This Saturday is International Jazz Day. And this year, NPR has a man on the inside.
Bassist Christian McBride, host of Jazz Night In America, is in town for the all-star show at the White House. So he took the opportunity to swing by NPR headquarters and speak with host Audie Cornish about some of his favorite artists from around the globe.
Vocalist Cyrille Aimée is proficient in the jazz manouche style popularized by Django Reinhardt. But there's much more to her work, and her background. Her mother is from the Dominican Republic, her father is French; she's lived in New York City for many years now.
"She actually grew up in the same town as Django Reinhardt," McBride says. "So you talk about 'gypsy jazz' — I can't really think of anyone who is carrying on that tradition with more authenticity than Cyrille. What I love about her singing is that not only is she very true to her roots, but she seems to have grasped the sound of American jazz with great strength."
Cécile McLorin Salvant
On the topic of Francophone jazz, Cécile McLorin Salvant is from Miami, but she also sings in both French and English, and spent her formative years living and studying in France. (Her parents are French and Haitian.) Her last album For One To Love won the Grammy Award for Best Jazz Vocal Album. "She's another incredible, incredible vocalist," McBride says.
According to McBride, France has often been welcoming to jazz artists of all stripes.
"Just artists in general — I believe that the French culture really understands the power and importance of being able to create art. It's not necessarily about selling the art. It's about the power of touching the soul."
The Mexican drummer Antonio Sánchez is probably best known to the general public for his improvised drum score to the Academy Award-winning movie Birdman. But McBride knows him as "Rooney," after many years spent together on the road in guitarist Pat Metheny's band.
"He's just such a brilliant, brilliant musician," McBride says.
Sanchez has a degree in classical piano performance, and at first intended to become a rock drummer. Then he came to the U.S. and became a first-call drummer for many jazz musicians.
"I just love everything about Antonio's personality, his musicianship, and I love playing with him," McBride says. "I've very happy for him that he had this success with Birdman."
One of the performers at this year's International Jazz Day main event is the South African trumpeter Hugh Masekela. Throughout his career, he's melded folkloric and popular music with a jazz aesthetic — sometimes to great success, as with his 1968 hit "Grazing In The Grass."
"I was very honored to play ['Grazing In The Grass'] with Hugh Masekela and Stevie Wonder at the first International Day of Jazz," McBride says. "What an honor to be around Mr. Masekela. He's a very wonderful, wonderful spirit. He and Abdullah Ibrahim were part of the first wave of South African jazz musicians that put South African jazz musicians on the map."