John McLaughlin, Ella Fitzgerald, Wadada Leo Smith & 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.



Verve’s Audiophile Sounds Series Celebrates Impulse! at 60: Verve/UMe’s audiophile-grade vinyl reissue series Acoustic Sounds will celebrate the 60th anniversary of Impulse! Records with a series of vinyl releases of some of the label’s most essential titles. The series kicks off on May 14 with Ray Charles’ Genius + Soul = Jazz and Gil Evans Orchestra’s Out of the Cool, both originally released in 1961. An average of two releases a month will follow throughout the year, including albums by Charles Mingus, Sonny Rollins, Bill Evans and more.


Ella and Louis Classic Duet Receives New Animated Video: Last week, Verve shared a new animated video for Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong’s duet version of “Cheek to Cheek” from their first album together, 1956’s Ella and Louis. The video is directed by Brooklyn-based artist Wendy Cong Zhao and was released in honor of Fitzgerald’s 104th birthday. The First Lady of Song was born on April 25, 1917.


William Parker Trio Albums Out July 9: Multi-instrumentalist/composer William Parker will release a pair of trio albums on July 9 via AUM Fidelity. Mayan Space Station features him alongside Ava Mendoza and Gerald Cleaver; Painters Winter features him alongside Daniel Carter and Hamid Drake. The albums follow the release of his recent magnum opus Migration of Silence into and Out of the Tone World: Volumes 1-10 and his book-length biography Universal Tonality: The Life and Music of William Parker, both released earlier this year.


Internationally Acclaimed Musicians Join New England Conservatory’s Jazz Studies Faculty: The New England Conservatory’s Jazz Studies Department has announced the appointment of three internationally acclaimed artists to its faculty. They are guitarist Julian Lage, saxophonist Melissa Aldana and trombonist Marshall Gilkes. Their appointment will begin in the fall of 2021.


Carlos Niño Shares New Song and Video: Carlos Niño & Friends shared a new single “Salon Winds” from their forthcoming album, More Energy Fields, Current, out digitally on May 7 and physically on June 25 via International Anthem. Pre-order it here. The song is accompanied by a film directed by Cara Stricker, made of beautifully colored abstract visuals reflecting the track’s crescendo from a calm instrumental to a track brimming with improvisational energy. 


New Book Charts History of Jazz Album Covers: German art book publisher Taschen has put out a new book charting the history of jazz album covers in the 20th century. Jazz Covers – currently available in English, German and French – is 500 pages long and was put together by author Joaquim Paulo and editor Julius Wiedemann. It showcases LP artwork from the ‘40s up to the ‘90s, as well as facts and background information about the designs. Order it here.


Album Announcements

Billy Bang, Lucky Man (BBE): BBE Music will release Lucky Man, featuring the music from the 2010 documentary of the same name that follows the late great free jazz violinist Billy Bang’s return to the battlefields of his past in Vietnam, 40 years after the War. Watch the documentary here. The album is composed of recordings captured throughout Bang’s travels in Vietnam, interspersed with his candid thoughts about music, art, war and his return to the country. It will be released on May 14 in association with IF Music. Click here to pre-order.


Rebecca Kilgore, The Rebecca Kilgore Trio – Vol. 1 (Heavywood #HW71993): Rebecca Kilgore’s newest album features her alongside pianist Randy Porter and Tom Wakeling, and is a fine showcase of her smooth, flexible and award-winning voice. Together, they perform songs written by or associated with the likes of Peggy Lee, Dave Frishberg, Nellie McKay and more, as well as the Rodgers & Hammersmith song “The Gentlemen is a Dope” that you can hear via the player below. Kilgore’s husband, Dick Titterington, also features on a couple of tunes. The Rebecca Kilgore Trio – Vol. 1 is out now and you can order it here.


Blue Lab Beats, We Will Rise (Blue Note): London-based duo Blue Lab Beats, composed of producer NK-OK and multi-instrumentalist Mr DM, will release their new EP, We Will Rise, on May 14. This will be their first release on Blue Note Records. Blue Lab Beats’ sound combines jazz, hip-hop, Afrobeat, funk and more. Their new EP is their response to current events, intended to offer healing and hope to those wearied by racism and barriers and to celebrate resilience, provide reassurance and spark joy. Pre-order it here.


John McLaughlin, Liberation Time (Abstract Logix): John McLaughlin offers a graceful reflection on the uncertainty, vulnerability and slowly awakening joy of our time on his new album, Liberation Time, out on July 16. Here, the visionary guitarist/composer drew upon decades of experience as a bandleader to select musicians best suited for each composition, recorded via transcontinental remote sessions, and even occasionally returns to the piano for the first time since his 1973 collaboration with Carlos Santana, Love Devotion Surrender. Pre-order Liberation Time here.


Live Music and Festival News

Virtual Festival Features Six World Premieres by Womxn Artists: A second cohort of 12 artists working together as part of the Mutual Mentorship for Musicians (M³) initiative, co-founded by Jen Shyu and Sara Serpa to foster creative partnerships among womxn musicians worldwide, will have their collaborative works premiered at a virtual M³ festival on Saturday, June 12 and Sunday, June 13 at 2:00 p.m. ET via the National Jazz Museum in Harlem. Hosted by M³ Editor-in-Chief Jordannah Elizabeth, each premiere will be followed by a Q&A with the artists, who will answer questions from the audience about their creative process. The performances are streamed via Zoom and may be accessed for free with RSVP. Reserve here.


Yilian Cañizares to Perform at United Nations World Oceans Day: Cuban violinist/vocalist Yilian Cañizares has been invited to perform during the United Nations World Oceans Day on June 8, 2021. For this very special occasion, she will perform “Yemayá,” her tribute to the West African Goddess of the Sea. She will also release a gorgeous video of the song on June 8. Meanwhile, you can watch a trailer for the video via the player below.


The New School College MM Performer-Composer Ensemble Performs Wadada Leo Smith: The inaugural Performer-Composer Master of Music (MM) class at The New School’s College of Performing Arts in New York will perform Wadada Leo Smith’s “Symphony No. 2 Winter” from his Four Symphonies in a livestreamed, multi-location presentation today, May 3, at 11 am EDT. The performance is part of the Performer-Composer Stone Lab, a workshop led by artists-in-residence at The Stone, “a not-for-profit performance initiative dedicated to the experimental and avant-garde.” Click here for more.

© Scott Groller


Footprints 2021 Artist Call Extended: The International Jazz Platform of Lodz, Poland (July 17-22) has put out an artist call for 50 participants to join its summer workshop, including seminars and meetings on the variety of topics concerning the European music industry, to help develop artistic and entrepreneurial skills. Out of this selection, six artists will be chosen to take part in the Footprints international tours and mentoring program, which aims to introduce new skills and provide a better comprehension of social, ecological and economic features that are at stake in the future for the music industry. Register here before May 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