We are proud to welcome pianist, arranger and educator Kenny Barron on Jazzwatch. Since his emergence on the national music scene in the early 1960’s, he has been the pianist of choice for such luminaries as Dizzy Gillespie, Philly Joe Jones, Roy Haynes, Stan Getz, Freddie Hubbard and many more. Honored as an NEA Jazz Master, Mr. Barron has continued to inspire global audiences with his melodically inventive and incredibly swinging approach to the piano. His new Impulse Records CD, “Book of Intuition,” is a magnificent trio program featuring his longtime unit with bassist Kiyoshi Kitagowa and drummer Johnathan Blake. This disc has already distinguished itself as one of the best of 2016. Mr. Barron will celebrate this new CD in a series of performances May 3-8 at The Jazz Standard in NYC. More info at jazzstandard.com and kennybarron.com.
As one of the most prolific pianists today, Orrin Evans remains constant in his documentation of his growth and musical wisdom. His latest CD, “The Evolution of Oneself” places him in a premier trio context with drummer Kareem Riggins and bassist Christian McBride. The music swings, grooves and floats but always with a pulse. This album further captivates with a few surprises. Evans’ youngest son produces a very captivating three-part interlude, “Genesis,” that is broken up over the course of the CD, while the surprising appearance of the Americana tune, “Wildwood Flower,” and Grover Washington Jr.’s, “A Secret Place” further demonstrates Evans’ ability to consistently shine through among the diversity of material and influences.
Born in Detroit, saxophonist and composer JD Allen has risen to prominence through a string of critically acclaimed recordings featuring various ensembles. He’s also been featured as a dynamic sideman with acclaimed bandleaders such as George Cables, Cindy Blackman, Winard Harper, Lester Bowie and Betty Carter among others. His current trio with drummer Rudy Royston and bassist Gregg August displays their unique concept of songs within songs on their latest project, “Graffiti” for Savant Records. It was great to speak with JD Allen who’s an exciting improviser and is is a force for good in the continuing cause of advancing creative music.
As an improviser and composer saxophonist Dayna Stephens has risen to prominence due to his unique sound and conception. His collaborations with stellar musicians such as Ambrose Akinmusire, Brad Mehldau, Taylor Eigsti, Kenny Barron and Walter Smith III reveal a patient player comfortable among a wide variety of expressions. It was great to talk with Dayna about his life in and outside of the music. He also happened to be weeks away from a kidney transplant that has now been re-scheduled for late September. Although he says he’ll break from public playing for just a couple of months to recuperate, Dayna has an unmatched ethic and we’re anxious to see what he will reveal musically in the year ahead.
Pianist George Cables is an amazing giant of the music. After decades of incredible on-the-bandstand experiences with legends such as Dexter Gordon, Freddie Hubbard, Art Blakey and Roy Haynes, Cables is now sought by fellow pianists and music lovers through his classic recordings, “Cables’ Vision” and “Phantom of the City.” His newest effort, “In Good Company” features longstanding trio collaborators, Essiet Essiet and Victor Lewis. Look no further for the personification of swing, musical wisdom and empathy. In our chat, Mr. Cables shares reflections on the new recording, piano peers, and his personal journey from a young musician and admirer of the music to his current status as an accomplished master of jazz and beyond.
Terence Blanchard is a jazz trumpeter, bandleader, composer, arranger, and film score composer.
Since Blanchard emerged on the scene in 1980 with the Lionel Hampton Orchestra and then shortly thereafter with Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, he has been a leading artist in jazz. He was an integral figure in the 1980’s jazz resurgence, having recorded several award-winning albums and having performed with the jazz elite.
He is known as a straight-ahead artist in the hard bop tradition but has recently developed an African-fusion style of playing that makes him unique from other trumpeters on the performance circuit. It is as a film composer that Blanchard reaches his widest audience. His trumpet can be heard on nearly fifty film scores; more than forty bear his compositional style.
Greg Bryant recently spoke with him about the release of his latest project, “Breathless” backstage at the Jazz Standard before his CD release show.
Pianist Harold Mabern is one of the true treasures of improvisational music. Born in Memphis, Tennessee and self taught as a pianist, he and his peers (George Coleman, Frank Strozier, Booker Little) developed rapidly. As he discusses in our chat, Mr. Mabern’s move to the city of Chicago after high school graduation further enhanced his pedigree. As the pianist for the MJT +3, his harmonic and rhythmic ideas were the ideal compliment to Walter Perkins and Bob Cranshaw. In this interview, Mabern speaks about these beginnings and his move to New York where he has remained a first call pianist for the last 50 years holding the piano chair with fellow luminaries such as Wes Montgomery, Miles Davis, J.J. Johnson, Lee Morgan, Freddie Hubbard and George Coleman. He began recording as a leader for Prestige Records in 1968, and his newest recording, “Afro Blue,” on the Smoke Sessions Label pairs his group with all-star vocalists Gregory Porter, Alexis Cole, Kurt Elling, Norah Jones and Jane Monheit. This CD promises to be a unique addition to his body of work and will help to further introduce him to a greater addition of listeners. Play on, Mr. Mabern!
Since his initial rise to prominence on the national music scene, Les McCann has been a vessel overflowing with creative expression. First recognized for his soulful and dynamic piano playing in the early 60s, Les grew his audience with two hit tunes (“With These Hands”, “Compared to What”) in the latter part of the decade featuring his distinctive vocals. All along the way, he always kept a high quality camera nearby. Whether in a new city, hanging after a festival set or just heading out with friends, insiders welcomed Les into various circles and he often captured the mood of the moment with a candid image. Now in 2015, several of these prime images are collected for the first time in Les’ book, “Invitation to Openness,” a collection bearing the same title as his 1972 masterwork for Atlantic Records. As I spoke with Mr. McCann, he shared memories about many of the now legendary stars that are photographed in this book, some memories about the classic LP/CD, “Invitation,” and the sharpest wit and wisdom that you’re ever likely to hear. Enjoy.
Gerald Clayton has earned a unique place among the current generation of pianists and composers. He’s equally versed in the rich tradition of jazz as well as its modern sounds and explorations. Not only has Clayton been called upon to perform with father John and uncle Jeff Clayton in their award-winning ensembles, he’s also been featured with a diverse array of A-list bandleaders such as vocalist Gretchen Parlato, drummer Gregory Hutchinson, trumpeter Roy Hargrove and saxophonist Charles Lloyd. Clayton’s trio and expanded ensembles have been featured over three acclaimed releases (Two-Shade, Bond and Life Force) and he has enjoyed leading these ensembles in tours across the U.S. and abroad. He spoke with us about his growth and development in the music while imparting some wisdom about sharing improvisational music with new listeners.
On today’s JazzWatch, Greg interviews legendary drummer Mike Clark. You may know him from his tenure with Herbie Hancock and the Headhunters, but he’s also put in time with Joe Henderson, Woody Shaw, Vince Guaraldi, Albert Collins and Jimmy Reed.
Mike discusses learning to play traditional jazz, blues, post-Bop in addition to being on of the innovators of linear funk drumming. Be on the lookout for his forthcoming CD with pianist Michael Wolff, and his new book with fellow drum icon, Lenny White.