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Jazz of the past, present and future.

Jazz of the past, present and future.
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Westfield, MA


Jazz of the past, present and future.




(413) 585-5100


Podcast 689: Independence Day 2019: Red State, Blue State

America’s Independence Day – July 4 – has been marked on Straight No Chaser by an annual recitation of the Declaration of Independence and a playing of Ray Charles’ version of “America the Beautiful.” But as I prepared the same post this year, I realized that it was inappropriate. It was inappropriate because this is a year when America is more divided, more bitterly turned against one another than ever before in my lifetime, often a shadow of its former self. I never dreamed that the...


Podcast 688: A Conversation with Dr. Joel Harrison on the APA

The American Pianists Association nurtures the artistic growth of America's top young pianists by focusing on creative expression and career development. Its largest and most prestigious support is given through a biennial competition known as the American Pianists Awards to discover the best aspiring young American jazz or classical pianists. The unique and innovative competitions span 13 months and provide a platform to deeply engage musical artists in a variety of creative formats and...


Podcast 687: A Conversation with Alex Sill

California native Alex Sill began playing guitar and piano at age 12 and progressed quickly, eventually earning a top spot in Lee Ritenour’s international Six String Theory Competition. Inspired by the likes of Larry Koonse, who suggested Sill enroll at CalArts, and shredder Steve Vai, who has said that “Alex Sill is one of those rare talented individuals that has all the elements in place,” he continues to grow and improve. Sill’s debut album, Experiences: Real and Imaginary not only...


Podcast 686: A Conversation with Johnathan Blake

About 18 months ago, I had a conversation with photographer Jimmy Katz, about his new non-profit project Giant Step Arts. Katz, along with his wife Dena, planned to select artists for whom they wish to stage and record premiere performances, then provide them with CDs and digital downloads of the gigs and ownership of the masters. Click here to listen to that Podcast. The initial project came to fruition, and Trion, drummer Johnathan Blake’s 2-CD set with Linda May Han Oh on bass, and...


Podcast 685: Previewing the Freihofer's Saratoga Jazz Festival with Danny Melnick

For this jazz fan, the official start of summer comes on June 29-30 in Saratoga Springs, when the Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival takes place in the vernal confines of the Saratoga Performing Arts Center. It’s a weekend of music on two stages, plus great food, a curated art show, and some of the best vibes of the season. Danny Melnick of Absolutely Live has been curating the Festival for years, and once again has done a masterful job of bringing jazz, blues, R&B and World music to the...


Podcast 684: A Conversation with Catherine Russell

It’s always a pleasure to hear a new release from Catherine Russell. One of our most versatile and consistently interesting vocalists, Ms. Russell has become the standard bearer for a particular type of jazz, carrying the torch for the songs of the Twenties, Thirties and Forties that might have slipped away without her stewardship. A student of songs, she comes by her interest in 20th century tunes naturally: her father, the late Luis Russell, was a legendary...


Podcast 683: A Conversation with Herlin Riley

Herlin Riley was more than satisfied with his career as one of the top drummers in jazz. Having worked with the likes of Ahmad Jamal in the mid-Eighties, he achieved recognition as Wynton Marsalis’ drummer in the second iteration of the trumpeter’s great groups in the Eighties and Nineties. It’s Riley you hear on the Pulitzer Prize winning Blood on the Fields, and he is the core of the group playing on the epic Live at the Village Vanguard mega-set. He followed Marsalis to Jazz at Lincoln...


Podcast 682: Dr. John (1941-2019)

I first caught a glimpse of Dr. John on ABC's "In Concert" TV Series in the early 1970's. Cat Stevens had an episode entitled "Moon & Star" and featured Linda Ronstadt and Dr. John as guests. Was there ever a greater opposite than the Night Tripper than the laid-back Cat? Decked out in feathers and spangles, throwing glitter as he worked his way through the audience, this guy was a SIGHT. And then he opened his mouth to sing a cover of Stevens' "Pop Star", and what came out was gravely,...


Podcast 681: A Conversation with Todd Barkan

Thirty-six years have passed since Todd Barkan’s historic San Francisco jazz club Keystone Korner closed its doors. From 1972 to 1983, greats like Miles Davis, Dexter Gordon, Bobby Hutcherson, Stan Getz and Max Roach, among countless others, played there. The venue continues to live on in written history and through a series of seminal albums recorded live in the Vallejo Street nightclub. In the nearly four decades since, Barkan has further cemented his legacy in jazz as a record producer...


Podcast 680: A Conversation with Lisa Maxwell

If you listened to my podcast interview with Randy Brecker last month, you heard him praise the work of arranger/composer Lisa Maxwell, and got an early listen to a track from her upcoming CD Shiny!. That release, an All-Star Big Band recording under the name of Lisa Maxwell’s Jazz Orchestra, available on May 17th. Shiny! is dedicated to the memory of Lisa’s long-time friend and mentor, trumpet ace Lew Soloff, who made important recordings with Carla Bley, Gil Evans, and most profitably,...


Podcast 679: A Conversation with Avery Sharpe

2019 will mark 400 years since Africans were first brought to the Jamestown, VA settlement in 1619 by the Dutch as slaves. They were brought to the Americas to aid in the very profitable agricultural industry during the 17th through 19th centuries, continuing in bondage until an estimated 4 million slaves were freed after the Civil War. The effects of slavery reverberated from the Reconstruction period (1865-1877), through the Civil rights apex a century later (1960s, and some – myself...


Podcast 678: International Jazz Day 2019

International Jazz Day is celebrated in Sydney, Australia this year, although there will be events around the World. Since the first International Jazz Day concerts in Paris, New Orleans and the floor of the United Nations in New York in 2012. I had the pleasure of attending the show in New York, and it was spectacular. This year's listed artists performing "Down Under" will include: Cieavash Arian (Iran), William Barton (Australia), Dee Dee Bridgewater (USA), Till Brönner (Germany), A Bu...


Podcast 677: A Conversation with Randy Brecker

I’ve had the pleasure of speaking with Randy Brecker in the past for this Podcast, going back to 2015. The ace trumpet and flugelhorn player will celebrate his 75th birthday next year, but he is still going strong. The past few months have seen a number of large ensemble works featuring his inimitable style, with more to come shortly. Rocks, a hot recording of Brecker with the NDR Big Band-The Hamburg Jazz Orchestra, with special guests David Sanborn, Ada Rovatti and Wolfgang Haffner was...


Podcast 676: Spirituality

It seems that most of the world’s religions have spring holidays. In fact, celebrating the beginning of spring may be among the oldest seasonal holidays in human culture. The earliest reference we have to such a holiday comes to us from Babylon, 2400 BCE. The city of Ur apparently had a celebration dedicated to the moon and the spring equinox which was held some time during our months of March or April. For Christianity, today is Palm Sunday, the start of Holy Week, culminating in the...


Podcast 675: A Conversation with Mark Guiliana

With the release of Beat Music! Beat Music! Beat Music! today, drummer/composer Mark Guiliana pushes further than ever against the boundaries of musical classification. Is it jazz? Is it electronica? Is it progressive rock? More importantly – does it matter what we call it? The latest Beat Music product from Guiliana builds on the strengths of his twin releases in 2014, My Life Starts Now and Beat Music: The Los Angeles Improvisations. On those albums Mark skillfully used the vocabulary...


Podcast 674: A Conversation with Yotam Silberstein

Podcast 674 is a long overdue conversation with Israeli guitarist Yotam Silberstein. Since he was a finalist in the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Guitar Competition in 2005, Yotam has shown himself to be more than just another guitar ace, but also a top interpreter of the music of South America, most notably Brazil. With the release of The Village last year, he seemed ready to show that he could handle any facet of jazz with intelligence, wit and style. Future Memories shows this was...


Podcast 673: A Conversation with John Patitucci

As a purely amateur electric bass player, one of my heroes is John Patitucci. The Brooklyn-born bass player has been at the top of the electric bass and acoustic double bass call list for some 35 years now, and in the process has become part of legendary groups. He has released 14 albums under his own name as leader, and participated on dozens of others, including albums with Al Di Meola, Herbie Hancock, Danilo Perez, Edward Simon, Lee Ritenour, and Kurt Elling. However, Patitucci will...


Podcast 672: A Conversation with Etienne Charles

The SFJazz Collective continues to be one of the most accomplished and exciting larger ensembles performing and recording in jazz today. An octet, the group operates democratically, choosing songs and arrangements together, rather than following a bandleader. Given that the current Collective lineup is made up of ALL bandleaders - Miguel Zenon, David Sanchez, Etienne Charles, Robin Eubanks, Warren Wolf, Edward Simon, Matt Brewer, and Obed Calvaire – that’s probably for the best. The...


Podcast 671: A Conversation with Quiana Lynell

‘Who are you, where have you been, and why am I just hearing you now?’ That question seems to be a common thread running through the rising career of singer Quiana Lynell. A transplanted New Orleans resident via Texas, her musical world was strictly gospel music until she attended school in Louisiana. She earned her degree in Vocal Performance, concentrating on classical music. Expanding her musical horizons, she worked the New Orleans scene while keeping her day job at AT&T, and then...


Podcast 670: A Conversation with Alicia Olatuja

With the release of Intuition: Songs from the Minds of Women, Alicia Olatuja has raised the bar once again on what she might offer the music world. Since she caused a commotion as a featured vocalist at Barak Obama’s Second Inauguration in 2013, she has released two CDs, including the exceptional debut album Timeless; and toured consistently, including being an anchor of Billy Childs’ Laura Nyro project and Ulysses Owens Jr.’s Songs of Freedom project. The new CD, which comes on the heels of...