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 exciting Hammond B3 organists of all time, Dr. Lonnie Smith continues to take his combination of swing, groove and sound into new directions. His new CD, “Evolution,” documents just that – the Good Doctor’s blend of soulfulness and spontaneity with a special cast of musicians. There are new originals such as, “For Heaven’s Sake,” “African Suite,” and “Talk About This,” as well as re-imagined standards like, “My Favorite Things,” and “Straight No Chaser”. “Evolution” is a striking and attention-getting CD, but at the same time, familiar enough to make the listener feel right at home. It’s all part of the wizardry of Dr. Lonnie Smith. It was great to talk with the Doctor about coming back home to Blue Note Records and the similarities of late great producers Frank Wolf and Duke Pearson with current label president and producer, Don Was. Dr. Smith also gave us his ideas about how to keep young players and practitioners of the music evolving in the right direction. We hope you enjoy our chat with Dr. Lonnie Smith on Jazzwatch.
Over the last fifteen years, vocalist and songwriter Rene Marie has risen to international and popular acclaim by sticking to her guns. As you’ll hear, Rene has fought hard to be where she is and it’s paying off. She was nominated for the 2014 “Best Jazz Vocal Album” Grammy award for “I Wanna Be Evil” – her trbute to the late Eartha Kitt. These days Rene is traveling the world with her group and is preparing to record a brand new CD of all original compositions. She advocates for vocalists and musicians to be themselves and to take their craft as seriously as possible. We hope that you enjoy our chat with Rene Marie.
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.
Multi-instrumentalist and trumpet master Nicholas Payton continues to spread the Black American Music tradition to audiences across the globe. His forthcoming double CD, “Letters” is a diverse representation of this tradition and he plans to have the project out this summer. As has become customary in concert, the forthcoming release features Payton on trumpet, piano and Rhodes piano, along with Vicente Archer’s bass and the drums of Bill Stewart. You’ll also hear Payton covering organ and vocal duties on “Letters.” In our interview, Payton speaks about his new process for composing, the recent BAM Festival held in his honor in Italy, his affinity for his home city of New Orleans and reflections on music masters and mentors such as Ray Brown and Elvin Jones. Hear samples of the forthcoming “Letters” project at soundcloud.com/NicholasPayton and find out more information at nicholaspayton.com.
Grammy Award Winning vocalist Cassandra Wilson continues to inspire audiences in live performance and on her latest CD, “Coming Forth By Day.” Wilson’s distinctive aura, the synergy of her band and producer Nick Launay guide listeners through a moving devotion to the great Billie Holiday. The genre-less approach to noted Great American Songbook (GAS) classics that Holiday favored is firmly in the tradition of Wilson’s conception. She’s broken numerous barriers for the current generation of artists with regard to the types of tunes that can be covered beyond the standards, but when the material steers toward the classics found on “Coming Forth”, Wilson and company shape the arrangements in the moment and keep their ears in the present with an eye toward the future. In our conversation, Cassandra shares some insight into the making of the record, reflects on key members of her touring band and shares some wisdom with us that she gained along the way.
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.
Sullivan Joseph Fortner Jr. is a native New Orleanian who has already made a significant foray into the jazz world that belies his young age. While touring with Stefon Harris & Blackout, Christian Scott Quintet, and the Roy Hargrove Quintet, Sullivan completed his Master’s degree in Jazz Performance at Manhattan School of Music under the tutelage of Jason Moran, and Phil Markowitz. He has studied and performed with The Marsalis Family, Donald Harrison, Nicholas Payton, Billy Hart, Gary Bartz, Marcus Belgrave, The Jordan Family, Irvin Mayfield, Peter Martin, and Dave Liebman.