Jazz

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.

When the crew that is Spanglish Fly pulled in behind the Tiny Desk, the group's vibrant version of boogaloo raised the temperature in the NPR Music offices quite a bit. Whether displaying their party spirit or even the slow burn of social consciousness on the song "Los Niños En La Frontera," this band plays from the heart and engages both the mind and body.



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Just over 40 years ago, Joseph Jarman published a book of poetry that opens with a chant: "we pray o God / for the ego / death." Jarman, a visionary saxophonist and composer, was writing mainly about transcendence of the self. But he keenly understood the power of a collective, which presses each individual into the service of a greater whole.

Twenty-five years have passed since South Africa ended the cruel social experiment of apartheid, which divided its citizens, locked up its people of color and brought decades of havoc and pain.

Many bands make considerable adjustments to their playing style in order for their sound to properly fill the Tiny Desk space. LA-based trio Moonchild, along with three background singers and a drummer, arrived promptly for their load-in time, unpacked their gear and were ready to go within minutes. Aside from being especially efficient, their natural musical instincts made for a custom fit in our corner.

The Comet is Coming is a force of nature. The British trio's approach to the Tiny Desk was ferocious. Shabaka Hutchings, aka King Shabaka, blew his sax hard while his effects pedal added reverb, expanding not only his sound but altering the office and making it a little eerier.

It has been 30 years since Harry Connick, Jr. became an improbable pop star, on the basis of a movie soundtrack that just happened to put many of his best features on display. If you know Connick at all, you might remember that album, When Harry Met Sally..., as some kind of watershed: a burnished vision of New York sophistication that renewed the American songbook for a dashing new cohort.

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