Jazz and Blues

News about jazz, blues, Studio Sessions, and music samplings from jazz artists in the northwest and around the world.

Pianist Horace Silver, whose potent and catchy combination of blues, funk and Latin sounds shifted the jazz landscape in the 1950s and '60s, died Wednesday morning at his home in New Rochelle, N.Y. He died of natural causes, according to his son, Gregory Silver. He was 85.

As a bandleader, Horace Silver mentored some of the hottest musicians of his era. As a composer, he devised numerous jazz standards still played today.

This post was updated at 5:40 p.m. ET.

Pianist and composer Horace Silver, who created a rhythmic jazz known as "hard bop" that combined R&B and gospel to go along with his eclectic style of piano playing, has died at age 85, his son confirms.

Justin Kauflin is a young twentysomething pianist who, at age 11, lost his eyesight.

Jazz legend Clark Terry — the revolutionary flugelhornist who played with Count Basie and Duke Ellington, and mentored Quincy Jones and Miles Davis — shares something with Kauflin. Diabetes claimed his eyesight.

But that’s not the only reason the two musicians, who are separated by nearly 70 years, became close friends. The story of the bond between teacher and mentee is told in the new documentary “Keep On Keepin’ On,” which is being shown at this year’s Seattle International Film Festival. The film also celebrates Terry, who, even from his hospital bed, coaches Kauflin as he sets out to forge his own jazz career.

Michael Hoefner

I had a delightful telephone chat last week with Juan de Marcos, leader of the Afro Cuban All Stars.

Known as the "Quincy Jones of Cuba," Juan de Marcos comes from a family of musicians.  His father was a well-known singer with famed tres player and bandleader Arsenio Rodriguez, and his uncle, Ruben Gonzalez, was one of Cuba's most beloved pianists.  Juan grew up with some of the finest Cuban musicians visiting and playing music in his home.


I got my start in public/community radio at WFBE in Flint, Michigan in the late 1970s. I talked my way into being the self-appointed assistant, apprentice and substitute for a Thursday night program called John's Jazz.

The show was hosted by John R. Davis, journalist and unmatched jazz enthusiast. He very kindly let me tag along and learn things about music and radio.

John’s Jazz theme song was "On The Sunny Side Of The Street" featuring Johnny Hodges on sax.

Get more information and purchase your tickets here!


The long-awaited film about legendary jazz trumpeter Clark Terry "Keep On Keepin' On"  won an audience choice award at the Tribeca Film Festival in April, and will be shown next week in the Seattle International Film Festival.  The documentary follows the relationship of Terry with one of his many students, pianist Justin Kauflin.

Editor’s Note: Every jazz musician seems to have a defining moment that led to a lifelong love of the music. KPLU jazz reporter Jason Parker will explore these moments in a three-part series titled How I Came To Jazz.


Legendary jazz pianist Overton Berry’s “defining moment” story has to do with a brief encounter with a stranger more than 50 years ago. It taught him the a lesson about the most important thing in music — and in life.

Courtesy Monique Khim

Editor’s Note: Every jazz musician seems to have a defining moment that led to a lifelong love of the music. KPLU jazz reporter Jason Parker will explore these moments in a three-part series titled How I Came To Jazz. 


“I grew up with Cambodian music…Cambodian karaoke,” said Monique Khim, with a giggle that belies her years.

Monique, a senior at Lynnwood High School, traded her karaoke mic for an alto saxophone years ago. Her love of jazz and saxophone runs deep, and she credits her dad’s fondness for the karaoke machine for her passion for music: “He’s the one that actually spurred on my love for music.”

Editor’s Note: Every jazz musician seems to have a defining moment that led to a lifelong love of the music. Some of these moments took place at home, some at school, some with peers. KPLU Jazz reporter Jason Parker will explore these moments in a three-part series titled How I Came To Jazz. Part 1 is Parker’s own story, as told to KPLU’s Kirsten Kendrick.

My story of how I came to jazz has two parts. It begins in the spring of my second-grade year, when every student at my elementary school was asked to choose an instrument to play. I fell in love with the sound of the cello from all the classical music that my dad put on nightly in our house during dinner. The depth and warmth of the instrument spoke to me, and I announced this to my music teacher. She, however, had other ideas for me. She said I was too small to play the cello and that I’d have to start on the violin.

KPLU School of Jazz-Volume 10 (physical CD) is available for purchase here - or order a digital copy below.

Today is International Jazz Day. UNESCO created this celebratory day in 2011 to promote “the virtues of jazz as an educational tool, and a force for peace, unity, dialogue and enhanced cooperation among people.” 


We started our Jazz Appreciation Month Song Of The Day posts with a tune from Miles Davis, but this was before I was including bonus tracks, so I thought I'd end with Miles as well. I doubt anyone will argue that Miles is one of the major figures in jazz and deserves the spotlight. 


Horace Silver is another one of the true originals in jazz. All jazz musicians strive to have a unique, identifiable sound, and Horace achieved that early on in his career. His percussive, hard-driving style is recognizable within a few notes and his compositions are some of the most well crafted and beloved in jazz history. Few can match the number of compositions that have become standards, including "The Preacher," "Senor Blues," "Sister Sadie," and his most famous tune, "Song For My Father."


Sam Rivers is another of those musicians who's profile is huge among musicians and almost non-existent among non-musicians. His contributions to jazz as a player, composer and host of jazz "loft" shows cannot be overstated. He was an early adopter of free jazz and combined very outside playing with compositions with structure in new ways in the '60s and '70s.


It's a gorgeous sun-filled day here in Seattle, and I can feel summer coming! The weather put me in mind of one of the greatest jazz documentaries of all time, "Jazz On A Summer's Day." Bert Stern documented the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival in a film that has incredible cinematography, amazing music, and no dialog of any kind!


In the liner notes to the album "Blues' Moods," where you'll find today's song, trumpeter Blue Mitchell is referred to as the "middleweight champion of the trumpet." This was actually stolen from a line someone used about the tenor saxophonist Hank Mobley, but I think it suits both men well. The gist of the comment is that while neither of these players were necessarily innovative or boundary-pushing, they could each play the heck out of their respective instruments!


Ingrid Jensen, one of my favorite trumpet players, has one of the most distinctive sounds on the instrument today. I've described her approach to the horn as "vocal," and she's said she's just trying to sing her ideas through the instrument. This is not a new concept, but when I listen to her playing, I hear it in action.

Her technical command of trumpet is matched by her creative and emotional depth in ways that are thrilling to hear. Her compositions and improvisations take this listener on a journey, and any record with Ingrid on it is going to have moments of brilliance for sure.


Sarah Vaughan, or "Sassy" as she was known, is one of the great singers of the last century. She got an early start as both a piano player and singer, and was discovered in a talent show at the famous Apollo Theater in Harlem in 1942 at 18 years old. This led to stints in the big bands of Earl Hines and Billy Ecksten where she met and played with so many of the greats of the music, including Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Kenny Dorham, Art Blakey, Lucky Thompson, Gene Ammons and Dexter Gordon, among others.


Today we don't just have a song of the day, but a whole album! I was going to feature drummer Brian Blade and his Fellowship Band anyway, then noticed that NPR has his forthcoming album on its "First Listen" series today. So buckle in and prepare to be transported to another world. 


Lionel Hampton is a towering figure in the world of jazz. He was one of the first people to play the vibraphone and make that instrument popular, he played in one of the first racially integrated bands in the world, and the list of people he played and recorded with reads like a who's who of jazz: Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman, Charles Mingus, Dizzy Gillespie, Wes Montgomery, Art Tatum, Stan Getz and on and on. It's also his birthday today, so I thought we'd fire up some of his best.


Pianist Vijay Iyer is one of the most celebrated and talked-about musicians of his generation. His list of accomplishments and accolades is impressive, including Grammy Nominations, Jazz Musician of the Year awards, and even a MacArthur Genius Award. His body of work is as broad as it is creative, and he's a powerful piano player and a skillful composer. He was recently added to the music faculty at Harvard, so he must be a pretty good teacher, too!


“I want to be connecting with the subconscious, if I can call it that, because there are not to many words to describe the real deep inner part of a human being…I want to be at that place where everything is blotted out and where creativity happens, and to get there I practice, you know I’m a prolific practicer, I still practice every day…You have to have the skills, then you want to not think when you’re playing, that’s when you let whatever deep level of creativity, spirituality, I mean, you know these words are so inadequate these days but you want to get to this place where they exi


A "jazz standard" is defined as "a musical composition which is an important part of the musical repertoire of jazz musicians, in that they are widely known, performed, and recorded by jazz musicians, and widely known by listeners" (forgive me for quoting Wikipedia, but I think that's a pretty good description).


Joe Henderson is one of those musicians that didn't gain huge recognition from the casual jazz lover, but every jazz musician and fanatic will sing his praises for days. He had awesome command of the tenor saxophone, a unique sound and harmonic conception, and composed some classics of the jazz idiom, including "Recorda Me" (which he wrote at 14 years old!), "Inner Urge" and "The Kicker." He was equally at home playing hard bop and more avant garde music, and had a real way with a ballad.


"There are no natural barriers. It's all music. It's either hip or it ain't." - Lee Morgan

Lee Morgan is one of the most recorded and celebrated trumpeters in jazz, and one of my personal favorites. His playing is brash, assured, big-toned and has a swagger not matched by many other trumpeters of his day or since.


“My music is the spiritual expression of what I am — my faith, my knowledge, my being. When you begin to see the possibilities of music, you desire to do something really good for people, to help humanity free itself from its hangups...I want to speak to their souls.” ― John Coltrane


"A genius is the one most like himself." - Thelonious Monk

Pianist and composer Thelonious Sphere Monk is another true original. He did what very few other people have done, which is to develop a distinctive, unique sound on the piano. It's much harder to sound different on the piano because so many of the variables are out of your control, but through his heavy touch, his concept of the music and his unique harmonic sensibilities Monk really stands out.


“Just don't give up on trying to do what you really want to do. Where there is love and inspiration, I don't think you can go wrong.” - Ella Fitzgerald

Yesterday I mentioned that we'd talk about Thelonious Monk today, but I realized that it's Ella Fitzgerald's birthday, so I'd be remiss if I didn't feature her.


"Anyone can make the simple complicated. Creativity is making the complicated simple." - Charles Mingus

Bassist and composer Charles Mingus was a true original. Everything he did was from his heart and was remarkably fresh while still respecting the tradition of jazz. He led his own bands of various sizes from the '50s until his death in the late '70s. His best known bands were medium-sized ensembles of eight to 12 musicians, which is fairly uncommon but allowed him to sound both like a big band and a smaller ensemble as he saw fit.

His compositions are remarkable in that they are both highly-structured and very free at the same time. He was a big fan of collective improvisation, which dates back to the early jazz from New Orleans that we talked about when discussing Louis Armstrong.