At the Newport Jazz Festival, we're visiting the Quad and Harbor Stages, where the first rows of audience sit snug up to the performer. With her understated style, love of the lyric and freedom, Gretchen Parlato makes that closeness work. Everyone leans in and listens.
In a good jazz rhythm section, the players function independently and as one. Their parts and accents crisscross and reinforce each other, interlocking like West African drummers. Beyond that, the bass is a band's ground floor. When it changes up, the earth shifts under all the players' feet. From moment to moment, Linda Oh's bass prowls or gallops, takes giant downward leaps, or stands its ground.
The itinerant path of a touring musician is nothing new. Drummer Daniel Freedman has walked that walk with New York jazz groups, salsa units, forro bands and on international tours with Angelique Kidjo. He has also taken the road less travelled – by bus.
Today jazz pianist Ahmad Jamal celebrates his 82nd birthday, presumably near Montauban, France, where he will play a gig tomorrow. In fact, he'll spend most of the month in France, The Netherlands, Greece, Switzerland and Turkey doing what he does best: pouring himself into his enchanting music.
This summer, Weekend Edition Saturday is listening to the sounds of music al fresco. Today, we present an audio postcard of a trumpeter we recently heard blowing "The Star-Spangled Banner" just down the street from NPR.
Pianist Helen Sung appeared on Piano Jazz on the heels of her second release, Helenistique. Critics loved the energy, the intelligence and, as pianist Benny Green put it, "the life-affirming joy" that emanated from Sung's playing on that album. Marian McPartland, too, was seduced by Sung's "dazzling and passionate" approach.