Kevin Whitehead

Kevin Whitehead is the jazz critic for NPR's Fresh Air with Terry Gross.

Whitehead's articles on jazz and improvised music have appeared in such publications as Point of Departure, the Chicago Sun-Times, Village Voice, Down Beat, and the Dutch daily de Volkskrant.

He is the author of Why Jazz: A Concise Guide (2010), New Dutch Swing (1998), and (with photographer Ton Mijs) Instant Composers Pool Orchestra: You Have to See It (2011).

His essays have appeared in numerous anthologies including Da Capo Best Music Writing 2006, Discover Jazz and Traveling the Spaceways: Sun Ra, the Astro-Black and Other Solar Myths.

Whitehead has taught at Towson University, the University of Kansas and Goucher College. He lives near Baltimore.

Nowadays, Gigi Gryce is not as well remembered as he might be, given his crafty composing and tart playing. He's one of a few alto saxophonists who came up with their own styles after absorbing Charlie Parker's fleet swing, unvarnished tone and knack for quoting other tunes while improvising. Gryce had plenty of ideas as a player and a writer, and he'd pack a lot of them into a short solo.

Deep Blue Organ Trio is a Chicago institution; it's been together since the early 1990s, and for the last eight years, it's held forth at Uptown's Green Mill Tavern most every Tuesday night. The trio's new album Wonderful! is devoted to Stevie Wonder tunes.

Saxophonist Branford Marsalis and pianist Joey Calderazzo's Songs of Mirth and Melancholy is longer on the latter, taking cues from the brooding romantic music of 19th-century Europe. They play one Brahms song straight, with soprano sax taking the vocal line.

Gary Burton has always counted on collaborators to pull him in various directions — not because the vibraphonist doesn't have his own preferences, but for the variety. Burton also likes a tight-knit working band, and he's got one in his new quartet, which is touring this summer and fall. Drummer Antonio Sanchez works hand in glove with bassist Scott Colley; they'd already teamed up in the drummer's band.

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