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.

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9:09am

Tue December 6, 2011
Music Reviews

Thelonious Monk And More: 'Jazz Icons' In Kinescopes

Originally published on Fri August 3, 2012 12:18 pm

On the sixth Jazz Icons DVD series, Thelonious Monk plays a rare solo piano gig in 1969.
Erich Auerbach Getty Images

Jazz has long been a staple of European television programming. American musicians on tour frequently turn up on the tube, caught live or in a studio. That's partly because such shows are relatively cheap to produce, and because jazz makes for good cultural programming.

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8:51am

Thu November 17, 2011
Music Reviews

Miles Davis' Great, Often Bizarre 1967 Quintet

Miles Davis performs at the 1967 Newport Jazz Festival.
New York Daily News Archive Getty Images

Most of the material from Live in Europe 1967 has surfaced before — the set is subtitled The Bootleg Series, Vol. 1 — but the Belgian concert that performance comes from makes its debut here. This Miles Davis quintet was consistently amazing, not least on its last big tour, when Davis' trumpet chops were in good shape.

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8:02am

Mon November 14, 2011
Music Reviews

Two South-American Jazz Fusions (No, Not That Kind)

Sao Paulo Underground.
Paulo Borgia

Jazz has always drawn on the syncopated rhythms of Cuban music, and occasionally draws on other new world strains, like Brazilian bossa nova in the 1960s. But that interaction between North and South is ongoing.

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9:36am

Fri November 4, 2011
Music Reviews

Julius Hemphill's 'Dogon A.D.' Still A Revelation 40 Years On

Originally published on Fri November 4, 2011 1:03 pm

Julius Hemphill's Dogon A.D.
Courtesy of the artist

Julius Hemphill's "Dogon A.D." — the 15-minute piece, and the album that's named for it — was one of the startling jazz recordings of the 1970s, a rethinking of possibilities open to the avant-garde. In the 1960s, free jazz was mostly loud and bashing, until some Chicagoans began playing a more open, quieter improvised music. That inspired St. Louis players like Hemphill, who also had ties to heartland rhythm-and-blues scenes. Hemphill's genius was to combine the Chicagoans' dramatically spare sound with a heavy backbeat. His new urban music smacked of old country blues.

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8:04am

Tue October 11, 2011
Music Reviews

Tyshawn Sorey: Making 'Oblique' Patterns Move

Originally published on Tue October 11, 2011 10:48 am

Under Oblique — I's zigzag lines, Tyshawn Sorey's drums barrel along like a runaway tractor trailer.

dalvinyard via Flickr

It bugs Tyshawn Sorey that drummers don't get enough credit as composers, as if rhythm was the only thing they understood about music. That helps explain why Sorey's first two albums cut against expectations. They're studies in the slowly changing colors of long tones and sustained harmonies, a music of quietude and sudden disruptions. But his new album, Oblique — I, is mostly the kind of rollicking band album you'd expect from a powerhouse drummer.

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9:35am

Wed October 5, 2011
Music Reviews

Unearthed Sessions From A Saxophonist Who Dropped Out

Gigi Gryce arranged music for big and small bands, recorded with his friend Thelonious Monk, and led and made LPs with his own groups.

Courtesy of the artist

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.

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10:00am

Mon September 5, 2011
Music Reviews

Deep Blue Organ Trio Jazzes Up Stevie Wonder

Originally published on Tue September 6, 2011 6:34 am

Organist Chris Foreman plays at the Green Mill Tavern in Chicago.
Courtesy of the artist

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.

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9:21am

Mon August 22, 2011
Music Reviews

Branford Marsalis And Joey Calderazzo: A 'Melancholy' Duo

Branford Marsalis (left) and Joey Calderazzo.
Stephen Sheffield Marsalis Music

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.

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9:01am

Fri August 12, 2011
Music Reviews

Gary Burton: A New Quartet, A Familiar Sound

Gary Burton.
Courtesy of the artist

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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