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Watch and listen to live performances from NPR Jazz & Blues here.

Detroit. Feb. 13, 1973. A Tuesday night.

Roy Hargrove, an incisive trumpeter who embodied the brightest promise of his jazz generation, both as a young steward of the bebop tradition and a savvy bridge to hip-hop and R&B, died on Friday night in New York City. He was 49.

He should have been exhausted, but instead played the Tiny Desk with incredible stamina, holding a single trumpet note that lasted longer than most people can hold their breath. In the days just before this performance, Nicholas Payton played at the Joy of Jazz Festival in Johannesburg, South Africa, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, then Santiago, Chile and, finally, New York City. A member of his team drove them the four hours from NYC so he could nap in the car and be ready to play.

Slingshot, VuHaus public radio stations and NPR Music's emerging artist series, spotlighted 40 artists over the course of the past 10 months. Now it's time for you to tell us your favorite.

If you already know who you're supporting, you can skip to the bottom of the page and vote. But if you need a refresher, here's the complete list with listening links.


Air Credits

We all knew vocalist Rubén Blades knew his way around the clave, the rhythmic pattern that propels the Afro-Cuban dance music he's known for.

But I bet you didn't know he could swing a big band jazz tune with an easy flair that recalls past masters like Mel Tormé, Tony Bennett or Frank Sinatra.

Our list of the best new albums out this week includes the comical and moving synth pop of John Grant, enchanting harmonies from The Watson Twins, an audacious jazz album from trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire, the first new music from Elvis Costello & The Imposers in a decade and more. Host Robin Hilton returns to breakdown this week's essential releases with NPR Music's Ann Powers and Stephen Thompson, and Nate Chinen from WBGO.

Featured Albums

  1. Elvis Costello & The Imposters: Look Now
    Featured Song: "Under Lime"

What makes a first-tier jazz legacy? A signature instrumental style, recognizable within a phrase or two. A body of exceptional recordings, in the studio and in concert. A legion of imitators, great and small. A sense of broad cultural relevance. Maybe even a hit song or two.

Earlier this week, an array of news outlets in New York City reported a macabre discovery: The body of a 53-year-old man was found floating in a Queens marina, fully clothed, with chains wrapped around his legs. The body was noticed by a passerby along the shoreline of the World's Fair Marina in Flushing Harbor, near Citi Field, around 9:15 a.m. Tuesday.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify and Apple playlists at the bottom of the page.

Magos Herrera is a jazz singer from Mexico, but she has also sung pop songs with Brazilian beats and crooned Mexican classics with a touch of rock. Herrera takes another adventuresome step on her new album, Dreamers, where she partners with a classical string quartet for an album steeped in Latin American culture. The potent mix of themes and the sound of the string quartet, plus a little percussion, are compelling.

Music came naturally to Jon Batiste, the leader of Stay Human, the house band for The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. Growing up outside of New Orleans as part of a large musical family, he says, "I picked up on all of these things that are integral to who I am as a musician without necessarily studying them."

Standing behind the Tiny Desk with only pianist Sullivan Fortner by her side, jazz singer Cécile McLorin Salvant remarked that she hadn't been this nervous in a while. But it was hard to tell: She embraced the discomfort with ease, taking command of the space with a calm demeanor and spiritual presence that felt both humble and persuasive.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Pat Metheny On Piano Jazz

Sep 21, 2018

Guitarist Pat Metheny is one of the brightest stars in the jazz firmament. As the only person to win a Grammy in ten different categories, the ever-evolving artist is constantly experimenting with new technology and honing his improvisational skills and unique style. On this 2006 Piano Jazz, The Pat Metheny Trio, which includes bassist Christian McBride and drummer Antonio Sanchez, performs the exclusive version of "Go Get It" and "Bright Size Life."

Originally broadcast Spring of 2006.

Michel Camilo On Piano Jazz

Sep 14, 2018

Grammy-winning pianist, composer and bandleader Michel Camilo is one of the most fascinating jazz artists working today. A prodigy from the Dominican Republic, he began his professional career at the age of 16 as the youngest member of the National Symphony Orchestra. In his twenties, Camilo moved to New York City, where he took the jazz scene by storm with his whirlwind approach to music, technical brilliance and post-bop Latin rhythms. In this 1989 Piano Jazz session, Camilo plays his own composition "Nostalgia."

GoGo Penguin: Tiny Desk Concert

Sep 14, 2018

During his setup, GoGo Penguin's pianist Chris Illingworth asked if he could remove our piano cover to "access the inside" and, after a few rotations of a screwdriver, he soon handed me a long plank of black painted maple, which has no convenient place to rest in the NPR Music office. If you look closely at the piano innards during "Bardo," you can see a strip of black tape stretched over a few strings, opposite Illingworth's bobbing head. It mutes a group of strings, turning them into percussive jabs and dividing the instrument into more explicit rhythmic and melodic sections.

Wayne Shorter likes to tell a story about going to see Charlie Parker, the mercurial titan of bebop, sometime around 1951. Shorter was 18 at the time — a saxophonist, like Parker, and a bop obsessive already gigging around his hometown of Newark, N.J. He headed across the river into Manhattan, where Parker, colloquially known as Bird, was headlining at Birdland, the club named in Parker's honor.

Gene Harris On Piano Jazz

Aug 30, 2018

Pianist Gene Harris (1933 – 2000) was an integral part of the well-known group The Three Sounds trio, with bassist Andy Simpkins and drummer Bill Dowdy. After a brief hiatus in the 1970s, Harris teamed up with bassist Ray Brown to form a new group and also made his way as a solo act. An accomplished leader and sideman, Harris played with such greats as Aretha Franklin, Lou Rawls and B.B. King.

On this 1988 Piano Jazz episode, Harris opens with a slow and easy "Black and Blue," then Marian McPartland joins him on "Bag's Groove."

Esperanza Spalding Is The 21st Century's Jazz Genius

Aug 28, 2018

In the world of jazz, most musicians choose one single thing and get as good as humanly possible at it, but not Camille Thurman. She's known as a double threat: The rare jazz musician who has mastered both a highly technical instrument — in her case, the saxophone — and sings. Thurman's vocals have been compared to Ella Fitzgerald. Her latest album, Waiting for the Sunrise, is out now.

"It used to be: 'Nashville — that's where you come to play country music.'"

Dewey Nicks

If you know the songs “A Taste Of Honey,” “Spanish Flea” or “This Guy’s In Love With You,” then you know Herb Alpert. 50-some odd years later and the jazz musician is still going strong, with new albums and a tour. 

Stefon Harris On Piano Jazz

Aug 17, 2018

Vibraphonist Stefon Harris is one of the most innovative and impressive artists in jazz, blazing new trails on vibraphone and marimba. While much of his music is on the cutting edge, he has a strong sense of tradition and his technical facility knows no bounds.

On this 2002 Piano Jazz, Harris shows off his fresh, clear sound on a number of duets with McPartland, including "Whisper Not," "Blue Monk," and "Bemsha Swing." McPartland solos on her own "Twilight World."

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