1. Kevin Whitehead reviews a new collection of performances by jazz pianist Bud Powell recorded at Birdland in 1953 — 


"Bud Powell had played Birdland before he opened there on Feb. 5, 1953, but this return engagement was a big deal. That very day, he’d been discharged from a state psychiatric hospital, after being committed for a year and a half following a drug bust. (Powell’s mental troubles stemmed partly from a 1945 police beating in Philadelphia.) He was painfully uncommunicative face to face. But when he sat at the keys, it was a whole other story."

Photo via Metronome/Getty Images View in High-Res

    Kevin Whitehead reviews a new collection of performances by jazz pianist Bud Powell recorded at Birdland in 1953 —

    "Bud Powell had played Birdland before he opened there on Feb. 5, 1953, but this return engagement was a big deal. That very day, he’d been discharged from a state psychiatric hospital, after being committed for a year and a half following a drug bust. (Powell’s mental troubles stemmed partly from a 1945 police beating in Philadelphia.) He was painfully uncommunicative face to face. But when he sat at the keys, it was a whole other story."

    Photo via Metronome/Getty Images

  2. Bud Powell

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    Kevin Whitehead

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    Birdland

  1. 
1964 was a great year for cutting-edge jazz records like Albert Ayler’s Spiritual Unity, John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme and Andrew Hill’s Point of Departure. But none sounds as far ahead of its time as Eric Dolphy's masterpiece Out to Lunch, recorded for Blue Note on Feb. 25, 1964. Half a century later it still sounds crazy in a good way. The organized mayhem starts with Dolphy’s tunes, often featuring wide, wide leaps in the melody and ratchet-gear rhythms. His composition “Straight Up and Down” was inspired by the careful walk of a drunk striving to stay upright. He improvised with that same kind of angular energy, and an excitable tone like a goosed goose.


Jazz critic Kevin Whitehead on Eric Dolphy’s album Out to Lunch View in High-Res

    1964 was a great year for cutting-edge jazz records like Albert Ayler’s Spiritual Unity, John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme and Andrew Hill’s Point of Departure. But none sounds as far ahead of its time as Eric Dolphy's masterpiece Out to Lunch, recorded for Blue Note on Feb. 25, 1964. Half a century later it still sounds crazy in a good way. The organized mayhem starts with Dolphy’s tunes, often featuring wide, wide leaps in the melody and ratchet-gear rhythms. His composition “Straight Up and Down” was inspired by the careful walk of a drunk striving to stay upright. He improvised with that same kind of angular energy, and an excitable tone like a goosed goose.

    Jazz critic Kevin Whitehead on Eric Dolphy’s album Out to Lunch

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    eric dolphy

    review

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  1. Jazz critic Kevin Whitehead reviews Magic 201, the last album from jazz flutist and saxophonist Frank Wess before he passed away last year:

"Nowadays we have ample evidence that playing jazz keeps the mind and body nimble, given all the musicians in their ’80s and up who still sound good. But we are running out of saxophonists whose styles were formed before John Coltrane’s harder sound took over. There is something tender and specific about the ways elders like Frank Wess shaped their notes that’s hard for younger musicians to evoke without anachronisms creeping in. That’s one reason music lovers love their records: even after the masters are gone, their sound is right here with us."


View in High-Res

    Jazz critic Kevin Whitehead reviews Magic 201, the last album from jazz flutist and saxophonist Frank Wess before he passed away last year:

    "Nowadays we have ample evidence that playing jazz keeps the mind and body nimble, given all the musicians in their ’80s and up who still sound good. But we are running out of saxophonists whose styles were formed before John Coltrane’s harder sound took over. There is something tender and specific about the ways elders like Frank Wess shaped their notes that’s hard for younger musicians to evoke without anachronisms creeping in. That’s one reason music lovers love their records: even after the masters are gone, their sound is right here with us."

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  1. Jazz critic Kevin Whitehead reviews soprano saxophonist Jane Ira Bloom's new album, Sixteen Sunsets:

"One reason Bloom’s ballads are usually so effective is the contrast with her fast numbers. On Sixteen Sunsets, only a couple of songs outrun or even approach a medium tempo. One of those is her oldie “Ice Dancing,” a bright tune with a tango tinge, and a catchy ending like a mousetrap snapping shut.
In the long run this program of non-stop beautiful ballads starts to seem like too much of a good thing. Yeah, that’s right — we’re complaining about an overabundance of riches.”



image via vimeo View in High-Res

    Jazz critic Kevin Whitehead reviews soprano saxophonist Jane Ira Bloom's new album, Sixteen Sunsets:

    "One reason Bloom’s ballads are usually so effective is the contrast with her fast numbers. On Sixteen Sunsets, only a couple of songs outrun or even approach a medium tempo. One of those is her oldie “Ice Dancing,” a bright tune with a tango tinge, and a catchy ending like a mousetrap snapping shut.

    In the long run this program of non-stop beautiful ballads starts to seem like too much of a good thing. Yeah, that’s right — we’re complaining about an overabundance of riches.”

    image via vimeo

  2. fresh air

    jane ira bloom

    jazz

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    soprano sax

  1. Fresh Air critic Kevin Whitehead celebrates drummer Kenny Clarke's incredible contribution to jazz:

January 9th marks the 100th birthday of drummer Kenny Clarke. One of the founders of bebop, Clarke is less well-known than allies like Dizzy Gillespie and Thelonious Monk, but his influence is just as deep.
That thing that jazz drummers do — that ching-chinga-ching beat on the ride cymbal, like sleigh bells? It gives the music a light, airy, driving pulse. Clarke came up with that, and that springy shimmer came to epitomize swinging itself.
Before him, jazz drummers kept time lightly on the bass drum. Kenny Clarke used bass drum sparingly, often tethered to his snare, for dramatic accents in odd places — what jazz folk call “dropping bombs.” He drew on his playing for stage shows, where drummers punctuate the action with split-second timing. Clarke kicked a band along.

image via drumlessons

    Fresh Air critic Kevin Whitehead celebrates drummer Kenny Clarke's incredible contribution to jazz:

    January 9th marks the 100th birthday of drummer Kenny Clarke. One of the founders of bebop, Clarke is less well-known than allies like Dizzy Gillespie and Thelonious Monk, but his influence is just as deep.

    That thing that jazz drummers do — that ching-chinga-ching beat on the ride cymbal, like sleigh bells? It gives the music a light, airy, driving pulse. Clarke came up with that, and that springy shimmer came to epitomize swinging itself.

    Before him, jazz drummers kept time lightly on the bass drum. Kenny Clarke used bass drum sparingly, often tethered to his snare, for dramatic accents in odd places — what jazz folk call “dropping bombs.” He drew on his playing for stage shows, where drummers punctuate the action with split-second timing. Clarke kicked a band along.

    image via drumlessons

  2. fresh air

    jazz

    kevin whitehead

    kenny clarke

    drums

  1. Jazz critic Kevin Whitehead reviews Michele Rosewoman's new album with her ensemble titled New Yor-Uba: A Musical Celebration of Cuba in America:

On most pieces, Michele Rosewoman wraps her compositions around Yoruban or Dahomeyan devotional chants and drum patterns. They give the music a spiritual resonance across centuries and continents. Rosewoman treats those materials with care — the sung prayers appear in the prescribed order, and have their own integrity within the band’s performance. The ensemble’s lead vocalist is the magnetic Pedrito Martinez, whose singing opens a window on another time.


image via irockjazz View in High-Res

    Jazz critic Kevin Whitehead reviews Michele Rosewoman's new album with her ensemble titled New Yor-Uba: A Musical Celebration of Cuba in America:

    On most pieces, Michele Rosewoman wraps her compositions around Yoruban or Dahomeyan devotional chants and drum patterns. They give the music a spiritual resonance across centuries and continents. Rosewoman treats those materials with care — the sung prayers appear in the prescribed order, and have their own integrity within the band’s performance. The ensemble’s lead vocalist is the magnetic Pedrito Martinez, whose singing opens a window on another time.

    image via irockjazz

  2. fresh air

    kevin whitehead

    michele rosewoman

    new yor-uba

    jazz

  1. 
This Thanksgiving there were a lot of articles online about arming yourself with good information before arguing politics at seasonal dinners. With so much contention in the air, maybe music can help bring folks with opposing views together. 


Jazz critic Kevin Whitehead has some suggestions for music to keep the peace during the hectic holiday season.



image via the britannica View in High-Res

    This Thanksgiving there were a lot of articles online about arming yourself with good information before arguing politics at seasonal dinners. With so much contention in the air, maybe music can help bring folks with opposing views together.

    Jazz critic Kevin Whitehead has some suggestions for music to keep the peace during the hectic holiday season.

    image via the britannica

  2. fresh air

    kevin whitehead

    holiday season

    jazz

  1. Jazz critic Kevin Whitehead reviews the complete Chick Webb & Ella Fitzgerald Decca Sessions (1934-1941) anthology:

Drummer Chick Webb’s 1930s’s orchestra terrorized competitors in band battles and sent dancers into orbit at Harlem’s Savoy Ballroom. They could similarly explosive on record, but only rarely. Early on they did have some hot Edgar Sampson arrangements that Benny Goodman would soon turn into hits, like “Blue Lou” and “Don’t Be That Way.” But the Webb band also had an old school crooner, Charles Linton, with pre-jazz-age enunciation. In 1935 Linton helped draw a curtain over mannered singing like his, when he brought scruffy 16-year-old Ella Fitzgerald to Chick Webb’s attention. Her sound was streamlined and modern, about melody and rhythm more than emoting. Ella was unformed, but could read music and learn a song in a second. “This is it,” Webb said. “I have a real singer now. That’s what the public wants.” Music publishers deluged the band with mostly forgettable medium tempo swing tunes, but Ella could make something out of almost anything—such as “Sing Me a Swing Song (And Let Me Dance).” Her articulation was always precise, but as in later years a New York accent might slip out. 
View in High-Res

    Jazz critic Kevin Whitehead reviews the complete Chick Webb & Ella Fitzgerald Decca Sessions (1934-1941) anthology:

    Drummer Chick Webb’s 1930s’s orchestra terrorized competitors in band battles and sent dancers into orbit at Harlem’s Savoy Ballroom. They could similarly explosive on record, but only rarely. Early on they did have some hot Edgar Sampson arrangements that Benny Goodman would soon turn into hits, like “Blue Lou” and “Don’t Be That Way.” But the Webb band also had an old school crooner, Charles Linton, with pre-jazz-age enunciation.

    In 1935 Linton helped draw a curtain over mannered singing like his, when he brought scruffy 16-year-old Ella Fitzgerald to Chick Webb’s attention. Her sound was streamlined and modern, about melody and rhythm more than emoting. Ella was unformed, but could read music and learn a song in a second. “This is it,” Webb said. “I have a real singer now. That’s what the public wants.” Music publishers deluged the band with mostly forgettable medium tempo swing tunes, but Ella could make something out of almost anything—such as “Sing Me a Swing Song (And Let Me Dance).” Her articulation was always precise, but as in later years a New York accent might slip out.

  2. fresh air

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    ella fitzgerald

    chick webb

    harlem

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    review

    decca records

  1. Jazz critic Kevin Whitehead reviews William Parker's new box set “Wood Flute Songs:”

Parker’s bass tone was always sturdy as a tree trunk, but power drummer Hamid Drake gives him lift. The upshot is that free jazz can swing, too. The quartet’s front line is another firm partnership: quicksilver alto saxophonist Rob Brown and flinty trumpeter Lewis Barnes. Their scrappy unisons on the melodies are raggedly right, and they finish each other’s phrases when they improvise. Parker writes them all catchy tunes to use as springboards.



photo via the Guardian by Peter Gannushkin

    Jazz critic Kevin Whitehead reviews William Parker's new box set “Wood Flute Songs:”

    Parker’s bass tone was always sturdy as a tree trunk, but power drummer Hamid Drake gives him lift. The upshot is that free jazz can swing, too. The quartet’s front line is another firm partnership: quicksilver alto saxophonist Rob Brown and flinty trumpeter Lewis Barnes. Their scrappy unisons on the melodies are raggedly right, and they finish each other’s phrases when they improvise. Parker writes them all catchy tunes to use as springboards.

    photo via the Guardian by Peter Gannushkin

  2. fresh air

    jazz

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  1. Fresh Air jazz critic Kevin Whitehead reviews Booker Ervin's album “The Book Cooks” :

    Tenor saxophonist Booker Ervin came to New York in 1958. Pianist Horace Parlan heard him and invited Ervin to sit in one night with a band he worked in. That’s how Ervin got hired by bassist Charles Mingus, who featured him on albums like Blues and Roots and Mingus Ah Um. Before long, Ervin was making his own records, like The Book Cooks, which has just been reissued on the re-revived Bethlehem label.

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    review

    kevin whitehead

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    charles mingus

  1. Jazz critic Kevin Whitehead reviews Amir ElSaffar's newest album Alchemy:

Trumpeter Amir ElSaffar grew up near Chicago, playing jazz trumpet. In the early 2000s, while in his mid-20s, he began investigating the music of his Iraqi heritage, studying in Baghdad and with expatriate musicians in Europe. Then he began combining the two.
ElSaffar’s new album Alchemy is a step forward in defining and refining his concept.



image via Cornelia Street Cafe View in High-Res

    Jazz critic Kevin Whitehead reviews Amir ElSaffar's newest album Alchemy:

    Trumpeter Amir ElSaffar grew up near Chicago, playing jazz trumpet. In the early 2000s, while in his mid-20s, he began investigating the music of his Iraqi heritage, studying in Baghdad and with expatriate musicians in Europe. Then he began combining the two.

    ElSaffar’s new album Alchemy is a step forward in defining and refining his concept.

    image via Cornelia Street Cafe

  2. fresh air

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  1. Kevin Whitehead reviews Ahmad Jamal's new album “Saturday Morning”:

Jazz pianist Ahmad Jamal started playing when he was three years old in Pittsburgh—which means he’s now playing for 80 years. His new CD Saturday Morning often recalls his elegant trios of yesteryear, with its  tightly synchronized arrangements, plenty of open space, and a deceptively simple charm.
But his old trios were quieter. It’s no surprise when a pianist plays with lots of energy in youth, and then with more reserve when they’re older. Jamal has gone the other way: over time he’s become more expansive, and funkier. Bassist Reginald Veal and New Orleans drummer Herlin Riley bring hardcore swing and the funk.
View in High-Res

    Kevin Whitehead reviews Ahmad Jamal's new album “Saturday Morning:

    Jazz pianist Ahmad Jamal started playing when he was three years old in Pittsburgh—which means he’s now playing for 80 years. His new CD Saturday Morning often recalls his elegant trios of yesteryear, with its  tightly synchronized arrangements, plenty of open space, and a deceptively simple charm.

    But his old trios were quieter. It’s no surprise when a pianist plays with lots of energy in youth, and then with more reserve when they’re older. Jamal has gone the other way: over time he’s become more expansive, and funkier. Bassist Reginald Veal and New Orleans drummer Herlin Riley bring hardcore swing and the funk.

  2. fresh air

    review

    kevin whitehead

    jazz

    ahmad jamal

  1. Jazz critic Kevin Whitehead reviews “Prism,” the newest album from Dave Holland’s quartet. Holland was a long time collaborator with Miles Davis:

Everybody on Prism gets it, that the pleasures of the groove are complex and deep—it’s not just about moving feet. Dave Holland has minded such matters for decades, but he’s wise to shake up his music even when it’s been going fine. Trading information with smart younger colleagues gives you a fresh look at the puzzle. Now that’s an idea he might’ve gotten from Miles Davis.
View in High-Res

    Jazz critic Kevin Whitehead reviews “Prism,” the newest album from Dave Holland’s quartet. Holland was a long time collaborator with Miles Davis:

    Everybody on Prism gets it, that the pleasures of the groove are complex and deep—it’s not just about moving feet. Dave Holland has minded such matters for decades, but he’s wise to shake up his music even when it’s been going fine. Trading information with smart younger colleagues gives you a fresh look at the puzzle. Now that’s an idea he might’ve gotten from Miles Davis.

  2. fresh air

    review

    kevin whitehead

    dave holland

    prism

    miles davis

    jazz

  1. Jazz critic Kevin Whitehead celebrates the life and style of pianist Art Hodes in the reissue of the album, “I Remember Bessie,” the songs of Bessie Smith.

Art Hodes relished playing the role of the old piano professor. By the 1970s, he was an anachronism, pulling off techniques lost to many younger pianists — like playing those ripples up and down the keyboard in the midst of everything else going on: the effect is like a passing wave while you’re standing in water.
View in High-Res

    Jazz critic Kevin Whitehead celebrates the life and style of pianist Art Hodes in the reissue of the album, “I Remember Bessie,” the songs of Bessie Smith.

    Art Hodes relished playing the role of the old piano professor. By the 1970s, he was an anachronism, pulling off techniques lost to many younger pianists — like playing those ripples up and down the keyboard in the midst of everything else going on: the effect is like a passing wave while you’re standing in water.

  2. fresh air

    review

    kevin whitehead

    art hodes

    jazz

    piano

  1. Jazz critic Kevin Whitehead on Orrin Evans' new album titled “…It was beauty:”

On Philadelphia pianist Orrin Evans’ trio version of Ornette Coleman’s “Blues Connotation,” drummer Donald Edwards and bassist Eric Revis set a New Orleans second line groove tinged with vintage hip-hop. A beat like that is catnip to Evans, who gets right down and rolls in it. He quotes from [Thelonious] Monk and Miles [Davis] tunes in his solo, keeping the mood light.


image via McKenna Group Productions LLC View in High-Res

    Jazz critic Kevin Whitehead on Orrin Evans' new album titled “…It was beauty:”

    On Philadelphia pianist Orrin Evans’ trio version of Ornette Coleman’s “Blues Connotation,” drummer Donald Edwards and bassist Eric Revis set a New Orleans second line groove tinged with vintage hip-hop. A beat like that is catnip to Evans, who gets right down and rolls in it. He quotes from [Thelonious] Monk and Miles [Davis] tunes in his solo, keeping the mood light.

    image via McKenna Group Productions LLC

  2. review

    fresh air

    kevin whitehead

    orrin evans

    jazz

    blues

    npr music