JazzWatch #59 | Alan Ferber

Grammy nominated trombonist, composer and educator, Alan Ferber’s new project, “Roots and Transitions” (Sunnyside) breaks new ground on a few levels. First, the songs on the CD examine his continued commitment to music through the lens of his role as a father. Secondly, it showcases a new process that involves composing the music first from the trombone, his primary instrument, as opposed to the piano. The results are not only exciting for the listeners, but Alan tells us that he is enjoying a new longevity and melodic focus in the compositions as well. He also shares his story about his evolution as a musician and as an artist. We had a great chat. Enjoy Alan Ferber on Jazzwatch!

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JazzWatch #58 | Kenny Barron

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.

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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 #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 #47 | René Marie

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.

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JazzWatch #44 | George Cables

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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.

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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 #42 | Nicholas Payton

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.

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JazzWatch #41 | Cassandra Wilson

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.

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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 #37 | Les McCann

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.

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JazzWatch #36 | Gerald Clayton

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.

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JazzWatch #35 | Matthew Shipp

Pianist and composer Matthew Shipp is an original voice on the modern improvisational music scene. Having been in the ensembles of noted improvisers such as Roscoe Mitchell, William Parker and David S. Ware, Shipp has enhanced his musical legacy primarily through assembling a string of his own intense and diverse musical ensembles. Recent recordings, “One”, “Un Piano,” 4D,”  “Piano Sutras,” “Root of Things,” and, “To Duke,” are direct examples of Shipp’s tireless dedication to the art of improvising. It’s honest and direct music that commands attention. Shipp speaks about his origins, many of his lasting musical associations and the need for continually presenting diverse programming at festivals and concert series.

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JazzWatch #26 | Justin Kauflin

As the newest protégé of acclaimed producer and composer Quincy Jones, pianist Justin Kauflin has traveled the world wowing audiences over the last two years. Justin’s new recording “Dedication” honors many of the influential and essential persons in his life including musical mentor and trumpet icon Clark Terry. Kauflin and Terry’s friendship is also the subject of the superb documentary “Keep on Keeping on.”

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JazzWatch #22 | Sullivan Fortner

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. 

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JazzWatch #16 | Tivon Pennicott

If you haven’t heard of Tivon Pennicott yet, don’t worry. You will soon. Having amassed two Grammy wins for his work as a soloist on Gregory Porter’s “Be Good” and “Liquid Spirit,” and for performing with star musicians such as Kenny Burrell, Roy Hargrove, and Johnny O’Neal, Pennicott’s new record, “Lover of Nature” is poised to be one of the best new releases in jazz in quite some time. The young tenor discusses his formative years growing up in Georgia, his Jamaican heritage and his acclimation to the big-city jazz scene.

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JazzWatch #15 | Duane Eubanks

Family friends and mentors are the common thread in Duane Eubanks’ forthcoming CD release, “Things of That Particular Nature” available 1/2015 on Sunnyside Records. Since his arrival on the New York scene in the mid-90’s, Duane has absorbed the information of the masters, built lasting friendships (many of whom are heard on his new CD) and continues to pass knowledge and wisdom on to the rising generation of new improvisers.

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JazzWatch #14 | Cyrus Chestnut

Pianist Cyrus Chestnut has played with everyone from Aretha Franklin to Kathleen Battle to Betty Carter to James Moody. His blend of soul and swing has elevated him to become one of the most reliable pianists of his generation. His recent CD, Midnight Melodies from the newly-formed label, The Smoke Sessions, spent a month at the top of the JazzWeek chart.

On this week’s episode, we talk about his new professorship at Howard University – a long-held dream of his. He also has a new project in the works with David Williams and Victor Lewis. We talk about his ideas about passing the lineage of the music down to up and coming players.

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JazzWatch #12 | Mike LeDonne

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

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