The drummer has had a busy year already, having accepted the NEA Jazz Masters award and having released a new album, Sound Travels. He continues his year-long 70th birthday celebration by assembling this ad hoc band of leading lights like guitarist Lionel Loueke and bassist Christian McBride, who are both leading their own gigs this year.
Even if you've never heard of Billy Edd Wheeler, you might recognize "Jackson," a song he wrote with the help of songwriting heavyweights Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller back in 1963. It was a Top 20 pop hit for Lee Hazelwood and Nancy Sinatra in 1967, and got to No. 2 on the country charts that same year in a version by Johnny Cash and June Carter.
" 'Jackson' is a fun song," Wheeler says. "It's been my most famous and most lucrative song. It helped build our house."
The name of the band refers to Ken Peplowski, a Swing-era specialist; Evan Christopher, a living historian of the New Orleans Creole clarinet; and Anat Cohen — what doesn't she do? They're not the only ones on stage, of course — they'll be backed by a band which knows the time-honored and broad-shouldered methods of swing. This reedy convocation on the state of the clarinet today was put together for Newport, and — on the birthday anniversary of Louis Armstrong — was filled with ad lib fireworks.
Originally published on Sat August 4, 2012 7:43 pm
Bill Frisell is a soft-spoken guy who does a lot of talking with his guitar — and its pedals and effects. So perhaps it's appropriate that he recently issued an album called All We Are Saying, an collection of John Lennon songs. Though he's known primarily for working with other improvisers, he's of the Baby Boomer generation, and he doesn't hide his love for Beatles songs away. With a band including steel guitar (Greg Leisz) and violin (Jenny Scheinman), Frisell doesn't reinvent the wheel — but he certainly gives it a new spin.
After a sunny, warm afternoon on the Rhode Island shore, the first full day of the 2012 Newport Jazz Festival has come and gone. If you've got a free moment, you can already replay many of the sets we recorded online. But starting at 11:00 a.m. ET on Sunday, we'll be presenting eight more hours of live video from the festival at npr.org/newportjazz. Here's what's on tap:
Darcy James Argue's Secret Society Live From Newport
The composer Darcy James Argue has steadily been rescuing the big band from the dustbin of anachronism through a combination of enormously open ears and a gigantic well of patience. But it's paying off: After the release of his debut album Infernal Machines, the greatness of the Secret Society became an open secret, and his "co-conspirators" have now recorded a much-anticipated sophomore album. Eighteen of them give us a taste, including a peek at the Brooklyn Babylon project, originally designed for live music and live painting.
Like his countryman Pedrito Martinez (also appearing at Newport this year), drummer Dafnis Prieto came over from Cuba around the turn of the century — promptly placing every rhythm section in New York City on notice. His next-level understanding of the clave, combined with his seeming willingness to try anything that grooves, led to his nomination as a MacArthur Fellow last year. That cast of mind powering a sextet with horns will prove volatile, as it did on his 2008 album Taking The Soul For A Walk.
The great drummer turns 70 during the week following the 2012 Newport Jazz Festival, but he's certainly not going quietly into retirement age. Lately, he's been leading a quintet which combines a brilliant saxophonist fluent in South Asian music (Rudresh Mahanthappa), an electric guitarist known for microtonal experiments (Dave Fiuczynski) and the combination of keyboards (George Colligan) and acoustic bass guitar (Jerome Harris). DeJohnette was with Miles Davis at Newport in 1969; good to know he hasn't lost his mentor's adventurous spirit.