Lionel Hampton On Piano Jazz

May 22, 2015

Vibraphonist Lionel Hampton (1908–2002) was one of the most influential figures in the history of jazz. He made the vibes a vital voice in the arsenal of jazz instruments, and gained international fame while playing in Benny Goodman's small groups and leading his own orchestra.

West Philadelphia Orchestra On World Cafe

May 22, 2015

We've got something quite different as our Sense of Place: Philly series continues. Philadelphia has a brass band called The West Philadelphia Orchestra. They specialize in Balkan music, and as they were rehearsing a number of years ago, a singer was passing by who knew the music they were playing from growing up — and she joined the band. Petia Zamfirova will be the first to say this eclectic group is not just about backing her singing. We'll find out how this band grew here, hear about their selection in the All Songs Considered Tiny Desk Concert contest and more.

Even if you don't know anything about jazz, it's quite possible you've heard the music of saxophonist Kamasi Washington: That's him on the latest albums by Kendrick Lamar and Flying Lotus. But that's only the very tip of his iceberg.

Bruce Lundvall, the longtime President of Blue Note Records who supported many top jazz artists over the last four decades, died yesterday, May 19. The cause was complications of Parkinson's Disease, according to a Blue Note statement. He was 79.

A Tribute To Kenny Wheeler

May 19, 2015

The late Kenny Wheeler's stunning compositions and imaginative improvisations on trumpet and flugelhorn left deep impressions on generations of musicians. Two such devotees — trumpeter Ingrid Jensen and saxophonist Steve Treseler — revisited Wheeler's compositions after his death in 2014 at age 84. And in doing so, they realized they wanted to record their arrangements, paying tribute to the man who catalyzed their own careers.

For the last two years, pianist Ethan Iverson has been at the center of what looks, in hindsight, like a serious creative whirlwind. He re-conceptualized Stravinsky's ballet The Rite Of Spring in its entirety (!) for his trio The Bad Plus, and then, for good measure, recorded an album of all-original Bad Plus music (Inevitable Western).

Fifty years ago, the Ramsey Lewis Trio sat in a Washington, D.C. coffee shop, musing over what it could add to its set that evening. It was booked for a run at Bohemian Caverns — the group had issued a live album made at the nightclub, and it was gearing up to record a follow-up live album. Over walked a waitress, who inquired about the band's predicament.

Gonzalo Rubalcaba On Piano Jazz

May 15, 2015

The music of pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba is a potent mixture of Cuban and American jazz. His style sounds both melodic and rhythmic, filled with exciting and intriguing influences. He plays everything from jazz to classical, as well as music from his native Cuba.

It begins with meandering clarinet and clipped, four-on-the-floor percussion. A little bit later comes a countermelody, and the image that comes to mind is something from early New Orleans, or perhaps a Mediterranean folk song. It's even called "Putty Boy Strut" — that could be an obscure Jelly Roll Morton tune, right?