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Two eminent avant-garde elders, a chameleonic vocal improviser, and a pioneering community organizer and presenter will make up the 2020 class of NEA Jazz Masters, according to an announcement this morning by the National Endowment for the Arts.

The four incoming inductees — saxophonist Roscoe Mitchell, bassist Reggie Workman, vocalist Bobby McFerrin, and jazz advocate Dorthaan Kirk — will officially be recognized next April 2, during a tribute concert and ceremony at the SFJAZZ Center in San Francisco.

If you're even a casually observant jazz fan, you might think you know a thing or two about Joe Lovano. A tenor saxophonist with dozens of albums to his name, most of them made during a roughly 25-year tenure on Blue Note Records, Lovano is one of the most instantly identifiable musicians on the jazz landscape and on the New York scene. But he didn't come from nowhere.

Snarky Puppy is an incredible ensemble of musicians, a loosely-knit collective of funk, jazz and rock players founded in Denton, Tx. by bandleader Michael League. They've been at it since 2003, with a rotating group of touring musicians. How many? As many as 25 will cycle in and out over the course of the tour.

The jazz pianist Brad Mehldau has always been concerned with balancing a handful of musical priorities: dynamic fluctuation, tension and release, the play between a crisply stated idea and one that's projected or implied. All of these are factors on Finding Gabriel, Mehldau's ambitious new album. What helps nudge it into strange new territory is a fixation on voice and breath.

Nashville may be the country music capital, but the industry for which its famous began in Atlanta. Now, a grassroots drive to preserve a historic downtown building is highlighting Atlanta's somewhat forgotten role in early roots music.

At 152 Nassau Street in Downtown Atlanta, an unmarked two-story rose brick storefront houses a piece of Atlanta's music history. This was the site of a pop-up recording studio in 1923.

As much as jazz could possibly have an inventor, that person would be Charles "Buddy" Bolden. But although he is celebrated as a seminal figure in jazz at the turn of the 20th century, very little is actually known about the African-American cornetist and composer's life. There are no existing recordings of Bolden, who spent more than 20 years in an asylum before his death in 1931.

Sixty years ago, this month, Miles Davis finished recording Kind of Blue, perhaps his greatest masterpiece and still jazz's bestselling album. But it was not the only milestone recorded that year.

Festival season is upon us. In the past week, Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival hosted its 19th year of memorable performances, which also resulted in memorable releases.

During World War II, with thousands of men shipping off to war, half a dozen all-female, instrumental big bands toured around America. It was a rarity in a musical world dominated by men and, for the most part, their stories have been erased or minimized in jazz history.

A fire is coming from Flying Lotus. And David Lynch is fanning the flames. The Brainfeeder boss has shared "Fire is Coming" to fuel the announcement of the his upcoming album, Flamagra, due out May 24 via Warp Records.

The livestream has concluded.

Every year since 1982, the National Endowment for the Arts has presented its Jazz Masters award — a pinnacle of achievement in the form. The honor is presented to musicians and advocates who have made exceptional contributions to the advancement of jazz, and the 2019 class is no exception, as we'll see during tonight's live stream of this year's tribute concert, taking place at the John F. Kennedy Center For The Performing Arts in Washington D.C.

Catherine Wheeler

The story of 20th century Sheridan immigrant and entrepreneur Zarif Khan resurfaced in the last several years. After a 2016 New Yorker story that detailed Khan's life, University of Iowa jazz studies professor and musician John Rapson was inspired to tell Khan's uniquely American story along with composer Danyel Gaglione. 

Mark Guiliana is a drummer renowned for his chameleon-like ways with pulse — whether he's leading his acoustic jazz quartet, playing in a duo with Brad Mehldau or providing the back beat behind David Bowie's final album, Blackstar. Now, Guiliana is in another mutation mode, shifting his focus from acoustic jazz sounds to explore an exciting realm of electro-jazz.

In 2005, even as the flood waters that rose in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina subsumed his home along with countless others, Allen Toussaint was reluctant to leave his city. But the elegant architect of New Orleans rhythm and blues was left with no other option. Just a day after his evacuation, in an interview with Rolling Stone, he described the experience less in terms of what had been lost than what could yet be gained.

This story is part of American Anthem, a yearlong series on songs that rouse, unite, celebrate and call to action. Find more at NPR.org/Anthem.

Karl Denson has one of the coolest side gigs in the world. In 2015, he took over for Bobby Keys as the saxophonist for The Rolling Stones. In his day job however, he's the leader of Karl Denson's Tiny Universe, a fusion of funk, jazz, soul, and rock.

The West Coast music scene has a new group to champion. The music of Oakland's SOL Development has been described as jazz, hip-hop, and, of course, soulful. The four-person collective's style may sound familiar but the member's backgrounds are not. They're teachers and classically trained musicians who use music in the classrooms to promote learning.

Born 100 years ago today, Nat King Cole was one of the most popular and influential entertainers of the 20th century. As an African American ballad singer and jazz musician, he topped the charts year after year, sold more than 50 million records, pushed jazz piano in a new direction and paved the way for later generations of performers.

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

At 2 a.m. Monday morning, Solange Knowles and a handful of friends were at a strip club in her native Houston, celebrating. The artist/auteur wore a leopard print cowboy hat, matching tube top and cut-out black pants, loose enough to twerk along with the dancers in their section.

The rules of musical gravity don't apply for the spirited saxophonist, composer and producer Kamasi Washington. Washington's roots are in jazz, but he can turn his saxophone into a soaring bird or a spaceship, a howling wolf or a karate kick.

This story is part of American Anthem, a yearlong series on songs that rouse, unite, celebrate and call to action. Find more at NPR.org/Anthem.

Bill Frisell has made no secret of his fondness for the music of James Bond films. An elite jazz guitarist with a gift for shadowy lyricism, he recorded the title theme to You Only Live Twice a few years ago for an album of movie music. Frisell then included the main Goldfinger theme on Small Town, his painterly duo effort with bassist Thomas Morgan.

There are three pianists involved in making the music of the Oscar-nominated film Green Book. The first is Don Shirley, who was popular in the 1950s and 60s, both in person and on vinyl. The second is actor Mahershala Ali, who portrays Shirley in the film but does not play piano. And so, the third pianist is Kris Bowers, who does all the playing for Ali in the film.

Terence Blanchard wrote his first piece of music for a Spike Lee joint nearly 30 years ago. The movie was Mo' Better Blues, which revolves around a brooding jazz trumpeter played by Denzel Washington. Blanchard was on set to ghost those trumpet parts, but at one point, Spike heard him playing a theme at the piano, and asked him to write an accompanying string arrangement.

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Ezra Collective is breathing new life into one of music's greatest institutions.

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

Month after month, member stations partake in Heavy Rotation and share with us songs that they cannot stop listening to. Out of the many talents and submissions, we condensed the list into ten songs, all of which scale the possibilities that this year has to offer in music.

This month's playlist is packed with new favorites, including French producer FKJ and a fresh bop from Future's The WIZRD, marking this start in 2019 as a hopeful one.

Betty Carter, the adroit and unsurpassable jazz singer, was 61 when she took the stage at Aaron Davis Hall in New York for The Music Never Stops on March 29, 1992. Presented by Jazz at Lincoln Center, a newly formed organization at the time, it was a concert of grand, unabashed ambition, celebrating Carter's magnificent prowess in the context of a specially assembled big band with strings, as well as three all-star rhythm sections.

There are probably better uses for a time machine — but if you could drop in on the band room at Philadelphia's High School for Creative and Performing Arts, sometime in the late 1980s, you'd encounter some historic jazz talent in the making. I'm referring in particular to the untouchable organ virtuoso Joey DeFrancesco and the irreproachable bassist Christian McBride.

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