Saturday, June 18, 2016

StLJN Saturday Video Showcase:
Eight jazz newsmakers of 2016

As regular readers know, this space frequently is used to preview shows from touring jazz and creative music performers coming to St. Louis. But with a relative paucity of acts visiting here in the next several weeks, today's video showcase offers something a little different: a look back at some of jazz performers who have been making news during the first half of 2016, starting with trumpeter and St. Louis native Keyon Harrold.

Harrold has gotten good notices and a lot of publicity this year for his work on the soundtrack of Miles Ahead, actor/director Don Cheadle's film about Miles Davis that was released in April. The first video up above features a full set of Harrold's own music, as performed at Revive Music's recent tenth anniversary celebration in NYC and captured on video by Boiler Room.

After the jump, the first video features pianist Robert Glasper, who's also been in the news a lot this year thanks to his involvement in Miles Ahead. Glasper wrote five new compositions for the film's soundtrack, and last month also released Everything's Beautiful, a tribute/remix album using samples from the Miles Davis catalog. The clip is an interview with Glasper, in which he talks about his work on Miles Ahead, his musical relationships with hip-hop performers such as The Roots and the late J Dilla, and more.

Next up is saxophonist and composer Henry Threadgill, who in April won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for music for his work "In For A Penny, In For A Pound," written for his ensemble Zooid.

The first video of Threadgill features a brief interview with him conducted in January by Frank Oteri of New Music USA. That's followed by a full 75-minute Zooid performance, recorded in October 2013 at the Library of Congress in Washington, DC.

The next two clips feature two more winners of major awards this year, singer Dee Dee Bridgewater and organist Dr. Lonnie Smith, who this past week were among the latest group of veteran musicians, jazz advocates, and others to be named Jazz Masters by the National Endowment for the Arts.

Although Bridgewater, Smith, and the other winners won't actually receive their awards until 2017, you can celebrate now by enjoying a full set of Bridgewater, recorded live at the 2013 Jazzaldia festival in San Sebastian, Spain, followed by the good Doctor's version of Paul Simon's "50 Ways To Leave Your Lover," as performed earlier this year with guitarist Jonathan Kreisberg and drummer Kendrick Scott at Kente Arts Alliance in Pittsburgh, PA.

(If you'd like to hear more, both Bridgewater and Smith have been the subjects of previous Saturday video posts. StLJN looked at Bridgewater's current collaboration with trumpeter Irvin Mayfield in this post from March of this year, and paid visits to Dr. Smith in 2009, 2012, 2013, and 2015.)

Smith's latest album Evolution was released by Blue Note in January, and based on the critical reception, seems likely to end up on a fair number of year-end "best of" lists. Two other performers who released muc-talked-about albums in the first half of 2016 were bassist and singer Esperanza Spalding and singer Cyrille Aimée.

Spalding picked up an electric bass, a new look and a new theatrical persona for her album Emily's D+Evolution, which went in what NPR Music called "a louder, proggier, weirder funk-rock direction." You can see and hear that direction in today's seventh clip, a full performance recorded by NPR and WFUV in March of this year at BRIC in NYC.

For those who tastes run more toward the traditional, that's followed by a clip of Spalding's appearance at this year's International Jazz Day celebration held on April 30 at the White House, in which she performed a swinging version of "On The Sunny Side Of The Street" for the President, First Lady, and assembled guests.

As for Aimée, her album Let's Get Lost was released in February to good notices, and audiences around the country seem to be responding enthusiastically to her updated take on Gypsy jazz  You can see her singing much of the material from that album in today's penultimate clip, recorded in February at WNYC in New York.

Last, but certainly not least, you can check out some music from saxophonist Kamasi Washington, whose sprawling three-CD debut album The Epic was one of the best-reviewed records of last year.

Washington's star has continued to rise quickly in 2016, as he's gotten major press coverage from the New York Times, Rolling Stone, GQ, and many other mainstream media outlets, and has been touring to enthusiastic and often sold-out houses.. Today's final clip is a concert version of The Epic, recorded last August for NPR's "Jazz Night In America".

You can see the rest of today's videos after the jump...

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