Ella Fitzgerald, Ronnie Foster, Bill Charlap & 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.



First-Ever Recording of Wadada Leo Smith’s String Quartets: TUM will release the first-ever recording of Wadada Leo Smith’s String Quartets Nos. 1-12. The 7-disc collection features twelve string quartets written by the Pulitzer-winning composer beginning in 1965 and are performed by RedKoral Quartet, as well as featured soloists. “My aspiration was to create a body of music that is expressive and that also explores the African-American experience in the United States of America,” says Smith in the liner notes.

Previously-Unissued Ella Fitzgerald Concert on Exclusive Purple Splatter Vinyl: As previously announced, Verve will release a previously-unissued Ella Fitzgerald concert, featuring the First Lady of Song performing live versions of selections from her now-classic album Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Irving Berlin Songbook at The Hollywood Bowl on August 16, 1958. The label has also announced that Ella At The Hollywood Bowl: The Irving Berlin Songbook will also be released the record on exclusive purple splatter vinyl. The album will be released on June 24.

Two Upcoming Gordon Grdina Trio Albums: Oud master Gordon Grdina will release two new adventurous trio albums on June 17. The first is Boiling Point, out via Astral Spirits, is the sophomore release from his acclaimed Nomad Trio with pianist Matt Mitchell and drummer Jim Black. The second, Pathways, out via Attaboygirl, is his collaboration with pianist Matthew Shipp and bassist Mark Helias.

Ronnie Foster Returns to Blue Note Records: Organ great Ronnie Foster will release Reboot 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 refers to via a statement as “the best in the world on the Hammond B3 organ.” The album also arrives on the year of the 50th anniversary of his seminal 1976 Blue Note debut, Two Headed Freap, available now on vinyl.


New and Upcoming Albums

Chad Fowler and Matthew Shipp, Old Stories (Mahakala): Saxophonist Chad Fowler blends his Southern, R&B influence with pianist Matthew Shipp’s unique brand of modern improvisation on their debut duo 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 & Balancing Act, Don’t Let Go (Sunnyside): 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. Don’t 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 are matched with band leadership and personal artistic goals.”

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

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


Live Music and Festival News

Jazz Power Initiative’s Jazz Power Institute 2022: Jazz Power Initiative’s two-day Jazz Power Institute for artists and educators will return in person on July 6-7 at Lehman College, City University of New York, in the Bronx. This year’s theme is “Jazz Future,” including student engagement and the creation of new pathways in 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 from September 16-18. The festival lineup features artists ranging from Ron Carter, Stanley Clarke, the Average White Band and more established greats, as well as rising stars like Samara Joy with the Pasquale Grasso Trio and more.

Bill Charlap Trio Celebrates Leonard Bernstein’s Musical Theater Legacy at NJPAC: The Bill Charlap Trio will celebrate Leonard Bernstein’s legacy in musical theatre at a special event at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) on June 17. The event is part of NJPAC’s Conversations in Concert, hosted by theater insider Ted Chapin, and also feature Leonard’s daughter Jamie, sharing stories and childhood memories from her book, Famous Father Girl: 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 on June 29-30. She will be performing with her longstanding and acclaimed New Yor-Uba ensemble, which has been a major forum for collaboration between masters from the world of contemporary jazz and Cuban folkloric music for almost four decades. Tickets here.

Smoke Jazz Club Reopens: New York City’s Smoke Jazz Club is set to reopen for the first time in over two years. A reopening and expansion celebratory event is set to take place from July 21-24 with music from the George Coleman Quartet. “Smoke Jazz Club has so much history,” say husband and wife co-owners Paul Stache and Molly Sparrow Johnson. “Despite the struggles of the last few years, we just knew that the music couldn’t stop here. The past couple of years have not been easy for anyone, but having live music back in the club 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 run at New York City’s Birdland jazz club on July 12-17, for six nights of shows dubbed the Django Reinhardt NY Festival. These shows will include several guests, like Ken Peplowski, James Carter, Houston Person, Edmar Castaneda, and John DiMartino. More U.S. performances by the Django Festival Allstars are scheduled to follow this Birdland event.

Featured photo by Jen Rosenstein.

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