SCOTT SIMON, BYLINE: I'm Scott Simon. Our next story comes from the NPR Ed team. Reporter Eric Westervelt visited a special high school in New York City for students with cognitive and physical disabilities. And he saw how the music curriculum there has transformed at least one young life.
TOBI LAKES: My name is Tobi Lakes. I'm 15 years old. I listen to I Heart Radio and radio.com - two apps. I practice my piano every night.
Jimmy Scott died this week. The jazz balladeer died of natural causes at his home in Las Vegas. He was 88. His ethereal contralto influenced countless singers, men and women. But his career was a series of up, downs and finally, ups, as NPR's Mandalit del Barco explains.
When you read enough about the early lives of jazz musicians, you begin to spot a trend. A lot of artists caught the music bug from their parents.
With instruments and musicians around the house, it's easy for kids to grow curious about playing. But that's not nearly the whole story. Sometimes parents are the first teachers. Other times, parental guidance doesn't fully kick in until much later.
Eliot Fisk looks like the happiest man on the planet. Watch that face as he plays guitar. Between performing music by J.S. Bach and partnering with the world's best flamenco guitarist, Paco Peña, Fisk can barely control his joy. I find his exuberance and their performance undeniably brilliant, inspiring and so completely universal.
Saxophonist Jerry Dodgion has played with just about everyone in the jazz world throughout his long career. In 1955, Dodgion joined Benny Carter in Las Vegas for the opening of the Moulin Rouge, and in the late '50s, he played with both Frank Sinatra and the Red Norvo quintet.
Today's session is especially fun, as we've invited Este and Alana Haim to play DJ. With their sister Danielle (who was feeling under the weather), they comprise the members of the pop-rock band Haim, whose fame and acclaim have grown to new heights in recent years. Hailing from California's San Fernando Valley, Haim have been honing their talents and skills since they were kids performing in a family band with their parents.
Originally published on Sat June 14, 2014 12:59 pm
Singer Jimmy Scott died of natural causes Thursday morning at his home in Las Vegas at age 88, according to his booking agent, Jean-Pierre Leduc.
Scott suffered from Kallmann's syndrome, a lifelong affliction that prevented his body from maturing through puberty. The condition slowed his growth, leaving his stature at 4 feet 11 inches until his late 30s. It also affected his vocal cords, giving him a high voice that was often misidentified as a woman's.
About two years ago, playwright David Henry Hwang turned down an offer to write a play about the brief life and suicide of Army Pvt. Danny Chen.
But an opera? He couldn't refuse.
"This is a story with big emotions, big primary colors in a way, and big plot events," says Hwang, who wrote the libretto for An American Soldier, a new hourlong opera commissioned by Washington National Opera.
We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and alongside the large wooden crates housing our new summer interns is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives — and, this week, thoughts on what makes some albums seem padded and inconsistent.
Brazilian song has a way of capturing the imagination, and Rio de Janeiro is its crucible. From maxixe and choro in the 19th century to samba and bossa nova in the 20th, Rio's history of melding rhythms with deep lyricism has been extraordinary.
For Brazilians, these songs have even greater significance. In a country where formal education is still not open to all, popular song offers a sentimental education.
You don't always have to love the music to appreciate the talent behind it. Some of the artists featured in this week's puzzler are masters in genres I rarely reach for (fusion anyone?), but lord are they gifted musicians. I also think some of the fills in this batch are particularly challenging, but give a listen and see how you do. Safe drum fill-naming, heroes!
Tommy Malone appears on Mountain Stage, recorded live at the Creative Arts Center on the campus of West Virginia University.
The prime mover behind the New Orleans swamp-rock band The Subdudes, Malone has been a fixture in the Louisiana music scene and beyond for 40 years. He began in a family band that included his brother, Radiators guitarist Dave Malone, and worked as a sideman; he also helped found the storied music collective The Continental Drifters.
The World Cup begins Thursday in Brazil amid controversy concerning FIFA (soccer's governing body) and Brazil's preparations for the month-long event. The music of the World Cup has also been contentious, and on this episode of Latin Roots from World Cafe, Billboard's Judy Cantor-Navas explains the difference between the official "theme song" and the official "anthem."
We'll hear both pieces of music and discuss how the largely Portuguese-speaking Brazilian population feels about official music that's not in its language.
Bombay Bicycle Club formed when its members were teenagers in South London. It took its name from a now-defunct chain of Indian restaurants in the group's hometown. The band's initial good fortune in winning the Road To V contest in 2006 earned it an opening spot in a major festival, which helped put Bombay Bicycle Club on the map.
The concerto. It's a musical recipe more than 400 years old but composers still cook with it. And why shouldn't they? We still seem to crave the sound of a virtuosic soloist playing with (and often against) an orchestra. As in centuries past, virtuosos still inspire, and in many cases commission, composers to write some of their best music, which can push an instrument to its creative limit.
As we re-release these two sets from Newport, saxophonist John Ellis (leader of one, player in the other) is leading workshops in Portugal and Italy. Darcy James Argue has released a studio recording of Brooklyn Babylon, and his Secret Society tied with the Maria Schneider Orchestra for the Big Band of 2013 in the just-out DownBeat Critics Poll.
The Swedish folk-pop duo First Aid Kit has been a KCRW mainstay since "Hard Believer," the first single from the band's debut record Big Black & The Blue a few years ago. Fast-forward two full-length albums later, and the Söderberg sisters have reenlisted the help of producer Mike Mogis for their now-signature two-part harmonies and carefully crafted Nashville pop.
Kevin Drew is best known for co-founding the groundbreaking Canadian indie-pop supergroup Broken Social Scene in 1999. Around the same time, he founded Arts & Crafts, a record label for that band's releases. Now, 15 years later, it has become one of Canada's most important labels, releasing albums by Feist, Deer Tick and more.
The Dirty Dozen Brass Band appears on Mountain Stage, recorded live on the campus of West Virginia University in Morgantown.
Widely credited with revitalizing the sound of New Orleans jazz, the group blew down musical barriers by combining its love of traditional sounds with funk and bebop. Having recently celebrated its 35th anniversary together, the band has the rare distinction among jazz ensembles of having shared the stage with The Grateful Dead, Elvis Costello, Miles Davis, 2 Live Crew and Black Crowes.
American music festivals used to be mostly a summer thing, but in many ways they now frame the concert experience all year round. In these temporary hot spots for pleasure and cultural conversation, new artists emerge as sensations and established ones do special things with fans. Culture watchers note fashion trends and predict whose careers will rise and fall by observing what emerges from festivals' impromptu communities.
When we plan Field Recordings, we usually look far and wide to find off-the-beaten-path locations for filming musicians. But a unique opportunity presented itself when a duo called Wanderlust Projects — designers of "transgressive placemaking experiences" for urban explorers, usually in abandoned or otherwise off-limits places — invited us to come along on an adventure.