Brandee Younger: Taxidermy, Two-Headed Skeletons And Jazz Harp In New York's SoHo lies a small merchant which peddles preserved insects, skulls, bones and more. Unnerved — well, mostly — the improvising harpist generates a Caribbean bounce amid the glass cases.

Jazz Night In America: Video Episodes And Shorts

Brandee Younger: Taxidermy, Two-Headed Skeletons And Jazz HarpWBGO

Among the vestment racks, satchel purveyors and art galleries of New York's SoHo neighborhood lies a small merchant unlike its neighbors. It's called The Evolution Store, and it peddles, um, natural-history collectibles. You know, preserved insects, taxidermy, skulls and bones, remnants of marine creatures. It's as if a museum ran out of space and started putting its sloths and tarantulas in the gift shop.

Naturally, our video producers saw it and thought: Obviously, we need to record there.

We're not quite sure what any of this has to do with Brandee Younger, though she is a rare breed in her world: a jazz harpist. Well, she's classically trained, and plays her share of freelance and wedding gigs — in her C.V. are recordings for rappers Common and Drake — but like predecessors Alice Coltrane and Dorothy Ashby, she's also developed a way to improvise and truly groove on the harp. In 2011, she recorded an EP with her jazz group, and she's got more recording sessions for a full-length record in the next month.

With a full band, the song heard here, "Hortense," takes on a distinct Caribbean bounce, a one-drop reggae beat anchoring Dezron Douglas' bass line. Stripped down to a duo, it wafts and glides, all arpeggios and plucked wires. There's glass everywhere inside The Evolution Store; appropriately, the performance was sparkling and crystalline. If Younger and Douglas were unnerved by all the stuffed, mummified and two-headed fauna around them, they didn't let on — during the performance, anyway.

Credits

Produced by Saidah Blount, Mito Habe-Evans, Patrick Jarenwattananon; Videographers: Gabriella Garcia-Pardo, Mito Habe-Evans, Tim Wilkins; Audio engineered by Kevin Wait; Video edited by Gabriella Garcia-Pardo and Mito Habe-Evans; Special thanks to The Evolution Store

[+] read more[-] less

More From Jazz

Liz Magnes Courtesy of Liz Magnes hide caption

toggle caption Courtesy of Liz Magnes

Liz Magnes On Piano Jazz

Revisit the Israeli jazz pianist's set of classics and originals, featuring a song performed with host Marian McPartland in this 1997 episode.

Liz Magnes On Piano Jazz

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/580318597/580396172" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
Frank Stewart/Jazz At Lincoln Center

Fred Hersch And The Art Of Introspection

WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center

We join the pianist at his loft in SoHo to talk about his upbringing in Cincinnati, late-night gigs in New York, his recovery from a coma in 2008, and his adaptation of Walt Whitman's poetry.

Fred Hersch And The Art Of Introspection

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/578894724/579216920" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
Massimo Photographe/Courtesy of the artist

Lorraine Desmarais On Piano Jazz

The award-winning jazz artist performs original compositions and a set of standards during this 1991 episode.

Lorraine Desmarais On Piano Jazz

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/575768260/575921729" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

David Murray performs at Winter Jazzfest 2015. John Rogers for NPR hide caption

toggle caption John Rogers for NPR

A David Murray Double Bill

WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center

The monstrously talented and astoundingly prolific tenor saxophonist returned to New York this winter to present a four-clarinet summit and a new trio with Geri Allen and Terri Lyne Carrington.

This year, we bade farewell to avant-garde pioneer Muhal Richard Abrams. Michael Hoefner/Wikipedia hide caption

toggle caption Michael Hoefner/Wikipedia

'Jazz Night In America' Remembers Artists We Lost In 2017

WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center

Friends of our program honor a handful of departed artists, celebrating their lives in an episode filled with insight, humor and plenty of music.

'Jazz Night In America' Remembers Artists We Lost In 2017

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/572421441/572633580" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
Frans Schellekens/Redferns/Getty Images

Don Pullen On Piano Jazz

The brilliant pianist played church music and R&B before joining Charles Mingus' band and forming his own quartet. He joins Marian McPartland for a song in this 1989 episode.

Don Pullen On Piano Jazz

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/570834686/570846392" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Claudio Roditi, photographed in 1990. David Redfern/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption David Redfern/Getty Images

Claudio Roditi On Piano Jazz

The versatile trumpeter made his way from Brazil to the New York jazz scene in the 1970s. Hear him perform with host Marian McPartland in this 1996 episode.

Claudio Roditi On Piano Jazz

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/567716375/567717240" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
Back To Top