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.
The third song in this Tiny Desk Concert, explains the jocose pianist Robert Glasper, first appeared on one of his trio's albums of acoustic, instrumental jazz. It was called "F.T.B." then, though it later acquired words and a singer and was retitled "Gonna Be Alright" on the record which won the 2013 Grammy for Best R&B Album. That in itself provides a sense of the worlds to which Glasper has access; depending on your point of view, he either freely traverses or explodes those boundaries.
Originally published on Tue January 28, 2014 9:07 pm
Side projects often provide a chance to take wild left turns; to indulge a desire to experiment outside the formulas dictated by a musician's primary creative outlet. For The Autumn Defense — which features bassist John Stirratt and multi-instrumentalist Pat Sansone, both of Wilco — it's actually a chance to pursue a narrower focus. Where Wilco sprawls, The Autumn Defense drills down to a sweetly straightforward style of classic pop and rock.
Originally published on Tue January 28, 2014 9:03 pm
Dee Dee Penny and her band Dum Dum Girls made their name on primitivism, only to demolish the expectations they'd created for themselves. Even the name Dum Dum Girls suggests adherence to the garage-bound basics, and the group's early recordings follow suit. But the new Too True is different: A streamlined record, it borrows the cool, plainspoken efficiency of its predecessors while slickening and smartening the songs themselves.
Language is not universal: Every user, every listener, every usage changes its shape and scope. It ebbs and flows, includes and excludes, goes extinct and re-emerges, changed — that is universal. Angélique Kidjo is, in every sense, a multi-linguist. She speaks four languages fluently, and sings in five. When, as a child in the West African nation of Benin, she couldn't understand the lyrics of the music she loved, she invented her own.
Originally published on Tue January 28, 2014 9:02 pm
Quilt is the perfect name for this band, whose every song seems to seamlessly knit together at least three distinct tunes. There's a sense of adventure, shifting perspectives and surprise in these pop treasures, each of which feels like a long jam distilled to its essence.
Originally published on Tue January 28, 2014 9:01 pm
On its self-titled debut, the charming Brooklyn pop-rock band Hospitality burst out of the gate like a batch of 4.0 GPA indie-rock students, not unlike their forerunning New York City bros in Vampire Weekend.
Originally published on Tue January 28, 2014 9:04 pm
"I'm under city lights, and it's all right," Laura Cantrell sings in one of the 12 deceptively lovely songs on No Way There From Here — her first album, besides a 2011 Kitty Wells tribute, in nine years. The line is about a love that thrives in spite of occasional separation; its story is typical of Cantrell's wry, wise viewpoint on feminine maturity. But it also says something about this Queens-based lover of vintage Nashville sounds.
Today, the voices of Roebuck "Pops" Staples and his four children — Cleotha, Mavis, Pervis and Yvonne — are woven into America's DNA. As the Staple Singers, the family created a sound that was part blues, part gospel and part folk, breaking down musical walls and inspiring civil rights leaders.
Guitarist and songwriter David Dondero is a transient. He's lived all over the country, from Alaska to Texas. When he's not touring, he finds work — most recently as a carpenter in California. But it never lasts. Music always finds its way back into his life.
The Portland, Ore., band Blitzen Trapper has spent seven albums refining its style, which mixes Americana, folk and rock with a wild-eyed psychedelic side. Its newest record is titled VII.
Singer-songwriter Eric Early wrote a piece for the New York Times Opinionator blog last year called "The Tale of The Seed and The Song," and we'll find out about some of the seeds of these new songs here.
Legendary composer and arranger Johnny Mandel started in the big bands of Joe Venuti, Buddy Rich and Jimmy Dorsey. Mandel's resume includes film and television classics such as "Suicide Is Painless" (the M*A*S*H theme) and "The Shadow of Your Smile" from The Sandpiper.
Donny Hathaway's repertoire occupies a peculiar space in jazz. Though not a jazz artist, he has influenced a variety of jazz musicians through his work as a singer, keyboardist and composer. Still, jazz musicians have only skimmed the surface of his small but remarkable catalog.
With this episode of Piano Jazz, weremember drummer Joe Morello in a special reunion session with the Hickory House Trio recorded in 1990. He died on March 12, 2011, but during the 1950s, Marian McPartland, Morello, and bassist Bill Crow performed together at the Hickory House, one of the last jazz clubs on 52nd Street in Manhattan. In this session, guest host Crow shares music and memories from his days playing bass in the trio.
About 10 years ago, a disgruntled pianist in Los Angeles named John Wood began a popular bumper sticker campaign with the slogan, "Drum Machines Have No Soul." Not everyone was convinced, including producer Eric Sadler.
"Drum machines don't run themselves," Sadler says. "It's the people who put into the drum machines that give the drum machines soul, to me. I've definitely given some drum machines some soul."
Every January, there's a one-night music festival in New York that showcases artists from around the world. It's called globalFEST, and it's been happening for more than a decade. Over the years, it's become a place for American tastemakers to find new talent from Europe, Africa, Asia and beyond.
The Los Angeles duo, Lucky Diaz and the Family Jazz Band, is a kids' music act with a prestigious reputation. They've won plenty of praise from the critics and they were the first Americans to win a Latin Grammy in the Children's Album category. Our kids' music reviewer Stefan Shepherd says their latest album comes in the form of a radio variety show.
The Scottish band Travis formed in Glasgow in 1990 and had major worldwide success with 1999's The Man Who. Its success helped lay the groundwork for other soaring and smooth pop-rock groups — including Coldplay and Keane, which achieved stardom shortly after Travis' breakthrough.