Tower of Power, Thundercat, COVID-19 & 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.

Jazz School: Education News

Sammy Miller and the Congregation Launch Online Masterclasses: Sammy Miller and the Congregation have responded to the Coronavirus pandemic that forced the cancelation of their tour by launching a series of masterclasses called “Camp Congregations.” Every weekday from March 17-27, the New York City-based band known for their joyful jazz will be live streaming an hour of music workshops, jam sessions, listening parties and more to any student who wants to participate.


Tower of Power Release New Album and Share First Music Video in 30 Years: Tower of Power have been rocking their sound since 1968 and show no sign of slowing down as they released today their new album, Step Up, via Mack Avenue. The band also shared their music video for “Look In My Eyes” from Step Up, which showcases their signature and world-renowned horn-driven, funky sound. This is their first music video in 30 years, and you can watch it via the player below. 

Bandcamp Supports Artists By Waiving Is Fees for 24-Hours Today, March 20: Today, Bandcamp is waiving its fees for 24-hour to help counteract and raise awareness of the impact being made by COVID-19 on musicians. An official statement from Ethan Diamond, Co-Founder and CEO of Bandcamp, reads: “It may sound simple, but the best way to help artists is with your direct financial support, and we hope you’ll join us on Friday and through the coming months as we work to support artists in this challenging times.”

Thundercat Releases New Single: Thundercat reflects on the loss of his friend Mac Miller on his new song, “Fair Chance.” This is the third single off of It Is What It Is, which will be released on April 3 via Brainfeeder and shows off a more somber side to the upcoming LP. The track was produced by Sounwave and features Ty Dolla $ign and Lil B.

John Schapiro Celebrates Kind of Blue on New Record: Composer/conductor/arranger John Schapiro celebrates the legacy of Miles Davis’ legendary Kind of Blue album on his new record, New Shoes: Kind of Blue at 60. The album features Schapiro arrangements performed by a 17-piece orchestra, making its debut here as Schapiro17. These arrangements use the five themes on Davis’ 1969 record as points of departure, altering them while retaining their creative essence. New Shoes: Kind of Blue at 60 is due out April 3 via Summit Records.

First-Ever Music Video for Miles Davis’ “Boplicity”: The first-ever music video for Miles Davis’ “Boplicity” was released via Blue Note/UMe. The new video was created by animator/director Thomas Jarrett and produced by Dreambear. This follows the first-ever music video for Davis’ “Moon Dreams,” shared on September 27, 2019. Both tracks are featured on the acclaimed Miles Davis collection, The Complete Birth of the Cool, which was released on June 7, 2019, via Blue Note/UMe.

Blue Engine Releases Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra’s Love Letter to Basketball: Blue Engine Records released Rock Chalk Suite today on all digital platforms. This is a love letter to basketball from the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis. Rock Chalk Suite is a 15-movement suite that was commissioned to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Lied Center of Kansas, and each of the movements takes inspiration from a different University of Kansas basketball legend – including Wilt Chamberlain, Paul Pierce, Lynette Woodard and Jo Jo White.

The Gig: Live Music & More

Rockport Music Cancels All Events Through the End of April: Rockport Music has canceled all events through the end of April. An official statement reads: “In light of the newest recommendations regarding the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, Rockport Music is canceling all Shalin Liu Performance Center events through the end of April. The Rockport Music offices and box office will also be closed to the public with staff working remotely until further notice. Rockport Music staff will respond to all emails and voicemails as soon as possible during the coming weeks. Rockport Music will continue to keep our patrons updated as the situation develops.”

Jazz at Lincoln Center Announces Postponements and Cancelations, Plans to Intensify Online Content Work: In response to growing concerns about the spread of the Coronavirus, Jazz at Lincoln Center has canceled all concerts and classes through April 15. An official statement on their official website reads: “In announcing this decision, we are consistent  with our colleagues at Lincoln Center of the Performing Arts and in line with recommendations from city, state and federal elected officials as well as the Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control.” Jazz at Lincoln Center also states that it will “intensify efforts to make available digital concerts, educational programs and other music videos to those who are isolated, sequestered and in need of a community.”

The Festival Guide

Essentially Ellington Competition and Festival Postponed: The annual Essentially Ellington Competition and Festival — which would have included Mountlake Terrace High School’s Jazz I band at Lincoln Center in New York City — has been postponed and the annual Edmonds Jazz Connection event involving local middle and high school students has been canceled. Sponsored by the Edmonds Daybreakers Rotary Club, the event involves student musicians across the Edmonds School District. Essentially Ellington was scheduled to take place on May 7-9. Organizers have announced that the event was postponed due to concerns about the COVID-19 outbreak and that it would be rescheduled at a later date.

New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival Postponed for the First Time in Its History: The famed New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, which was set to take place on April 23-May 2, has officially been postponed because of the Coronavirus pandemic. This is the first time the festival has been postponed in its 51-year history. An official statement reads: “Jazz Fest 2020 will now take place in the fall. We will announce exact dates and additional details soon. All purchases for the original dates will be honored for the fall dates.”

New Release Cheat Sheet

Irreversible Entanglements, Who Sent You? (International Anthem/Don Giovanni)

After their explosive 2017 eponymous debut, Irreversible Entanglements firmly established themselves atop liberation-oriented music. Now, the free jazz collective returns with a more focused and patient LP. Who Sent You? is described via a press release as “the punk-rocking of jazz and the mystification of the avant-garde,” mixing deep individual improvisation studies with the spoken word talents of poet Camae Ayewa, a.k.a. Moor Mother.

Tony Allen and Hugh Masekela, Rejoice (World Circuit)

Drummer/Afrobeat pioneer Tony Allen and the Father of South African Jazz, trumpeter Hugh Masekela, had known each other since the ‘70s. In 2010, they finally recorded a collaborative album together, which remained unreleased until now. Rejoice, produced by Nick Gold, marks the first official posthumous Masekela release and features contributions from a new generation of jazz musicians, including Tom Herbert, Joe Armon-Jones and more.

Lennie Tristano, The Duo Sessions (Dot Time)

Modern jazz pioneer Lennie Tristano paved the way for later generations of great musicians with his singular harmonic and rhythmic concepts. The Duo Sessions is a brand new collection of unheard recordings by the piano great from the ‘60s and ‘70s, released by Dot Time as part of its Legends Series. The compilation includes him in three unique contexts, with saxophonist Lenny Popkin, drummer Roger Mancuso and on the only known piano duo session he ever recorded, alongside Connie Crothers.

Featured photo of Thundercat by The1point8.

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