In memoriam: Jazz Night In America remembers the icons we lost in 2021

Dec 23, 2021
Originally published on December 23, 2021 12:41 pm

Chick Corea

American piano player Chick Corea performs live at the OGR Jazz Club on November 9, 2018 at Officine Grandi Riparazioni in Turin, Italy.
Giorgio Perottino / Getty Images for OGR

Jazz is a music of accumulated wisdom, so it means that much more when we bid farewell to our elders: they're guardians of the art form, keepers of the flame. And as we did last year, we're pausing to reflect on some heavy losses.

Each life we're highlighting in this episode of Jazz Night in America tells many stories, unrepeatable and distinct. But together they also tell a larger story, about flexibility and resilience, imagination and commitment, and above all a receptive spirit of play. From pianist Chick Corea to drummers Milford Graves, Dottie Dodgion and Ralph Peterson Jr.; from trombonists Curtis Fuller and Slide Hampton to guitarist Pat Martino; from organist Dr. Lonnie Smith to tubaist and baritone saxophonist Howard Johnson — these are some of our heroes, and we celebrate their legacies here.

There are dozens of other deserving souls who died this year — including some, like impresario George Wein; broadcasters Phil Schaap, Bob Porter, Thurston Briscoe and Eulis Cathey; critic Greg Tate — whom we considered part of the family. We also honor their memories, along with those of musical icons like pianist Barry Harris, in the course of this program. (We hope to devote standalone episodes of Jazz Night to Prof. Harris and another great pianist, Junior Mance, in the new year.)

Set List:

  • Chick Corea, Christian McBride, Brian Blade – "But Beautiful" (Jimmy Van Heusen/ Johnny Burke) 
  • New York Art Quartet – "Rosmosis" (Roswell Rudd)
  • Dr. Lonnie Smith feat. Iggy Pop – "Sunshine Superman" (Donovan)
  • Pat Martino, Joey DeFranceso, Billy Hart – "Oleo" (Sonny Rollins)
  • Dottie Dodgion, Marian McPartland, Vi Redd, Mary Osborne, Lynn Milano – "I'll Remember April" (Gene de Paul)
  • Howard Johnson's Gravity – "Be No Evil" (Howard Johnson)
  • Curtis Fuller feat. Slide Hampton – "Fuss Budget" (Curtis Fuller)
  • Slide Hampton – "Chorale" (Slide Hampton)
  • Curtis Fuller - "The Clan" (Curtis Fuller)
  • Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers – "À la Mode" (Curtis Fuller) 
  • Ralph Peterson – "Jodi" (Ralph Peterson)


Writer and Producer: Sarah Geledi, Nate Chinen, Alex Ariff; Host: Christian McBride; Project Manager: Suraya Mohamed; Senior Producer: Alex Ariff; Senior Director of NPR Music: Keith Jenkins; Executive Producers: Anya Grundmann and Gabrielle Armand.

Dr. Lonnie Smith

Dr. Lonnie Smith performs at Fair Grounds Race Course on April 26, 2015 in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Erika Goldring / Getty Images

Pat Martino

Guitarist Pat Martino performs at the Newport Jazz Festival in Newport, Rhode Island, on August 1, 2015.
Eva Hambach / AFP via Getty Images

Dottie Dodgion

Milford Graves

American Avant-garde Free Jazz musician Milford Graves plays drums as he performs onstage during the 8th annual Vision Festival Avant Jazz for Peace at the Center at St Patrick's Youth Center, New York, New York, May 24, 2003.
Jack Vartoogian / Getty Images

Howard Johnson

Slide Hampton

Slide Hampton; May, 2009. The Hague, The Netherlands
Govert Driessen

Curtis Fuller

Curtis Fuller performs live on stage at Bimhuis in Amsterdam, Netherlands on May 27, 1983.
Frans Schellekens / Redferns/Getty Images

Ralph Peterson

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Drummer Ralph Peterson and The Messenger Legacy band perform during Winter JazzFest at Le Poisson Rouge.
Lev Radin/Pacific Press / LightRocket via Getty Images