Jazz

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.

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.

What does it say about the state of jazz recording that Jason Moran and Rudresh Mahanthappa, both former Jazz Critics Poll winners, resorted to issuing their new albums primarily as digital downloads? Nothing good, probably, though I know some will say that digital is where sales are these days and jazz is just catching up to the zeitgeist.

Spend your holiday season curled up and comfortable with your dial tuned to WRTI. We're bringing you warm doses of yuletide cheer during our regular jazz programs, with holiday classics from Nat King Cole and Duke Ellington nipping at your ears, along with soon-to-be holiday favorites from the Michael Treni Big Band and Gregory Porter.

The four DePue brothers (Wallace, Jason, Zack, and Alex) were raised on classical music, barbershop, and Bluegrass. As WRTI’s Susan Lewis reports, today they’re juggling work at conventional ensembles—with a family-based band specializing in a blend of classical and American grass roots music.

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