KUOW Jazz | KUOW News and Information

KUOW Jazz

The architect of the new service is veteran jazz radio host and programmer Steven Williams who has 40 years of experience in broadcast and jazz programming, most recently as program director of WBGO public radio in Newark, New Jersey.
Credit KUOW Photo/Bond Huberman

KUOW has launched a preview of a new music service called KUOW Jazz dedicated to jazz and blues.

KUOW Jazz is a comprehensive expression of the art form, covering all of the bases from the instantly recognizable trumpet of Louis Armstrong to the groundbreaking fusion of Esperanza Spalding, and everything in between.

KUOW Jazz is replacing our streaming service for World Radio Network and the BBC World service. Both BBC World Service and WRN are available to stream on their websites.  

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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.

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.


Omar Sosa seemingly can do no wrong.

"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.

Marilyn Maye could easily be nominated as the voice of experience: At 88, she's one of our greatest living songbook singers, as well as a jazz-cabaret star of singular achievement. A vocal stylist both sensitive and swinging, with a deep understanding of her chosen tradition, she's had a storied career, and doesn't seem the slightest bit inclined to slow it down.

"Our best musicians in the jazz tradition were radical imaginers," Samora Pinderhughes says. A pianist and composer in his mid-20s, he has asserted his connection to that lineage with The Transformations Suite, an earnest and ambitious new work combining music, words and visuals. The piece, which took five years to chisel into shape, was inspired by African-American resistance and protest movements, as well as the oppression that many still endure.

Jeannie Cheatham On Piano Jazz

Jan 13, 2017

Pianist and vocalist Jeannie Cheatham began piano lessons at the tender age of 5. At 13, she became intoxicated by the sounds of jazz. Cheatham toured with such blues artists as Jimmy Witherspoon, T-Bone Walker, Odetta and Big Mama Thornton. In the 1950s she met her husband, bass trombonist Jimmy Cheatham, and the pair formed the Sweet Baby Blues Band.

This year's Winter Jazzfest, which took place last week in New York City, presented an explicit theme of "Celebrating Social Justice." Conceptually and musically, Winter Jazzfest pushes the genre forward; after taking in as many of the 130-plus acts across many stages in Manhattan and Brooklyn as they could, our team reported back with some of the festival's highlights.


"Stories like forests are subject to seasons."

The New Year holiday tradition continues with the Toast of the Nation jazz party. Spirited, improvised and swinging, each hour was recorded live at Blue Note venues throughout the country and the world.

2016 brought a lot of loss to the music community: Leonard Cohen, Sharon Jones, David Bowie and Prince, just to name a few. Jazz also lost great players from Paul Bley to Gato Barbieri to the three we're profiling this hour on Jazz Night in America — vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson, harmonica player Toots Thielemans and bassist Victor Bailey.

Ring in the holidays with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. This week, Jazz Night in America breaks format: no stories or interviews, just a show full of good music. With guest vocalists Audrey Shakir and Denzal Sinclaire, Wynton Marsalis leads the orchestra through new arrangements of holiday classics. The set begins with an energetically swinging version of "Jingle Bells" — the perfect complement for cooking in the kitchen, wrapping gifts or decorating the tree.

In this festive annual tradition, the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra and Wynton Marsalis offer swinging and soulful performances of classic holiday music.

In addition to the selections heard on their Big Band Holidays album, the ensemble will perform new arrangements of songs both sacred and secular, from "Silver Bells" to favorites like "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas."

The occasion features Sherman Irby, an extraordinary saxophonist, arranger and composer whose most recent commissioned work was met with a standing ovation in Rose Theater.

In 1971, pianist, composer and bandleader Eddie Palmieri put out a formative album called Harlem River Drive. Written in the heat of racial turbulence, its lyrics addressed the inequality Puerto Ricans faced in New York City. The album served as a form of protest, as well as commentary on social-justice issues for the people of El Barrio, East Harlem.

Though the Latin funk classic didn't take off in the early '70s, it later became an underground classic. Its enduring songs remain relevant today.

2016 has been a time of great loss for music: Prince, David Bowie, Leonard Cohen and Sharon Jones all passed away this year, just to name a few. The jazz world was no exception.

When you see Mary Halvorson on stage, she doesn't look like much of a trailblazer. She plays sitting down. She's small, and mostly hidden behind her hollow-body guitar and glasses. But then she starts to play. And the sounds coming out of her amp are anything but conventional.

Musical Cannibalism With Cyro Baptista

Nov 10, 2016

Anthropofagia — cultural cannibalism — is a concept based on an essay published by the poet and father of Brazilian modernism, Oswald de Andrade. A passage from that "Manifesto Antropofagico" reads:

"Only cannibalism unites us. Socially. Economically. Philosophically. The unique law of the world. The masked expression of all individualism and collective movement."

Brazilian "percussionista" Cyro Baptista has applied this philosophy to create ingenious music for more than five decades.

The Lush Life Of Billy Strayhorn

Nov 3, 2016

The fruitful collaboration between Billy Strayhorn and Duke Ellington is widely known to have brought us such classics as "Take The 'A' Train," "Chelsea Bridge" and "Isfahan." But behind the music, Strayhorn's life and identity were complex.

Herbie Hancock's Latest Voyage

Oct 20, 2016

Herbie Hancock always seems to be on some kind of voyage. Whether he's improvising in a spaceship surrounded by 11 keyboards or forming new iterations of bands, you can always count on him to push the possibilities and the boundaries of jazz.

Oliver Jones: A Canadian Jazz Legend Heads Home

Oct 13, 2016

Oliver Jones may be the most famous living jazz pianist you've never heard of. But in Canada, Jones is a hero — adored in his native Quebec and across the country for helping to build a vibrant jazz scene that can sustain the country's top musicians.

A serious talent and a tireless advocate for Canadian jazz, Jones is a champion for local musicians — a folk hero of sorts. You can find his images on the sides of buildings and on his very own postage stamp. He's also a serious talent with charisma and charm that's been winning over fans for years.

In Spaces, Wynton Marsalis' new dance suite for the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, each movement corresponds to a different animal — a chicken, a lion, a frog and more.

He enlisted tap dancer Jared Grimes and "jooker" (street dancer) Lil Buck to embody the animals in their performances. In this piece, Marsalis also describes his fascination with the animal kingdom, his process of writing, and the way he attempts to draw on the spaces that all creatures inhabit.

A Blog Supreme was a jazz thing published by NPR Music from May 2009 through September 2016. It presented news, features, aggregated content, historical primers, opinion and analysis, recommendations and other types of music journalism. It was twice named the Jazz Journalists Association Blog of the Year.

Three Miles Ahead

Aug 26, 2016

It's been said that Miles Davis is to jazz is like Hemingway is to the American novel, like Picasso is to art. He was more than just a trumpet player — he was an icon of style and artistry.

Jazz Night in America explores three interpretations of Miles Davis: on the silver screen, the page and the bandstand. We speak with actor Don Cheadle, who directed, produced, wrote and starred in Miles Ahead; writer Quincy Troupe, who helped Davis write his autobiography; and trumpeter Keyon Harrold, who led a special tribute concert at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola.

Cecile McLorin Salvant And Sullivan Fortner

Aug 26, 2016

Ever since the earliest days of jazz music, the pairing of piano and voice has frequently attained a deeply personal level of communication. It's evident in the distinct chemistry between two rising stars of their instruments: pianist Sullivan Fortner and singer Cécile McLorin Salvant.

Jazz Night In America gets to know the charming duo on stage at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola and beside a piano in a Harlem brownstone.

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