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'Jazz Night In America' Remembers Artists We Lost In 2019

Dr. John performs onstage during Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival on Sept. 26, 2015 in Franklin, Tenn.
Jason Davis
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Dr. John performs onstage during Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival on Sept. 26, 2015 in Franklin, Tenn.

Just over 40 years ago, Joseph Jarman published a book of poetry that opens with a chant: "we pray o God / for the ego / death." Jarman, a visionary saxophonist and composer, was writing mainly about transcendence of the self. But he keenly understood the power of a collective, which presses each individual into the service of a greater whole.

That selfless state of being unites all of the artists on our In Memoriam show. In addition to Joseph Jarman — who is beautifully remembered by a longtime collaborator, pianist Myra Melford — we'll celebrate other brilliant musicians who lifted all around them.

It's a Jazz Night in America tradition to seek out stories from those who knew the artists best. So we'll hear about post-bop piano virtuoso Harold Mabern from a former student and longtime band mate, saxophonist Eric Alexander. Another brilliant pianist, Larry Willis, is remembered by NBA great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, a childhood friend. The radiant singer Ethel Ennis, known as Baltimore's First Lady of Jazz, gets a testimonial from pianist Cyrus Chestnut, one of many hometown musicians who moved through her orbit. And saxophonist / composer / arranger Ray Santos receives a glowing encomium from Latin jazz titan Eddie Palmieri.

You could characterize all of these artists as crucial behind-the-scenes types rather than natural headliners. You probably couldn't say the same about Dr. John, the New Orleans pianist and vocalist extraordinaire — but as Jon Batiste notes in his remembrance, he was "the manifestation of a cultural phenomenon." That's another way of saying: he was part of something bigger than himself.

Set List:

  • "I Walk On Guilded Splinters" (Dr. John)
  • "Old Time Southside Street Dance" (Joseph Jarman)
  • "Hey You" (Ethel Ennis)
  • "To Wisdom, The Prize" (Larry Willis)
  • "Hey There" (Jerry Ross, Richard Adler)
  • "Mi Congo" (Eddie Palmieri) arranged by Ray Santos
  • Credits:

    Host: Christian McBride; Producer: Sarah Geledi; Senior Producer: Katie Simon; Project Manager: Suraya Mohamed; Executive Producers: Anya Grundman, Gabrielle Armand and Amy Niles; Senior Director of NPR Music: Lauren Onkey.

    Copyright 2021 WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center. To see more, visit WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center.

    [Copyright 2024 WRTI Your Classical and Jazz Source]
    Sarah Geledi left her job in advertising in Montreal to pursue a career in music in New York City. She fulfilled that mission, producing content for the JAM Festival at WBGO, segments for The Checkout, and programs for WWOZ and PRI's Afropop Worldwide. She also served as a producer for NYC Winter Jazzfest before landing the "job of her dreams," producing radio for Jazz Night in America.