1. Before they performed as a duo in Montreal in 1990, jazz guitarist Jim Hall and bassist Charlie Haden had recorded only one session together 20 years before. The album of their concert is now out. Jazz critic Kevin Whitehead says it’s an unofficial memorial album. Hall passed away last December, and Haden in July: 

"It’s good to hear informal conversations between great musicians—these two obviously hadn’t worked much out in advance. It’s not the best thing either one ever did. But since Jim Hall loved playing duets with bass, and Charlie Haden loved duos with guitarists, and Hall thought of bass as an extension of guitar, and Haden could sound like he was picking a giant six-string, this 1990 meeting was a good idea waiting to happen. But not so good that the album came out before now." 

Hear the music/review: 
An Unofficial Memorial For Jazz Greats Jim Hall And Charlie Haden
Photo of Charlie Haden and Jim Hall via Bluenote View in High-Res

    Before they performed as a duo in Montreal in 1990, jazz guitarist Jim Hall and bassist Charlie Haden had recorded only one session together 20 years before. The album of their concert is now out. Jazz critic Kevin Whitehead says it’s an unofficial memorial album. Hall passed away last December, and Haden in July: 

    "It’s good to hear informal conversations between great musicians—these two obviously hadn’t worked much out in advance. It’s not the best thing either one ever did. But since Jim Hall loved playing duets with bass, and Charlie Haden loved duos with guitarists, and Hall thought of bass as an extension of guitar, and Haden could sound like he was picking a giant six-string, this 1990 meeting was a good idea waiting to happen. But not so good that the album came out before now." 

    Hear the music/review: 

    An Unofficial Memorial For Jazz Greats Jim Hall And Charlie Haden

    Photo of Charlie Haden and Jim Hall via Bluenote

  2. jazz

    charlie haden

    jim hall

    review

    kevin whitehead

  1. In November, 1966, eight months before he died of cancer, John Coltrane played a concert at Temple University in Philadelphia. It was not a financial success—only 700 people showed up—and the band’s high-energy music proved too much for some listeners. That concert recording is now officially out for the first time. It got our jazz critic Kevin Whitehead thinking about what Coltrane was up to: 

"John Coltrane’s 1966 Philadelphia concert wasn’t quite as legendary as folks now claim, judging by the scant attention his biographers give it. But the double-CD “Offering: Live at Temple University” spotlights an aspect of Coltrane’s late period more heard about than heard—how his generosity of spirit led him to share his stage with lesser-known players. Drop-ins here include a gaggle of local percussionists he’d been jamming with.
Coltrane’s vocal outbursts in Philly lend credence to the idea his saxophone was an extension of his voice, just as soprano sax extended the range of his tenor. But Coltrane was fascinated by the saxophone itself, and ways to animate the mechanism. His breath liberated the saxophone’s life force. He was concerned with getting the instrument to sound, to feel as well as hear the dance of a vibrating air column inside the metal tube. Some fans had given up on Coltrane by 1966, but in a way his priorities hadn’t changed. Playing standards in the ’50s, he had that same love of setting the horn vibrating with a busy line.”

Listen: One Final Offering From John Coltrane View in High-Res

    In November, 1966, eight months before he died of cancer, John Coltrane played a concert at Temple University in Philadelphia. It was not a financial success—only 700 people showed up—and the band’s high-energy music proved too much for some listeners. That concert recording is now officially out for the first time. It got our jazz critic Kevin Whitehead thinking about what Coltrane was up to: 

    "John Coltrane’s 1966 Philadelphia concert wasn’t quite as legendary as folks now claim, judging by the scant attention his biographers give it. But the double-CD “Offering: Live at Temple University” spotlights an aspect of Coltrane’s late period more heard about than heard—how his generosity of spirit led him to share his stage with lesser-known players. Drop-ins here include a gaggle of local percussionists he’d been jamming with.

    Coltrane’s vocal outbursts in Philly lend credence to the idea his saxophone was an extension of his voice, just as soprano sax extended the range of his tenor. But Coltrane was fascinated by the saxophone itself, and ways to animate the mechanism. His breath liberated the saxophone’s life force. He was concerned with getting the instrument to sound, to feel as well as hear the dance of a vibrating air column inside the metal tube. Some fans had given up on Coltrane by 1966, but in a way his priorities hadn’t changed. Playing standards in the ’50s, he had that same love of setting the horn vibrating with a busy line.”

    Listen: One Final Offering From John Coltrane

  2. john coltrane

    jazz

    temple university

    philadelphia

    philly

    fresh air

    kevin whitehead

  1. Jazz pianist Jason Moran's new album All Rise began in 2011, when he staged a dance party salute to pianist Fats Waller in Harlem, featuring singer Meshell Ndegeocello. Now that party has become a touring project, and a new album. Fresh Air jazz critic Kevin Whitehead admits to mixed feelings. View in High-Res

    Jazz pianist Jason Moran's new album All Rise began in 2011, when he staged a dance party salute to pianist Fats Waller in Harlem, featuring singer Meshell Ndegeocello. Now that party has become a touring project, and a new album. Fresh Air jazz critic Kevin Whitehead admits to mixed feelings.

  2. jazz

    review

    jason moran

    all rise

    kevin whitehead

    fresh air

  1. Tenor saxophonist Mark Turner records often, as member of the trio Fly or as a sideman. But his new album, Lathe of Heaven, is his first under his own name in over a decade. Jazz critic Kevin Whitehead says Turner’s a thinking person’s improviser. 

"Mark Turner’s “Lathe of Heaven” takes its title from Ursula K. LeGuin’s novel where the nature of reality keeps shifting. Turner says he thinks of this music as unfolding like a narrative, and you can hear the parallels. The music doesn’t give up its secrets too fast, as he parcels out his themes and sub-themes, establishing mood through the slow accumulation of details. His slinky melodies map out the terrain, foreshadowing the improvised action and interaction. That lets Mark Turner get a novelistic unity of effect. His clean plotting makes a cooler brand of jazz cool all over again."


Photo: Brian Harkin for the New York Times  View in High-Res

    Tenor saxophonist Mark Turner records often, as member of the trio Fly or as a sideman. But his new album, Lathe of Heaven, is his first under his own name in over a decade. Jazz critic Kevin Whitehead says Turner’s a thinking person’s improviser. 

    "Mark Turner’s “Lathe of Heaven” takes its title from Ursula K. LeGuin’s novel where the nature of reality keeps shifting. Turner says he thinks of this music as unfolding like a narrative, and you can hear the parallels. The music doesn’t give up its secrets too fast, as he parcels out his themes and sub-themes, establishing mood through the slow accumulation of details. His slinky melodies map out the terrain, foreshadowing the improvised action and interaction. That lets Mark Turner get a novelistic unity of effect. His clean plotting makes a cooler brand of jazz cool all over again."

    Photo: Brian Harkin for the New York Times 

  2. mark turner

    jazz

    saxophone

    kevin whitehead

    fresh air

  1. 
[Jazz violinist]  Jean-Luc Ponty’s long rococo lines helped set the style for jazz rock fusion, via his work with Frank Zappa, who wrote him the album “King Kong,” and then the Mahavishnu Orchestra. Ponty drew inspiration from horn players, but he shares one failing with some other jazz violinists: he rarely pauses to take a breath. Even Groucho put the cigar down/took the cigar out once in awhile.
- Kevin Whitehead


Photo: Jean-Luc Ponty in 1971  View in High-Res

    [Jazz violinist]  Jean-Luc Ponty’s long rococo lines helped set the style for jazz rock fusion, via his work with Frank Zappa, who wrote him the album “King Kong,” and then the Mahavishnu Orchestra. Ponty drew inspiration from horn players, but he shares one failing with some other jazz violinists: he rarely pauses to take a breath. Even Groucho put the cigar down/took the cigar out once in awhile.

    - Kevin Whitehead

    Photo: Jean-Luc Ponty in 1971 

  2. jean-luc ponty

    jazz

    kevin whitehead

    frank zappa

    violin

  1. Two new trio albums by tenor saxophonists who won the Thelonious Monk jazz competition share a conspicuous influence — vintage Sonny Rollins. Fresh Air critic Kevin Whitehead reviews  Melissa Aldana & Crash Trio by last year’s winner, 25-year old Chile-born New Yorker Melissa Aldana, and Trios Live by Joshua Redman, who took the prize in 1991.

It can be tricky, paying tribute to a grand master; you don’t want to invite a direct comparison. Melissa Aldana heads that off by not trying to sound too much like her hero. Her tone has body, but it’s a bit lighter and smoother than vintage Sonny Rollins, more alto-like in the upper register. Aldana was mentored by saxophonists Greg Osby and George Coleman, and you can also hear traces of Osby’s floating sense of time and Coleman’s smeary blues abstractions. That’s one way to transcend your key influences—mix ’em together, along with what you’ve figured out for yourself.

    Two new trio albums by tenor saxophonists who won the Thelonious Monk jazz competition share a conspicuous influence — vintage Sonny Rollins. Fresh Air critic Kevin Whitehead reviews  Melissa Aldana & Crash Trio by last year’s winner, 25-year old Chile-born New Yorker Melissa Aldana, and Trios Live by Joshua Redman, who took the prize in 1991.

    It can be tricky, paying tribute to a grand master; you don’t want to invite a direct comparison. Melissa Aldana heads that off by not trying to sound too much like her hero. Her tone has body, but it’s a bit lighter and smoother than vintage Sonny Rollins, more alto-like in the upper register. Aldana was mentored by saxophonists Greg Osby and George Coleman, and you can also hear traces of Osby’s floating sense of time and Coleman’s smeary blues abstractions. That’s one way to transcend your key influences—mix ’em together, along with what you’ve figured out for yourself.

  2. jazz

    saxophone

    melissa aldana

    kevin whitehead

  1. Jazz pianist Jaki Byard played in the bands of Charles Mingus, Rahsaan,  Roland Kirk and Booker Ervin. Then he began making solo and small-band records under his own name. Jazz critic Kevin Whitehead says, Byard had a rare ability to sound archaic and ahead of his time.

    Jazz pianist Jaki Byard played in the bands of Charles Mingus, Rahsaan,  Roland Kirk and Booker Ervin. Then he began making solo and small-band records under his own name. Jazz critic Kevin Whitehead says, Byard had a rare ability to sound archaic and ahead of his time.

  2. jazz

    jaki byard

    kevin whitehead

    piano

    review

  1. Fresh Air jazz critic Kevin Whitehead reviews ‘Wish The Children Would Come On Home' by The Westerlies, a quartet of young New York brass players playing the music of composer and improviser Wayne Horvitz: 

"There are a few such echoes here of riffing minimalism, another music built on the cumulative power of simple riffs. It’s part of the mix alongside jazz, chamber music, small-town brass bands and garage rock. The Westerlies represent a breed of musicians rare when [composer] Wayne Horvitz was coming up: skilled interpreters who are also adept improvisers. With such versatile and well-equipped performers around, composers can expand their reach—and they may all wind up in places they might not’ve found on their own."
View in High-Res

    Fresh Air jazz critic Kevin Whitehead reviews ‘Wish The Children Would Come On Home' by The Westerlies, a quartet of young New York brass players playing the music of composer and improviser Wayne Horvitz: 

    "There are a few such echoes here of riffing minimalism, another music built on the cumulative power of simple riffs. It’s part of the mix alongside jazz, chamber music, small-town brass bands and garage rock. The Westerlies represent a breed of musicians rare when [composer] Wayne Horvitz was coming up: skilled interpreters who are also adept improvisers. With such versatile and well-equipped performers around, composers can expand their reach—and they may all wind up in places they might not’ve found on their own."

  2. the westerlies

    jazz

    kevin whitehead

    review

    wayne horvitz

    brass

  1. Fresh Air jazz critic Kevin Whitehead remembers jazz pianist Horace Silver, who passed away this week: 

"Horace Silver could handle bebop’s high-speed chases, but he favored more relaxed tempos and stronger echoes of blues and gospel—what came to be called hard bop. He started leading his own two-horn quintets featuring no end of original tunes with infectious, built-in grooves—and maybe little extensions or riffing interludes to spur the players on. On his mid-’50s hit “The Preacher,” adapted from an old drinking song, you can practically see the congregation swaying in the pews. Whole bands, whole movements would take off from that sound.”

    Fresh Air jazz critic Kevin Whitehead remembers jazz pianist Horace Silver, who passed away this week: 

    "Horace Silver could handle bebop’s high-speed chases, but he favored more relaxed tempos and stronger echoes of blues and gospel—what came to be called hard bop. He started leading his own two-horn quintets featuring no end of original tunes with infectious, built-in grooves—and maybe little extensions or riffing interludes to spur the players on. On his mid-’50s hit “The Preacher,” adapted from an old drinking song, you can practically see the congregation swaying in the pews. Whole bands, whole movements would take off from that sound.”

  2. horace silver

    jazz

    bop

    review

    kevin whitehead

  1. Fresh Air’s jazz critic Kevin Whitehead reviews two albums from Ronald Shannon Jackson & The Decoding Society that are now available for download, having been out of print for ages: 

Ronald Shannon Jackson like other ’80s composers abstracted looping structures from West Africa’s intersecting rhythm cycles. His tune “Iola” is built in layers: the basses play different lines, one twice as long as the other, as a horn melody moves in slow motion over the top. Vernon Reid plays banjo, African American instrument rarely heard in creative music, because of uncool associations with minstrelsy and dixieland. But its thin percussive snap cuts through and helps keep the texture transparent. 


Listen to the full review
image via Jazz Forum  View in High-Res

    Fresh Air’s jazz critic Kevin Whitehead reviews two albums from Ronald Shannon Jackson & The Decoding Society that are now available for download, having been out of print for ages: 

    Ronald Shannon Jackson like other ’80s composers abstracted looping structures from West Africa’s intersecting rhythm cycles. His tune “Iola” is built in layers: the basses play different lines, one twice as long as the other, as a horn melody moves in slow motion over the top. Vernon Reid plays banjo, African American instrument rarely heard in creative music, because of uncool associations with minstrelsy and dixieland. But its thin percussive snap cuts through and helps keep the texture transparent. 

    Listen to the full review

    image via Jazz Forum 

  2. ronald shannon jackson

    free funk

    music

    review

    kevin whitehead

  1. In June 1970, Miles Davis played four nights at New York’s rock palace Fillmore East—following earlier appearances that year, there and at San Francisco’s Fillmore West. Four sets of that June music are now out in full for the first time. Jazz Critic Kevin Whitehead says, the jazz trumpeter had gone to the Fillmore in search of a new audience: 

It messed jazz people up, the music Miles Davis made in 1970, like the four sets recorded that June now issued complete on “Miles at the Fillmore.” Two years earlier he’d been leading one of the most beloved jazz bands ever—the one with Wayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock. Then he went electric. Instead of playing jazz clubs, now he was playing tokids who came out to hear the rock bands he split bills with. As one of those rock kids who saw Miles at the Fillmore in 1970, I gotta admit, the music was too weird for me. But later I could not stop thinking about it.
View in High-Res

    In June 1970, Miles Davis played four nights at New York’s rock palace Fillmore East—following earlier appearances that year, there and at San Francisco’s Fillmore West. Four sets of that June music are now out in full for the first time. Jazz Critic Kevin Whitehead says, the jazz trumpeter had gone to the Fillmore in search of a new audience: 

    It messed jazz people up, the music Miles Davis made in 1970, like the four sets recorded that June now issued complete on “Miles at the Fillmore.” Two years earlier he’d been leading one of the most beloved jazz bands ever—the one with Wayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock. Then he went electric. Instead of playing jazz clubs, now he was playing tokids who came out to hear the rock bands he split bills with. As one of those rock kids who saw Miles at the Fillmore in 1970, I gotta admit, the music was too weird for me. But later I could not stop thinking about it.

  2. miles davis

    jazz

    kevin whitehead

    review

  1. 
Drummer Billy Hart has recorded hundreds of albums, backing, among many others, pianist Herbie Hancock. But he sometimes records under his own name too, especially now that he has a well-seasoned quartet. Our jazz critic Kevin Whitehead has a review of Billy Hart’s new quartet CD, One is the Other: 

"On drummer Billy Hart’s new quartet CD One Is the Other, Hart’s tune “Yard” paraphrases Charlie Yardbird Parker’s line “Cheryl.” In a way that’s typical Hart; he knows his history but puts his own wobble on it. The band too: saxophonist Mark Turner’s “Lennie Groove” updates Lennie Tristano’s long snaky melodies. Pianist Ethan Iverson’s tune “Maraschino” owes something to Thelonious Monk’s halting ballads, and to the late drummer Paul Motian’s tunes built on catchy little phrases. 
 Hart’s band first assembled in 2003 as the Ethan Iverson/Mark Turner Quartet. But the drummer loved playing in it so much, his younger comrades handed him the keys: Now we’ll be your band.”

Photograph by Nathea Lee View in High-Res

    Drummer Billy Hart has recorded hundreds of albums, backing, among many others, pianist Herbie Hancock. But he sometimes records under his own name too, especially now that he has a well-seasoned quartet. Our jazz critic Kevin Whitehead has a review of Billy Hart’s new quartet CD, One is the Other:

    "On drummer Billy Hart’s new quartet CD One Is the Other, Hart’s tune “Yard” paraphrases Charlie Yardbird Parker’s line “Cheryl.” In a way that’s typical Hart; he knows his history but puts his own wobble on it. The band too: saxophonist Mark Turner’s “Lennie Groove” updates Lennie Tristano’s long snaky melodies. Pianist Ethan Iverson’s tune “Maraschino” owes something to Thelonious Monk’s halting ballads, and to the late drummer Paul Motian’s tunes built on catchy little phrases.

     Hart’s band first assembled in 2003 as the Ethan Iverson/Mark Turner Quartet. But the drummer loved playing in it so much, his younger comrades handed him the keys: Now we’ll be your band.

    Photograph by Nathea Lee

  2. Billy Hart

    Jazz

    Kevin Whitehead

    Fresh Air

  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

    Jazz

    Kevin Whitehead

    Fresh Air

    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

  2. jazz

    eric dolphy

    review

    kevin whitehead

  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."

  2. frank wess

    kevin whitehead

    jazz

    review

    magic 201

    jazz flute