jazz | Texas Public Radio


Jessica Watkins

New Orleans drummer Johnny Vidacovich says the endless stream of parades that take place in the Crescent City inspired him to become a musician at a young age, and he remembers his first paying gig:

“I was playing in a kid band, [wearing] derby hats, and I think the first amount of money we made was about three-fifty, four dollars. It wasn’t five dollars! I’ll tell you that much, it wasn’t five.”

As an adult, Vidacovich went on to work with the likes of Professor Longhair, and the long-running Astral Project.

Dave Becker / Wikimedia Commons

Guitarist Kevin Eubanks burst onto the jazz scene in the 1980s with a series of R&B-influenced albums for the record label GRP, known for its fusion of jazz, pop and rock. In 1992 came a turning point, both professionally and musically, as he signed to the more traditional Blue Note record label, and also was hired on as a member of Branford Marsalis’ house band on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno. Marsalis left the show in 1995, and Eubanks was promoted to bandleader, a role he’d remain in for fifteen years.

Jessica Watkins

When Sammy Miller and the Congregation returned to Jazz, TX only days before Valentine’s Day, the bandleader was in a wistful, romantic mood.

Herbie Hancock and Kamasi Washington, two of the biggest names in jazz, will join forces for a North American co-headlining tour this summer.

Courtesy photo

As singer Jane Monheit opened up her first set at Jazz, TX last January, she gushed about the club and the historic Pearl Brewery, “It’s absolutely beautiful! This entire compound… I’ve been here for three days. I’m not leaving! Someone needs to tell my husband and son to find some help or something, ‘cause I’m staying here!”

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Brooks Prumo became a musician because he wanted to dance. Specifically, he loved swing dancing, and didn’t know any big bands in Austin who were playing the songs he wanted to dance to, so he started one.

He took the guitar that had been sitting mostly idle since middle school and started noodling around. “Little by little I learned enough to read some songs, and play some music,” Prumo explained on stage at Jazz, TX.

Courtesy photo

The New West Guitar Group made their San Antonio debut at Jazz, TX last fall, bringing their shimmering sheets of sound to the intimate club at the Pearl Brewery. Even without a drummer, or bass player, these three musicians manage to create a propulsive rhythmic harmony that allows ample room for soloing.

“It’s been a unique challenge,” John Storie told the crowd from the stage. “Playing without bass and drums, you’re really exposed, and you got to really hold it down.”

André Previn, a celebrated musical polymath, died Thursday morning; he was a composer of Oscar-winning film music, conductor, pianist and music director of major orchestras. His manager, Linda Petrikova, confirmed to NPR that he died at his home in Manhattan.

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.