Music

News of the classical, jazz, and XPoNential worlds

Plenty of Deadheads will argue that the Grateful Dead tapped into the unknowable mysteries of the cosmos with its music. And, at its most exploratory and improvisatory, the band came as close as musicians could to doing just that, even if you weren't chemically altered while listening. On his latest solo album, former Dead drummer Mickey Hart takes that concept one extraterrestrial step further.

Anoushka Shankar: A Sitar Player In Andalusia

Apr 18, 2012

Anoushka Shankar is the daughter and protege of the renowned Indian sitar player Ravi Shankar, who is credited with introducing Indian classical music to Western audiences. Now, Anoushka Shankar carries on this tradition in more ways than one. On her new album, Traveller, she goes back in time to make the connections between India and Spain.

Talk Like An Opera Geek attempts to decode the intriguing and intimidating lexicon of the opera house.

During his 84 years on the planet, Yip Harburg contributed brilliant lyrics to some of the finest melodies of the American popular song canon.

Most of his songs were originally written for Broadway shows or Hollywood musicals. Finian's Rainbow is probably his most popular stage work, but he's best known for working with composer Harold Arlen on music for The Wizard of Oz, a collaboration which won them an Oscar for "Over the Rainbow."

What follows is the work of five singers, each putting his or her own stamp on the lyrics of Yip Harburg.

Lost In The Trees In Concert

Apr 18, 2012

Lost in the Trees finds beauty in the darkest places. Singer, guitarist and songwriter Ari Picker, an artist classically trained at Berklee School of Music, mixes breathtaking string arrangements and sweeping orchestrations with folk-flavored acoustic guitars. But he uses these beautiful scores to tell personal stories of depression, suicide, cancer and the seemingly endless pain endured by a troubled family.

Violinist Jenny Scheinman's band and new album are both called Mischief and Mayhem. The record was made just after her quartet played a week at the Village Vanguard, but despite the jazz cred of regular Vanguard appearances, their stylistically fluid music draws on a lot of traditions.

Jonas Kaufmann Steps Into The (Boxing) Ring

Apr 18, 2012

This morning, London's Royal Opera House posted a promo video on YouTube of tenor Jonas Kaufmann (who, it must be said, is featured prominently on the blog "Shirtless Opera Singers").

Kat Edmonson has been on our radar for a while now. In 2009, after the election of President Barack Obama, we put out a call out to our listeners to try and capture the pulse of the culture.

(Classical Detours meanders through stylistic byways, exploring new recordings from the fringes of classical music.)

Kickin' It With Han Bennink

Apr 17, 2012

Here's a great shot of drummer Han Bennink, who turns 70 today, deploying one of his signature moves: the "putting a foot on the snare drum." It's quite a spectacle when you see it live. There's the visual display of a big man (he is well over 6-feet-tall, and muscular) contorting himself with the gleeful strain of a mad scientist. There's also a practical basis, which has to do with ingeniously modifying the timbre of the drum. He explains in this short video:

New York-based composer and Peabody Institute faculty member Kevin Puts has won the Pulitizer Prize for music with Silent Night, his first opera. The work received its world premiere in November in at Minnesota Opera in St. Paul.

Pulitzer officials described Silent Night as "a stirring opera that recounts the true story of a spontaneous cease-fire among Scottish, French and Germans during World War I, displaying versatility of style and cutting straight to the heart."

Why Tax Day Is Even Worse For Musicians

Apr 16, 2012

Tomorrow is the income tax filing deadline in the U.S., and jazz musicians in particular know it. The overwhelming majority of jazz musicians are freelance performers (and often freelance teachers, composers and other music-related service providers). But the informal aesthetics of the jazz world often extend to its business practices as well, with its handshake deals and cash payments. That makes it quite difficult to keep track of income and expenses when it comes time to report to the Internal Revenue Service.

So What's The Best Musical Instrument?

Apr 16, 2012

The new issue of The Economist's bimonthly (and rather self-besottedly titled) magazine Intelligent Life carries an essay by chief Times of London music critic Richard Morrison. He's asking a big and probably unanswerable question: Of all the musical instruments that have ever been invented, which is the best?

Today in "They Pay Us To Do This": a performance by South Africa's Soweto Gospel Choir, which managed to tie the all-time record for most musicians squashed behind Bob Boilen's desk for a single performance in the NPR Music offices.

Johnathan Blake is the ultimate modernist. As a drummer, he's as comfortable steering ensembles led by jazz veterans such as trumpeter Tom Harrell and saxophonist Oliver Lake as he is providing the pulse beneath rapper Q-Tip and deep-house diva Monday Michiru. Old-school strategies, though, still seep into Blake's music, as illustrated by the fetching "Canvas."

Bette Midler On 'Song Travels'

Apr 14, 2012

The Divine Miss M — singer, actress and comedian Bette Midler — is Song Travels host Michael Feinstein's guest for an hour of pure radio fun. Midler opens a crate of favorite tunes from her record collection, from Louis Jordan to vintage Hawaiian music to Destiny's Child, along with stories from her multifaceted career.

Here, Feinstein presents her with a solo arrangement of "And I'll Be There," a song written for her by the legendary songwriting team of Alan and Marilyn Bergman.

Pianist Thomas Lauderdale is the co-founder of the celebrated orchestral ensemble Pink Martini, which bridges classical, jazz, world music and old-fashioned pop.

"I'm inching my way towards Liberace land every day," Lauderdale says, laughing after opening with a rollicking take on "Malaguena," composed by Cuba's equivalent of George Gershwin, Ernesto Lecuona.

The Spring Standards On Mountain Stage

Mar 31, 2012

The ethereal indie-pop band The Spring Standards makes its second appearance on Mountain Stage, recorded live on the campus of West Virginia University in Morgantown. All three members of the group — James Cleare, James Smith and Heather Robb — began playing together in the Delaware/Pennsylvania area when they were students in high school. A few years later, they found themselves living within a few blocks of one another in New York City, and decided to pick up where they left off.

Kathleen Edwards On World Cafe

Feb 14, 2012

Canadian singer-songwriter Kathleen Edwards is enjoying a huge career boost with her new fourth album, Voyageur. Produced in part by Justin Vernon of Bon Iver, Voyageur sounds deeply personal and genuine: Edwards sings of failed marriages, life in the spotlight and the delicate happiness that comes with new beginnings.

Red Molly On Mountain Stage

Jan 28, 2012

Even though the band was making its first appearance on Mountain Stage, the acoustic roots trio Red Molly earned a standing ovation from the sold-out audience at the Paramount Theater in Bristol, Tenn./Va. Formed around a campsite at the 2004 Falcon Ridge Folk Festival, Red Molly spent the next six years becoming a crowd favorite at events like the Bristol Rhythm and Roots Reunion and MerleFest.

As snowstorms hit the country today, All Things Considered revisits a vivid story that choreographer and dancer Bill T. Jones shared about one winter song. It originally aired Dec. 13, 2011.

Chick Corea, Stanley Clarke, Lenny White On JazzSet

May 26, 2011

The 52nd Monterey Jazz Festival in the fall of 2009 helped kick off the return of Return to Forever, the stellar fusion band from the 1970s — now a trio with Chick Corea, Stanley Clarke and Lenny White on piano, bass and drums, respectively.

Bill Charlap And Renee Rosnes On Piano Jazz

Feb 12, 2009

It's a rare thing to have three pianists at three pianos in one studio. But given the marriage of keyboard masters Bill Charlap and Renee Rosnes, host Marian McPartland thought it was a perfect opportunity to expand the Piano Jazz format with two of today's most gifted players as her guests.

Hod O'Brien On Piano Jazz

Jan 26, 2009

On the drive from his home in Charlottesville, Va., to the Manhattan studios of Piano Jazz, pianist Hod O'Brien was inspired to compose an original tune in honor of the occasion. By the time he'd arrived, he'd worked out a swinging little ditty in his head, so he kicked off this session with a tune he called "Clarion for Marian."

"His playing was wonderful," recalls host Marian McPartland. "And I really enjoyed playing on Charlie Parker ['Now's The Time'] with Hod. I thought it came off very well."

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