News of the classical, jazz, and XPoNential worlds

The Steel Wheels On Mountain Stage

11 hours ago

Hear The Steel Wheels' third appearance on Mountain Stage, recorded in the band's hometown of Harrisonburg, Va. Few groups have come as far in such a short period of time as The Steel Wheels, which has gone from playing East Coast house parties and festivals to gracing the cover of the widely-read industry publication Pollstar.

History moves through all of our voices, in inflection, tone and vocabulary. Some people call this collective language "the spirit"; to others, it's "the voice of the people." Valerie June just calls it song: the ongoing record of human sorrow and delight that she shapes into tunes and verses that may start small, but open up to the centuries.

What defines America? There's been a lot of talk about that this election season. Pianist Lara Downes has a musical answer in her upcoming album America Again. To be released Oct. 28, it's a smartly programmed, wide-ranging anthology of solo piano works by American composers past and present; male and female; straight and gay; rich and poor; white, black and Latino.

World Cafe Next: Loamlands

Oct 17, 2016

Raleigh, N.C.'s Kym Register had a dilemma: When you're a committed member of the folk-punk scene, an outsider, a LGBTQ activist and a leader of the area's hip kids, is it cool to acknowledge the music that's in your heart — when that music is the guitar pop of bands like Fleetwood Mac that dominated your parents' record collection?

In 1963, Duke Ellington and his orchestra participated in a State Department "jazz diplomacy" tour of the Middle East. Inspired by the experience, Ellington and composer Billy Strayhorn wrote a collection of songs called The Far East Suite.

Earlier this year, Billy Bragg and Joe Henry set off on a journey. They boarded a train in Chicago, bound for Los Angeles. Each time the train stopped for more than 20 minutes in cities like St. Louis and San Antonio, they'd grab their guitars, hop off, find the waiting room and record an old railroad song. The result of this journey is an album called Shine A Light: Field Recordings From The Great American Railroad.

In a season of relentless shouting, the best antidote might be singing. Mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato's new album with conductor Maxim Emelyanychev and the ensemble Il Pomo d'Oro, In War & Peace: Harmony Through Music, uses Baroque arias to explore the pain and possibilities of these troubled times. A companion website invites anyone and everyone to answer the simple but loaded question, "In the midst of chaos, how do you find peace?"

After forays into pop and folk, Norah Jones has returned to jazz and the piano for her latest album, Day Breaks. Jones has a long history with the genre –- she says she became "mildly obsessed with it" as a teenager in Dallas, and she signed with the legendary Blue Note Records at just 21. For her latest project, Jones also connected with some true jazz giants, including saxophonist Wayne Shorter.

Thelonious Monk would've turned 99 earlier this week; he was born October 10, 1917 (and died in 1982). On the next All This Jazz -- beginning at 9pm on Saturday the 15th, right here on KWGS-FM -- our third-hour theme (from 11pm till midnight) will be Monk's Tunes. We'll thus hear classic themes by "the high priest of bebop" as done by the likes of Bill Holman, Tommy Flanagan, Carmen McRae, and Wynton Marsalis.

Jackie And Roy On Piano Jazz

Oct 14, 2016

Roy Kral (1921 – 2002) was working in Chicago with the George Davis Quartet when he met Jackie Cain (1928 – 2014). They formed a duo, Jackie and Roy, and the rest is history. The vocal and piano duo blended witty lyrics and unusual melodies with a light modern jazz feeling.

It's tough to think of a major honor that hasn't been bestowed on Bob Dylan in his long career, but Thursday brought a new addition to his crowded awards shelf: the Nobel Prize for Literature. Not only is Dylan the first American to win the literary prize in a generation — the last being Toni Morrison in 1993 — he is the first modern songwriter to be so honored.

Oliver Jones: A Canadian Jazz Legend Heads Home

Oct 13, 2016

Oliver Jones may be the most famous living jazz pianist you've never heard of. But in Canada, Jones is a hero — adored in his native Quebec and across the country for helping to build a vibrant jazz scene that can sustain the country's top musicians.

A serious talent and a tireless advocate for Canadian jazz, Jones is a champion for local musicians — a folk hero of sorts. You can find his images on the sides of buildings and on his very own postage stamp. He's also a serious talent with charisma and charm that's been winning over fans for years.

Rhiannon Giddens On Mountain Stage

Oct 13, 2016

Rhiannon Giddens returns to Mountain Stage, recorded live at the Augusta Heritage Festival in Elkins, W.Va. Once known primarily as a member of the Grammy-winning band Carolina Chocolate Drops, Giddens embarked on a solo career with 2015's Tomorrow Is My Turn, earning unprecedented acclaim along the way.

William Tyler On World Cafe

Oct 12, 2016

The roads less traveled, the blue routes — whatever you call them, if you do enough solo touring, you end up searching for alternatives to the interstate. Nashville guitarist William Tyler discovered the idea for his new album Modern Country while out on tour, on the back roads. Tyler is an instrumental artist, yet he still thinks of his music as having a narrative. "Modern Country is a love letter to what we're losing in America," he's said of the album. "To what we've already lost."

Hi, World Cafe fans! I just moved to the U.S. from Toronto, Canada, to become World Cafe's new contributing host and producer. Yes, I'm from Drake's hometown. And yes, that's the most frequently asked question since I've been here. But if your musical knowledge north of the 49th parallel doesn't extend past Drizzy and The Six, you're in luck. I brought a pile of musical gifts across the border with me.

Don't be misled — the rugged, timeworn quality of the vocal at the center of this song from Michael Chapman's latest album, 50, has nothing to do with the fact that the veteran British troubadour is 75 years old; he already sounded like that when he was in his 20s.

Need a moment to get away from it all? Here's your escape — a serene and bewitching video that calms the wearied mind.

Brian Eno. David Bowie. Kraftwerk. Radiohead. Aphex Twin. The National. These are just some of the contemporary artists and bands who have looked up to American composer Steve Reich.

Here's hoping you can join us for the next All This Jazz, beginning at 9pm on Saturday the 8th, right here on Public Radio 89.5 KWGS-FM...and online via live stream at Our program delivers three hours of modern/recent/classic jazz, across a range of styles, each and every Saturday night -- from 9 o'clock till midnight. (We also offer a 7pm re-airing of ATJ on Sunday evenings, on Jazz 89.5-2, which is Public Radio Tulsa's all-jazz HD Radio channel.)

Chucho Valdés On Piano Jazz

Oct 7, 2016

At one time, pianist Jesús "Chuco" Valdés was banned from performing in the U.S. Today, he performs and teaches here, as well as in his native Cuba. Valdés is a world-class innovator in Latin jazz. In 1973, he founded Irakere, a group that introduced a new fusion of African traditional music with Cuban jazz.

Dance Like Animals In Wynton Marsalis' 'Spaces'

Oct 6, 2016

In Spaces, Wynton Marsalis' new dance suite for the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, each movement corresponds to a different animal — a chicken, a lion, a frog and more.

He enlisted tap dancer Jared Grimes and "jooker" (street dancer) Lil Buck to embody the animals in their performances. In this piece, Marsalis also describes his fascination with the animal kingdom, his process of writing, and the way he attempts to draw on the spaces that all creatures inhabit.

Leftover Salmon On Mountain Stage

Oct 5, 2016

Leftover Salmon returns to Mountain Stage, recorded live at the Culture Center Theater in Charleston, W.Va. The band formed in 1989, and its unique blend of country, bluegrass and Cajun music (combined with years of hard work and touring) has made it a beloved act on America's summer-festival circuit and beyond.

Do you ever want to hear another rock guitar solo again? That's where the fight began. Robin played a song with a lot of guitar wankery by the band Major Stars. He loved it and I frankly couldn't wait for it to end. It got me wondering: Is this sort of music even relevant in 2016?

Kaia Kater On World Cafe

Oct 4, 2016

Canadian banjo player and songwriter Kaia Kater draws on the influences of both Canadian folk music and her Afro-Caribbean roots. In this session, Kater discusses her multicultural influences and what it was like to grow up playing an instrument that might not have been the coolest. She also talks about the difference in sound between her debut and her latest album, Nine Pin, and performs songs from each.

Wayne Henderson is a renowned acoustic guitarist who has played at Carnegie Hall, been honored at the White House and toured internationally. He's also an acclaimed instrument maker who has built guitars for the likes of Eric Clapton and his own close friend, the late Doc Watson. For the past five years, Henderson has shared his studio — and his trade — with an up-and-coming luthier: his daughter, Jayne.

case/lang/veirs On World Cafe

Oct 3, 2016

The supergroup case/lang/veirs comprises singer-songwriters Neko Case, k.d. lang and Laura Veirs. Each is a well-established artist in the world of folk and alt-country in her own right, and their individual styles all emerge on their first, self-titled album, produced by Veirs' husband, Tucker Martine.

Neville Marriner, the conductor and violinist who was something of an entrepreneur as well as the guiding spirit behind one of the most successful classical recordings of all time — the soundtrack to the 1984 smash movie Amadeus — died overnight at age 92 at his home in London. His death was announced by the chamber orchestra he founded, the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields.

If the viola is your instrument, it can be difficult to find repertoire to showcase your talent. But violist Nadia Sirota has plenty to play. She champions new composers to write music for her and forms ensembles to play it. Sirota's longtime collaborator Nico Muhly recently released an album called Keep in Touch, featuring two pieces written specifically for her.

Tune in for the next All This Jazz, beginning at 9pm on Saturday the 1st, right here on Public Radio 89.5 KWGS-FM...and online via live-streaming audio at

ATJ delivers three hours of modern jazz -- across a wonderfully wide range of styles -- every Saturday night, from 9 o'clock till midnight. (We also offer a 7pm re-airing of ATJ on Sunday evenings, on Jazz 89.5-2, which is Public Radio Tulsa's all-jazz HD Radio channel.)

A Blog Supreme was a jazz thing published by NPR Music from May 2009 through September 2016. It presented news, features, aggregated content, historical primers, opinion and analysis, recommendations and other types of music journalism. It was twice named the Jazz Journalists Association Blog of the Year.