Jazz is usually thought of as an album format, but once upon a time you could drop a coin into a slot and fill up a bar or restaurant with the sounds of artists such as Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker, and Horace Silver spinning off a three-minute-long machine-operated platter.
Though it received middling reviews, the 1963 concert series included the festival debuts of Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk, the rollout of Dizzy Gillespie’s “Dizzy For President” campaign, one of jazz legend Jack Teagarden’s last appearances, and a tribute from the Modern Jazz Quartet to Martin Luther King Jr.
Bee Hive annotator Aaron Cohen joins us to discuss the legacy of a 1970s/early 80s Chicago record label that spotlighted veteran bebop and hardbop artists.
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.
Twelve recordings that define one of the 20th century's greatest musicians, as we celebrate the Charlie Parker centennial on Night Lights.
We think of Charlie Parker as a small-group bebop saxophonist, but he came out of the swing era. What did he sound like in a big-band setting?
The swing era may have been the age of the big bands, but bandleaders often found it worth their while to break small groups out of their larger orchestras.
In the last decade of his life Art Blakey continued to mentor new talent in his Jazz Messengers group, helping to elevate musicians such as Wynton and Branford Marsalis, Terence Blanchard, and Mulgrew Miller.
Christian laid the foundation for the guitar as a significant modern-jazz instrument, creating single-note lines and solos that swung with imagination and vitality.
In the 1960s a beacon of West Coast jazz became a destination for hardbop and soul-jazz acts.
In the mid-1960s pianist Ahmad Jamal returned to the music scene after a three-year hiatus and formed a new trio that would eventually make an album now considered to be a jazz piano masterpiece.
A small Bowery bar where John Coltrane came into his own with Thelonious Monk, Ornette Coleman stunned the jazz world with his quartet, and writers, painters, musicians and others formed an at-home underground community. Former Five Spot regulars David Amram and author Dan Wakefield join us.
Juneteenth, the African-American holiday celebrating the end of slavery, has a long tradition of food, games, music and prayer. Our jazz tribute includes musical tributes to freedom from Duke Ellington, Max Roach, Carmen McRae, and John Coltrane, as well as Louis Jordan's homage to the holiday itself, and some odes to African-American athletes.
In the early 1950s drummer Shelly Manne settled in California and began a remarkable run of recordings that included experimental jazz, popular interpretations of Broadway scores, music for the TV crime show Peter Gunn, one of avant-garde icon Ornette Coleman’s first albums, and charged live performances at San Francisco’s Black Hawk club.
The music that bandleader Woody Herman recorded in the 1940s and early 50s for several labels, including his own Mars imprint, has been unavailable for decades. Now a recent set from Mosaic Records gives us a chance to hear some lesser-known editions of the clarinetist’s mid-20th century ensembles.
As the 1960s began Miles Davis entered a period of transition, first trying to find a saxophonist to replace John Coltrane and then a new rhythm section.
The latest entry in Night Lights' ongoing series of jazz elegies, with an emphasis this time on recordings from the 1970s and 80s by Charles Mingus, Miles Davis, Woody Shaw, Pat Metheny and others.
Five decades after Wes Montgomery's death in 1968, newly-discovered live recordings continue to emerge.
Ornette Coleman's music shook up a generation of jazz artists, but some of them almost immediately began to play it.
In 1945, as World War II wound down in Europe and the U.S. ramped up for an invasion of Japan, Duke Ellington undertook a weekly broadcast on behalf of the war effort, playing music and encouraging civilians to buy war bonds.
Alto saxophonist Lee Konitz, who died on April 15, 2020 at age 92, was a longtime master of melodic improvisation who played a part in some of jazz's most momentous acts--the Claude Thornhill big band and the Miles Davis Birth of the Cool nonet in the late 1940s, and the Lennie Tristano groups of the 1950s and early 1960s.
In the 1940s the young singer Anita O’Day became a sensation on the big-band scene, performing one of jazz’s first racially-integrated duets and courting what would become a lifelong reputation as an independent spirit
"The great chain of witnesses": a poem by Betsy Sholl in the new issue of Brilliant Corners drew its inspiration in part from a Night Lights show.
In the 1960s Herbie Hancock seemed to be everywhere on the jazz scene, recording both as a leader for Blue Note and as a sideman with Miles Davis and others.
Babs Gonzales was the toastmaster of the bebop world, a vocalese hipster who made the scene and lived to sing and write about it.
In 1957 singer Ella Fitzgerald recorded close to one hundred tracks as her career continued to soar in the wake of signing with Norman Granz’s Verve label.
In 1952 Billie Holiday began her last great period on record with a series of small-group sessions that capture the twilight glow of a jazz star.
A decade that saw female artists making further inroads into the male-dominated world of jazz.
Keep it cool: jazz historian Ted Gioia joins us for the music and meaning of Lester Young, Charlie Parker, Bix Beiderbecke, Miles Davis and more.
Explore some of the notable musicians who emerged from the 20th century Detroit jazz scene.
From the 1960s on, Detroit continued to produce a stream of superlative jazz artists, even as the jazz scene in other major cities began to fade. Mark Stryker, author of JAZZ FROM DETROIT, joins us again to discuss how Detroit's jazz culture stayed alive.
It’s a city known for the automobile industry and the soul-pop legacy of Motown Records, but Detroit is also a great jazz capital.
How singer and pianist Nat King Cole pushed the boundaries of 1950s segregated culture through its hottest medium.
A wartime concert, a Carnegie Hall debut, an epic work celebrating black history: the story of Duke Ellington's most ambitious work.
Veteran producer and radio host Bob Porter joins Night Lights to talk about his book on one of jazz's most popular styles.
Jimmy Heath was off the jazz scene for much of the 1950s, but he returned to make a string of albums that cemented his reputation as a composer and a player.
America in the 1920s: Wall Street was on the rise, cops were on the take, jazz was in the air, and alcohol had been banished—but it certainly hadn’t vanished.
Exploring the musical history of the "pianist of his own genre" depicted in the movie GREEN BOOK.