This Sunday's Grammy Awards ceremony is the annual big-ticket item for the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. More than 28 million people around the world tuned in to watch the concert show last year. And this year's telecast is once again being touted as the most complicated â€” and expensive â€” production on TV.
Unknown Mortal Orchestra is the work of Ruban Nielson, a New Zealand-bred musician who moved to Portland, Ore., six years ago. While there, he started working with samples in his bedroom that would later become the first Unknown Mortal Orchestra album in 2011. He released another in 2013, called II, as well as an EP.
Widely admired as a gifted and innovative player, jazz guitarist Jim Hall had a career that spanned more than five decades. In a session recorded in 2003, the NEA Jazz Master teamed up with host Marian McPartland and bassist Gary Mazzaroppi for "Blue Monk," and performed solo in "All the Things You Are."
Originally published on Mon January 27, 2014 8:24 am
Jitterbug Vipers' members perform 1930s-style "viper jazz" with a rock 'n' roll twist. The Austin band's original music â€” crafted by singer Sarah Sharp, guitarist Slim Richey, bassist Francie Meaux Jeaux and drummer Masumi Jones â€” recalls swing classics by Duke Ellington, Count Basie and Cab Calloway.
On this installment of Song Travels, you can hear Jitterbug Vipers perform a set live in the studio. Host Michael Feinstein also sits down with Sharp to discuss the history of viper jazz and the inspiration behind the band's sizzling original music.
Originally published on Tue January 28, 2014 9:11 pm
Actress' declarative 2008 debut Hazyville announced a new voice in underground British dubstep, at which point the electronic music producer (a.k.a. Darren Cunningham) began to push beyond the confines of that bass-heavy genre. By the time of 2010's Splazh, Actress was all but ignoring the tropes of dubstep, instead mincing modern R&B for a type of digital funk and Disclosure-esque vocal house (as in "Always Human") that delectably stayed just this side of abstraction.
Each year's Grammy Awards offer their own questions and controversies based on how the nominations pan out, but there are a few points of contention that come up year after year. There's the difference between Song Of The Year and Record Of The Year. How a song can be eligible for nomination this year when the album it came from was nominated last year (or vice versa). The precise eligibility requirements for Best New Artist, a category that can be (and has been) won by performers several albums into their careers.
Odd musical mergers in the Grammy Awards telecast are nothing new â€” remember Paul McCartney, Linkin Park and Jay-Z singing "Yesterday?" Still, when thrash metal band Metallica and classical pianist Lang Lang take the stage together Sunday night, it may seem more like a head-scratcher than a clever match.
Originally published on Fri January 24, 2014 12:42 pm
Just before 11 o'clock on a crisp Monday night in Hollywood, 82-year-old Kenny Burrell put his Gibson guitar in its velvet-lined case and said goodnight to several members of the Los Angeles Jazz Orchestra Unlimited. He had just finished an intermission-free, two-hour-plus set with the large ensemble, as he has done once a month since the summer. Waiting patiently among the suits and smiles was a 21-year-old guitarist eager to meet his idol. When the room finally cleared, Burrell was amiable and inquisitive, talking to the young fan about music and Michigan, where he grew up.
A five-piece band from Brooklyn, Lucius is led by two singers, Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig, who met at Berklee College of Music in Boston. They crafted their unique vocal sound over the decade they've worked together, and now even dress alike.
Their similarities, as well as the longevity of their friendship, led to the title of their debut full-length album, last year's Wildewoman. Lucius joins us in the studio to perform live and talk with World Cafe's Michaela Majoun.
While growing up in San Antonio, Patrick Cornelius listened to JazzSet on KRTU. Off the air, he taped the Carnegie Hall Jazz Band playing Lalo Schifrin's Gillespiana in the 1990s and more. Cornelius went on to complete degrees and diplomas from Berklee College of Music, the Manhattan School of Music and The Juilliard School.
In 2012, Cornelius won a New Jazz Works: Commissioning and Ensemble grant from Chamber Music America, and this episode of JazzSet features the composition for which he applied for support, titled While We're Still Young.
Originally published on Mon February 3, 2014 8:39 am
How many choruses does it take to turn a party song into an engine causing social change? Is it possible to honor American cultural traditions while dismantling the traps and habits that make them restrictive? Every so often a new voice engages these basic questions in subtle, exciting new ways. Alynda Lee Segarra, the 27-year-old guiding light of the New Orleans-based band Hurray For The Riff Raff, is this year's champion.
Around this time last year, 21-year-old Elisa Lam went missing during a solo trip to Los Angeles. A month after her disappearance was reported, her body was found in a hotel's rooftop water tank. While it's unclear what happened, investigators ruled out foul play, leaving everyone to speculate wildly about her mental state and possible motivations.
Composer and bandleader Guillermo Klein is known largely for Los Guachos, a large ensemble which draws from Argentine folk forms, the New York jazz talent pool and a postmodern mash-up imagination. His is beguiling music, filled with human voices and off-kilter meter and cutting melody. It's a form he and some of his band first started developing at Berklee College of Music, where he and fellow Argentines learned to apply jazz concepts to the many sounds in their heads.
"If you're meaning to seduce anybody, you don't announce your intention," L.A. singer-songwriter Joe Henry joked when introducing his new song "Swayed." Nevertheless, he hooked us by the heart during a recent in-studio appearance.
On any given day, All Songs Considered host Bob Boilen bombards co-host Robin Hilton with a running list of new ideas for the show. Most of them never see the light of day. But on this week's program Bob explains his latest idea, one that everyone will want to see happen. It's called "The Sole Of A Band" and involves matching photos of the shoes worn by bands with their music. You can hear more about how it works at the top of this week's edition of All Songs Considered.
Originally published on Tue January 21, 2014 2:55 pm
Claudio Abbado, one of the most sought-after conductors of his generation, died Monday in Bologna, Italy, at age 80. His death was announced by a spokesperson for Bologna's mayor, saying that it followed an unspecified long illness. Abbado had been diagnosed with stomach cancer in 2000; following surgery for that illness, he was transformed into a hauntingly gaunt figure.
Originally published on Tue January 21, 2014 3:05 pm
She's probably not among your first, or second, or 10th, or 20th-round guesses, but the NFL just announced that American soprano Renee Fleming will sing the national anthem at Super Bowl XLVIII on Feb. 2.
As a songwriter, Robbie Fulks can be devastatingly funny, then slay with sentiment in the next moment. He's made a career of it, while approaching the music business from nearly every angle. He had a brief run on a major label in the 1990s, which helped inspire his memorable critique of Nashville's country music industry, titled "F--- This Town."
For someone who came to piano rather late, at 17, Lafayette Gilchrist has dug deep into its history. He loves the old piano professors who'd pack the punch of a dance band into two hands at the keyboard. Players like Eubie Blake, James P. Johnson and Willie "The Lion" Smith could keep going for hours without exhausting their folkloric materials.