Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Alice Smith has managed to keep her music unique, despite pressure from music labels. She joins host Michel Martin for a special performance chat of her latest album She.
Originally published on Tue August 13, 2013 5:32 pm
In 2007, I was interviewed by a journalist over lunch a day before the premiere of my Violin Concerto. One of his first questions was, "So why do you write in these old forms, the symphony, the concerto ... ?" I told him that these were simply titles which imply nothing about the form, which was another thing entirely. But it led me to ask myself: What is a symphony these days? If it no longer comprises a four-movement structure with an energetic first movement, a slow movement, a scherzo, and some kind of quick rondo, then what exactly characterizes it?
Originally published on Fri June 20, 2014 10:34 am
Wayne Shorter is among the most influential jazz composers of all time. His performances are relatively scarce, but he's turning 80 this year and he's returned to Newport to celebrate. His quartet of more than a dozen years tears apart and reconstructs his tunes — and some other pieces — in a Mr. Potato Head style. It's thrilling and a little mystifying alike. And his old friend Herbie Hancock also swung through Rhode Island to mark the occasion.
Originally published on Fri June 20, 2014 10:44 am
One gets the sense that pianist Robert Glasper feels completely at ease with his Experiment band, running his right hand in circles, cracking jokes and switching directions on the fly. Along the way, he's cracked the mold of how jazz might approach the hip-hop and R&B of today. The breakout success of last year's album Black Radio, with its real-time boom-bap and myriad vocal cameos, has already led to a sequel, due out near Halloween. Here's a freewheeling set of vamps and vocoder from Glasper and company.
Originally published on Fri June 20, 2014 10:43 am
Guitarist Rez Abbasi's new electronics-enhanced trio is driven by what its leader calls "textural surprise." As heard on the 2012 album Continuous Beat, the Pakistani-born guitarist's newest repertoire was inspired by the late drummer Paul Motian. On wax, that's a point of departure to explore material as diverse as tunes by Motian's contemporaries, Indian ragas and "The Star-Spangled Banner." Abbasi returns to Newport with a set of original compositions — and one Keith Jarrett tune.
Take a New-Orleans-style brass band, then cram it into a Volkswagen Golf: That's the general principle of how trombonist Ray Anderson's band makes a joyful noise with only four members. Matt Perrine is the sousaphonist of choice for many a New Orleans group; his bass line supports the trombone-trumpet free-for-all. The Pocket Brass Band presents music from his Sweet Chicago Suite, inspired by his hometown.
Originally published on Fri June 20, 2014 10:37 am
Amir ElSaffar grew up around Chicago as something of a trumpet prodigy, in both jazz and classical. He was winning competitions and beginning to make a go of it in New York. Then he started investigating his Iraqi heritage in music, and studying the hammered dulcimer and the modes of various Middle Eastern musics. This band splits the difference, using microtonal techniques to investigate the blues. They'll have new tunes too, commissioned for Newport and supported by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.
Originally published on Fri June 20, 2014 12:33 pm
Berklee College of Music graduate Ali Amr grew up in the Palestinian territories, where music was literally what kept him off the streets. He's translated that into a prepossessing command of the 72-string instrument called the qanun, and at Berklee, he's found a way to blend it into in a fluid, jazz-based improvising context. Like Robert Glasper, Amr calls his hybridized band the Experiment; that word has a different connotation in his hands.
A guitarist who sounds like no other, Mary Halvorson can both astound and confound, with craggy phrasing, strange pitch-bends and pedal effects galore. With two quintet albums out and a septet record due soon, she's at Newport this year as a composer and bandleader too. Her quintet resembles certain classic Jazz Messengers lineups or Charlie Parker's working band, but her pieces take a few more left-hand turns. That keeps the proceedings good and weird.