Originally published on Wed December 10, 2014 1:45 pm
If anyone has earned the nickname Pops, it's Ellis Marsalis.
As jazz's best-known father figure, the senior Marsalis has four noted musical offspring: Branford, Wynton, Delfeayo and Jason. But if you consider all the musicians he's taught or mentored, his clan is even more extensive, diverse and influential.
I talked to six musicians who gave us the long view of the Marsalis family tree, and how they were schooled by its patriarch.
Jazz composer and trumpeter Theo Croker opens his new album, AfroPhysicist, with an ode to his grandfather: New Orleans jazz great Doc Cheatham. The thing is, Croker didn't grow up in New Orleans or any other jazz hub. He's from Jacksonville, Fla., and he was just a child when his grandfather died in 1997. It wasn't until his grandfather's memorial services — attended by jazz legends — that he decided to join the legacy.
Originally published on Sat January 11, 2014 10:31 am
In the room he uses as a practice space and office in his apartment in Corona, Queens, Jimmy Heath recalls a hit record from long ago.
"It's a song Bill Farrell, a popular singer, had years ago," he says, and then sings: "You've changed, you're not the angel I once knew / No need to tell me that we're through / It's all over now, you've changed." Then the 5'3" musician with the big sound picks up his tenor saxophone and blows.
Originally published on Thu January 9, 2014 9:25 am
It doesn't take an expert to identify this sound as a jazz rhythm:
Musicians call it "spang-a-lang," for obvious phonetic reasons, and it's so synonymous with jazz, it no longer occurs to us that someone had to invent it. But someone did: a drummer named Kenny Clarke, who would have turned 100 today.