Jazz composer and trumpeter Theo Croker opens his new album, AfroPhysicist, with an ode to his grandfather: New Orleans jazz great Doc Cheatham. The thing is, Croker didn't grow up in New Orleans or any other jazz hub. He's from Jacksonville, Fla., and he was just a child when his grandfather died in 1997. It wasn't until his grandfather's memorial services — attended by jazz legends — that he decided to join the legacy.
Blessed with perfect pitch and a resonant voice, vocalist and pianist Diane Schuur received her training at the Washington State School for the Blind. Today, Schuur is a two-time Grammy winner who has performed at Carnegie Hall and the White House.
Clint Eastwood is best known for his work in Hollywood, but he's also a composer and jazz aficionado. Combining his love of both art forms, he's included classic jazz recordings in his films — including Play Misty for Me, which features the famous Errol Garner ballad.
Pianist Rachel Z trained at the New England Conservatory before beginning her professional career as a performer with the likes of Al Di Meola, Larry Coryell and the fusion band Steps Ahead. She also worked with saxophonist Wayne Shorter on his Grammy-winning comeback album, High Life.
The iconic jazz label Blue Note Records turns 75 this year, and it celebrated in Washington, D.C. As the capstone to a week of performances, film screenings and discussions, Blue Note artists gathered in the 2,465-seat Concert Hall of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts for a special performance.
At the Mid-Atlantic Jazz Festival in February, one couldn't help but notice the striking new grand piano on the main stage, emblazoned with the name SHADD. When the many accomplished pianists that weekend sat down to strike those keys, it was equally easy to spot their delight in the instrument.
That piano was the product of a trailblazer in his field. The Shadd in question is jazz drummer Warren Shadd, the first African-American piano manufacturer. That makes him the first large-scale commercial African-American instrument manufacturer, period.
Guitarist Howard Alden's superb solo and accompaniment skills have led to work with legends including Red Norvo, Woody Herman and his mentor, guitarist George Van Eps. On this episode of Piano Jazz, Alden demonstrates his harmonic and melodic mastery of the seven-string guitar with a glowing version of "Single Petal of a Rose."
It's hard to imagine a musical career that included musicians as varied as Charlie Parker, Peggy Lee, George Shearing and Carlos Santana. But such was hand percussionist Armando Peraza's resumé after almost 70 years making music.