Nate Chinen

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.

Freddy Cole, whose debonair yet unassuming vocal style lighted his way through a distinguished jazz career in and out of the shadow of his older brother, Nat King Cole, died on Saturday, June 27, at his home in Atlanta, Ga. He was 88.

His manager, Suzi Reynolds, did not specify a cause of death but said he had been suffering of late from cardiovascular issues.

In the liner notes to John Coltrane's 1964 album Live At Birdland, Amiri Baraka (then writing as Le Roi Jones) contemplated the gift the saxophonist and his band offered with this music inspired by the horrific deaths of four Black girls in a Birmingham church bombing inspired by white supremacist hatred. "Listen," Baraka wrote. "What we're given is a slow delicate introspective sadness, almost hopelessness, except for Elvin [Jones], rising in the background like something out of nature... a fattening thunder, storm clouds or jungle war clouds.

The summer of 1968 looked like the summer of 2020. Americans were in the streets protesting racism, among other things. And a high school student in Palo Alto, Calif., got in on the action by enlisting the help of a jazz legend. Danny Scher came up with the idea to book Thelonious Monk to play his school's auditorium and now, a professional recording of this concert will be released publicly for the first time on July 31. The album is called Palo Alto.

Every working musician has a story to tell about the upending jolt of this spring, when the pandemic officially took hold. For pianist Brad Mehldau, that story begins with the interruption of his trio's European tour, and the cancelation of a planned trip back to New York.

Jimmy Heath made one of his first appearances on record as a member of Dizzy Gillespie's band, late in 1949. Released on Capitol under the title Dizzy Gillespie And His Orchestra, it featured Heath on alto saxophone alongside his fellow Philadelphian, an up-and-comer named John Coltrane.

Ambrose Akinmusire was in the eighth grade, a budding trumpeter in Oakland, Calif., when he made his first excursion to a jazz club. Through a radio contest, he'd won tickets to the local mainstay, Yoshi's, unaware of the creative portal he was opening.

Jazz and the visual arts have always enjoyed a mutually beneficial relationship. Last year the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis put that bond front and center with an ambitious original program called Portraits of America: A Jazz Story.

In an alternate timeline, I know precisely how I would have spent the evening of April 17. The dynamic South African pianist Nduduzo Makhathini had been booked for an album-release engagement at Dizzy's Club, the in-house nightclub at Jazz at Lincoln Center. I was looking forward to hearing his band in that room — not only because Makhathini's stateside appearances are few and far between, but also because the urgent, questing spirit of his music is something best experienced in person and in close quarters, as a form of communion.

Richard Teitelbaum, an electronic artist, keyboardist and composer who combined an interest in non-western musical languages with a focus on experimental practice, died on Thursday at HealthAlliance Hospital in Kingston, N.Y. His wife, the classical pianist Hiroko Sakurazawa, said the cause was a major stroke. He was 80.

Bucky Pizzarelli, a tasteful sage of jazz guitar who spent the first phase of his career as a prolific session player and the last phase as a celebrated patriarch, died on Wednesday in Saddle River, N.J. He was 94.

Guitarist and singer John Pizzarelli, his oldest son and regular musical partner, said the cause was the coronavirus.

Bucky Pizzarelli, a tasteful sage of jazz guitar who spent the first phase of his career as a prolific session player and the last phase as a celebrated patriarch, died on Wednesday in Saddle River, N.J. Guitarist and singer John Pizzarelli, his oldest son and regular musical partner, said the cause was the coronavirus. He was 94.

A few weeks ago, as the city of New Orleans was preparing to institute a stay-at-home order due to the coronavirus, Nicholas Payton got to work.

Wallace Roney, a trumpeter and composer who embodied the pugnacious, harmonically restive side of post-bop throughout an illustrious four-decade career, died this morning at St. Joseph's University Medical Center in Paterson, N.J. He was 59.

The cause was complications from COVID-19, according to his fiancée, Dawn Felice Jones. She said Roney had been admitted to the hospital last Wednesday.

Wallace Roney, a trumpeter and composer who embodied the pugnacious, harmonically restive side of post-bop throughout an illustrious four-decade career, died this morning at St. Joseph's University Medical Center in Paterson, N.J. He was 59.

The cause was complications from COVID-19, according to his fiancée, Dawn Felice Jones. She said Roney had been admitted to the hospital last Wednesday.

"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.

Marie has built her career on the foundation of truth-telling songs like that one, "Go Home." She's the rare jazz vocalist who has put songwriting at the very heart of her enterprise, addressing the human condition through an unvarnished personal lens.

Late last summer, saxophonist Joshua Redman engaged in some light time travel: For a couple of nights, he reconvened a stellar ensemble he'd led 25 years prior, with Brad Mehldau on piano, Christian McBride on bass and Brian Blade on drums.

"It definitely feels deeply odd to be thinking about an album rollout at this time," reflects pianist Aaron Parks. "But on the other hand, as a listener and as somebody who's affected by this as well, I know how much I'm needing to get my mind off of this."

As both a saxophonist and vocalist, Camille Thurman is a rare jazz double threat. She says "the horn is a voice, and the voice is a horn," and this consideration of the interconnectivity of her instruments informs her work as a performer, composer and educator.

On this segment of Jazz Night In America, we hear music from Thurman's band at Dizzy's Club, and parts of a performance with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra in which she is the first woman to play a full season in 30 years.

Last year, Sons of Kemet were one of the standout acts of the Big Ears Festival in Knoxville, Tenn. This year, the festival is one of countless gatherings that has been cancelled due to concerns about the spread of the coronavirus. For the music industry — and especially for bands like Sons of Kemet, which rely on the energy of live performance — the disruptions caused by social distancing have been devastating. To explain those problems, NPR's Rachel Martin spoke to Nate Chinen from member station WBGO and Jazz Night in America.

"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."

What that means in her case is manifold: A jazz bassist of undeniable authority, with the working affiliations to show for it; a Malaysia-born, Australia-raised resident of Harlem, N.Y.; a composer-orchestrator of burgeoning stature; an artist working to change perceptions of "women in jazz," both through positive action and just by being her bad self.

Updated on Saturday, March 7 at 11:45 a.m. ET

McCoy Tyner, a pianist whose deep resonance, hammering attack and sublime harmonic invention made him a game-changing catalyst in jazz and beyond, died Friday, March 6, at his home in New Jersey. His death was confirmed by his manager. No cause of death was given. He was 81.

"Growing up where I grew up — it's everything." If there's a touch of defiant pride in Kris Funn's voice as he says these words, maybe that's only natural: Funn, a highly regarded bassist, is talking about Baltimore.

Nina Simone was living alone in France, and feeling the weight of her isolation, when she recorded what would become Fodder on My Wings in 1982. But the album — which Verve/UMe will reissue on April 3, making it available for the first time on streaming services — hardly stays in a despondent key.

Just over 40 years ago, Joseph Jarman published a book of poetry that opens with a chant: "we pray o God / for the ego / death." Jarman, a visionary saxophonist and composer, was writing mainly about transcendence of the self. But he keenly understood the power of a collective, which presses each individual into the service of a greater whole.

It has been 30 years since Harry Connick, Jr. became an improbable pop star, on the basis of a movie soundtrack that just happened to put many of his best features on display. If you know Connick at all, you might remember that album, When Harry Met Sally..., as some kind of watershed: a burnished vision of New York sophistication that renewed the American songbook for a dashing new cohort.

Evgeny Pobozhiy, a virtuoso guitarist with a busy profile on the Moscow jazz scene, has won the Herbie Hancock Institute of Jazz International Guitar Competition. As winner of the prize, one of the most prestigious of its kind, he'll receive $30,000 in scholarship funds and a recording contract with the Concord Music Group.

He also joins an honor roll of past winners including pianist Jacky Terrasson, saxophonists Joshua Redman and Melissa Aldana, and singers Jazzmeia Horn and Cécile McLorin Salvant.

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As an unbilled guest, Aretha Franklin was the surprise gift of the 2015 Big Band Holidays concert at Jazz at Lincoln Center.

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. "We're doing the same stuff in different parts of the world," says Lowell Pickett, Artistic Director of the MIM Music Theater, "and we're using the same materials to make the instruments. We're using them to express the same emotions."

No jazz instrument is more personal — or relatable — than the human voice. Jazz singers come in every conceivable style, each with their own expressive signature. This episode of Jazz Night in America offers a chance to spend time with some of the brightest newer voices in the genre.

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