Patrick Jarenwattananon

Every year, each of the eight members of the SFJAZZ Collective is tasked with two writing assignments. The first: Compose a new piece specifically for the band, which gathers some of the most outstanding performers on the modern jazz scene. The second: Rearrange a composition by the elder artist that the Collective has chosen to feature that year. For the 2014-15 season, SFJAZZ is paying tribute to a tenor saxophone titan, a composer of classic tunes and a long-time San Francisco resident: the late Joe Henderson.

For decades, David Murray was known as one of New York's most monstrously talented and astoundingly prolific artists — a tenor saxophonist who played and wrote for just about every imaginable context. He's still these things, but he lives in Europe now. So this year's Winter Jazzfest — already jam-packed with over 100 acts in two nights — saw fit to give New York audiences a proper saturation of what they'd been missing, presenting David Murray in three completely different sets.

A Blog Supreme was a jazz thing published by NPR Music from May 2009 through September 2016. It presented news, features, aggregated content, historical primers, opinion and analysis, recommendations and other types of music journalism. It was twice named the Jazz Journalists Association Blog of the Year.

Sometimes in jazz, a melody is an excuse. It gets played once at the start and again at the end, becoming a suggestive frame upon which to improvise; sometimes it might as well be dispensed with entirely. That can be liberating and dazzling and creatively rich. But sometimes a melody deserves much more. Sometimes it is more essential; even if its mass feels relatively light, its gravity remains immense. Sometimes it demands a whole song to express itself.

Here's a tip for jazz musicians that works better than it should: If you wish to be noticed by people who use words, play some covers. Not standards, but songs from a more recent era of popular music, or something else left-field. Even today, it stands out from mainstream practice, which shifts gradually over longer durations. It moves the playing field away from the nuts and bolts of your playing, where our critical lexicon is generally impoverished, to your signaled influences and decision-making, which are much easier to talk about. At the very least, it tends to be amusing.

The central equation behind Slavic Soul Party! is self-explanatory: an American black-music spin on the Balkan brass band. The net product is akin to a New-Orleans-style brass band, but with different percussion timbres, horn trills and glissandi. (Also, accordion, because Europe.) It's the sort of multiculti collision you see forged in major population centers; you may be interested to know the band has a standing Tuesday night gig at a Brooklyn bar which specializes in international music.

The pianist, composer and music ambassador Herbie Hancock is working on new music with a new band, and he's about to present the first taste of it in live performance.

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.

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