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The Gig: Canon Fodder

“The Smithsonian Collection is a sketch, a beginner’s library of jazz history,” reads an introductory note in the booklet for The Smithsonian Collection of Classic Jazz, first issued in 1973. “Necessarily, there are many worthy figures and groups left out of it, and there are others who are perhaps not ideally represented.” All disclaimers aside, the … Read More “The Gig: Canon Fodder”

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Post-Grammy Reflection

Esperanza Spalding seemed as shocked as everyone else when she won Best New Artist at the 53rd Annual Grammy Awards on Feb. 13. Hands clutching her heart, a million-watt smile lighting up her face, she looked positively breathless for a moment, though she was quick to regain her characteristic composure. It would be an understatement … Read More “Post-Grammy Reflection”

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Kurt Elling: What Makes a Jazz Singer

Since debuting on Blue Note in 1995, Kurt Elling has earned a reputation as one of the preeminent jazz singers of our time. Now based in New York City, Elling details his ascent, responds to his detractors, and sets out to define the slippery parameters of vocal jazz.

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The Gig: The Blue Egg

The Blue Egg was a jazz club on the south side of Chicago, lightly scuffed but lovingly tended, a neighborhood joint with a mixed clientele. Musicians gathered there to earn their pay and sharpen their trade, treating the place like a combination work site, grand lodge, corner bar and town square. It was, in other … Read More “The Gig: The Blue Egg”

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Christian Scott: Great Scott

Christian Scott was early for dinner in downtown Manhattan, killing time at the bar with a lemonade. In his hands was a copy of DownBeat; his image was on the cover. “I was just looking at this,” he said, casually brandishing the magazine when I showed up. His tone conveyed neither abashment nor self-conceit. He … Read More “Christian Scott: Great Scott”

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The Gig: Jazz in Hard Times

In the annals of recorded music, there may not be a more exuberant three-minute salvo than “Shoe Shine Boy,” one of a handful of sides made by the entity of Jones-Smith, Incorporated. Opening with a spring-loaded piano intro by Count Basie, it rides an irresistible current, both jaunty and relaxed. Lester Young takes his first-ever … Read More “The Gig: Jazz in Hard Times”

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The Gig: Of Horns & Hard Drives

Perhaps you’ve heard of the android trumpeter. Developed by Toyota, it was unveiled in 2004 as part of a suite of so-called Partner Robots designed to “embody kindness and intelligence and to assist with human activities,” in the parlance of a company press release. The scattered evidence found online is impressive, even scary. In one … Read More “The Gig: Of Horns & Hard Drives”

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The Gig: Pump Up the Jamz

On one level it wasn’t an unusual scene: Nicholas Payton and James Carter carving up rhythm changes on trumpet and tenor saxophone, respectively. Beside them: the indubitable bassist Christian McBride and the irrepressible drummer Roy Haynes. Boppish head, medium-bright clip. Snap, crackle. Crescendo. Applause. But this wasn’t a marquee booking at Birdland, or an all-star … Read More “The Gig: Pump Up the Jamz”

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