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The jazz side of Prince


When Prince died suddenly on April 21, his music’s infamous absence on the Internet-the pop icon was a painstaking defender of his catalog-had fans sharing a small handful of available clips on social media. One of the most popular, and most unexpected, was a video segment of a soundcheck from his Musicology Tour of 2004. It features just under three minutes of Prince (on guitar) and members of his band jamming joyfully on a funky arrangement of Wayne Shorter’s “Footprints.”

Covers were rare from Prince, an extremely prolific and successful songwriter; a jazz standard was unprecedented. But perhaps the surprise should be that it took him so long. Jazz was from the beginning of his 40-year career an essential part of the genre-busting musician’s palette. “He was very much a student of the music,” bassist Ben Williams, who got a chance to meet and jam with Prince several years ago, told me. “If you sat down and talked to him you found out that he knew all the songs. He was a big fan of Weather Report, of Herbie, Miles, Chick Corea.”

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