Julius Rodriguez, Angélique Kidjo, Stevie Wonder & 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.



Samora Pinderhughes and Chris Pattishall Confirm Release of Going to Mars: the Nikki Giovanni Project: Samora Pinderhughes and Chris Pattishall’s soundtrack to Going to Mars: The Nikki Giovanni Project will be released on June 7. The documentary recounts the story of Nikki Giovanni, one of the most influential poets and artists of her time, and her work of resistance through the tumultuous historical periods in which she lived, from the Civil Rights Movement to the Black Arts Movement, to present-day Black Lives Matter. The film premiered at the 2023 Sundance Festival, winning the Grand Jury Prize for Documentary, and was shortlisted at the Academy Awards.

New Julius Rodriguez Single and Album Announcement: Multi-instrumentalist, composer and producer Julius Rodriguez has shared “Mission Statement,” a dynamic single from his forthcoming sophomore album, Evergreen, which will be released on June 14 via Verve Records. Listen to it and watch its accompanying video via the player below. Following his debut LP, Let Sound Tell All, Evergreen features a program of all but one original compositions and guest performances by Keyon Harrold, Nate Mercereau and Georgia Anne Muldrow.

Stevie Wonder and Misty Copeland to Speak at Peabody Conservatory Graduation: Stevie Wonder and Misty Copeland will deliver addresses for Peabody Conservatory’s 2024 Graduation ceremonies on May 22. Both speakers will receive the George Peabody Medal for Outstanding Contributions to Music and Dance in America. In addition, Wonder will receive an honorary doctorate from Johns Hopkins at its Universitywide Commencement ceremony on May 23.

Registration for 13th Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition is Now Open: The New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) announced the opening of the 13th annual Sarah Vaughan International Competition. Also known as The Sassy Awards, the competition is open to vocalists from all over the world not signed by a major label and will culminate with the finalists competing at NJPAC in front of a live audience and before a distinguished panel of judges. Click here for more and to submit your entry and for more information.

Splice Launches New Jazz Sample Label Signature: Music creation platform Splice has launched Signature, a new sample label that features a rich collection of sounds inspired by the history of jazz and performed by some of the great modern players. The Signature collection joins more than 30 separate individual sample labels created by Splice, representing more than 130 genres and diverse sounds. “With the launch of Signature we want creators to have access to sounds that are not only timeless, but important,” says John McNeill, Label Head of Signature at Splice via an official statement.


New Albums

Owen Broder, Hodges: Front and Center, Vol. 2 (Outside In): In the second volume of his tribute, saxophonist Owen Broder delves into Johnny Hodges’ collaborations with Duke Ellington and beyond, accompanied by a quintet comprising trumpeter Riley Mulherkar, pianist Carmen Staaf, bassist Barry Stephenson, and drummer Bryan Carter. Hodges: Front and Center, Vol. 2 distinguishes itself from its predecessor by placing a greater emphasis on Hodges’ role as a composer, with half of its program featuring tunes written or co-written by the legendary altoist.

The Stratos Ensemble, Freeing Form (self-released): Dean De Benedictis continues to blend electronic soundscapes and full-band sensibilities on Freeing Form, the first album with his improvisational jazz outfit Stratos Ensemble since 2016. This versatile new release covers a selection of work from 2013-2023, focusing mainly on the last two years of material performed by the band’s most current lineup, and that began as complete improvisations before being mixed and edited by De Benedictis to sound more like a produced work.

Alina Bzhezhinska & Tony Kofi, Altera Vita (BBE): Saxophonist Tony Kofi and harpist Alina Bzhezhinska unite as a duo on a collaborative homage to the ethereal dedicated to the influential Pharoah Sanders. With a soundscape personifying tranquillity, spirituality and peace, their album, Altera Vita was designed, as an official press release states, “to provide the listener with an opportunity to sit still and be aware.”

Kassa Overall, Live at Third Man Records (Third Man): Drummer, producer and rapper Kassa Overall released Live at Third Man Records, recorded direct-to-acetate at Third Man Records Nashville’s Blue Room Venue on May 3, 2022. The album comprises compositions from his first two albums, performed with a band including longtime Kassa Overall collaborator, trumpeter Theo Croker.


Live Music and Festival News

Jazztopad Returns to New York City, June 13-16: Polish festival Jazztopad will return to New York City with a series of genre-blurring events in venues around the city between June 13-16. The New York program will feature the world premiere of a new Kris Davis work, “The Nostalgia Suite,” performed with the Polish string ensemble Lutosławski Quartet. There will also be performances by Amalia Umeda, Hand To Earth, Michael Bates’ Acrobat and more. More here.

13th Annual Blue Note Jazz Festival: The 13th Annual Blue Note Jazz Festival, produced by New York City’s Blue Note Jazz Club, will kick off June 1 and run through early July. Performances will take place at major venues across the city, including Sony Hall, SummerStage in Central Park, Town Hall and Brooklyn Bowl. This year’s festival will include Wynton Marsalis, performing a residency at the Blue Note in conjunction with Jazz at Lincoln Center, which will mark his first time headlining the club since 1991. Other artists scheduled to perform include Yo La Tengo with the Sun Ra Arkestra, Os Mutantes, Ghostface Killah with The Soul Rebels and many more. More here.

NYO Jazz Carnegie Hall Concert and First-Ever Tour to South Africa: Carnegie Hall’s national youth orchestra, NYO Jazz, will return for its seventh season of music-making, highlighted by its concert at Carnegie Hall on July 20. Artistic Director, bandleader and trumpeter Sean Jones will lead the ensemble, with vocalist Alicia Olatuja as special guest. Tickets here. The concert will precede NYO Jazz’s first-ever tour to South Africa from July 22-August 5, with stops at Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town.

Angélique Kidjo Confirmed for 2024 San Jose Jazz Summer Fest: Angélique Kidjo has been announced as one of the performers set to perform at this year’s San Jose Jazz Summer Fest, taking place on August 9-11 in downtown San Jose, California. The West African superstar will be joining the festival’s August 10 lineup in Plaza de César Chávez at 4 p.m., right before Herbie Hancock’s set at 6 p.m. Other newly-confirmed artists include Incognito, Delfeayo Marsalis & The Uptown Jazz Orchestra, Las Cafeteras, Kiefer and the David Benoit Trio, among others. More here.


Featured photo: Atiba Jefferson.

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