Jazz is such a fascinating genre to discuss. With roots going as far back as the late 19th century, there’s a lot of ground to cover. Jazz may have been at its most popular in the 20th century, but it’s still going strong today thanks to the love of jazz present in the hearts of so many. One of those jazz-loving hearts belongs to our Jazzology host Willard Jenkins. A man of many titles including journalist, broadcaster, author, and concert director, Willard has a lot of experience within jazz. Over the course of his career as a jazz presenter, he’s had many amazing experiences with jazz greats while also seeing incredible new musicians come onto the scene. He also has a weekly radio show Ancient/Future Radio that can be heard over WPFW in Washington, DC.
Given that he has a hand on the pulse of jazz, we wanted to ask him some questions related to live performances and musicians both young and old. Let’s get into what he had to say.
The man of the hour, Willard Jenkins
Q: What’s your favorite live jazz performance?
A: Being a jazz presenter, I have had many favorite performances down through the years, including many encounters with historic and master-level artists down through the years. Nailing that down to one “favorite” would be extremely difficult*.
*A note from the editor: To learn more about some artists Willard has loved live, stay tuned for our upcoming “Willard Recommends” blog.
Q: Who’s a jazz artist you wish you’d gotten to meet before their passing?
A: Billie Holiday; Louis Armstrong; Thelonious Monk
Q: What jazz artist could you talk about for hours?
A: Miles Davis
Q: If you had to choose between Miles Davis and Dizzy Gillespie, who’s playing do you prefer?
A: Difficult… Miles Davis.
Q: Who do you see as up-and-coming in jazz?
A: That’s a loaded question. For starters, I’d say...
alto saxophonist Immanuel Wilkins
trumpeter Theo Croker
saxophonists Lakecia Benjamin, Melissa Aldana, Camille Thurman, and Julieta Eugenio
pianists Emmet Cohen and Helen Sung
vibraphonist Chien Chien Lu
vocalist Samara Joy
guitarist Mary Halvorson…
I could go on…
Q: Who’s an artist that more people should know about?
A: Historically? Randy Weston. On the contemporary scene, the multi-faceted pianist-composer-bandleader Orrin Evans.
Q: Are there any young artists that remind you of the legends? Is there a young Charlie Parker or Duke Ellington out there?
A: That’s an unfair question. You can see my responses above for great young artists. As for the second question, allow these emerging young artists to make their own mark. I’m not looking for the next Duke Ellington or Charlie Parker. I’m looking for the first (fill in the blanks).
Q: What are 5 artists that you would include in your dream jazz festival lineup?
A: Since I’m in the jazz festival presenting business, I would have to go with the ancestors: Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis (w/John Coltrane!)
We hope you enjoyed this Q&A with Willard about past and present jazz performers. It’s always such a joy to hear his opinions and insight into the industry. Be sure to check out upcoming episodes of Jazzology where Willard Jenkins is our host.
Jazzology is a jazz trivia series presented by Savage Content where guests compete head-to-head testing their jazz knowledge. Every episode, we invite two guests to compete against each other for a chance to win $100. The winner will return the following episode to compete again with a new contestant.
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Thanks for reading. We hope to see you again for our next blog!
Compiled by Kristen Petronio
Written answers by Willard Jenkins