3 Artists From Abroad, For International Jazz Day | KUOW News and Information

3 Artists From Abroad, For International Jazz Day

Apr 28, 2016
Originally published on April 28, 2016 4:09 pm

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.

Cyrille Aimée

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."

Antonio Sánchez

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."

Hugh Masekela

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."

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Saturday is international Jazz day, and who better to celebrate with than our friend Christian McBride?

CHRISTIAN MCBRIDE, BYLINE: (Singing).

CORNISH: A little sound check for you there. McBride is a bassist and host of Jazz Night in America, and he's in town for a White House celebration - an all-star jazz show. We sat down to highlight a few of his favorite artists from around the globe, starting with a singer who takes after the gypsy jazz tradition of Django Reinhardt.

MCBRIDE: Cyrille Aimee - she is absolutely amazing.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ESTRELLITAS Y DUENDES")

CYRILLE AIMEE: (Singing in Spanish).

MCBRIDE: What I love so much about Cyrille is that her background is so diverse. Her mother is Dominican, and her father is French. But she's been in New York City for a very, very long time, so she actually grew up in the same town as Django Reinhardt.

So you talk about gypsy jazz. I can't think of anyone who's really carrying on that tradition with more authenticity than Cyrille. And 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.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THREE LITTLE WORDS")

AIMEE: (singing) Three little words - oh, what I'd give for that wonderful phrase - to have those three little words. That's what I'd live for the rest of my days.

MCBRIDE: That's so cute.

(LAUGHTER)

MCBRIDE: And I don't mean that in a belittling kind of way, but it's really cool.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THREE LITTLE WORDS")

AIMEE: (Singing) Three little words, eight little letters than simply mean, I love you. Three little words...

CORNISH: It's interesting to hear that French jazz is still inspiring people. It makes me think of the 2016 Grammy winner for best vocal jazz album this past year - is Cecile Mclorin Salvant, who's American-born but...

MCBRIDE: Yes.

CORNISH: Studied in France and still records in French.

MCBRIDE: She's another incredible, incredible vocalist.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LE MAL DE VIVRE")

CECILE MCLORIN SALVANT: (Singing in French).

MCBRIDE: I think it's time for Cyrille and Cecile to do a duet album in French.

CORNISH: Ladies, can you hear that (laughter)?

MCBRIDE: Hook it up.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LE MAL DE VIVRE")

SALVANT: (Singing in French).

CORNISH: She joins a really long tradition though - right? - especially of American jazz singers who went to kind of seek and make their fortunes in Paris.

MCBRIDE: I think, yeah...

CORNISH: But were very accomplished in singing in French.

MCBRIDE: And I think that's the case for a lot of instrumentalists as well. France has always been very welcoming to American jazz artists - just artists in general. I believe that the French culture really understands the power and the importance of being able to create art. And it's not necessarily about selling the art. It's about the power of touching the soul.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LE MAL DE VIVRE")

SALVANT: (Singing in French).

CORNISH: That was Cecile Mclorin Salvant and that track off her album "For One To Love." Now, the next artist on your list I'm really excited about because he did some original film scoring for the Oscar-winning movie "Birdman."

MCBRIDE: Yeah.

CORNISH: And the director of "Birdman" is, of course, Mexican director Alejandro Inarritu. And this artist is a drummer and composer, right? Tell us about him.

MCBRIDE: Rooney - my man Antonio Sanchez. I love this man from the bottom of my heart. We spent many years on the road together with Pat Metheny's trio, and he's just such a brilliant, brilliant musician.

CORNISH: Let's play a little bit of it. This is the song "Just Chatting" from the "Birdman" soundtrack.

(SOUNDBITE OF ANTONIO SANCHEZ SONG, "JUST CHATTING")

MCBRIDE: Did you say the song, just chatting?

CORNISH: Yes.

MCBRIDE: This ain't no song. It's a drum solo.

(LAUGHTER)

CORNISH: All right. There are going to be a lot of drummers out there who are going to be very upset, Christian McBride

MCBRIDE: See, I can say that because Antonio's my man.

(LAUGHTER)

CORNISH: I'll direct his call your way.

MCBRIDE: I love you, Rooney.

CORNISH: I understand he was actually trained in classical piano.

MCBRIDE: Yes, classically trained. And what's interesting is he told me that he originally intended to be a rock drummer. That's kind of where his passion was before he discovered jazz. He was going to be, like, the next Keith Moon (laughter), you know? But I just love everything about Antonio's personality, his musicianship. And I love playing with him, and he's - I'm very happy for him that he had this success with "Birdman."

(SOUNDBITE OF ANTONIO SANCHEZ SONG, "JUST CHATTING")

CORNISH: All right, Christian, before I let you go, I want to get back to international jazz day for a moment because I understand you're going to be at the White House tomorrow...

MCBRIDE: Yes.

CORNISH: ...At a big, splashy performance (laughter) with, like, Aretha Franklin and Esperanza Spalding, Herbie Hancock. I mean, this is, like, all-star.

MCBRIDE: Yeah.

CORNISH: The name that jumped out at me, though, was Hugh Masekela of South Africa - super famous, and this is an excuse for us to play this song.

MCBRIDE: Let's play it.

(SOUNDBITE OF HUGH MASEKELA SONG, "GRAZING IN THE GRASS")

CORNISH: "Grazing In The Grass," 1968.

MCBRIDE: That's right.

(SOUNDBITE OF HUGH MASEKELA SONG, "GRAZING IN THE GRASS")

MCBRIDE: I was very honored to play this with Hugh Masekela and Stevie Wonder at the first international day of jazz.

CORNISH: Oh, about five years ago.

MCBRIDE: Yeah, that's right. And 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 kind of, you know, put South African jazz musicians on the map in the late 1950s.

CORNISH: And still very much performing, still very much a part of the scene. And we have a clip from him at a performance from our member station KPLU. And here he is. He's playing along with Larry Willis. The song is called "Abangoma."

(SOUNDBITE OF HUGH MASEKELA AND LARRY WILLIS SONG, "ABANGOMA")

MCBRIDE: Still has a very, very beautiful sound...

(SOUNDBITE OF HUGH MASEKELA AND LARRY WILLIS SONG, "ABANGOMA")

MCBRIDE: ...Round, robust.

(SOUNDBITE OF HUGH MASEKELA AND LARRY WILLIS SONG, "ABANGOMA")

MCBRIDE: I hope I get to play with him again tomorrow.

CORNISH: So what is your plan for tomorrow? Do you know what you're going to be playing?

MCBRIDE: I'm very thrilled that I'm going to get to play with Aretha Franklin. At least that's what I heard. I hope that's going to be the case

CORNISH: (Laughter).

MCBRIDE: And another one of my dear old friends, Diana Krall. We're going to do a duet.

CORNISH: Wait a second. Let me dial this back for a second, though. You don't know what you're playing at the White House yet.

MCBRIDE: Well, you know, there's, like, 90 people on the concert.

(LAUGHTER)

CORNISH: That's true. You're, like, way down on the bill.

MCBRIDE: Yeah, I'm telling you.

CORNISH: I mean, no offense, but (laughter)...

MCBRIDE: Oh, no. I'm totally a bench player on this gig.

(LAUGHTER)

CORNISH: Well, I'm sure you're going to be great. Bassist Christian McBride, host of NPR's Jazz Night in America, thank you so much for coming in.

MCBRIDE: Always a pleasure to see you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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