Reed master Sidney Bechet can claim to be the first great jazz soloist, winning international acclaim before his fellow New Orleans giant, Louis Armstrong. Geoffrey Smith salutes a genius who inspired saxophonists from Johnny Hodges to John Coltrane.
Jazz piano doesn’t come more exciting that the stride masters of Harlem. The likes of James P. Johnson, Fats Waller and Willie the Lion Smith set a standard for keyboard heroics that reached its peak in the breathtaking virtuosity of Art Tatum. Especially for Radio 3’s piano season, Geoffrey Smith salutes the giants of stride.
A fusion super-star, guitarist Pat Metheny has won huge audiences with a style that blends pulsating rhythm, gorgeous colours and sweeping melodies. Combining the energy of rock with a virtuoso jazz technique, he’s produced a string of hits adored by both fans and fellow musicians. Geoffrey Smith selects highlights from an epic career.
A classic blues-shouter, Jimmy Witherspoon (1921-97), began with Kansas City swing, crossed over to rhythm and blues, but truly came into his own with such jazz giants as Gerry Mulligan and Ben Webster. Geoffrey Smith salutes a blues master at once earthy and modern.
Red Norvo (1908-99) was a xylophone virtuoso who led a hit band and became “Mr. and Mrs. Swing” with vocal star Mildred Bailey. A featured soloist with Benny Goodman and Woody Herman, he later formed a ground-breaking trio with bassist Charles Mingus. Geoffrey Smith surveys a remarkable career.
To mark his retirement, vibraphone superstar Gary Burton has compiled a retrospective set of discs covering the whole of his extraordinary sixty-year career. Geoffrey Smith picks highlights from one of the leaders of contemporary jazz, featuring the likes of Keith Jarrett, Pat Metheny and Chick Corea.