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Jazz Night in America

Fridays at 9 p.m. and Sundays at 7 p.m.
  • Hosted by Christian McBride

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. The program features storytelling with concert performances, plus live signature videocasts and on-demand video of jazz events from today's great artists and venues.

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One way or another, you've heard Grover Washington Jr.'s saxophone. Perhaps on "Mister Magic" or another of his instrumental hits, like "Winelight." Or on "Just the Two of Us," the smash hit featuring Bill Withers.

José James, the eclectic, groove-minded jazz singer, has made no secret of his fondness for Bill Withers. There's a medley that James has been singing in concert for years, linking Withers' despondent anthem "Ain't No Sunshine" with an upturning grace note, "Grandma's Hands."

Louis Hayes spent his youth creating the pulse of hard-bop, as a top-shelf drummer with artists like Cannonball Adderley and Horace Silver. He turned 80 this year, marking the occasion with his own Blue Note Records debut as a leader, Serenade for Horace.

The blues have traveled far and wide over the last century — exerting a vast cultural influence worldwide, yielding myriad offshoots, and generating fortunes for some of the biggest musical acts of our time. But it's also still the product of local conditions, and bound by hardscrabble local concerns.

On this episode of Jazz Night in America, we'll go to Clarksdale, Miss., to get a temperature reading at ground level, where struggling musicians are finally beginning to reap the benefits of a recent wave of blues tourism.

The music of pianist and composer Abdullah Ibrahim conveys an extraordinary depth in stillness. More than perhaps any other improvising artist, he knows how to turn the solitary act of introspection into a communal experience that's both transporting and immersive.

Jazz singing has always been a tree with firm roots, but a wild entanglement of branches. Its sound and shape are mutable, prone to outside influence and local inflection. Take the two artists featured in this week's episode of Jazz Night in America, recorded at the 2017 San Jose Jazz Summer Fest — each a cultural ambassador as well as a cosmopolitan, with the elusive ability to bring any audience along for the ride.

Esperanza Spalding — the multiple Grammy-winning bassist, singer-songwriter, bandleader and composer — maintains a fierce commitment to the unfolding moment. Spontaneity is her watchword and her discipline, the condition to which she aspires.

For a long stretch of his early performing career, vibraphonist Gary Burton was always the youngest man on the bandstand. A child prodigy from Indiana, and then an onrushing force on the scene, he apprenticed with the great Nashville guitarist Hank Garland before going on tour with pianist George Shearing, followed by tenor saxophonist Stan Getz.

Moses Boyd Exodus ended its performance at the 2017 South by Southwest music festival with a rampaging take on its trademark tune, "Rye Lane Shuffle." Drummer Moses Boyd, the band's young founder and namesake, rumbled freely on his toms, joined by a fervent-sounding Binker Golding on tenor saxophone. The groove that emerged was Nigerian Afrobeat by way of a modern jazz metropolis — one with every resource at hand.

For tens of millions in the Northeast, the name of the hour is "Stella" — as in Winter Storm Stella, the Weather Channel-branded nor'easter poised to bring heavy snowfall to a number of cities along the I-95 corridor. I'm among those who will soon be hunkering down (and later, shoveling out), but my first involuntary response is to start humming a familiar melody.

In the greater jazz world, Danilo Pérez is a respected pianist. In his homeland of Panama, he's a national icon and cultural ambassador, and not just for his artistry. Ever since he returned to perform in his war-torn homeland in the 1980s, he's seen the potential for jazz to be a vehicle for social change, and spent much of his time offstage seeding this vision in the form of youth music education programs.

The large instrumental band Snarky Puppy, which just won its second Grammy Award, is hard to pin down to one place. Its core is now in New York, but its members have toured and recorded all over the world, and their spiritual home is still Dallas, Texas. It's where they'd take in gospel performances in area churches; it's near where they initially met at music school at the University of North Texas in Denton. As bassist and bandleader Michael League explains, you can hear all those collisions in the pocket of their complex and beyond-category grooves.

A Dive Into Jazz Slang (You Dig?)

Feb 19, 2016
NPR

Originally published Feb. 19, 2016.

"Shedding." "Chops." "Rataricious." Sometimes it seems like jazz cats have their own language. Of course, many times those words also end up in other people's mouths: Terms like "hipster," "crib" and "the man" all came from the jazz world more than 70 years ago. You dig?

In this video, Jazz Night In America takes a brief look at where jazz slang came from, with lots of colorful language along the way.