Orquesta Akokán takes its name from the Yoruba word meaning "from the heart." The group's self-titled debut album, released in March, draws deep from the soul and history of Cuba, reviving the spirit of the big-band orquestas of decades past like Buena Vista Social Club and Orquesta Aragón.
Pianist and vocalist Cleo Brown (1909 – 1995) was one of the early innovators of the boogie-woogie style and the first female instrumentalist to be named an NEA Jazz Master. She retired from performing in the 1950s and focused her attention on religious music, bringing her gifted voice and strong left hand to gospel tunes.
The following text was originally published alongside the live web stream of the 2018 NEA Jazz Masters, which took place on April 16. A recording of the event can now be viewed by clicking on the video above.
Trumpeter Nicholas Payton has been hailed as one of the greatest musicians of his generation. A native of New Orleans, Payton learned the art of improvisation from Wynton Marsalis and as a teen performed with the late trumpet master Clark Terry.
Cecil Taylor, whose stunning and bravely unorthodox piano language made him one of the most important postwar American avant-gardists in any artistic medium, leaves more than a legacy of musical provocation after his death yesterday evening.
Cecil Taylor encompasses a never-ending range of sound and emotion. On his way to the Piano Jazz studio in 1994, the avant-garde jazz pianist and his cab driver discovered that they went to the same high school, opening up a whirlwind of small worlds, and inspiring the improvised piece that opens this episode.
There is no one universe for Ben LaMar Gay, he just sonic booms from one sound to another. His solo debut, Downtown Castles Can Never Block the Sun, is really a patch-work of seven albums, recorded over seven years but never released. It moves from fuzz-caked weirdo-psych to mutant synth-funk to giddy electronics to progressive jazz at a seamless, whiplash-free warp speed.