Jazz

Melissa Gilstrap

Tenor saxophonist Larry McKenna is a Philadelphia legend, but the reach of his playing extends well past his hometown. Perhaps that’s why you’ve voted him our No.7 Essential Artist.

Called "the best friend a song ever had," Nathaniel Adams Cole was such a huge success in popular music that Capitol Records became known as “The House that Nat Built.” He was a leading jazz pianist, but it was his light and liquid singing of “Mona Lisa,” “Nature Boy,” and many other hits that won millions of fans in three decades. He's your No. 8 Essential Jazz Artist on WRTI 90.1

If it’s refined and sophisticated, but it’s jumping and swinging and striding all at the same time, you’re talking Count Basie, and you voted William James Basie the No. 9 Most Essential Jazz Artist.

By 1938, clarinetist Benny Goodman was already known as "The King of Swing" — the leader of the most popular dance band in America at a time when swing jazz was America's most popular music. But nobody knew how it would be received in Carnegie Hall, America's temple to classical music.

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Jan 14, 2018

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In 1925, George Gershwin was known for his popular songs, Broadway music, and his Rhapsody in Blue. As WRTI’s Susan Lewis reports, he then tackled another classical form with his Piano Concerto in F.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released.


A continuity and a break: That's the history of The Bad Plus in a nutshell. An acoustic piano trio with the combustion properties of a post-punk band, it emerged in the early 2000s to an uproar — its surging attack and shrewd repertoire were framed as a radical split from the jazz tradition. Gradually a more perceptive view emerged, one that acknowledged where the band was really coming from.


Music, spectacular costumes, and strutting down Broad Street? It must be New Year's Day in Philadelphia with the Mummers Parade!

In 1946, Nat King Cole became the first recording artist to wrap his lush vocals around what would become a standard of the holiday season, "The Christmas Song." But that song was written by a different crooner: Mel Tormé.

NPR's Noel King spoke with Mel Tormé's youngest son, James — an accomplished jazz singer himself — to get the story behind the creation of this Christmas classic.

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