If anyone has earned the nickname Pops, it's Ellis Marsalis.
As jazz's best-known father figure, the senior Marsalis has four noted musical offspring: Branford, Wynton, Delfeayo and Jason. But if you consider all the musicians he's taught or mentored, his clan is even more extensive, diverse and influential.
I talked to six musicians who gave us the long view of the Marsalis family tree, and how they were schooled by its patriarch.
Originally published on Sun November 23, 2014 1:26 pm
For all those who just can't bear to hear "Jingle Bell Rock" or any of the other Yuletide earworms that will invade shopping malls and radio waves in the coming months, Norway's Trio Mediaeval has some new old music for the holiday season.
Originally published on Sat December 6, 2014 5:09 pm
11 min 44 sec
Don't ask the members of the Dublin Guitar Quartet to play the time-honored classics of the Spanish repertoire. They might play traditional Spanish style classical guitars, but they're not your standard guitar ensemble. The Dubliners are strictly devoted to contemporary music. They've been commissioning new pieces and adapting others for both acoustic and electric guitars since 2002, when the group formed at the Dublin Conservatory of Music and Drama.
Many fans first encountered one of the great voices in jazz as a whisper: Sheila Jordan made a quiet but lasting impression as a guest singer on pianist George Russell's 1962 arrangement of "You Are My Sunshine."
Since then, Jordan's career has taken her all over the world, and in 2012, she received one of the highest honors in jazz: she became an National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master. Her music has soared, but her story starts with pain.
Originally published on Mon December 1, 2014 11:35 am
Henry Threadgill's music has always pushed boundaries. Two tubas with two guitars, a "sextett" with seven members, a free-improvising trio with an instrument made of hubcaps, a dance orchestra: Nothing is off the table.
Originally published on Mon November 3, 2014 3:50 pm
New Yorkers of Puerto Rican descent are a diverse group. Some were born in Puerto Rico, some have never set foot on the island, and everyone else falls somewhere between.
But they do share a special identity, calling themselves "Nuyoricans." And when you look over the long list of notable Nuyoricans — everyone from Supreme Court Justice Sandra Sotomayor to Jennifer Lopez — it's kind of amazing how much they've contributed to American culture.
Originally published on Wed November 19, 2014 7:53 pm
Brundibár, a children's opera that premiered during World War II, became both a symbol of hope and resistance and a Nazi propaganda tool. Now, Petite Opera, a small company in suburban Chicago, is reprising the opera, originally performed by Jewish children held in a concentration camp in occupied Czechoslovakia.
Originally published on Wed November 19, 2014 3:38 pm
Last weekend, at a sold-out, star-studded gala concert in Hollywood, Pharrell Williams and Herbie Hancock remixed Williams' hit "Happy," Kevin Spacey served up a compelling Frank Sinatra imitation singing "Fly Me To The Moon" and former President Bill Clinton offered a heartfelt reminiscence about his early days as a John Coltrane wannabe. ("Sometimes frustrated jazz musicians end up in another line of work and it ends up pretty good," he joked.) The opener was a jazz concert: Three virtuosic young trumpet players — Adam O'Farrill, Billy Buss and Marquis Hill — deftly negotiated standards.