Jazz world continues to adapt and speak to the times

Courtesy of Verve Records The late Jimmy Heath’s “Love Letter” comes out July 17.


In these turbulent times, people from around the jazz world are using the spirit of jazz for good and speaking to the times. Here are just a few examples.

WBGO’s Nate Chinen has started a podcast, “Jazz United,” with Greg Bryant and producer Sarah Kerson. The pilot is about jazz and protest (past and present), but the podcast itself will be a wide-ranging new conversation hosted by Chinen and Bryant. The first episode is available now at www.wbgo.org. Chinen has written about jazz for the New York Times and JazzTimes. Currently, he oversees editorial content for WBGO 88.3 fm.

In addition, many artists are continuing to put on some of the best jazz concerts taking place on the web weekly. Jazz fans can watch live on YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram.

The beloved Village Vanguard, located in New York City, is now live streaming performances. Artists like drummer Billy Hart, pianist Vijay Iyer, and bassist Joe Martin, have been scheduled acts. For info on future performances and how to buy tickets, visit villagevanguard.com.

The Preservation Hall Jazz Band presented a night of musical collaborations, never-before-seen performances and commentary from Preservation Hall Creative Director Ben Jaffe. I watched via livestream on Saturday, June 20, and saw singer-songwriter Corinne Bailey Rae with members of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. It was wonderful. I also caught guitarist Mark Whitfield with his dynamic band via live stream at Smalls Jazz Club. He played a lot of amazing original songs.

Online festivals are happening, too. Some are presenting impressive archival concerts, while others are presenting artists performing from their homes.

The music of Newport Jazz Festival is coming to you this summer. The organization will broadcast curated sets from over 65 years of history-making artists. Just this month they featured from the archives: “Freedom Now Suite” by Max Roach recorded live at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1964.

New Orleans trumpeter and composer Terence Blanchard recently posted via Twitter, a video interview about scoring the picture “Da 5 Bloods,” a Spike Lee joint. Check it out @T_Blanchard.

Pianist Robert Glasper has also been pretty active on Twitter with his Black Radio Broadcast. For his part, he’s been featuring unreleased live recordings.

What I’ve mentioned so far is what musicians and music fans forging new connections and adjusting to the times look like. But that’s not all. Some of the concerts that I’ve looked forward to and continue to watch have been part of the Blue Note at Home Livestream Series. Performers have included Ron Carter, Nicholas Payton, Michel Camelo, and Wayne Escoffery to name a few. To watch the livestream, visit the Blue Note NYC Facebook page and then click the stream from the main page.

Looking ahead further, two very special new recordings by jazz legends, one from Jimmy Heath and another by Thelonious Monk, are scheduled for release in July.

Jazz fans are most certainly excited about the great saxophonist Jimmy Heath’s posthumous release, “Love Letter” from Verve Records. It features “Con Alma” composed by Dizzy Gillespie and arranged by Heath, especially for the upcoming album. Just weeks before his death, Heath recorded his last album due out July 17.

Another cause for excitement is a previously unreleased Thelonious Monk concert coming out. A professional recording of this concert that took place in 1968 will be released on July 31. The album is called “Palo Alto.” The summer of 1968 was very similar to the summer of 2020 as Americans were protesting racism.

The music was recorded from inside a high school auditorium by a janitor who remains unknown. Danny Scher, a high school student in Palo Alto, Calif., had the idea to book Monk and has held on to the recording for over 50 years. The school janitor told Scher if he let him record the concert, he’d get the piano tuned. Scher agreed. The rest is history.