Jazz

The Tiny Desk is working from home for the foreseeable future. Introducing NPR Music's Tiny Desk (home) concerts, bringing you performances from across the country and the world. It's the same spirit — stripped-down sets, an intimate setting — just a different space.

Saxophonist Sonny Simmons left an indelible impression on fellow alto player Steve Lehman, who vividly remembers the first time he heard Simmons live: It was 1997, Lehman was assisting drummer Pheeroan akLaff – on the faculty at Wesleyan University at the time, where Lehman was a student – who had a gig with Simmons that Lehman attended. The impact was immediate.

When Duke Ellington famously coined the phrase "beyond category," he was talking about freedom — of choice, of expression, of belonging. He meant following your heart and your instincts into an artistic territory without borders. And that's the place where violinist Regina Carter makes her home. She plays everything — jazz, classical, R&B, Latin, blues, country, pop, you name it.

Every year, NPR Music participates in the SXSW music festival, whether it's curating a stage or simply attending hundreds of shows at the annual event in Austin, Texas. Last year, the festival was canceled due to the pandemic, but it returned this March as an online festival. We programmed a 'stage' of Tiny Desk (home) concerts and presented them on the final day of the festival. Now, we present to you Tiny Desk Meets SXSW: four videos filmed in various locations, all of them full of surprises.

On the last edition of Play It Forward, All Things Considered's chain of musical gratitude, Devonté Hynes – the English singer-songwriter, producer, director and genre-spanning creative force behind Blood Orange – spoke about experimental jazz artist Angel Bat Dawid's atmospheric track "London."

Precious few have earned – just one, really – the honor to be proclaimed "the Grace Jones of jazz," but Lady Blackbird is not your average interpreter. Blackbird released a bold debut last year with her slow-burning version of Nina Simone's "Blackbird," while her second single, "Beware the Stranger," was a similarly intense reworking of "Wanted Dead or Alive," the rare groove classic popularized by the Voices of East Harlem. Last October, she released a gorgeously melancholy take on the James Gang's "Collage."

What does a line from a James Joyce novel sound like on the piano? Or a scribble from the visual artist Cy Twombly? Can you translate the organic architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright into music? For pianist and composer Myra Melford, there is inspiration in all of the above, "a kind of dialogue for me – a thing to bounce my ideas off of."

Paul Jackson, who as bassist for Herbie Hancock's Headhunters helped secure the first million-selling jazz album, died on March 18 in Japan, where he had lived since 1985.

He was 73. His death was confirmed on social media by his longtime musical associate, drummer Mike Clark.

With a resume that ranges from Talib Kweli to Paul McCartney, L.A.-based drummer Karriem Riggins has assembled his kit in a borderless zone that encompasses modern jazz, hip-hop, classic singer-songwriters and whatever else tickles his fancy. Riggins studied with bassist Ray Brown and quickly became the go-to rhythmatist for Ron Carter, Donald Byrd, Oscar Peterson and other jazz icons.

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