Jazz

There are not enough letter O's in smooth when you’re talking about the Duke. Ellington was elegance personified. This band leader was refined in everything—from how he dressed, to his compositions, to his playing, to his connection with audiences. But no matter how smooth his manner or refined his looks, it all came down to one thing—“It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing).” And boy did Ellington swing.

Billie Holiday possessed one of the most distinctive singing voices in jazz, and was always stretching the boundaries, and improvising within the vocal line. In a life cut short by drugs and alcohol, "Lady Day" mesmerized audiences with her interpretations of standards such as “God Bless the Child.” But her version of the anti-lynching cri de coeur “Strange Fruit” became the “Marseillaise” of the Civil Rights Movement.

Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie have been credited with changing the face of jazz in the mid 1940s. They kicked it up a notch, and ushered in an era known as "modern jazz"—which some dubbed "bebop."


Charlie Parker, Credit: William Gottlieb

Yesterday’s No. 9 was Count Basie, and he influenced a kid from Kansas City who became the fastest, cleanest operator of an alto saxophone through the remote harmonies of bop that followed Big Band’s heyday. “Yardbird” or “Bird,” he was Charlie Parker. You voted this phoenix-like talent the No. 8 Most Essential Jazz Artist.

WRTI's Essential Jazz Artist No. 9: Count Basie

Jan 31, 2017

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.

WRTI's Essential Jazz Artist No. 10: Stan Getz

Jan 30, 2017

Tenor saxophonist Stan Getz was called “The Sound”; his warm, lyrical voice was legendary. The bop and cool jazz purveyor may be most well known, however, for bossa nova and his 1964 hit, “The Girl from Ipanema" from the GRAMMY-winning album with Brazilian guitarist João Gilberto, Getz/Gilberto. Getz is No. 10 in WRTI's Essential Jazz Artists Countdown.

Call her “Sassy,” “Sass,” or “The Divine One,” but Sarah Vaughan had a “once in a lifetime, perhaps once in several lifetimes” voice, as jazz critic Gary Giddins wrote. She won four GRAMMYs, including a Lifetime Achievement Award, and the NEA Jazz Masters Award.

Bob Perkins calls him “The Wonderful Wizard of OZcar," Ellington called him “The Maharaja of the Keyboard,” and his friends just said “O.P." But let's just call Oscar Peterson one of the greatest jazz pianists ever. The man could swing!

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. 13 Essential Jazz Artist on WRTI.

Finding Jazz in Maurice Ravel's Piano Concerto

Jan 16, 2017

It was the late 1920s when French composer Maurice Ravel first heard jazz in the United States and in Paris, where it was also popular. How did it influence his 1931 Piano Concerto in G Major? WRTI’s Susan Lewis has more.

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