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These Four Black Artists Take Center Stage on WRTI for Black History Month

Getty Images/BojanMirkovic

Throughout the month of February, join us for a special classical and jazz celebration of Black History Month on WRTI.

Each week, we're spotlighting a key Black artist who has impacted both classical music and jazz, both historically and in the present day: genre-defying pianistHazel Scott, the legendary Duke Ellington, violinist and Philadelphia’s own Diane Monroe, and trumpeter-composer-educator Terence Blanchard.

We’re diving deeply into the life and work of each of these artists on the air and on our website. Our hosts are sharing their music with you on the radio, and online you can learn about their influential work and the special role they’ve played, and are playing, in both genres.

Week of February 1st: Hazel Scott was a Trinidad-born, Harlem-raised, and Juilliard-trained pianist-entertainer who lit up the stage and screen throughout the 20th century and even enjoyed time at the helm of her own radio show and television variety show. Tune in during jazz hours to hear the artist known as the “Darling of Cafe Society” in music she recorded with the Sextet of the Rhythm Club of London. Her pioneering 1941 album, Swinging the Classics, knocked the socks off listeners then, just as it does now, and we’re playing from it during our classical and jazz hours. Don’t miss a second of this one-of-kind album—Chopin and Liszt haven’t been the same since!

Week of February 8th: Duke Ellington requires no introduction so we’ll get right to it... there are buckets of his music heading your way throughout this week. During jazz hours, hear Black, Brown and Beige, Ellington at Newport, music that Ellington composed for film soundtracks, and the big hits that made him a household name. During classical hours, we dive into the cornerstone Ellington albums recorded by the Detroit Symphony with Neeme Jarvi and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra with Simon Rattle. Plus, some fascinating arrangements of Ellington classics like “Caravan” recorded by the cellists of the Berlin Philharmonic and “Solitude” from the ever-adventurous organist Cameron Carpenter.


Week of February 15th: Diane Monroe brings it all home this week! Philadelphia is fortunate to have one of the great cross-genre artists of our time right here in our own backyard. During jazz hours, hear music from her album Alone Together with vibraphonist Tony Miceli, works with the Uptown String Quartet, and works from her tenure with the great drummer Max Roach on his Bright Moments album. On the classical side, we're exploring recordings that Monroe made at the Curtis Institute, music by David Baker, selections from her Faze Phour album with the String Trio of New York, and more Uptown String Quartet performances, including a few featured in the 2019 Fred Rogers biopic, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.


Week of February 22nd: Terence Blanchard, trumpeter, composer, and educator, is of course no stranger to WRTI jazz listeners— and this week we’ll also treat our classical listeners to a rich array of his soundtracks in our daily Flix@5 feature. Tune in to hear from Blanchard’s epic Jazz In Film album, along with tracks from his heartfelt post-Hurricane Katrina release, A Tale of God’s Will  (A Requiem for Katrina), music and excerpts from Harriet, Black or White, Miracle at St. Anna and Choices, which features spoken word by Dr. Cornel West, and collaborations Blanchard explored on Let’s Get Lost.


Our celebration of Black artistry continues across the month in our February Albums of the Week. On the jazz side, we're featuring artists including Ali Shaheed Muhammed, Adrian Younge and Doug Carn, Trombonist Clifton Anderson, vocalist Somi and an all-star group put together by pianist (and true champion of Black music) Robert Glasper. Music from these featured albums will air regularly as well, along with music by our weekly Hometown Heroes.

On the classical side, we're showcasing two pianists—Maria Corley and her album Soulscapes: Piano Music by African American Women, and William Chapman Nyaho ane his album, Kete: Piano Music of Africa and the African Diaspora. Plus, two releases just out—the cast recording of the all-star 2019 Metropolitan Opera production of Porgy and Bess featuring Angel Blue, Janai Brugger, Denyce Graves and Eric Owens, and the Imani Winds’ world premiere-packed album, Bruits, a musical response to the nation’s recent social and political turmoil.

Black History Month on WRTI is supported by Temple University, home to the first Department of Africology and African American studies in the country to offer a doctoral program.