News of the classical, jazz, and XPoNential worlds

The perception that Appalachian culture is a hotbed of backwards thinking and crude expression is hardly new, but it's found renewed currency following the publication of books like Hillbilly Elegy and the political profiling of the hinterlands spurred by last November's election results.

Béla Fleck and Abigail Washburn are two of the least complacent musicians around. With skill that can border on otherworldly, both push boundaries, stretching their sound beyond bluegrass, across continents and into everything from prog-rock to Eastern instrumentation.

From dance tunes to Gaelic airs, the musical links between old world and new come alive with Scotland's Alasdair Fraser, Cape Breton's Dougie MacDonald, Ireland's Maeve Donnolly and more.

This episode originally aired the week of April 1, 2010.

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This essay is one in a series celebrating deserving artists or albums not included on NPR Music's list of 150 Greatest Albums Made By Women.

After Midnight: Thelonious Monk At 100

Oct 10, 2017

Thelonious Monk, the incomparably influential jazz composer and pianist, would have turned 100 today, and across the country a healthy range of commemorative tributes is already underway. But the flagship event that bears his name has quietly been put on hold: the next Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition, which at one point had been scheduled for this week at the Kennedy Center in Washington, will not happen in 2017.

As one half of Indigo Girls, Emily Saliers owns one of the most important voices of a generation. It should come as no surprise to those of us who have spent a lot of time with Saliers' voice that her debut solo album, Murmunation Nation, teems with warm sounds and winding words that oscillate between the urgent and the eternal.

Indo-Pak Coalition, an improvising trio led by the alto saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa, finds its purpose in myriad forms of convergence. A decade ago the group released its auspicious debut album, Apti, announcing an inspired accord between Mahanthappa, a second-generation Indian-American; guitarist Rez Abbasi, who was born in Pakistan but raised in Los Angeles; and Dan Weiss, an Anglo-American drummer with a deep interest in Indian percussion.

The inimitable pianist and iconoclastic composer Thelonious Monk, who died in 1982 after helping to shape and refine the form of jazz known as bebop from the late 1940s onward, would have turned 100 next week (on the 10th). On the next edition of All This Jazz, starting at 9pm on Saturday the 7th, right here on Public Radio 89.5 / KWGS-FM, we'll offer a Centennial Tribute to Monk, playing many of his well-known compositions.

Juana Molina, 'Sin Dones' (Live)

Oct 6, 2017

Juana Molina's music is haunting and hypnotic. The Argentine singer brought her experimental pop artistry to our studio, sharing songs from her excellent new album Halo — including the standout "Sin Dones."

Classical and folk music continue to intermingle in fascinating ways. The intersections stretch back far beyond Bach, who cleverly slipped a German folk song into his Goldberg Variations. Later, composers like Ralph Vaughan Williams and Béla Bartók combed the countryside, collecting tunes from villagers.

Holly Hofmann On Piano Jazz

Oct 6, 2017

Classically trained flutist Holly Hofmann was influenced by her father, a fine jazz guitarist. At age five, she chose the flute because she could carry it to play music with him. Hofmann has taken the flute from the orchestra to the jazz stand, making her mark with a bluesy style all her own. In this session from 2002, bassist Darek Oles joins Hofmann and host Marian McPartland to perform a set including "You and the Night and the Music" and "Bohemia After Dark."

Breakup albums have their own top shelf in the popular music canon, from Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks to Kanye West's 808s and Heartbreak. Staying-together albums, on the other hand, are more rare and more difficult to execute. Maybe that's because overcoming hardship and working through differences require diligence and daily renewals of faith, more subtle and internally directed practices than the emotional release separation allows.

When Daniil Trifonov was 20, he scored a double victory, taking home top prizes at both the Tchaikovsky and Rubinstein International Piano Competitions. That was six years ago, and by now he has secured a spot as one of the most revered – perhaps even feared – classical pianists on the scene today.

Antonio Sánchez, the virtuoso drummer and composer, can often be found on tour — tending rhythmic fires for guitarist Pat Metheny; leading Migration, his own dynamic post-bop band; or performing his solo drum score at screenings of Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), the 2014 Alejandro G. Iñárritu film.

Mokoomba On Mountain Stage

Oct 3, 2017

Zimbabwean six-piece Mokoomba makes its debut on Mountain Stage, recorded live at the Culture Center Theater in Charleston, W.Va. Regarded as one of the best touring acts from Africa, the young Afro-fusion band sing in unison in Tongan and Luvale as they mix together funk, ska and pop influences. As host Larry Groce puts it, "That's the way music works the best: when you don't categorize. You just bring it and let it hang out."

Bill Murray has come a long way since his early days as Nick the Lounge Singer on Saturday Night Live. He made screwball comedies like Caddy Shack and Stripes. Then he made serious films, like Lost in Translation.

Public Radio Tulsa's 70th Anniversary Celebration Continues! Join us Saturday the 30th for the next broadcast of All This Jazz, starting at 9pm here on Public Radio 89.5 / KWGS. We'll have a special third-hour theme this time around, running from 11 o'clock to midnight; in celebration of this radio station's 70th birthday -- KWGS first went on the air in October of 1947 -- our theme will be Jazz Greats Born in 1947.

On November 23, 2016, just a week after an election that left much of the nation in a state of shock, veteran Omaha singer-songwriter Simon Joyner came to New York to play at Carnegie Hall for the first time. He was opening for longtime friend Conor Oberst, who has always cited Joyner as a primary influence. Joyner had just finished a song about the election, and he was eager to unveil it.

What does it take to be an opera superstar? Jonas Kaufmann should know. He's been called "the world's greatest tenor."

Kaufmann has the voice. He's also got the onstage charisma, the movie-star good looks, the ambition, even a little controversy — and a brand new album.

Jazz singing has always been a tree with firm roots, but a wild entanglement of branches. Its sound and shape are mutable, prone to outside influence and local inflection. Take the two artists featured in this week's episode of Jazz Night in America, recorded at the 2017 San Jose Jazz Summer Fest — each a cultural ambassador as well as a cosmopolitan, with the elusive ability to bring any audience along for the ride.

He's the ultimate singer-songwriter: His poetry knows no equal and, as a musician, his powers are magical. But he also has big problems.

The tragic story of Orpheus has inspired countless works of art over the millennia — plus one. The latest retelling comes from director and choreographer Mark DeChiazza.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify or Apple Music playlist at the bottom of the page.

Chronixx: Tiny Desk Concert

Sep 27, 2017

Reggae has long been the most vivid musical escape for me. Its soul-cleansing rhythms always feel familiar and cozy, like rushing into your lover's arms after a significant time away. This is especially true for roots reggae, whose staccato guitar licks, billowing bass, and sonic splashes on a canvas of negative space, are like salve for the soul. The mid-tempo pulse conjures up relaxed days on the beach, living amid nature's unrestricted beauty.