NPR Staff

We celebrate Threadgill's induction to the 2021 class of NEA Jazz Masters, with a rare retrospective from 2014 that celebrates the genius of Henry Threadgill.

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.

"The greatest woman jazz pianist in captivity." "The greatest woman jazz pianist in the world." "Highly acclaimed as a deluxe tickler of the ivories." "One of the foremost swing pianists of either sex." By 1936, then-25-year-old Mary Lou Williams' reputation already preceded her. The pianist's primary gig — Kansas City band Andy Kirk and His Clouds of Joy — was taking off, booked for packed dances around the country alongside artists like Louis Armstrong.

The members of the Guarneri Quartet — at least its three original members — have known each other for a long time. They went to music school together and, just for fun, played string quartets.

In the 2019 NPR Music Jazz Critics Poll, five of the top 10 new releases were recordings led or co-led by women artists — a startling 50%. In fact, it is the largest number of projects led by women in the top 10 since the annual poll began 14 years ago, surpassing 2018, when women comprised a third of those rankings.

Collecting the names of musicians who die in any single span of time, as NPR does at the end of each year, can be an occasion for tribute or reflection or an exercise in collapsing days, a gateway to a specific moment of pain or gratitude. The truth at the end of 2020 is that the tremendous and overwhelming volume of loss nearly renders the need for that kind of reminder irrelevant. Throughout this relentless year it has been constantly renewed.

This has been a booming year for composer John Luther Adams. His 2014 Pulitzer Prize-winning orchestral work Become Ocean has been re-released as part of a trilogy. Recordings of new string quartets have just come out. And he's just published a memoir, Silences So Deep: Music, Solitude, Alaska. The title was inspired by a line in "Listening in October," a poem from the late John Haines:

Charlie "Bird" Parker was one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century. In his brief life, Parker created a new sound on the alto saxophone and spearheaded a revolution in harmony and improvisation that pushed popular music from the swing era to bebop and modern jazz.

Annie Ross, Mid-Century Jazz Icon, Dead At 89

Jul 22, 2020

Annie Ross, the veteran jazz singer, actress and founding member of the historic vocal trio Lambert, Hendricks & Ross, died on July 21, four days before her 90th birthday. According to her friend and former manager, Jim Coleman, Ross died in her sleep at her home in Manhattan. She had been suffering from emphysema and a heart condition.

Juneteenth is getting unusually widespread attention this year, as Americans protest police brutality and racism.

But some Americans have, for years, celebrated it as the day that marks our ancestors' emancipation.

Our Daily Breather is a series where we ask writers and artists to recommend one thing that's helping them get through the days of isolation during the coronavirus pandemic.

Who: Davóne Tines

Where: Raleigh, N.C.

Recommendation: Reconnecting through daily rituals and learning to make the perfect cup of coffee

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