JazzWatch #57 | Billy Hart

Since the 1960’s, Billy Hart has been acknowledged as a truly brilliant force in the world of improvisational music. Through his experiences with master musicians such as Shirley Horn, Jimmy Smith, Eddie Harris, Miles Davis, and as a member of Herbie Hancock’s ground breaking Mwandishi band, Hart developed a distinct rhythmic, melodic and atmospheric perspective on the drums.

Most recently, Mr. Hart has joined together with recent standout players Mark Turner, Ethan Iverson and Ben Street to form a musical brotherhood based on the ultimate trust and freedom. Over the course of three critically acclaimed CD’s, the group tours the U.S. and abroad. This year (2016), Mr. Hart turns 75, and the wisdom of his beat continues to inspire countless musicians as an educator, master clinician and traveling musician. The fact that so many young musicians continue to learn from and seek out Mr. Hart is encouraging, and I was glad to speak with him for JazzWatch. I felt inspired after our conversation, and I trust that you will enjoy out chat.

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JazzWatch #48 | Benny Golson

Composer, bandleader, saxophonist and NEA Jazz Master Benny Golson has established a legacy built on the pursuit of excellence. That excellence has also contributed to the legacy and careers of peers such as Art Farmer, Art Blakey & Lee Morgan while raising the bar among improvisers and composers for all generations that followed. His reputation as a true gentleman is equally renowned. Mr. Golson is a leading clinician and his current group featuring the rhythm section of drummer Carl Allen, bassist Buster Williams and pianist Mike LeDonne is a leading ensemble churning out the truest swing.  You wont find a more honest and pleasant soul as Mr. Golson, and it was a treasure to have a conversation with him for Jazzwatch. If you have not seen him in concert, please do so, and be on the lookout for a new CD from Mr. Golson in 2016.

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JazzWatch #46 | J.D. Allen

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.

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JazzWatch #45 | Dayna Stephens

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.

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JazzWatch #43 | Terence Blanchard

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.

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JazzWatch #34 | Rudresh Mahanthappa

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.

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JazzWatch #28 | Russell Malone

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. 

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