Billie Holiday, Makaya McCraven, Thundercat & More: The Week in Jazz

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



2021 NEA Jazz Masters Unveiled: The National Endowment for the Arts announced on October 21 this year’s class of NEA Jazz Masters: drummers Terri Lyne Carrington and Albert “Tootie” Heath and reedist Henry Threadgill. Radio host Phil Schaap will receive the A.B. Spellman NEA Jazz Masters Fellowship for Jazz Advocacy. The NEA Jazz Masters fellowship is the United States’ highest honor reserved for living jazz artists and advocates. In addition to their titles, the four honorees will each receive $25,000.

Andra Day is Billie Holiday in New Biopic: The United States Vs. Billie Holiday, a new biopic on the life of legendary vocalist Billie Holiday, will be released on February 12, 2021, via Paramount Pictures. It is directed by Lee Daniels and stars singer/songwriter Andra Day as Holiday. This will be just Day’s third cinematic appearance. The film will be released just before the Oscar-qualifying cut-off date on February 28, 2021.

Makaya McCraven Remixes Nubya Garcia Composition: Makaya McCraven has shared a new remix of Nubya Garcia’s “Source.” This is the title track from the saxophonist/composer’s debut album, released on August 21 via Concord Jazz. McCraven and Garcia previously worked together on the former’s Universal Beings album from 2018, a companion album and documentary of which were released earlier this year.


New Release Cheat Sheet

Justin Lee Schultz, Gruv Kid (Shanachie): Multi-instrumentalist whizkid Justin Lee Schultz has dazzled audiences on TV shows and gotten praise from such greats as Quincy Jones, Robert Glasper and Harry Connick Jr. Now, he has also released his Shanachie album debut, Gruv Kid. The record showcases his prodigious talents via a varied program and finds him alongside such greats as Bob James, Najee, Jonathan Butler, Jeff Lorber and more.

The Warriors of the Wonderful Sound, Soundpath (Clean Feed/Ars Nova Workshop): Saxophonist/bandleader Bobby Zankel’s unreleased version of the multivalent suite Soundpath by the much-missed NEA Jazz Master Muhal Richard Abrams is out on November 20. The piece was originally commissioned in 2012 and the performance documented here was recorded a few months before Abrams’ passing in 2017 at The October Revolution in Jazz and Creative Music. It is performed by an all-star iteration of Zankel’s Warriors of the Wonderful Sound and conducted by Marty Ehrlich.

Lafayette Gilchrist, Now (self-released): Acclaimed pianist/composer Lafayette Gilchrist addresses life in Baltimore, race relations in America and affairs of the heart on his powerful, self-released double-album Now. Released on October 27, Now marks his follow-up to last year’s critically acclaimed solo piano album, Dark Matter. It is also his first trio recording since 2007’s 3, finding him leading his Specials Revealed group with bassist Herman Burney and drummer Eric Kennedy.

Júlia Karosi, Without Dimensions (Double Moon/Challenge): Vocalist Júlia Karosi, alongside guitarist Ben Monder, re-examines and reimagines the works of her illustrious compatriots Béla Bartók and Zoltán Kodály in a contemporary jazz setting on Without Dimensions. This genre-melding record, Karosi’s fourth as a leader, is a compelling exploration of Hungarian heritage and was released on October 16.

Billie Holiday, Billie (Verve/UMe): Verve has released the official companion soundtrack for the anticipated documentary Billie about legendary jazz singer Billie Holiday. The LP collects some of Lady Day’s most popular songs featured throughout the film, including “God Bless the Child,” “I Only Have Eyes for You,” “Strange Fruit” and more, along with instrumental cues. The film, directed by James Erskine, will be released in selected theaters and available on TVOD on December 4.


Live Music and Festival News

Thundercat and Ariana Grande Adult Swim Festival Duet: Thundercat was joined by Ariana Grande on the first day of the Adult Swim Festival, which took place on November 13-14. Together, they performed a live rendition of the bass virtuoso’s “Them Changes.” The song was originally included in his 2015 record The Beyond/Where the Giants Roam. Grande previously called it her “favorite song of the past year and a half.” Watch their performance via the player below.

Tommy Halferty Plays the Music of John Scofield: Ireland’s Improvised Music Company’s Icons of Jazz series continues this November 21 with a concert of John Scofield music performed by guitarist Tommy Halferty within a quartet setting. The series presents some of Ireland’s most renowned jazz musicians performing their take on the iconic artists who have shaped jazz music in the last century. Click here to book tickets for this online event.

WaterTower Theatre Presents Tribute to Ella Fitzgerald: The WaterTower Theatre in Addison, Texas, will present singer/actress Feleceia Wilson’s holiday-themed one-woman show celebrating Ella Fitzgerald on-demand on November 27, 2020-January 3, 2021. “Ella’s Swinging Christmas: A Tribute to Ella Fitzgerald” will feature Wilson’s interpretations of songs from the First Lady of Song’s 1960 Ella Wishes You a Swinging Christmas album, accompanied by a trio. Click here to purchase tickets. 

Jazzfest Berlin 2020 Available Online: All artistic contributions of the four-day ARTE Livestream of Jazzfest Berlin 2020 are now available to stream on Berliner Festspiele on Demand and ARTE Concert Media Library. Videos include concert performances, talks and multimedia events, totaling roughly 1500 minutes in duration. This year’s Jazzfest Berlin took place on November 5-8 and the 2021 edition has been scheduled for November 4-7.

Like this article?  Get more when you subscribe.

Join Our Newsletter
Join thousands of other jazz enthusiasts and get new music, artists, album, events and more delivered to your inbox.

The Authoritative Voice in Jazz