Jazz

It's Mardi Gras season and in North America, no celebration is more famous than the one put on by the people of New Orleans. For two weeks, local groups called Krewes organize balls, parades and dance parties. Colorful plastic beads are everywhere.

It's not too late to make a musical resolution for 2020, right?

No, I'm not planning to spend any diaper money on rare 7-inches, or develop an unhealthy effects pedal habit. But I do need to get outside my musical comfort zone — and I want to get into calypso music.

Updated at 11:17 p.m. ET

Rafiq Bhatia started the new year by taking a fresh look at jazz standards in a four-song EP called Standards Vol. 1. The record subverts our expectations — for both a guitarist best-known as a member of the band Son Lux and for songs we know well, half of which were written by the great Duke Ellington.

This is not a drill: Heat Check is back! After a short hiatus and some stellar, late-breaking 2019 releases, Heat Check has returned to recap you on the world of experimental R&B, hip-hop and everything in between.

Here's a first: Steelpans at the Tiny Desk. It's true. Nearly a thousand performances into the series and the instrument has never been featured, until now. While the two bowls look shiny and new in this Jonathan Scales Fourchestra set, they were once authentic oil barrels, pounded, finished and tuned for bandleader, Jonathan Scales. But instrumentation and singularity aside, Scales' virtuosity, energy and connection to his bandmates wowed the NPR crowd, many of whom had never heard this music before.

Sooner or later, every child prodigy hits a fork in the road: Keep doing the crowd-pleasing, trained-seal tricks that brought fame? Or set out to develop a more individual sound?

From the moment 11-year-old Indonesian pianist Joey Alexander gained international attention in 2015, it was clear that he wasn't your average young phenom. He had seemingly limitless technique and a deep understanding of tunes written decades before he was born. Already a fixture in the jazz world with five albums under his belt at only the age of 16, Alexander is clearly charting his own path.

Jazz Saxophone Legend Jimmy Heath Has Died

Jan 19, 2020

Jimmy Heath, a prolific saxophonist, composer and bandleader who played alongside some of the biggest names of jazz, including Miles Davis and John Coltrane, has died.

Heath died Sunday morning in Loganville, Georgia of natural causes, his grandson told NPR. He was 93 years old. His family was at his side, including his wife of 60 years, Mona Heath, his children Mtume and Rozie, his grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and his brother, drummer Albert "Tootie" Heath.

The 2019 NPR Music Jazz Critics Poll

Jan 14, 2020

Below are the results of NPR Music's 7th Annual Jazz Critics Poll (my 14th, going back to the poll's beginnings in the Village Voice). 2019's results provided surprise after surprise. The only predictable winner was in Latin Jazz: Miguel Zenon's Sonero, the alto saxophonist's fifth victory in this category. But Eric Dolphy's Musical Prophet: The Expanded 1963 New York Studio Sessions upset a "new" John Coltrane album in Reissue/Discovery. Relative newcomer Jazzmeia Horn's Love and Liberation won in Vocal.

The road to jazz stardom once ran straight through Miles Davis. You introduced yourself to audiences as a member of Miles's band, and they knew who you were and what you could do when you formed your own. The lone alternative route was via John Coltrane or Art Blakey. No more — and not just because those patriarchs are gone and no one who's come along since has achieved similar name recognition among the general public.

Editor's note: Jon Batiste's Tiny Desk Concert was published prematurely. The new publication date is March 2020.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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