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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Music Reviews
12:59 pm
Mon May 13, 2013

Bing Crosby: From The Vaults, Surprising Breadth

A batch of reissues and archival releases from Bing Crosby's own vaults is getting a high-profile relaunch. Above, Crosby circa 1956.
Courtesy of Universal Music

Originally published on Mon May 13, 2013 3:27 pm

Bing Crosby was the biggest thing in pop singing in the 1930s, a star on radio and in the movies. He remained a top star in the '40s, when Frank Sinatra began giving him competition.

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Music Reviews
1:33 pm
Thu April 11, 2013

Earl Hines: Big Bands And Beyond On A New Box Set

Earl "Fatha" Hines' band featured the likes of Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie.
Express Getty Images

Originally published on Thu April 11, 2013 3:28 pm

By 1928, Earl Hines was jazz's most revolutionary pianist, for two good reasons. His right hand played lines in bright, clear octaves that could cut through a band. His left hand had a mind of its own. Hines could play fast stride and boogie bass patterns, but then his southpaw would go rogue — it'd seem to step out of the picture altogether, only to slide back just in time.

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Music Reviews
12:01 pm
Wed March 20, 2013

Barry Altschul: The Jazz Drummer Makes A Comeback

Drummer Barry Altschul writes tunes that play complex games with rhythm.
Dmitry Mandel Courtesy of TUM Records

Originally published on Wed March 20, 2013 1:36 pm

The release last year of a 2007 reunion by the late Sam Rivers' trio confirmed what a creative drummer Altschul is. He has been one for decades. Altschul was a key player on the 1970s jazz scene, when the avant-garde got its groove on. Now, as then, he's great at mixing opposites: funky drive with a spray of dainty coloristic percussion, abstract melodic concepts with parade beats, open improvising and percolating swing. He's a busy player, but never too loud — he's also busy listening.

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Music Reviews
12:41 pm
Thu February 28, 2013

Ben Goldberg's Variations: Two New Albums From A San Francisco Jazz Staple

Jazz clarinetist Ben Goldberg has released two new albums for different quintets.
Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Thu February 28, 2013 1:00 pm

Ben Goldberg has been a staple of San Francisco's improvisational-music scene ever since he helped put together the New Klezmer Trio two decades ago. More recently, as a member of the quartet Tin Hat, he's set e.e. cummings poems to music. In between, he's recorded in a wide variety of settings, sometimes including other prominent Bay Area players — as on two new albums for different quintets.

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Music Reviews
12:27 pm
Wed February 13, 2013

Rudresh Mahanthappa: Bicultural Jazz, Ever Shifting

Rudresh Mahanthappa.
Jimmy Katz Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Wed February 13, 2013 4:47 pm

Saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa's quartet can sound like it's cross-pollinating Indian classical music and vintage Captain Beefheart. That befits a bicultural saxophonist who grew up in Boulder, where his Hindu family had a Christmas tree. For a long time, Mahanthappa resisted combining jazz and Indian music — it was almost too obvious a trajectory. But then he got serious about it.

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Music Reviews
11:10 am
Thu January 31, 2013

A 'Special Edition' Box Set Of Jack DeJohnette And Band

Jack DeJohnette.
Chris Griffith Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Thu January 31, 2013 1:13 pm

On a new box set collecting the first four albums of Jack DeJohnette and his band Special Edition, two discs are gems and the other two have their moments. DeJohnette's quartet-slash-quintet was fronted by smoking saxophonists on the way up, set loose on catchy riffs and melodies. The springy rhythm section could tweak the tempos like no one this side of '60s goddess Laura Nyro.

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Music Reviews
1:19 pm
Fri January 11, 2013

Grant Green: The 'Holy Barbarian' Of St. Louis Jazz

Grant Green.
Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Mon January 14, 2013 8:14 am

Grant Green, The Holy Barbarian, St. Louis, 1959 could be the name of a fine stage play, perhaps based on the actual circumstances of the recording. One musician on the way up, another past his moment in the limelight and one more who had his chance but never quite made it all convene on Christmas night, part of their week-long stand at the Holy Barbarian, a beatnik hangout replete with chess players and a local artist painting portraits.

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Remembrances
12:14 pm
Fri December 21, 2012

Remembering Von Freeman, Lol Coxhill And Sean Bergin

Originally published on Fri December 21, 2012 2:00 pm

Jazz lost many great saxophonists in 2012, including David S. Ware, John Tchicai, Byard Lancaster, Faruq Z. Bey, Hal McKusick and Red Holloway.

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Music Reviews
12:47 pm
Tue December 11, 2012

Bass Note: Mingus And The Jazz Workshop Concerts

Jazz great Charles Mingus performs at the Monterey Jazz Festival in September 1964.
Ray Avery CTS Images

Originally published on Tue December 11, 2012 7:28 pm

On a new box set from mail-order house Mosaic Records, Charles Mingus, The Jazz Workshop Concerts 1964-65, the jazz legend's bands usually number between five and eight players. The bassist often made those bands sound bigger. He'd been using midsize ensembles since the '50s, but his new ones were more flexible than ever, light on their feet but able to fill in backgrounds like a large group.

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Music Reviews
1:28 pm
Fri December 7, 2012

Forgotten Gems From The Dave Brubeck Quartet

The Dave Brubeck Quartet.
Hulton Archive Getty Images

This review was originally broadcast on March 12, 2012. Brubeck died Wednesday at age 91.

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