Guitarist, composer and bandleader Mark Whitfield’s guitar is a joyful sound. His clarity has long shone through in ballads and burners. Whitfield takes the language of guitarists George Benson, Grant Green and Kenny Burrell and has emerged with something of his own – a sound that is unique, powerful and far reaching. He has been featured with a diverse group of players and singers including Chris Botti, Gladys Knight, Herbie Hancock, Jimmy Smith, Burt Bacharach and many more. However, Whitfield is especially proud of his latest project – a stellar band that includes son Davis Whitfield on piano and son Mark Whitfield Jr. on drums. Whitfield reveals that the group has a new recording in the can. Look for its release soon. In the meantime, they’ll be road-testing the material on the road in the months to come.
Born in Detroit, saxophonist and composer JDAllen 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 JDAllen 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.
Alto saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa’s recording “Bird Calls” isn’t a tribute, but rather a “devotion” to the energy and spirit of Charlie Parker. His incredibly energetic quintet featuring pianist Matt Mitchell, bassist François Moutin, drummer Rudy Royston, and 20-year old trumpet prodigy Adam O’Farrill executes the project’s vision expertly— to play distinct, original compositions directly based on a Parker solo or composition that are never imitative. It seems as though it’s almost the perfect setting for Mahanthapa’s sound and conception. He’s blazing here. As “Bird Calls” is already earning critical praise, it should prove to be a landmark in Mahanthappa’s evolving catalog and career as he continues to earn diverse distinctions and acclaim from groups such as the Rockefeller Foundation, Downbeat Magazine, Doris Duke Foundation and Chamber Music of America.
Most noted for his work with the groups Lettuce and Soulive, guitarist Eric Krasno has been touring the world since 1999 with his grooving blend of agility, grit and spirit. With Soulive, Krasno has released over fifteen CDs and collaborated with an extensive variety of artists including Dave Matthews, Chaka Khan, George Porter, John Scofield, Melvin Sparks, Charlie Hunter and Derek Trucks. Krasno just formed a new label, Feel Music Group, and launched a new signature series instrument with Ibanez Guitars. In this conversation, he shares some great stories about the beginning of Soulive, the influence and mentorship of the late Yusef Lateef as well as a preview of this year’s annual Bowlive concert residency in New York’s Brooklyn Bowl.
Guitarist Matthew Stevens is one of the most impressive voices on guitar to emerge on the international music scene in the last decade. As a player and composer , Stevens blends the visceral and cerebral elements of modern music in a distinctive blend that has been sought by such players as drummer Terri Lyne Carrington, bassist Esperanza Spaulding, drummer Jamire Williams and trumpeter Christian Scott. On “Woodwork,” Stevens is out front and at the helm of an amazing group of like-minded players including long-time collaborator, drummer Eric Doob, percussionist Paulo Stagnaro, bassist Vicente Archer and pianist Gerald Clayton. Stevens’ “Woodwork” is a dynamic release and is sure to be among the best recordings of 2015.
Alto and soprano saxophonist Jaleel Shaw is a gifted band leader, educator and all-star sideman. Hearing Jaleel with the legendary Roy Haynes, the Mingus Big Band or as the front man in his critically acclaimed groups will reveal a player well-versed in tradition with a commitment and dedication to the present. In our conversation, Shaw shares with us his musical roots in Philadelphia, his evolution as a independent musician and how composition can be a foreshadowing of things to come. All three of his CDs as a leader have been praised critically and popularly. If you haven’t heard his latest, “The Soundtrack of Things To Come,” be sure to investigate it. It captures Shaw’s working quartet in several transcendent moments investigating the music at hand with an integrity that is not easily matched or attained.
Guitarist Russell Malone’s commitment to melody, rhythm and harmony have earned him a unique place in improvisational music. Not only has he assisted fellow musicians such as Sonny Rollins, Jimmy Smith and Dianne Reeves in their groups, but Malone has won several fans of the music through his highly acclaimed solo albums and gigs as a leader. His new High Note recording, “Love Looks Good On You,” is a fantastic example of his natural wisdom and ability to choose unique material as a canvas to showcase his soulful and energetic guitar style. Enjoy our chat with Russell Malone.
Russell’s CD release show will take place on the 17th and 18th of February, 2015 at The Jazz Standard.
Mike LeDonne has never been one to hold his tongue, and today’s interview is no exception. The pianist/Hammond organist discusses how he was first drawn to his instruments, and how he ascended to become one of the most in-demand jazz musicians working today. If you haven’t had the chance to hear his Groover quartet on Tuesday nights at Smoke Jazz Club in Harlem, NY, make that a priority.
He’s putting together a special celebration benefit concert for disability pride in NYC. It takes place on Jan. 8, 2015 at Quakers Friends Meeting House in NYC. Featured players will include Ron Carter, Benny Golson, George Coleman, Brad Mehldau, Harold Mabern, Jimmy Cobb and many more. For more information, visit http://www.disabilitypridenyc.com
Today, we talk to legendary tenor and soprano saxophonist, Jimmy Heath. Jimmy is a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master who recently turned 88, and is in better form than ever. He recently released a brand new big band recording called, “Togetherness,” his first live big band CD, recorded at the Blue Note. For this interview, Jimmy preferred to focus on his newer material, but he eventually discussed a few memories from his legendary career.
His autobiography, called, I Walked with Giants, is a great read.
On today’s JazzWatch, Greg welcomes internationally-renowned saxophonist, Stacy Dillard. They discuss everything from Stacy’s early days in Muskegon Heights, Michigan to his work as an in-demand sideman, to the 3 bands he fronts. We also listen to some samples of Stacy’s work.
On today’s episode, we sit down with Kevin Calabro, head of the indie label, Royal Potato Family – a label that promotes an eclectic mix of risktaking music for what Calabro calls, “music freaks”. Greg and Kevin discuss the future of jazz, ways for musicians to catch the attention of labels, Kevin discusses his mentor, the late Joel Dorn, and they discuss the great Rahsaan Roland Kirk.
Greg also highlights a few releases from the “Smalls Live” label, including albums from Harold Mabern, John Magnarelli, Steve Bernstein and Will Vinson.
On today’s episode, we interview saxophone virtuoso, John Ellis, who has just released a long-form composition called, “Mobro” with writer Andy Bragen. In his honor, we profile some of the lesser-celebrated jazz saxophonists of the golden era – Gene Ammons, Stanley Turrentine and Eddie Harris.