In his first semester playing football at San Diego State University, Gregory Porter severely injured his shoulder. Doctors told him his days on the field were over, but there was some good news: The school would let him keep his athletic scholarship. Suddenly without football, but with a lot of time on his hands, Porter searched for a new calling — and found it in his voice.
Originally published on Thu September 12, 2013 12:54 pm
Credit John Rogers for NPR / johnrogersnyc.com
Perhaps you know Dave King as the drummer in The Bad Plus, or any number of avant-improv/indie-rock/Americana/electronic experimental bands rooted in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. But somewhere in that mix is a deep fondness for the jazz tradition, and recently, he made it a point to say so with a full-length album. I've Been Ringing You investigates standards, mostly slow and medium-tempo ballads, in rough-hewn textures.
In 1958, at an arts festival in Yorkshire, Duke Ellington was presented to Queen Elizabeth II. They tied up the reception line for a few minutes, exchanging royal pleasantries; our Duke politely flirted with Her Majesty. Soon afterward, maybe that very night, Ellington outlined the movements of The Queen's Suite. He recorded it with his orchestra the following year, sent it to Her Majesty, and declined to release it to the public in his lifetime. It's not clear whether Queen Elizabeth has listened to it.
Flugelhorn player Chuck Mangione is widely known for the crossover success of his catchy mid-1970s tunes. But his jazz credentials are rock-solid: His mentor Dizzy Gillespie once recommended him for a spot in Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers. Mangione and bassist Gary Mazzaroppi team up with host Marian McPartland for some dynamic trio work in a session from 1999, including his famous tune "Feels So Good" and a few beloved standards.
At 60, New York City-based composer John Zorn is wiser, sure, but no less prolific, thoughtful and antagonistic than before. His oeuvre is fantastically wide, from cutthroat jazz improvisation and pummeling noise-rock to gorgeous chamber music and, believe it or not, a genuine Christmas album.
Composer, trumpeter and improviser Dave Douglas has a style that transcends the boundaries of traditional jazz. This approach has led to albums of experimental music both on his own and as a member of John Zorn's band Masada.
Originally published on Thu August 29, 2013 8:31 am
By Patrick Jarenwattananon
Sathima Bea Benjamin in 1974.
Credit Ian Bruce Huntley / Courtesy of Matsuli Music
About a month before she died last week at age 76, Sathima Bea Benjamin finally properly celebrated her debut album. That's a bit of a complicated claim, of course, because depending on how you count, the South African vocalist either made her debut album in 1959, 1963, 1976 or 1979.
In 1959, as Beatty Benjamin, she recorded the LP My Songs for You. It was produced by the pianist Dollar Brand, who was later known as Abdullah Ibrahim; he was also her boyfriend and later became her husband. However, it was never released.
Credit Craig Herndon / The Washington Post/Getty Images
An essayist, cultural theorist, novelist, educator and biographer who died on August 18 at 97, Albert Murray spent more than five decades developing his thesis that America is a culturally miscegenated nation. His contention was that blacks are part white, and vice versa: that both races, in spite of slavery and racism, have borrowed from and created each other. In all of his writing, jazz music — derived from the blues idiom of African-Americans — was the soundtrack at the center of his aesthetic conception.