Originally published on Thu March 26, 2015 1:37 am
The SFJAZZ Collective, an all-star octet representing the SFJAZZ institution in San Francisco, has an intriguing approach to repertoire. Each year, each member writes a new piece for the Collective, and also rearranges a composition by a modern jazz master. For the 2014-15 season, that master was tenor saxophone titan Joe Henderson, a longtime San Francisco resident.
Albert "Tootie" Heath is one of the most accomplished jazz drummers of the past 60 years. The 79-year-old has played with everyone from John Coltrane to Ethan Iverson, the piano player for The Bad Plus. Iverson and bassist Ben Street join Tootie Heath for his new album, Philadelphia Beat, named for the fertile jazz city of Heath's upbringing — where, as a young man starting out, he once piloted a group consisting only of the drums and two horns.
Copyist, arranger and musician Mercer Ellington worked for his father, Duke Ellington, as a horn player before becoming manager of the group. He took on additional duties, including composition, resulting in his original tune "Things Ain't What They Used To Be."
American vocalist and songwriter Somi combines the music of her African heritage with American-style jazz, pop and soul. After her parents left Rwanda and Uganda, Somi spent 18 months living in Lagos, Nigeria; that time provided the inspiration for her 2014 album The Lagos Music Salon.
On this episode of Song Travels, Somi and host Michael Feinstein discuss the cultural roots of her music. She performs her original "Last Song" and joins Feinstein for "Embraceable You."
Musicians arrive at their signature sounds through all sorts of influences. For jazz pianist Tigran Hamaysan, that collection of sounds comes from far afield — he's a fan of progressive metal bands like Tool and Meshuggah — as well as from his backyard.
Originally published on Thu March 12, 2015 7:16 pm
For trumpeter and composer Igmar Thomas, much in contemporary music is clearly evolved from improvised American music of eras past — jazz, in short. That insight led him to create the Revive Big Band, a large ensemble with a view to connecting the through-lines between hip-hop and its predecessors. With the Big Band, he might reconstruct how a jazz tune lent the sample for a modern classic, or unveil original works, or orchestrate special collaborations with soloists like tap dancer Savion Glover, trumpeter Roy Hargrove, or rapper Talib Kweli.
Every year, each of the eight members of the SFJAZZ Collective is tasked with two writing assignments. The first: Compose a new piece specifically for the band, which gathers some of the most outstanding performers on the modern jazz scene. The second: Rearrange a composition by the elder artist that the Collective has chosen to feature that year. For the 2014-15 season, SFJAZZ is paying tribute to a tenor saxophone titan, a composer of classic tunes and a long-time San Francisco resident: the late Joe Henderson.
Renowned lyricists and songwriters Marilyn and Alan Bergman have been the recipients of Oscars, Grammy, Emmys and many additional awards. Their works include "The Windmills of Your Mind" and lyrics for Yentl.
On this 1995 episode of Piano Jazz, they collaborate with host Marian McPartland as she accompanies Alan singing their trademark songs "The Way We Were" and "Nice 'n' Easy."
Singer, composer and actor Nellie McKay brings a comedic flair to her stage shows, including Nellie with a Z, in which she plays a cabaret veteran three times her age. Her music also has been featured on the television series Weeds, Grey's Anatomy and Boardwalk Empire. Her latest album, My Weekly Reader, is out March 24.