Nate Chinen

Bugge Wesseltoft made his first ripples on the water in the early 1990s, as a pianist of careful touch and decisive instinct, working behind fellow Norwegians like saxophonist Jan Garbarek. The frame for his output at the time was ECM Records, which represented a sort of aesthetic worldview, especially with respect to a quality often evocatively pegged as "the Nordic sound."

The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Jazz Masters award, bestowed every year since 1982, is often characterized as the United States' highest honor reserved for jazz. This morning the NEA announced four new recipients of the prize: pianist and composer Abdullah Ibrahim, composer-arranger-bandleader Maria Schneider, critic and novelist Stanley Crouch, and singer-songwriter and pianist Bob Dorough.

Virtuosity — of a dazzling, ebullient, yet altogether generous sort — might be the most obvious bridge between David Holland and Zakir Hussain. But there's also a deep cultural foundation behind their musical dialogue, which forms the beating heart of a project called Crosscurrents.

There's a pivotal, possibly apocryphal scene in Bob Dylan's Chronicles, Vol. 1, wherein the author walks into a bar. He's taking a breather from a wan rehearsal with The Grateful Dead, circa 1987, in Marin County, Calif. What draws him into the bar is the sound of a jazz combo.

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