Kevin Whitehead

Kevin Whitehead is the jazz critic for NPR's Fresh Air with Terry Gross.

Whitehead's articles on jazz and improvised music have appeared in such publications as Point of Departure, the Chicago Sun-Times, Village Voice, Down Beat, and the Dutch daily de Volkskrant.

He is the author of Why Jazz: A Concise Guide (2010), New Dutch Swing (1998), and (with photographer Ton Mijs) Instant Composers Pool Orchestra: You Have to See It (2011).

His essays have appeared in numerous anthologies including Da Capo Best Music Writing 2006, Discover Jazz and Traveling the Spaceways: Sun Ra, the Astro-Black and Other Solar Myths.

Whitehead has taught at Towson University, the University of Kansas and Goucher College. He lives near Baltimore.

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Music
3:07 pm
Tue April 7, 2015

Billie Holiday's Voice Was Always Her Own

Billie Holiday was born 100 years ago Tuesday in Philadelphia. Fresh Air jazz critic Kevin Whitehead has some thoughts on Holiday's changing style, her influences, and singers she influenced.

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Music
3:38 pm
Mon March 30, 2015

Art Pepper's Startling Intensity Captured On Live Recordings

Since 2006, Laurie Pepper, the widow of jazz saxophonist Art Pepper, has been releasing live recordings her husband made during the last years of his life. A new batch of these recordings from 1981 is out. Fresh Air jazz critic Kevin Whitehead says that Art Pepper played like he was making up for lost time.

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Music Reviews
2:16 pm
Wed March 18, 2015

Saxophonist Tony Malaby's New Quartet Brings Out His Rowdy Side

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Music
2:09 pm
Thu March 5, 2015

On 'Collective Portrait,' Eddie Henderson Is Still Taking Risks At 74

Jazz trumpet and flugelhorn player Eddie Henderson was in his 30s when he debuted on record with Herbie Hancock. Before that he'd become a medical doctor, who went on to specialize in psychiatry, because it left his nights free to play the horn. With Henderson's new album, Collective Portrait, Fresh Air jazz Critic Kevin Whitehead says that decision is still paying off for him.

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Music
1:20 pm
Mon March 2, 2015

'Now Is The Time' For Organist Chris Foreman

Originally published on Mon March 9, 2015 11:00 am

With guitarist Bobby Broom, organist Chris Foreman has recorded several albums with the Deep Blue Organ Trio. Fresh Air jazz critic Kevin Whitehead says Foreman is one of a few Chicago jazz heroes who should be better known outside the city limits.

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Music Reviews
1:34 pm
Fri February 20, 2015

Ornette Coleman Returns With His Unmistakable Sound

Originally published on Fri February 20, 2015 4:58 pm

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Music
1:52 pm
Wed February 4, 2015

Lennie Tristano: Cool Reputation, Hot Jazz

Lennie Tristano had a cool, egghead reputation — Time called him the "Schoenberg of Jazz" — but he could play pretty hot. Fresh Air jazz critic Kevin Whitehead reviews a newly released 1951 live recording by the pianist's sextet at Chicago's Blue Note club.

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Music
1:20 pm
Thu January 22, 2015

Tom Varner's Got 'Nine Surprises' And A Big Band Is All Of Them

In 2005, jazz composer and french horn player Tom Varner left New York for Seattle, where he put together a nine-piece band of local players. Their new album is called Nine Surprises. Fresh Air jazz critic Kevin Whitehead says that Varner can really write, and they can really play.

Music
1:13 pm
Mon December 8, 2014

Steve Lacy's Monk Quartet, Solo Sax Albums Reissues

Fresh Air jazz critic Kevin Whitehead reviews two reissues featuring the late soprano saxophonist Steve Lacy — a live recording of a 1963 quartet that only played Thelonious Monk tunes, and later music for solo soprano. Monk was always Lacy's biggest influence.

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Music
1:28 pm
Wed December 3, 2014

Three Books For The Jazz Lover On Your List

Originally published on Thu December 4, 2014 4:33 pm

Fresh Air jazz critic Kevin Whitehead reviews three jazz books out this holiday season—a singer's biography, a pianist's autobiography, and a fat coffee table book. Whitehead says they're all worth a look, though he has a couple of quibbles — and also a confession.

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