Patrick Jarenwattananon

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

This song is called "Rhapsody In Berlin," and it was recorded in the German city recently. But Berlin isn't exactly the geography that comes to mind. It's more like a Central African nightclub, with layered instrumental funk interjected by yelps and whistles similar to Hindewhu Pygmy music. Or downtown Manhattan or Chicago's South Side in the late '60s and early '70s, where free-improvising saxophones met electronics and rock music and Sly Stone amid the urgency of the civil rights struggle.

There are masterpieces of the studio, and certainly Sarah Vaughan left plenty of those behind. But the really crushing exhibitions from jazz musicians of her caliber come nightly, in clubs and concert halls, tossed off so repeatedly and seemingly casually that any given tune in any given set reeks of talent. Throw a dart at any one moment and there's probably something there.

Henry Threadgill, a saxophonist and flutist known as one of the most original composers influenced by jazz, has been awarded the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Music for his recording In for a Penny, In for a Pound.

Concerts of holiday music have been some of Jazz at Lincoln Center's most popular programming for at least 25 years now. Given the talent of its in-house big band — the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis — it's no surprise that the results are consistently fine. But here's a pretty Christmas ornament that's a little rougher around the edges.

Hi Code Switch readers! I'm here from NPR Music, where I mostly cover jazz. I thought you might be interested two big performances we recently featured in which the artists took a moment to talk about police intimidation and violence against African-Americans.

Artists don't usually tell long, rambling stories at the Tiny Desk, and if they do, those stories don't usually make the final cut. But this one felt different. It was about the time Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah, a young black man, says he was stopped by New Orleans police late at night for no reason other than to harass and intimidate him. And how his pride almost made him do something ill-advised about it.

Alto saxophonist Phil Woods, a leading jazz performer since the 1950s, died Tuesday afternoon. The cause was related to emphysema, his longtime agent, Joel Chriss, confirmed. Woods was 83.

When he started to make the music that appears on his new album, trumpeter Terence Blanchard wasn't thinking of Eric Garner, Michael Brown or any of the other recent high-profile police killings of African-Americans. He was thinking of desired collaborators: Donald Ramsey, a bassist and high-school classmate; Oscar Seaton, a drummer with whom he'd worked on film projects; Fabian Almazan, the pianist of his other band; and Charles Altura, a guitarist he'd encountered online.

You know how some older "legacy" artists program their concerts like a greatest-hits collection? Duke Ellington did some of that as he was getting older — people wanted to hear the Maestro lead "Satin Doll" and "Mood Indigo," after all — but he never stopped writing new music, either. And his late works didn't stop pushing his own boundaries.

Even if you don't know anything about jazz, it's quite possible you've heard the music of saxophonist Kamasi Washington: That's him on the latest albums by Kendrick Lamar and Flying Lotus. But that's only the very tip of his iceberg.

It begins with meandering clarinet and clipped, four-on-the-floor percussion. A little bit later comes a countermelody, and the image that comes to mind is something from early New Orleans, or perhaps a Mediterranean folk song. It's even called "Putty Boy Strut" — that could be an obscure Jelly Roll Morton tune, right?

Vijay Iyer is probably best known as a pianist and bandleader in the African-American creative improvisational tradition — most say "jazz" for short — though he's also several other things in music. He's a composer of chamber, large-ensemble and mixed-media works; a Harvard professor; a student of Indian classical music; a father and New York City resident. Committed as he is to multiplicity, there's one place where you can see many of his interests distilled at once: in the trio he's led for nearly a dozen years.

When trumpeter and composer/arranger Steven Bernstein first met the virtuoso pianist Henry Butler, he says he was floored. "This is it," he recalls thinking. "This is like the music that I always imagined. Everything you ever loved about music, all being in one place, but now it's all coming from one person." Decades later, when they two finally began to work together, Bernstein started to study Butler's playing — and realized there were more than a few licks that set Butler apart.

People in jazz circles often talk about complexity, and often as an accusation. That guy's music is too complex! It's too far removed from the blues! It sounds like math! Bah!

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