Tiny Desk Playlist: Jazz Night in America's picks for Jazz Appreciation Month
April is Jazz Appreciation Month, and to celebrate, the producers of Jazz Night in America are sharing some of our favorite jazz Tiny Desk concerts. Our selections are as wonderfully diverse as the genre itself. Admittedly, narrowing down our choices to the six concerts on this playlist was incredibly difficult but they are a delightful representation of our tastes: traditional, genre-bending, explosive, sensual, empowering, futuristic and, above all, jazz.
• Nubya Garcia — By this point in time, we've all seen our fair share of recorded performances featuring tired backdrops of artist's homes, venues sans audience or sterile studios. For me, the award for "Best Tiny Desk (Home) Setting" has to go to London-based saxophonist Nubya Garcia, whose video takes place on a literal boat — aka the floating recording studio dubbed Soup Studio where Garcia recorded her deep debut record SOURCE. Starting off with her debut's titular track, this Tiny Desk moves and grooves, sways and churns with the tide of an incredible backing band — showing off Garcia's melodic style and instrumental prowess that quite literally rocks the boat. —Trevor Smith, producer
• The Comet Is Coming — From the very first beat – or perhaps I should say "big bang?" – I'm surprised none of the books and toys on the packed shelves around the Tiny Desk didn't tumble off. The Comet is Coming never disappoints, from the group's relentless summoning of energy to its psychedelic spin on the jazz tradition. By the end of this 19-minute set, we have ascended to the heavens and left our bodies with music that fits somewhere between Sun Ra and Herbie Hancock, yet updated for our modern age and leaning into the future. — Sarah Geledi, producer
• Terri Lyne Carrington + Social Science — This was the last concert I had the privilege to produce before the pandemic hit. I remember being in the room with Terri Lyne Carrington! She brought an awe-inspiring array of talent — every artist in Social Science is highly acclaimed on their own, but collectively they are extraordinary. I also remember working with our video producer, Maia Stern, to fine tune every shot selection and feeling energized during every step of the production process. It was published right before the lockdown and for weeks and weeks, I watched it over and over again, with great emotion, pride and joy. I still watch this show of musical excellence often, and remember its beautiful music, amazing artistry and the important social messages it conveys. — Suraya Mohamed, project manager
• Ben Williams And Sound Effect — When his Tiny Desk concert dropped, Ben Williams was already an award-winning bassist. Eleven years later, he's also a Grammy winner, acclaimed in both jazz and hip-hop. I chose this concert not only because the songs still slap, a testament to Williams' timeless compositions, but because the musicians in this video helped shape how I listen to jazz when I was new to the scene and this music. Watching Ben Williams, Marcus Strickland, John Davis, Christian Sands, Gilad Hekselman and countless others of that generation taught me that jazz is about friendship, fun, taking risks and fearlessly paving new ground for the future. — Nikki Birch, lead video producer
• Cécile McLorin Salvant — Cécile McLorin Salvant is, without question, a remarkable storyteller. She creates vivid pictures with her instrument. She not only wraps her voice around the notes —- she wraps her whole physical being around the stories she's telling. Because this Tiny Desk consists solely of her voice and the piano (beautifully played by Sullivan Fortner), there's nowhere else for you to go. You have no choice but to let her enchanting performance pull you in. And if you're like me, you don't ever want to escape. — Mitra I. Arthur, assistant video producer
• Father Figures — I love how this set is a wacky time capsule into the earlier, more scrappy Tiny Desk concerts. The music is wacky, too! Keyboardist Ross Edwards and bassist Spencer Zahn (Kimbra) establish a hypnotic pocket, colored by shimmers by drummer Ian Chang (Son Lux, Rafiq Batia). I love how saxophonists Jas Walton and Adam Schatz (Sylvan Esso, Landlady) weave and bend around each other, especially on the last song "Where Did You Come From?" Father Figures is sadly not active anymore but I enjoyed looking back at his 2013 performance to check out a distinct, zany abandon from five 20-something jazz nerds, fresh out of NYU, stretching out into the groovy unknown. —Alex Ariff, producer
Tiny Desks In This Playlist
• Nubya Garcia
• The Comet Is Coming
• Terri Lyne Carrington + Social Science
• Ben Williams And Sound Effect
• Cécile McLorin Salvant
• Father Figures
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