Van-Anh Vanessa Vo is a veteran when it comes to taking risks, and it pays off in her compelling music. As a young girl in Vietnam, she knew she wanted to be a traditional musician, even though it was a world dominated by men. It was risky, then, when she pestered a master teacher for three years to give her lessons. He finally gave in, taking her on as an apprentice.
"Imagination." "But Beautiful." "Darn That Dream." "Here's That Rainy Day." "I Thought about You." "Polka Dots and Moonbeams."
And so forth. The great American pop-tune composer Jimmy Van Heusen (shown herewith) gave us lots and lots of wonderful songs --- scores of them, in fact --- many of which we know today as first-class jazz standards. (And many of which were also, by the way, written for and/or recorded by Van Heusen's good pal, Frank Sinatra.)
This week's installment of Piano Jazz marks a true milestone, as host Marian McPartland appears as a guest on the program with guest host Elvis Costello. In part one of this all-new interview, McPartland and Costello recount some memorable moments from the program's 30-year (and counting!) run.
Jess Escalante (right), the 70-year-old founder of Mariachi Norteno, plays his guitarrón in a recent Mass for Our Lady of Guadalupe inside St. Joseph Catholic Church in Houston. He's joined by Jose Martinez.
Singer-songwriter Gregory Porter first broke through with his 2010 album Water and has since carved out a reputation as one of the next great jazz singers. His most recent album, Liquid Spirit, topped many year-end lists and appeared on NPR Music's 50 Favorite Albums of 2013.
Originally published on Fri January 10, 2014 12:00 pm
Among the breakout performers of 2013 was the young singer Cecile McLorin Salvant. Her unfussy, yet flexible delivery and penchant for material of an older vintage cut a distinct profile — especially for someone who turned 24 last year. It's no surprise that her recent album WomanChild was received with wide acclaim, named the top vocal album in NPR Music Jazz Critics Poll and collecting a Grammy nomination.
Originally published on Thu January 30, 2014 3:24 pm
Since attending Berklee College of Music, alto saxophonist Donald Harrison has been a Jazz Messenger, a leading Young Lion, a New Orleans torchbearer, and a famed mentor for new talent. As a bandleader, he merges all that and more. Accompanied by a young rhythm section and fellow New Orleanian Detroit Brooks (guitar), the "King of Nouveau Swing" returns to his alma mater — where, incidentally he also played Toast of The Nation a decade ago. The concert, part of the First Night Boston festival, was hosted by Eric Jackson of WGBH.
Originally published on Fri January 10, 2014 11:59 am
Robert McFerrin, Sr., a baritone, was the first African American man to perform solo at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, and an important interpreter of spirituals. He's clearly passed along some of his talent to his son, the world-renowned vocal gymnast Bobby McFerrin. And McFerrin the younger has recently taken an interest in his father's spiritual repertoire, putting his own spin on them for his 2013 recording spirityouall. At the Monterey Jazz Festival, he performs that material with his own progeny — his daughter Madison McFerrin.
Originally published on Wed January 15, 2014 8:11 pm
The reedman Paquito D'Rivera has made a career out of crossing genres. Born in Cuba, his larder is never out of Afro-Caribbean and Latin American sounds; he's made a name for himself as a jazz virtuoso and classical performer. Chicago's Latino Music Festival took advantage this year. Artistic director Elbio Barilari, himself a composer (and host of Fiesta!