Jazz Night in America

Saturday at 10PM on WSCL 89.5 FM

Jazz Night in America NPR Music, Member Station WBGO, and Jazz at Lincoln Center unite to create the next generation of jazz programming from public radio. Hosted by multiple Grammy Award-winning musician Christian McBride, Jazz Night in America presents content on multiple platforms and from across the nation to share this uniquely American art form and reinvigorate public media jazz programming for audiences today. This radio program features storytelling with concert performances, connecting jazz enthusiasts and potential new fans with artists and venues -- and each other -- through weekly, one-hour broadcasts and an array of 26 live signature videocasts and on-demand video of jazz events from today's great artists and venues. It brings jazz fans together online via chat rooms during concerts and through social media, encouraging a deeper conversation with musicians, representatives of arts organizations and the major institutions of the jazz world, and arts educators in their community.

About a year ago, trumpeter Marquis Hill, now 28, traveled to Los Angeles, played five tunes for a panel of judges, and won the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition. You can think of it as a sort of Heisman Trophy for young jazz artists, meaning that a lot more people discovered his talent in a hurry.

The pianist and composer Arturo O'Farrill knows better than almost anyone that more than 50 years of a trade embargo between the U.S. and Cuba hasn't fully prevented the exchange of jazz between the two countries. He's known it since he first visited Cuba in 2002.

"The first thing that I encountered was great 'goo-gobs' of young jazz musicians who worked really hard to master this craft that we thought was our own," O'Farrill says.

"Thelonious Monk is the most important musician, period," Jason Moran says. He laughs out loud. "In all the world. Period!"

Moran is in a dressing room deep within the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., where he's the artistic director for jazz. He's not really wearing that hat at the moment, though. He's talking as a musician himself — and very personally, at that.

There's no one person responsible for creating music festivals — or for making them such a huge part of how we witness live performances today. But starting in 1954, one person developed a recipe for their secret sauce.

George Wein still goes to his signature event every year, checking out performances and greeting the artists. These days, he does it on a golf cart which drives him between stages — he's about to turn 90, after all — but he says he takes his job as producer very seriously.

Wayne Shorter is a living legend — a saxophonist, composer and lifelong original thinker. He's never been afraid to be different, which is perhaps why he's accomplished so much. Among his accomplishments:

Celebrating Rahsaan Roland Kirk

Sep 10, 2015

Rahsaan Roland Kirk, who would have been 80 this year, was a boundary-pushing virtuoso on multiple wind instruments (sometimes at once). It certainly rubbed off on Steve Turre, who apprenticed with Kirk in the 1970s. Turre has become a monster player himself, and also specializes in multiple horns — both the trombone and the conch shell.

Jazz Night In America follows Turre to Jazz at Lincoln Center, where he's assembled a monster lineup to celebrate one of his major influences.

Celebrating Betty Carter

Sep 10, 2015

For years, one of jazz's top institutions of higher education was "the school of Betty Carter," an esteemed collection of her band's alumni and singers bound together by the thrall of her titanic influence. Hers was, simply, one of the most powerful voices in American music.

Jazz Night In America celebrates her lasting influence at Jazz at Lincoln Center with a performance by vocalist Charenée Wade, accompanied by many former members of Carter's bands through the years.

Celebrating Max Roach

Sep 10, 2015

To say Max Roach was a bebop pioneer, or a paramount innovator of the drums, or a prominent social activist would be accurate. Yet these individual labels fall short of his totality. Ali Jackson had a chance to see a fuller picture — after crossing paths with Roach at age 12, Jackson was forever changed, and would go on to study with Roach. Today, he's the drummer for the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, and still deeply appreciative.

Tootie Heath's 80th Birthday

Sep 9, 2015

The iconic drummer Albert "Tootie" Heath turned 80 on May 31, and Jazz Night went to the celebration. Heath, who first recorded in the 1950s with John Coltrane, has been active for over 50 years, performing with such artists as Dexter Gordon, Nina Simone, Wes Montgomery, and countless others. Incredibly, popular opinion suggests that Tootie sounds as good as ever.

Jazz Night In America visits Jazz at Lincoln Center as Tootie Heath performs at his birthday parties — and host Christian McBride pops over to interview him personally.

Sometimes, musical talent emerges at an astoundingly early age. Jazz is no stranger to teenage phenoms — or even pre-teen wonders — but the improviser faces creative challenges that other performers don't. How can a young student sing the blues if he hardly knows what it means to feel them?

Jazz Night In America explores prodigies through different eras, like pianist Joey Alexander — who was 11 when he performed the music heard in this episode at Jazz at Lincoln Center.

Jimmy Greene Remembers A 'Beautiful Life'

Jun 30, 2015

Saxophonist Jimmy Greene's newest album, Beautiful Life, is dedicated to the memory of his 6-year-old daughter. Ana Márquez-Greene was killed in the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. Greene paid tribute to his daughter by composing and arranging a genre-spanning album to reflect the way she lived.

Every spring, a New York City community organization puts on a month's worth of jazz events centered around the neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. The Central Brooklyn Jazz Festival turns the spotlight on a historically African-American region, and often some lesser-heard talents. Though Akua Dixon has played in just about every situation open to a cellist, less frequently does she lead a band bearing her own name. Her music often features her compositions and arrangements for a string ensemble, and occasionally adds her own voice to the mix as well.

Joe Temperley: 'No Greater Sound On Earth'

May 22, 2015

Baritone saxophonist and clarinetist Joe Temperley has led an illustrious career spanning several decades, performing in some of the best big bands that ever were. Temperley, now 85, has performed with the orchestras of Humphrey Lyttelton, Woody Herman, Thad Jones & Mel Lewis, Clark Terry, Joe Henderson, and of course, Duke Ellington. For the past 25 years, Temperley has also been the heart and soul of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra.

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.

Venezuela's National Jazz Orchestra Returns

Apr 30, 2015

This year Venezuela celebrates the 40th anniversary of its national youth music education program, known as El Sistema. Part of the celebration is to send one of its newest bands, a national jazz ensemble, on its second tour of the U.S. — where jazz was born. In 2007, drummer Andrés Briceño helped to seed Simón Bolívar Big Band Jazz, and has directed its growth beyond the canonical American repertoire to incorporate the work of Venezuelan and other Latin American composers.

In mid-century Philadelphia, dozens of organists reshaped jazz into a popular, swinging, danceable contemporary music. Often in trios with drums and guitar or saxophone, these organ players made church instruments into portable orchestras — a tradition that continues to the present day in Philadelphia.

Among the celebrations of Billie Holiday's centennial birthday anniversary is a new album from Cassandra Wilson. In Coming Forth By Day, one of today's top jazz vocalists salutes one of her idols, drastically rearranging the Holiday songbook.

Jazz Night In America features Cassandra Wilson's blues, country and folk-tinged delivery as she performs her Billie Holiday tribute, and catches up with some key collaborators of both Wilson and Holiday herself.

Anat Cohen's Roots Of Rio

Mar 26, 2015

The genre choro — a word which means "cry" in Portuguese — is often described as "the New Orleans jazz of Brazil." Like its U.S. counterpart, both are Afro-Western hybrids which emerged in the early 20th century; both call for jam sessions showcasing improvisation and virtuosity. Both jazz and choro are also the domains of clarinetist and saxophonist Anat Cohen. Her newest band, the quartet Choro Aventuroso, culminates an affinity and intense study of Brazilian music — one which began as part of an international community of jazz students at Berklee College of Music in Boston.

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.

Revive Big Band: Where Jazz Meets Hip-Hop

Mar 5, 2015

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.

Regular visitors to Jazz at Lincoln Center know Marcus Roberts the pianist — as a former member of Wynton Marsalis' bands and the Jazz at Lincoln Orchestra, he still returns often with his own groups. But since leaving Marsalis, he's also become a mentor to many younger musicians, both on the bandstand and in the classroom. His new 11-piece ensemble the Modern Jazz Generation combines his trio with many of his younger protégés, looping the feedback full circle.

The Many Sides Of David Murray

Feb 12, 2015

For decades, saxophonist David Murray was a presence in New York City both imposing and prodigious, a hugely talented performer who also collaborated and composed at an astonishing rate. He's now based in Europe, but in early 2015, the Winter Jazzfest — a concert happening which celebrates the depth and breadth of the jazz community — booked him in a way that seemed appropriate to this history: three different sets with three different bands.

Eric Reed Plays Coleman Hawkins

Feb 5, 2015

His instrument is now synonymous with jazz, but Coleman Hawkins was the first to carve out a place for the tenor saxophone in the music. A burly-toned player with an advanced harmonic understanding, Hawkins was not only a titan of early jazz, but also a progenitor of developments to come.

Eric Reed, one of the standout pianists of his own generation, came to Jazz at Lincoln Center last November to celebrate the 110th birthday anniversary of Coleman Hawkins. Jazz Night In America visits Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola to take in a special set led by the hard-swinging Reed.

Our Point Of View: A Blue Note Supergroup

Jan 29, 2015

Blue Note Records made its name on names: Sonny Clark, Lee Morgan, Hank Mobley, Grant Green, Paul Chambers, Tony Williams, and many more who have etched their marks on jazz history. For its 75th anniversary, the label gathered together a new crop of artists — those pushing the label forward now — and sent them on tour together, performing each others' compositions.

When Henry Met Steven

Jan 22, 2015

In 1984, when a young Steven Bernstein first encountered the blind virtuoso New Orleans pianist and singer Henry Butler, he was astonished. "This is it," he recalls thinking. "This is like the music that I always imagined. Everything you ever loved about music, all being in one place. But now it's all coming from one person." Nearly two decades later, Butler and Bernstein finally had the chance to collaborate when they were booked for a run together at New York's Jazz Standard.

Prestige Records' 65th Anniversary Party

Jan 15, 2015

Like many a jazz label throughout history, Prestige Records was a small, independent company which happened to document greats: musicians like Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins and Thelonious Monk, among others. Last year marked its 65th anniversary.