Sonny Rollins, tenor saxophonist, is one of the jazz world's greatest improvisational artists. At the tender age of 23, he played with Miles Davis and Charlie Parker. After successfully battling a heroin addiction in the early 1950s, he joined the Clifford Brown-Max Roach quintet. He also began a critically-acclaimed solo career. Now in his sixties, he feels obligated to carry on the vision of his own mentors to today's rising stars. His latest album, "Old Flames" (Milestone), focuses on jazz standards and features Sonny backed by a brass section.
Jazz critic Kevin Whitehead reviews two new albums by composer, saxophonist and clarinetist Anthony Braxton. Although Braxton's music has been much criticized, Kevin calls him one of his heroes. Braxton's new albums are "19 Solo Compositions 1988" and "Seven Compositions (Trio) 1989."
Composer and keyboardist Wayne Horvitz was associated with the Manhattan downtown scene of experimental composers and improvisers. Now a resident of Seattle, he fuses his diverse musical influences in a new album called The President.
Terry Gross interviews Fresh Air jazz critic Kevin Whitehead. He's worked as a rock and restaurant critic. He believes he distinguishes himself by actively featuring artists outside the insular New York jazz scene. Whitehead is also a former seminarian, and a bassist who plays free improvised music.
Riley's breakthrough composition reduced melody to short, repetitive gestures, while still leaving room for improvisation. While hailed as the father of minimalist music, Riiey eschews the term. He is largely inspired by Indian raga, and performs often as an improvisor.
Composer, arranger, conductor Gunther Schuller. One of the most ardent supporters of new music, Schuller is equally at home with the music of bebop and the big band era as he with the 12-tone classical composers. Schuller is the past head of the New England Conservatory of Music, where he founded the New England Conservatory's Ragtime Band. In the late 40s, when he first cultivated his eclectic approach to music, Schuller held jobs simultaneously with the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and with Miles Davis' tuba band.
Jazz Critic Kevin Whitehead pays tribute to bandleader and arranger Gil Evans, who died on March 20. A reissue of Evans' music from the early 60s has just been released, and Whitehead uses that record to comment on Evans' varied contribution over the course of his 40-year career.
Jazz singer Cassandra Wilson. When she moved to New York City in the early 80s, she decided to put her singing career behind her and concentrate on her family. She is now the best-known of several emerging female jazz singers. Her new album is titled "Days Aweigh."
Jazz Critic Kevin Whitehead reviews a reissue of a 1964 session featuring pianist Paul Bley. In the early years of his career, Bley worked closely with pianist Charles Mingus and saxophonist Ornette Colemen. Since the 60s, he's led his own small groups.
Sun Ra's recent releases reveal the pianists' enduring interest in free improvisation and spectacle. Jazz critic Francis Davis says one is a prime example of the musician's ensemble work; the other is unlistenable.
Jazz trumpeter, cornetist, and composer Olu Dara describes his music as "rhythmic fusion," and is the leader of the Okra Orchestra. His live shows are unusual among jazz concerts due to their dancing audiences. Dara joins the show to discuss his life, career, and contemporary jazz.