Alex Ariff

There's a composition by pianist Helen Sung titled "Into the Unknown," from her 2018 album, Sung With Words. A bright, bustling tune with a melody full of rhythmic feints, it captures the radiant spirit that Sung brings to any bandstand. And the song's title says something about her unconventional path to a life in modern jazz.

Public acknowledgment took its time finding Billy Lester. A pianist devoted to searching for a new form of modern jazz, he spent more than half a century on the outskirts of New York City, quietly honing his craft. "I just figured I'd go to my grave without any kind of recognition," he says plainly, "and I was at the point in my life where I totally accepted that."

It's no shocker that jazz and Sesame Street go hand in hand. The show has a long tradition of featuring jazz artists, such as Wynton Marsalis, as special guests, and some of the TV show's most famous music has found a life within the jazz ecosystem. These topics were all explored on a recent episode of the radio show Jazz Night in America, which also featured concert material from A Swinging Sesame Celebration at Jazz at Lincoln Center.

It wasn't your typical crowd in the Rose Theater one afternoon last fall, for a sold-out concert by the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis. For one thing, every grown-up in the audience seemed to be accompanied by an excited child or two.

Charlie Parker, the incandescent avatar of modern jazz, didn't live to see 35. His centennial is upon us, and with it comes a chance to celebrate his legacy — as a quicksilver alto saxophonist, a voracious musical thinker and a crucial link in the chain of jazz tradition. Bird, as he was fondly known, gave us a lexicon as well as a literature.

Christian McBride was 19, a vigorous young bassist just making his name on the scene, when he paid his first visit to the Newport Jazz Festival as a member of Jazz Futures. Skip ahead some 30 years, and McBride is the artistic director of the festival, as well as our esteemed host at Jazz Night in America.

Wynton Marsalis has always been deeply engaged in the subject of American race relations. The issue was a crucial part of his education as a young musician in New Orleans, and it has been a core preoccupation of his own work going as far back as Black Codes (From the Underground), a trailblazing album from 1985.

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"It just takes time, time to get it right." René Marie wrote that line for a tender song about an extramarital affair, but it could easily apply to the arc of her jazz career, which began when she was in her 40s.

"I think a part of growth in general is being comfortable in your own skin," Linda May Han Oh says, "and being comfortable with really who you are."

Not quite a decade ago, "the world's only global musical instrument museum" opened in Phoenix. The Musical Instrument Museum, or MIM, now boasts almost 14,000 objects and instruments in their collection, with 370 exhibits from all over the globe — a testament to music's universal human truths.

Here are a few indisputable truths about Andy Bey. First things first: as he approaches 80, Bey occupies the first rank of living jazz singers. He has led a circuitous career — starting out as a prodigy, slipping into obscurity, experiencing a late renaissance.

Cannonball Adderley was a mere 46 when he died, of a brain hemorrhage, in 1975.

"I don't believe America was founded to be one dimensional," pianist Cyrus Chestnut asserts. "It's various different people coming together, quote unquote, to develop something hip."

If you're even a casually observant jazz fan, you might think you know a thing or two about Joe Lovano. A tenor saxophonist with dozens of albums to his name, most of them made during a roughly 25-year tenure on Blue Note Records, Lovano is one of the most instantly identifiable musicians on the jazz landscape and on the New York scene.

Makaya McCraven — a drummer-producer-bandleader-composer who sums up his MO with the evocative term "beat scientist" — has lately been on the hottest of hot streaks. His album Universal Beings was hailed as one of the best albums of 2018, by outlets ranging from The New York Times to Rolling Stone. (In the NPR Music Jazz Critics Poll, it came in at No.

Terence Blanchard wrote his first piece of music for a Spike Lee joint nearly 30 years ago. The movie was Mo' Better Blues, which revolves around a brooding jazz trumpeter played by Denzel Washington. Blanchard was on set to ghost those trumpet parts, but at one point, Spike heard him playing a theme at the piano, and asked him to write an accompanying string arrangement.

"I've been drunk with music all my life," Charles Lloyd muses, "and it's been my spiritual path. And the times that I was knocked off my mooring, I just found a way to get back up."

What makes a first-tier jazz legacy? A signature instrumental style, recognizable within a phrase or two. A body of exceptional recordings, in the studio and in concert. A legion of imitators, great and small. A sense of broad cultural relevance. Maybe even a hit song or two.

The first "destination" jazz festival took place in Newport, R.I., in 1954 — multiple days, one stage and gorgeous scenery. These days, Newport is going strong, as is Monterey in California, and the festival model has expanded to multiple stages and far beyond big-brimmed hats and lawn chairs.

Maybe you became aware of Jazzmeia Horn five years ago, when she took first prize at the Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition. Maybe you got hip when her debut album, A Social Call, was released last year. Maybe you caught her turn on the most recent Grammy Premiere Ceremony, when she knocked a scat chorus into the stratosphere.

Since Dizzy Gillespie and Chano Pozo birthed "Manteca" in the '40s just as Cuban musicians like Machito were shaking up New York's jazz

Why do hip-hop producers gravitate toward jazz samples? For a mood, for sonic timbre, for a unique rhythmic component. Swing is a precursor to the boom-bap. "If you're a hip-hop producer that wants a lot of melodic stuff happening," pianist Robert Glasper says, "you're probably going to go to jazz first."