Amiri Baraka leaves the polling place after voting in Newark, N.J., in 2010. Amiri’s son, Ras Baraka, is currently running for mayor.
The year saw the March on Washington, the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy and Medgar Evers, the bombing of the Birmingham church that resulted in the deaths of four black girls and the passing of W.E.B. Du Bois. That same year, LeRoi Jones — a twentysomething, Newark, N.J.-born, African-American, Lower East Side-based Beat poet — published a book titled Blues People: a panoramic sociocultural history of African-American music. It was the first major book of its kind by a black author, now known as Amiri Baraka. In the 50 years since, it has never been out of print. Continue reading Black History Meets Black Music: ‘Blues People’ At 50
Kenny Clarke performs at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1968. He spent the second half of his career in Europe.
Musicians call it “spang-a-lang,” for obvious phonetic reasons, and it’s so synonymous with jazz, it no longer occurs to us that someone had to invent it. But someone did: a drummer named Kenny Clarke, who would have turned 100 today. Continue reading The Drummer Who Invented Jazz’s Basic Beat
Melissa Aldana and Crash Trio released its self-titled debut album in June.
Melissa Aldana, who became the first female instrumentalist and first South American musician to win the International Jazz Saxophone Competition last fall, is not the average talent-contest winner.
Aldana plays tenor saxophone — which is unusual enough by itself, jazz still being mostly a boy’s club. On top of that, she has a big, fierce sound that carries echoes of nearly forgotten swing-era players like , and she’s got a distinct style accented by long, cleanly executed melodic lines.
One significant thing about Melissa Aldana & Crash Trio’s self-titled debut album is what’s missing: There’s no piano or harmony instrument. Some of Aldana’s favorite musicians recorded in similar settings; she says it’s an important step in her evolution, and that she likes the responsibility of outlining the chords, as well as the freedom to change them. Continue reading A Sax Trio Taps Tradition While Thriving In The Present
Jimmy and Deana Katz/Courtesy of the artist
Pianist and composer Jessica Williams has gained critical acclaim and multiple Grammy nominations for her writing and remarkable skill at the keyboard. Dave Brubeck called her “one of the greatest jazz pianists I have ever heard.”
On this episode of Piano Jazz from 1992, Williams solos on “Why Do I Love You” and joins host McPartland for “Straight, No Chaser” — one of two Thelonious Monk tunes during the session.
Originally broadcast in the spring of 1992.
- “Why Do I Love You” (Hammerstein, Kern)
- “I’m Getting Sentimental Over You” (Bassman, Washington)
- “Misterioso” (Monk)
- “Willow Creek” (McPartland)
- “Free Piece” (McPartland)
- “The Child Within” (Williams)
- “I’m Old Fashioned” (Kern, Mercer)
- “Straight, No Chaser” (Monk)
Sam Friend and his band the New Orleans Swamp Donkeys play jazz, blues and originals, drawing on the sound of grassroots jazz combos from a century ago.
In this edition of Song Travels, Friend joins host to discuss his transition from New York trio musician to New Orleans bandleader. He shares his love of traditional “jass” with a rendition of “Sweet Lorraine” on six-string banjo.
- Sam Friend (voice, banjo), Michael Feinstein (piano), “Nothing To Do” (Friend)
- Sam Friend & The Hoodoo Sauce, “Honey, I Found You (excerpt)” (Friend)
- New Orleans Swamp Donkeys, “Dreamer (excerpt)” (Friend)
- Friend (voice, banjo), “Where My Baby Goes” (Friend)
- Johnson, Lang, “Jet Black Blues (excerpt)” (Johnson, Lang)
- New Orleans Swamp Donkeys, “I Can’t Stop Logging On Facebook (excerpt)” (Friend)
- Friend (voice, banjo), “Strange Love” (Friend)
- New Orleans Swamp Donkeys, “A Long Time Ago (excerpt)” (Friend)
- Friend (voice, banjo), Feinstein (piano), “Sweet Lorraine” (Burwell, Parish)
- New Orleans Swamp Donkeys, “If You Ain’t Payin’ We Ain’t Playin’ (excerpt)” (Friend)
Kimimasa Mayama/AFP/Getty Images
If you’ve witnessed a headlining performance from pianists Toshiko Akiyoshi or , visited a “jazu kissa” where records are spun and coffee poured, or read nearly any work by author , then you probably have a sense that Japan has taken well to jazz music.
Incidentally, the centerpiece Global Concert of this year’s — the annual musical diplomacy initiative from UNESCO and the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz — was held today in Osaka, one of Japan’s historical jazz capitals. (As of publication, the should be available shortly.)
So how did this music get to Japan in the first place? How did the island nation which fought the U.S. in WWII come to embrace an art form that originated in black America? And does the history of jazz in Japan actually support the peace-brokering role that UNESCO claims?
For a few answers, and a primer on Japanese jazz history, I gave professor a call. An East Asian historian at Northern Illinois University and an amateur musician, he’s the author of Blue Nippon: Authenticating Jazz in Japan and the editor of Jazz Planet, a collection of essays about jazz outside the U.S. Here’s an edited version of our conversation: Continue reading How Japan Came To Love Jazz