Every year around this time, the jazz community takes the measure of its highlights and bright moments — along with a tally of its losses. And while it's true that important jazz artists leave us every year, 2017 was tougher than most. We bade farewell to avant-garde pioneers like Muhal Richard Abrams and Sunny Murray, genre-blending synthesists like John Abercrombie and Larry Coryell, and behind-the-scenes giants like Nat Hentoff and George Avakian.
The list goes on and on, and we've paused to pay homage often during the year. But in this episode of Jazz Night In America, we'll focus on a small handful of departed artists, fondly toasted by three friends of the program. Kurt Elling remembers two of his vocal heroes, Jon Hendricks and Al Jarreau. Matt Wilson reflects on the genius of three major drummers: Grady Tate, Ben Riley and Mickey Roker. And another drummer, Terri Lyne Carrington, memorializes her dear friend and bandmate, pianist and composer Geri Allen.
We're saddened by these departures, of course, but the show is a celebration of the lives they led. So there's humor and deep insight here — along with plenty of music, which is something we think every one of these great artists would have wanted.