Ella Fitzgerald, Ronnie Foster, Bill Charlap and More: Jazz Week

Jazz Week is your roundup of new and remarkable stories from the world of jazz. It’s a one-stop destination for music news you need to know. Let’s take it from the top.


First recording of Wadada Leo Smith’s string quartets: TUM will release the very first recording of Wadada Leo Smith String Quartets Nos. 1 to 12. The 7-disc collection includes twelve string quartets written by the Pulitzer-winning composer from 1965 and are performed by the RedKoral Quartet, along with featured soloists. “My aspiration was to create a body of music that was expressive and also explored the African-American experience in the United States of America,” Smith states in the liner notes.

Previously unreleased Ella Fitzgerald concert on exclusive Purple Splatter vinyl: As previously announced, Verve will release a never-before-seen concert by Ella Fitzgerald, featuring the First Lady of Song performing live versions of selections from her now classic album. Ella Fitzgerald sings Irving Berlin’s songbook at the Hollywood Bowl on August 16, 1958. The label also announced that Ella At The Hollywood Bowl: The Irving Berlin Songbook will also release the record on exclusive purple splatter vinyl. The album will be released on June 24.

Two upcoming albums by the Gordon Grdina trio: Oud master Gordon Grdina will release two new adventurous trio albums on June 17. The first is Boiling point, released via Astral Spirits, is the second release from his acclaimed Nomad Trio featuring pianist Matt Mitchell and drummer Jim Black. The second, Journeyreleased via Attaboygirl, is his collaboration with pianist Matthew Shipp and bassist Mark Helias.

Ronnie Foster returns to Blue Note Records: The great Ronnie Foster organ will be released To restart via Blue Note, his first album in 36 years. The new album, due out July 15, is a nine-song affair dedicated to the memory of the much-missed Dr. Lonnie Smith, whom Foster dubs via a statement “the world’s best on the Hammond B3 organ.” The album also comes in the 50th anniversary year of his seminal 1976 debut with Blue Note, Two-Headed Freapavailable now on vinyl.

New and upcoming albums

Chad Fowler and Matthew Shipp, old stories (Mahakala): Saxophonist Chad Fowler blends his Southern and R&B influence with pianist Matthew Shipp’s unique brand of modern improvisation on their first duet recording, old stories. This session was completely improvised and the duets on the record document their first real interaction. old stories was released on April 15.

Mike Holober and Balancing Act, Do not let go (Sunny side): Pianist/composer Mike Holober, best known for his work with larger ensembles, released a two-disc live recording with his octet Balancing Act on April 15 via Sunnyside Records. Do not let go is a 14-part song cycle divided into two sets, recorded in October 2019 at Aaron Davis on the campus of the City College of New York, where, as Holober puts it, “the fruits of the collective go hand in hand with the leadership of the group and personal artistic goals.

Ches Smith, Interpret it well (Pyroclastic): Interpret it well is a new album from drummer/vibraphonist/composer Ches Smith featuring an all-star quartet of guitarist Bill Frisell, violist Mat Maneri and pianist Craig Taborn. The disc was released on May 6 via Pyroclastic Records and features superb explorations of Smith’s ethereal compositions.

DaShawn Hickman, Drums, Roots & Steel (Small Village Foundation): DaShawn Hickman, one of today’s greatest Sacred Steel players, channels the blues-gospel traditions of 1930s Pentecostal-holy churches on his debut album. Drums, Roots & Steelreleased on June 2, is produced by Charlie Hunter, also present on bass, alongside two West African percussionists, Atiba Rorie and Brevan Hampden, and singer Wendy Hickman.

Live music and festival news

Jazz Power Institute 2022 from Jazz Power Initiative: The Jazz Power Initiative’s two-day Jazz Power Institute for Artists and Educators will return in-person July 6-7 to Lehman College, City University of New York, in the Bronx. This year’s theme is ‘Jazz Future’, including engaging students and creating new avenues for learning about music and the arts in general. Additional information and registration here.

Pittsburgh International Jazz Festival, September 16-18: The Pittsburgh International Jazz Festival, produced by the August Wilson African American Culture Center, will take place September 16-18. The festival lineup includes artists ranging from Ron Carter, Stanley Clarke, the Average White Band and more established big names, as well as rising stars like Samara Joy with the Pasquale Grasso Trio and more.

Bill Charlap Trio Celebrate Leonard Bernstein’s Musical Theater Legacy at NJPAC: The Bill Charlap Trio will celebrate Leonard Bernstein’s legacy in musical theater with a special event at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) on June 17. The event is part of NJPAC’s Concert Conversations, hosted by theater insider Ted Chapin, and also features Leonard’s daughter, Jamie, shares stories and childhood memories from her book, Famous Father’s Daughter: A Memoir of Growing Up Bernstein. More here.

Michele Rosewoman returns to Dizzy’s Club with New Yor-Uba, June 29-30: Pianist Michele Rosewoman returns to Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Dizzy’s Club June 29-30. She will perform with her longtime and acclaimed New Yor-Uba ensemble, which has been a major forum for collaboration between masters of the world of contemporary jazz and Cuban folk music for nearly four decades. Tickets here.

Smoke Jazz Club reopens: The Smoke Jazz Club in New York is set to reopen for the first time in more than two years. A celebration event of the reopening and expansion is scheduled for July 21-24 with music from the George Coleman Quartet. “The Smoke Jazz Club has so much history,” says co-owners Paul Stache and Molly Sparrow Johnson, husband and wife. “Despite the struggles of the past few years, we knew the music couldn’t stop there. The past two years have not been easy for anyone, but having live music in the club again with everyone together, musicians and listeners, seems like a turning point. We are very excited to take this next step.

Django Reinhardt NY Festival at Birdland: The Django Festival Allstars return for their annual tour to New York City’s Birdland jazz club July 12-17, for six nights of performances dubbed the Django Reinhardt NY Festival. These shows will include several guests, such as Ken Peplowski, James Carter, Houston Person, Edmar Castaneda and John DiMartino. Other American performances by the Django Festival Allstars are planned to follow this Birdland event.

Featured photo by Jen Rosenstein.

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Key words:
Bill Charlap, Chad Fowler, Ches Smith, DaShawn Hickman, Django Reinhardt, Ella Fitzgerald, Gordon Grdina, Jazz Power Institute, Leonard Bernstein, Matthew Shipp, Mike Holober, Ronnie Foster, Wadada Leo Smith

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