, having spent the last several years of his life fighting significant health challenges. This Monday evening there will be a memorial concert in his honor at St. Peter's Lutheran Church in New York City, with an all-star lineup of musicians and spoken tributes from jazz writers Dan Morgenstern, Terry Teachout, and others. Sudhalter left behind three important biographies and studies: Lost Chords: White Musicians and Their Contributions to Jazz, 1915-1945, Stardust Melody: the Life and Music of Hoagy Carmichael, and Bix, Man and Legend (co-author with Phil Evans).
2008: not a good year for the economy, certain politicians, or the Detroit Lions. In the realm of reissues and historical releases, however, it was a surprisingly good year. A highly subjective and belated list follows, presented in alphabetical order:
Bruce Lundvall, president of the Blue Note Label Group, and Michael Cuscuna, co-founder of reissue label Mosaic Records, were both on NPR's Talk of the Nation today, discussing the history, present, and future of the iconic Blue Note Records imprint. They also took some phone calls from jazz fans who reminisced about the musical and cultural impact of their favorite "Blue Note moments."
1959 saw an unprecedented spate of jazz masterpieces. Among the albums released or recorded that year were Miles Davis' modal-hip Kind of Blue, Dave Brubeck's blockbuster Time Out, John Coltrane's leap forward Giant Steps, Ornette Coleman's avant-garde salvo The Shape of Jazz to Come, and Charles Mingus' revolutionary-in-the-tradition Mingus Ah Um.