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There's no shortage of poignant moments in I Called Him Morgan, Kasper Collin's mesmerizing new documentary about the life and death of jazz trumpeter Lee Morgan. One moment, about half an hour into the film, has stuck with me since I first saw it, lingering like an afterimage or the hook from a song.

Muldrow Meets Mingus

Mar 23, 2017

At a glance, Georgia Anne Muldrow isn't the obvious pick to create an interpretive tribute to the bassist and composer Charles Mingus. She was born in 1983, four years after Mingus died at 56. Her music stands well outside the jazz perimeter, aligning more with the Afrocentric current that flows through underground hip-hop, avant-R&B and psychedelic soul.

Judy Roberts On Piano Jazz

Mar 21, 2017

Pianist and vocalist Judy Roberts is one of Chicago's best-loved musicians. She's an imaginative and insightful pianist with an articulate touch, and her voice readily conveys many different moods. Since beginning her professional music career at age 15, Roberts has traveled the world, gaining fans and garnering critical acclaim. She always keeps her audience enthralled, as she did on this 2003 episode of Piano Jazz, recorded in front of a live audience at NPR Member station WAMC in Albany, N.Y.

For a musician, Israel's compulsory military service has its challenges and opportunities. Yotam Silberstein used every moment of his military downtime to practice the jazz guitar. When he got out of the army, he became one of Israel's most renowned young players — but he still had a big move ahead of him.

Joey DeFrancesco On Piano Jazz

Mar 10, 2017

Joey DeFrancesco was only 20 years old when he was Marian McPartland's guest on Piano Jazz. Hailed as the new hero of the organ, his stint with Miles Davis brought the classically trained keyboardist national attention. He has since gone on to release more than 30 albums and has earned multiple Grammy nominations.

Ahmad Jamal On Piano Jazz

Mar 3, 2017

One of the most popular stylists in contemporary jazz, pianist Ahmad Jamal has been a major force on the jazz recording scene ever since his 1958 live album, made at Chicago's Pershing Lounge. On this 1985 episode of Piano Jazz, Jamal reprises two classics from that session — "Poinciana" and "But Not For Me" — in duets with Marian McPartland.

At the height of the Cold War, the United States was also fighting a culture war. To counter Soviet propaganda, the U.S. State Department launched a public relations campaign called the Jazz Ambassadors program, sending Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, and Dave Brubeck and other leading jazz musicians on tours around the world.

Bill Evans was a genius: The jazz world, which can be roiled by factions and jealousies, usually agrees on that. He was a composer and pianist with a light, lyrical touch that was once described as what you might hear at the gates of heaven. But like many geniuses, Evans died too young — in 1980, at the age of just 51, after years of cocaine and heroin addiction.

A new documentary by filmmaker Bruce Spiegel helps capture that genius with interviews of musicians, family members, and archival footage of Bill Evans himself.

Doug Wamble On Piano Jazz

Feb 24, 2017

Guitarist, vocalist and songwriter Doug Wamble grew up listening to the Southern gospel, country and blues traditions of his Tennessee home.

Whatever else you might say about the themes of La La Land — that it's a film about the ins and outs of young romance, or the pros and cons of creative ambition, or the movie musical as a renewable art form, or the culture of Hollywood, or the state of jazz (more on that in a sec) — you'd have to acknowledge the line it draws between illusion and disillusion.

"It can be maddening to deal with a political environment where it seems like the truth has no purchase anymore," says Darcy James Argue, the hyper-literate composer who leads the Secret Society, a postmodern big band. Argue has spent a lot of time recently thinking about that maddening environment — not just as a matter of civic engagement during a chaotic election season, but also because it forms the crux of Real Enemies, his most recent work.

Jazz vocalist John Boutté feels he can no longer afford to live in his hometown of New Orleans. He's not alone. Rising housing costs are pushing many musicians and service workers — the backbone of New Orleans' tourism economy — further and further outside the city limits.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify or Apple Music playlist at the bottom of the page.


The covers for Miguel Zenón's recent albums are almost worth buying on their own: evocative, full of personality, compelling as storytelling.

It's become a January tradition for NPR to look ahead to some of the most anticipated jazz albums of the year. Bassist Christian McBride, who hosts NPR's Jazz Night In America, and jazz critic Nate Chinen of NPR Member station WBGO join NPR's Audie Cornish to preview three albums coming out in 2017.

Read some of McBride's and Chinen's thoughts below, and hear more of their discussion — including a reflection on the relationship between musicians and critics — at the audio link.

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