If anyone has earned the nickname Pops, it's Ellis Marsalis.
As jazz's best-known father figure, the senior Marsalis has four noted musical offspring: Branford, Wynton, Delfeayo and Jason. But if you consider all the musicians he's taught or mentored, his clan is even more extensive, diverse and influential.
I talked to six musicians who gave us the long view of the Marsalis family tree, and how they were schooled by its patriarch.
Originally published on Thu December 11, 2014 1:53 am
Mezzrow is New York City's newest listening room: an intimate club for solo and duo performers where silence and attention are more than encouraged. It's a bit of a throwback, as is its Monday night host Johnny O'Neal. A virtuoso who shot onto the scene in the 1980s, the pianist is now re-establishing his presence in New York after decades off the radar. And on Mondays, he holds court at Mezzrow, singing the blues and welcoming guest after guest onto the tiny stage.
Jazz Night in America stops into the Greenwich Village club to listen closely.
Originally published on Sun November 30, 2014 6:43 pm
Many fans first encountered one of the great voices in jazz as a whisper: Sheila Jordan made a quiet but lasting impression as a guest singer on pianist George Russell's 1962 arrangement of "You Are My Sunshine."
Since then, Jordan's career has taken her all over the world, and in 2012, she received one of the highest honors in jazz: she became an National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master. Her music has soared, but her story starts with pain.
When Harry Connick Jr. sat down with host Marian McPartland in 1991, he was in his twenties, had already won two Grammy Awards and was coming off a worldwide big band tour. He has gone on to record multiple best-selling albums and develop a successful acting career.
On this Piano Jazz, Connick sings and plays "They Didn't Believe Me" and joins McPartland for "Stompin' at the Savoy."
Originally published on Tue November 25, 2014 6:31 pm
Jimmy Greene's Beautiful Life is dedicated to the memory of his 6-year-old daughter, Ana Márquez-Greene, one of the 20 children killed in the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. The first song is an arrangement of "Come Thou Almighty King." The hymn was in a piano book that Greene's son, Isaiah, was learning.
As the son of jazz legends John and Alice Coltrane, saxophonist Ravi Coltrane is continuing his family's legacy by developing his own sound and feeling. In 2012, he released his sixth album, Spirit Fiction.
Originally published on Tue December 2, 2014 10:36 am
As a teenager in Abbeville, La., Robert Charles Guidry — better known as Bobby Charles — wrote songs that would become classics for Bill Haley and Fats Domino: "See You Later, Alligator" and "Walking To New Orleans," respectively.
Originally published on Thu January 8, 2015 2:04 am
Every year, NPR Music invites a handful of the world's top keyboard players to the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. We ask them to play some of their favorite holiday music for the audience — solo — and the recording becomes the public radio special A Jazz Piano Christmas.
Originally published on Thu December 11, 2014 2:12 am
Ellis Marsalis is a father figure of modern jazz — in quite a few ways. As a pianist, he was among the first generation of musicians to bring bebop to New Orleans, and even worked with Ornette Coleman before the saxophonist recorded his landmarks of free jazz. As an educator, many great musicians came through Marsalis' tutelage, whether in New Orleans' arts high school or at various university programs. And of course, he is also the actual father of several exceptional musicians named Branford, Wynton, Delfeayo and Jason Marsalis.