Jazz Beat – Dylan At Newport

July 25th marked the 50th anniversary of Bob Dylan going electric at the Newport Folk Festival. The milestone is being widely commemorated, and it follows the sale two years ago of the Fender Stratocaster he played that Sunday night. Elijah Wald’s new book, Dylan Goes Electric: Newport, Seeger, Dylan, and the Night That Split the Sixties, tells the story more accurately and contextually than any previous renderings.

Paul Butterfield Plugs In and Dylan Follows Suit

Phenomena at Newport: the White Blues Hero and the Folk Rock Anti-Hero

Saturday marked the 50th anniversary of Bob Dylan going electric at the Newport Folk Festival. The milestone is being widely commemorated, and it follows the sale two years ago of the Fender Stratocaster he played that Sunday night, July 25, 1965.

Sheila Jordan

Truth Telling at the Northampton Jazz Workshop

What a pleasure it was hearing Sheila Jordan this week at the Northampton Jazz Workshop. She’s nearly 87, which she makes no secret of, and why should she? Sheila’s a bonafide survivor: of a harsh, Depression-era childhood shuttled between her teenage mother’s digs in Detroit and her grandparents’ home…

Jazz Beat – Ornette Coleman

I didn’t see Ornette Coleman until 1971 when he played the Saturday afternoon program of the Newport Jazz Festival with his old comrades Dewey Redman, Charlie Haden, and Ed Blackwell. It was fortuitous that he shared the afternoon bill with Eubie Blake, Willie “The Lion” Smith, Freddie Hubbard, Charles Mingus, and the New York Bass Violin Choir, for that evening a riot interrupted Dionne Warwick’s performance of “What the World Needs Now” and the festival came to a crashing halt.

Jazz at Lincoln Center at Tanglewood

Shaking the Rafters of Ozawa Hall

I enjoyed a conversation about the recently deceased Gunther Schuller over lunch with my former NEPR colleague John Montanari on Tuesday. (Click here for my memorial to Gunther.) A few hours later, I heard the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra’s concert at Tanglewood, which Wynton Marsalis dedicated to Schuller’s memory.

Hampton Hawes and the Pardon from JFK

Sometimes even a glimmer of open-mindedness can spell good fortune.  For a preternatural cool cat like Hampton Hawes, it took the form of allowing himself to think that the man he watched deliver the Inaugural Address on January 20, 1961, had “soul and might listen.”

Hank Mobley

Leonard Feather, one of the most powerful critics in jazz history, declared Hank Mobley “the middleweight champion of the tenor saxophone” in his liner note essay for Hank’s 1961 release…

Remembering B.B. King

Before it slides deep into the archives of NEPR News, here’s the commentary I voiced in memory of B.B. King on May 21.

James Cotton’s 80th

Happy Birthday to the Blues Harp Master

Few harmonica players announce themselves by tone alone quite like James Cotton. The great bluesman, born 80 years ago today in Tunica, Mississippi, has a huge, vibrato-laden sound that’s instantly recognizable, and while he’s influenced many harp players, no one else sounds like him.

Gunther Schuller, R.I.P., 1925-2015

Gunther Schuller died on Sunday, June 21, in Boston. He was 89. Schuller was a Renaissance man of the Space Age. He began playing French horn with the New York Philharmonic when he was 16, became principal horn of the Cincinnati Symphony at 17, and for the better part of the next 75 years excelled at more endeavors than virtually anyone else in modern music.