News of the classical, jazz, and XPoNential worlds

Every band needs to refresh and reconsider its sound sooner or later, no matter how sharp it's gotten over the course of a long career. Creative stagnation comes for us all — even The Decemberists, a band whose records have always come bursting with verve and verbosity.

It's the most wonderful time of the year! At least it is for avid music fans like us and anyone else attending the South By Southwest festival in Austin, Texas. The annual endurance challenge gets underway this week, with thousands of bands from around the world — and many more fans — converging on the city for a seemingly endless bender of live performances — shows both big and small that last all day, every day, into the wee hours of the morning, with music pouring out of every club, restaurant, street corner and alleyway for miles.

Catch the next broadcast of All This Jazz, starting at 9pm on Saturday the 10th, right here on KWGS-FM / Public Radio Tulsa. It'll be three solid hours of can't-miss modern jazz -- all of it introduced, contextualized, and lovingly selected by an actual person (and not a robot)!

File this one under: "when genre walls collapse, the fusions are wonderful." Among the sidenotes to dance-music archivists' interest in the minimalist sounds of New York's 1970s and '80s downtown cult figures such as Arthur Russell and Julius Eastman, is how it's brought the work of their colleagues, contemporaries and collaborators to light.

"Sometimes people get killed before they get to finish / All the things they were going to do," Phil Elverum sings on "Two Paintings By Nikolai Astrup." The song appears on Now Only, the new album by Elverum's long-running indie-rock project Mount Eerie. It's about his wife, Geneviève Castrée, an acclaimed recording and visual artist who died in 2016 at the age of 35, one year after learning she had pancreatic cancer.

Long before he was the leader of rock octet Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats, Nathaniel Rateliff was a kid in rural Missouri sneaking around listening to rock and roll. Rateliff remembers finding a Led Zeppelin tape out in a country barn and secretly listening to it over and over in his headphones.

We mark the 10th anniversary of the Swannanoa Gathering's Traditional Song
Week with music and interview highlights from Cathie Ryan, Sheila Kay Adams
and Brian McNeill.

The latest video from Malian singer and guitarist Fatoumata Diawara, for the song "Nterini," opens with a simple but stark reminder: "In a world of seven billion people, one billion are migrants." The Pew Research Center puts the number at a quarter of a billion — a figure that's still shockingly high.

Look, it's gonna be a tough week. Maybe you stayed up late watching the Oscars and you're already underslept; maybe there's a lot going on at work right now; and certainly, if nothing else, whatever transpires in the news will accumulate so quickly, you won't believe that only four days have passed by the time we get to Friday.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released.

"As we go into the well of the black pool of genius," Common intones during the opening bars of August Greene. It's a fitting incantation for a time in which black culture increasingly defines America's pop consciousness, even as black people are defiled by the sociopolitical will of a restless nation.

Seun Kuti was just 14 when he became the lead singer of Egypt 80 — the Nigerian band that had carried the infectious groove of Afrobeat worldwide under the direction of Seun's father, Fela Anikulapo Kuti. The musician says keeping the band together after Fela's death in 1997 was a way of sustaining his message — which often included railing against government corruption and social injustice.

Catch the next broadcast of All This Jazz, starting at 9pm on Saturday the 3rd, right here on KWGS-FM / Public Radio Tulsa. It'll be three hours of can't-miss modern jazz -- all of it introduced, contextualized, and lovingly selected by an actual person (i.e., not a robot)!

On Friday, the Boston Symphony Orchestra announced that an independent investigation into a sexual assault claim made against conductor Charles Dutoit by one of its former interns has found the woman's claim credible.

The accusation that triggered the BSO investigation came from a woman named Fiona Allan, who at the time of the alleged assault in 1997 was working as an intern at the orchestra's summer home at Tanglewood in Lenox, Mass., when Dutoit was appearing with the symphony as a guest conductor.

On Friday morning the Boston Globe published details of allegations of sexual abuse by 74-year-old conductor and pianist James Levine, as well as chronicling "cult-like" behavior that the leading musician allegedly cultivated amongst his devotees while he was teaching at the Cleveland Institute of Music (CIM) in Ohio between 1965 and 1972.

Carol Sloane On Piano Jazz

Mar 2, 2018

Carol Sloane is a sublime singer of great songs. She is natural and unaffected with a voice that embraces the melody and the listener with equal parts maturity and conviction. Combining spirit with character and elegance with style, Sloane has enchanted audiences all over the world. Her command of The Great American Songbook is unmatched.

Hometown: Los Angeles, California

Genre: Folk / Funk / R&B

Why We're Excited: When singer and violinist Sudan Archives discovered the way the violin is played in Northeast Africa, she overhauled her sound to accommodate it. Now, her slippery pop and soul music incorporates sharp and hypnotic violin lines like the ones that animate the irrepressibly clattering "Come Meh Way."

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Hometown: San Fernando, Trinidad and Tobago

Genre: Soca

Hometown: Canowindra, Australia

Genre: Singer-Songwriter

Why We're Excited: Simultaneously warm and cool, singer-songwriter Gordi (a.k.a. Sophie Payten) shares some creative DNA with Bon Iver: She's toured with the band, she records for its label, and she helped make a name for herself by releasing a hauntingly cavernous cover of "00000 Million." In "Heaven I Know," she swathes her voice in Imogen Heap-style effects, but her debut album (2017's Reservoir) also showcases a joyful side.

Hometown: Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Genre: Roots Rock

Why We're Excited: Field Report's Christopher Porterfield got his start playing alongside Bon Iver's Justin Vernon all the way back in their DeYarmond Edison days, and now his Field Report project is getting its due after several strong albums. Summertime Songs slickens Porterfield's sound without sacrificing warmth or depth, as evidenced by the hooky, handclappy anthem "Never Look Back."

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Hometown: Portland, Oregon

Genre: Folk Rock

Why We're Excited: Sometimes, the phrase "singer-songwriter" can't begin to capture how many different things a vocalist can do with a guitar in her hands. Haley Heynderickx's voice can embody nervy intensity, caustic strangeness or cooing beauty, while her songs never seem to take the same journey twice. In just three minutes, "Oom Sha La La" keeps popping down surprising side roads.

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Hometown: Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Genre: Americana

Why We're Excited: At first, Dead Horses' songs can sound like simple back-porch roots music. But Sarah Vos and Daniel Wolff dig deeper than that, enriching their material with evocative, empathetic storytelling. Inspired in part by a difficult childhood — Vos grew up in a strict religious household, only to see her family expelled from its church when she was a teenager — Dead Horses' songs find her searching for meaning and connection.

Hometown: London, England

Genre: Jazz

Why We're Excited: Tenor saxophonist Nubya Garcia exudes a kind of breezy, sultry, downtown cool — no surprise, given her history as a club DJ. On her debut, Nubya's 5ive, she and her band strike an engrossing balance between long stretches of dreamy exploration and surges of vital, virtuosic intensity.

SXSW Schedule:

Hometown: London, England

Genre: Jazz

Why We're Excited: Ezra Collective keeps one foot planted in traditional jazz but lets the other wander far and wide, bringing back rhythmic traces of hip-hop and Afrobeat. On the new Juan Pablo: The Philosopher EP, Ezra Collective sounds alternately taut and spacey in tunes that don't stay in one place long, let alone recede into the background.

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Hometown: Honolulu, Hawaii

Genre: Hawaiian Slack-Key Guitar

Hometown: Düsseldorf, Germany

Genre: Dance

Why We're Excited: Gato Preto's sound is insistent to the point of relentlessness: The globetrotting band piles on layer upon layer of percussion — traditional and electronic — while brandishing earworms like bazookas. Between the feast of rhythm and the wild Afro-futuristic garb, Gato Preto doesn't just put on a show; it makes a scene.

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Hometown: Brooklyn, New York

Genre: Afropop

Why We're Excited: Born in Sudan and based in Brooklyn, with other stops along the way, Alsarah is used to fusing the sounds and styles of disparate cultures. As leader of Alsarah & The Nubatones, she accurately describes her approach as "East African Retro-Pop" — a lavish, joyful, era-spanning sound full of Arabic-language reflections on identity and survival. It's modern and nostalgic, timeless and new.

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Hometown: Montreal, Canada (born/raised in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo)

Genre: Funk / Pop

Why We're Excited: Congolese Canadian Pierre Kwenders sings in five languages — and incorporates at least that many genres into his sultry, swaying, busy, funky pop music. Named for a Henry Miller trilogy, "Sexus Plexus Nexus" brings sex talk and saxophones together, where they've always belonged.

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Hometown: Los Angeles, California

Genre: Rock

Why We're Excited: Sego's "Whatever Forever" unpacks the inner monologue of a frenetic and frustrated mind: Bored and anxious, singer Spencer Petersen rambles and seethes over a throbbing bassline until it's time for a soaring chorus that feels both chaotic and cathartic.