Pianist Ralph Sharon, the longtime accompanist for Tony Bennett, died March 31 at age 91. In the audio link above, Tom Cole has a brief report for NPR's Morning Edition, and below, Walter Ray Watson filed this remembrance for NPR Music.
Originally published on Thu April 23, 2015 12:34 am
The public youth music education program known as El Sistema has reached hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans, largely through participation in classical music ensembles. In 2007, drummer Andrés Briceño and head of the Simón Bolívar Conservatory of Music Valdemar Rodríguez introduced a jazz program to El Sistema, with the goal of promoting the music throughout Venezuela. The flagship ensemble, Simón Bolívar Big Band Jazz, presents the work of both American jazz masters and Venezuelan composers, and like its orchestral counterparts, has now toured the U.S.
Vocalist Billie Holiday was born 100 years ago this week. Today, her place in music history is clear.
"I think we witness in Billie Holiday's music the beginning of the jazz vocal age, really," fellow vocalist Cassandra Wilson says. "Her phrasing is very conversational, and it swings — it moves with the musicians. She's very much in charge of her place in the music. She's in control of the story, and in control of her cadence."
Guitarist and singer John Pizzarelli is one of the hottest jazz acts around. With his swinging and sophisticated style, he makes music that sounds both classic and modern. He's the son of jazz guitarist John "Bucky" Pizzarelli, who helped him get his start.
Hot Club Of Cowtown makes its sixth visit to Mountain Stage, recorded live at the Culture Center Theater in Charleston, W.Va. The band formed in 1996, when guitarist and singer Whit Smith answered an advertisement placed by singer and fiddler Elana James. After moving to Austin, the pair added upright bass player Jake Erwin, and the trio quickly made a name for itself by fusing hot jazz and Western swing. The band has since become a favorite at fairs and festivals across Europe, and has opened stadium shows for Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson.
Originally published on Thu April 16, 2015 1:03 am
The Hammond electronic organ was developed with churches in mind, as a lower-cost alternative to pipe organs. But in Philadelphia, a keyboard player named Jimmy Smith was inspired by early jazz experiments on the instrument, and found a devastating way to adapt the new bebop style to the Hammond B-3. It seeded a new tradition of organ players in Philadelphia — major figures like "Groove" Holmes, Jimmy McGriff, Papa John and Joey DeFrancesco, and Trudy Pitts — and kickstarted a new sound in jazz at large.
One hundred years after she was born, Billie Holiday remains iconic in American music, not to mention jazz singing. Cassandra Wilson has made her career in jazz singing by embracing a wide range of American music, and it holds true on her latest project: a new album rearranging the Billie Holiday songbook. The new Coming Forth By Day, created with rocker Nick Cave's producer and rhythm section, reshapes songs like "Good Morning Heartache" and "Strange Fruit" with fresh textures and resonances.
In South Africa, the major art of resistance during apartheid was jazz: a melting pot where folk songs and hymns defiantly mixed with influences from South Asia, America and West Africa. South African jazz's central formula — its equivalent to the 12-bar blues — is a buoyant, four-chord progression that even seems to evoke a blending motion.
Jazz vocalist and pianist Dardanelle Hadley was born Marcia Marie Mullen, the daughter of vocalist and pianist Marcius Mosely "Buck" Mullen. In the 1940s, she formed a trio that played regularly at the Copacabana Club in New York, and she went on to work with jazz greats such as Bucky Pizzarelli and Grady Tate.