Sunday, July 13, 2008

Jazz on NPR

Jazz may be off the radio in many markets, but it’s not off National Public Radio. A link on sent me to a jazz series airing this July on NPR’s News & Notes. Hosted by Farai Chideya, it began on July 3 with a segment called “What Is Jazz?” with experts Bill Kirchner, David Schroeder, and Eugene Holly Jr. On July 4, “Inside the Culture of Jazz” featured a conversation with trumpeter Nicholas Payton and drummer Kendrick Scott. Robert O'Mealy, the Zora Neale Hurston Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University, discussed "The Intersection of Jazz and Social Protest" on July 10. July 11 looked at the jazz legacy in “A Jazz Journey from Its New Orleans Birthplace” with trumpeter Irvin Mayfield, soul singer Irma Thomas, and Dirty Dozen Brass Band member Greg Davis. Each segment is about 17 minutes long.

Chideya admits at the outset of the series and repeats at least once that she doesn’t know a lot about jazz. I’m still trying to figure out if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. If she did know a lot about jazz, she might have asked different questions (and would not have called Mayfield “Irving”). But many people already consider jazz esoteric and inaccessible. Hearing Chideya say “I’m a jazz novice” invites a “me, too” response and a willingness to keep listening.

From there I check the NPR jazz & blues archive and get deliciously lost for the next couple of hours. Check these out if you’re so inclined. All were broadcast recently (within the last month or so).
A story about Two Men with the Blues, the new CD by Wynton Marsalis and Willie Nelson, and an interview with them on board Nelson’s bus.
A concert by the McCoy Tyner Quartet.
An interview with Cassandra Wilson about her new CD, Loverly.
A list of five pop songs covered by Patricia Barber.
A story about the Paul Bley trio’s reissued 1965 recording “Ida Lupino.”

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