New Wave Of New Orleans Artists Blend Jazz, Hip Hop, Rock

Aug 22, 2013
Originally published on August 22, 2013 4:10 pm

New Orleans is often called the birthplace of jazz, famous for musicians from Louis Armstrong to Jelly Roll Morton.

The Big Easy is still central to the jazz music scene, and Sondra Bibb, host of “Jazz from the French Market with Sandra Bibb” on WWOZ, says that a number of new young artists are blending the hip hop and rock rhythms they grew with into their jazz.

Sondra Bibb’s Picks

Gretchen Parlato: Blue in Green
Next Collective: No Church In The Wild


  • Sondra Bibb, host of “Jazz from the French Market with Sondra Bibb” on WWOZ in New Orleans.
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And we've been hearing remembrances of renowned jazz pianist Marian McPartland who died at age 95 this week.


HOBSON: There she is playing at the Monterey Jazz Festival in 1975. She hosted the NPR show "Piano Jazz," and was a fixture in the jazz world for more than six decades, playing into her 80s. Well, who will now pick up the baton? We want to take a look at some of the up-and-coming jazz artists with Sondra Bibb, who hosts "Jazz from the French Market" on WWOZ in New Orleans. Welcome.

SONDRA BIBB: Good afternoon. Thank you.

HOBSON: Well, let's listen to one of the artists that you've noticed who is shifting the scene there, Christian Scott.


HOBSON: Why has he caught your attention?

BIBB: Well, I mean, I moved to New Orleans about 15 years ago, and I've watched Christian Scott really grow as an artist. This young man is highly intelligent, went to Berklee College of Music with a scholarship and, I think, in regards to his music, understanding his respect and knowledge of the tradition, especially playing the trumpet, but also having the artistic freedom and confidence to express it in a way that is really unique to his own style.

HOBSON: And his songs have a social and political message oftentimes. He's got one song about Trayvon Martin and another song related. It's called "When Marissa Stands Her Ground." Let's listen.


HOBSON: So what's this song about, Sondra?

BIBB: "When Marissa Stands Her Ground" is about an African-American woman who was protecting herself from domestic violence by her husband in Florida. She fired a warning shot and now faces up to 20 years in prison. So in this particular instance, no one was hurt, but the standing your ground law of Florida really did not protect this young lady in this particular instance.

So, you know, he does have a very socially conscious record. There's a selection, "Trayvon," and then there's also one entitled "Danziger," which speaks to the Danziger Bridge case that happened here in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

HOBSON: And what do you hear in the song that tells the story of "When Marissa Stands Her Ground"? Because obviously there's no singing.

BIBB: No, there's no singing, but you can definitely feel the intensity, the urgency of the music - you know, the drums are really driving this particular song - and, you know, also understanding that, you know, it has a rock, hip-hop, West African harmonies all, you know, woven into what we like to call jazz. But in this particular song, you can definitely hear an intensity. The song is very somewhat fast-paced, but also, you know, very driving.


HOBSON: Let's move on to Gerald Clayton. He is a pianist, born in the Netherlands and raised in the U.S. Here is "Sir Third" from his latest album "Life Forum."


BIBB: With this particular recording, Gerald is playing around with vocals that are non-singing, so to speak, if that's a word. It's very clever in regards to the material and surprising and unexpected compared to the first two records.

HOBSON: You wanted to call our attention to bassist Ben Williams. He has been described as crossing between funk and gospel-influenced jazz. Here is "November" off his debut album "State of Art."


BIBB: One of the interesting things I can honestly say about Ben Williams, I had the pleasure of meeting him during one of his visits to New Orleans, along with his mother and brother. And he told me that he wrote this song during the Obama election. He was really inspired and excited about the idea of there being our first African-American president. And that's where the song came from.


HOBSON: I should say that, as a kid, Ben didn't want to be a bassist. He wanted to be a rock star.

BIBB: Correct. Wanted to be a rock star, was in love with Prince. Yeah. Went into a room, and was excited about taking a string's course, and went into the classroom, and there wasn't a guitar. So he grabbed the most interesting instrument, appearance-wise, and it ended up being the upright bass. And they've been connected ever since.

HOBSON: So if you take all of these artists we've been talking about, these up-and-coming jazz artists, put them together, they have collaborated with others on a new group they're calling Next Collective. The album is "Cover Art." And they've covered "No Church in the Wild," the Jay-Z and Kanye West song. I want to first listen to the Jay-Z and Kanye version.


FRANK OCEAN: (Singing) What's a God to a nonbeliever who don't believe in anything? Will he make it out alive? All right, all right. No church in the wild.

JAY-Z: (Singing) Tears on the mausoleum floor.

HOBSON: So that's the well-known version. Now let's hear the cover by Next Collective.


HOBSON: So what are they doing here, Sondra?

BIBB: They are celebrating the diversity of their talent and their collective taste. These guys are really moving the music in a freer, more organic natural way. They also cover tunes by Drake, Pearl Jam, D'Angelo, N.E.R.D. Most of these young men are under the age of 30, and you figure how long hip-hop has been around. It's going to weave its way into their artistic landscape, so it's exciting.

HOBSON: Which version of "No Church in the Wild" do you prefer?

BIBB: Of course, I prefer the Next Collective although I'm a huge fan of Jay-Z and Kanye West and had an opportunity to see them when they were in New Orleans. But I'm definitely partial to the Next Collective's version.

HOBSON: Sondra Bibb, hosts "Jazz from the French Market with Sondra Bibb" on WWOZ in New Orleans. Thanks so much, Sondra.

BIBB: Thank you.


HOBSON: From NPR and WBUR Boston, I'm Jeremy Hobson.


I'm Robin Young. It's HERE AND NOW. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.