Jazz à la Mode

NEPR: Weekdays, 8 p.m. – 11 p.m.

Welcome to Jazz à la Mode, which airs weeknights between 8-11 p.m. on 88.5FM. Hosted by Tom Reney since 1984, Jazz à la Mode draws on the rich and varied traditions of jazz from the 1920’s to the present. Whether it’s a classic recording by Louis Armstrong or Billie Holiday, a great standard by Harold Arlen or Duke Ellington, modern jazz landmarks by Miles Davis or John Coltrane, or the latest by Gregory Porter or Wynton Marsalis, Jazz à la Mode has plenty to satisfy your tastes.

Listen to Jazz à la Mode on demand

One of the most exciting jazz discoveries I've experienced in recent years involved the Russian-born alto saxophonist Dmitry Baevsky and a restaurant in the tiny (pop. 1600) Massachusetts-Vermont border town of Colrain, Mass. While hosting Jazz à la Mode on a Thursday night in 2008, I got a call from a woman in Greenfield urging me to find coverage for the following night's show so that I could hear Baevsky at the Green Emporium.

Jaki Byard
John F. Goodman

I spent a horribly jazz-deprived time in Eugene, Oregon, in 1977, where the only saving grace was the Prez Records shop, which was named for Lester Young and operated by a true believer.

Ricky Riccardi, author of What a Wonderful World: The Magic of Louis Armstrong's Later Years, told Facebook readers this week that he's on assignment from Jazz at Lincoln Center to select a group of ten Louis Armstrong recordings for a Spotify playlist. I'm sure you understood the kind of pressure a list like this presents to obsessives of our kind. In this case, Ricky's playlist will be widely consulted and scrutinized, for he's emerging as one of the most prominent and reliable of Armstrong experts.

Jackie McLean
Steve Lehman

May 16 was Jackie McLean's 86th birthday anniversary. The first time I met the great saxophonist he exclaimed, "I listen!" Then he pulled me in closer and said, "And we contribute." I was aware of pledges from the McLeans by then, but still, what a way to be greeted by the master.

To local readers who knew Tom McClung, the news of his death on Sunday at age 60 at his home in Normandy is being greeted with a combination of shock and incredulity. The pianist was a fixture on bandstands throughout the Connecticut River Valley for over twenty years before he moved to Paris in 1997, primarily to assume a permanent role with the Archie Shepp Quartet. Tom's absence left a big hole on the local scene, but he helped us maintain a hope that he was gone only temporarily by returning home on a near annual basis to pay a visit and play a concert.

Duke Ellington, Mahalia Jackson, and George Wein (in polo jersey), 1970, New Orleans
Michael Smith / The Historic New Orleans Collection

Tom Reney looks back at Duke Ellington’s “New Orleans Suite,” and the crucial role that Duke and festival producer George Wein played in the establishment of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, which just completed its 49th annual presentation in the Crescent City. Wein’s insistence that any festival he produced would include Ellington, who “stayed only in the finest hotels,” and feature integrated ensembles was a spur to ending rigid segregation practices in New Orleans.

Connie Kay
Tom Copi / Getty Images

Lately I've grown accustomed to hearing Joe Lovano and other bandleaders introduce drummers as players of "drums and cymbals." Connie Kay, a cymbals master who was born 90 years ago today, qualified for that delineation decades ago.

In the latest edition of JazzBeat, Tom Reney explores the legacy of the bassist Scott LaFaro, who was a leading innovator in modern jazz and a member of the Bill Evans Trio. LaFaro was tragically killed in an auto accident in 1961 at age 25, and he’s the subject of an outstanding biography by his sister Helene LaFaro-Fernandez. Tom’s appreciation of LaFaro includes numerous samples of his music.

Creative Commons

Jay Geils died on April 11 at his home in Groton, Massachusetts, at age 71, from what police determined were natural causes. The guitarist lent his name to one of the hardest-working and most popular rock bands of the 1970s and '80s, and his death is making headlines everywhere. While Geils was born in New York and raised in New Jersey, the J. Geils Band got its start in Worcester, where Geils and Magic Dick and bassist Danny Klein attended WPI and first teamed together in a campus-based jug band.

The legendary Claude Jeter made one of his final appearances as leader of the Swan Silvertones at the 1966 Newport Folk Festival. The Silvertones founder was 52 at the time, and he would live another 42 years, but by then he'd tired of the ceaseless travel and modest reward of the gospel highway.

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