JazzWatch #51 | Orrin Evans

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.

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JazzWatch #39 | Bob Cranshaw

For well over 50 years, Bob Cranshaw’s blend of groove and swing have been part of the public consciousness. He’s recorded alongside such master musicians such as Sonny Rollins, Lee Morgan, Wes Montgomery, Stanley Turrentine, Bobby Hutcherson and Grant Green, and he’s been the house bassist for Sesame Street for over 40 years. In this interview, Mr. Cranshaw reflects on his career and his main idea/motivation for playing — to make an audience (and his fellow band mates) feel the groove. In addition to having been in the Sonny Rollins’ touring ensemble since 1959, Mr. Cranshaw is a frequent sit-in guest at Smoke Jazz Club‘s (NYC) Tuesday evening performances with Mike LeDonne’s Groover Quartet.

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JazzWatch #38 | Harold Mabern

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!

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JazzWatch #33 | Jack DeJohnette

Acclaimed drummer and composer Jack DeJohnette is a true master of rhythm. As one of the last distinct voices to emerge from the golden era of improvisational music, DeJohnette is perhaps at the peak of his powers in 2015. His career has spanned through the ensembles of Miles Davis, Charles Lloyd, Bill Evans, Jackie McLean, Jon Patton and Keith Jarrett in addition to his unique ensembles as a leader.  Following his 2012 NEA Jazz Master Award, DeJohnette was contacted by the Chicago Jazz Festival and asked to headline one of the evenings the following year with any ensemble of his choosing. Armed with reed-men Henry Threadgill and Roscoe Mitchell, bassist Larry Gray and pianist Muhal Richard Abrams, DeJohnette orchestrated one of his most adventurous live performances in recent years. This reunion of old friends was recorded, edited, mastered, and  as is now available on the ECM release, “Made In Chicago.” In this chat, DeJohnette speaks about his origins in Chicago and many of the names and places that helped to develop his conception of music.

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