Originally published on Sun January 12, 2014 10:27 pm
These days, album-length covers collections tend to be minor footnotes in a musician's catalog, ranked somewhere just above live albums, holiday recordings and those greatest-hits packages that tack on one or two new songs. After all, covers albums at least seem as if they should be easy to assemble, in large part because they remove the artistic and logistical hurdle of writing songs. And, for their part, listeners tend to process them by way of comparison rather than raw appreciation.
Ryan Bingham pulls out a rope, lights up a cigarette and lassos a metal bull in his backyard. His house is nestled in a canyon that overlooks the Santa Monica Mountain Range. Out here you'd never know you were just up the road from Los Angeles. Bingham says he feels right at home.
"Takes you back to the source of it every now and then," he says.
2013 has ended on a decidedly happy note for one homeless man in Oakland, California. Marcus Malone was a conga player for Carlos Santana in the late '60s. He landed in legal trouble and disappeared from the music scene. Then a TV reporter doing a story on illegal dumping met Malone rummaging through trash. Santana saw the report and earlier this month, the two former band mates were reunited.
Marcus Roberts was a very young, very gifted pianist back in 1985, when Wynton Marsalis tapped him to join his band.
Six years later, Roberts went off to lead his own combo — and to write both jazz and classical music. And he taught. And he toured. And he recorded.
In fact, Marcus Roberts just released three new albums. One of them is a 12-part jazz suite. The other two take him back to the beginning: They're his first collaborations with Wynton Marsalis in 20 years.
Three hundred sixty-five. That's the number of days the Minnesota Orchestra will have gone without playing in its concert hall in 2013. The orchestra became the unwitting poster child for labor strife in the classical music world — and, to some extent, an emblem of the problems facing non-profit arts institutions across the country.
Writer and critic Stephen Holden has covered everything from film to cabaret for The New York Times, as well as for TV programs such as 60 Minutes and 20/20. While he'd hoped to become a pop singer in his adolescence, Holden later embraced poetry and was published in The New Yorker.
Music remained a passion for Holden and became a key subject of his writing. He covered the singer-songwriter explosion of the 1970s, and his 1980 satirical novel Triple Platinum was based on his experiences as a journalist and executive with RCA.
This edition of JazzSet features a double helping of Wynton Marsalis celebrating New Year's Eve.
First, the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra musicians play King Oliver and Jelly Roll Morton, merging "Dippermouth Blues" and "New Orleans Bump." Then, Marsalis invites Vince Giordano and members of his band, The Nighthawks, to play tunes made famous by Louis Armstrong in the Hot Fives and Sevens recordings.
Malaysian singer-songwriter Yuna first caught our attention a few years ago with her rich, textured voice. Since then, she's grown as an artist in many ways, from collaborating with huge talents like Pharrell to starting her own fashion line.
There's an inside joke among some who sneer at contemporary Christian music: "Jesus Per Minute." How often does the artist say Jesus' name?
Last year, Christianity Today magazine named Josh Garrels' Love & War & The Sea in Between its album of the year. In 66 minutes, Garrels mentions Jesus exactly once. The album is a lyrical, haunting exploration of what it means to be a Christian.
Musician, record producer and writer Rachel Faro visits World Cafe for part two of this week's special holiday edition of Latin Roots. During Wednesday's episode, Faro discusses Christmas celebrations in Puerto Rico and how they differ from the holiday traditions in the Puerto Rican communities of New York. One of the songs she plays, by Willie Colon, is a classic that brings traditional music from the island to the big city.
World Cafe's special Christmas Day episode continues with The Fab Four, a California-based band of dedicated Beatles impersonators. The group takes on many elements of the influential English band, from sporting mop-tops to covering Sgt. Pepper and beyond.
This year, The Fab Four released Hark!, which features mash-ups of Christmas classics and Beatles favorites. The band members join host David Dye in the WXPN studios to talk about the record.
Our guest for a special Christmas Day episode of World Cafe, Nick Lowe, has been making records since the 1970s. With beginnings as a rocker, Lowe has since developed a new following for his sly, country-tinged records. His new Christmas album, Quality Street: A Seasonal Selection for All the Family, fits squarely into that category. In addition to performing a live set, the English musician discusses how he gets into the Christmas spirit.
OK. Time to hear from our film critic, the Kenneth Turan. He says the works of Charles Dickens have been made into literally hundreds of films and TV episodes, but almost nothing has been done with the great author's life. Until now and the film "The Invisible Woman."
The first of a two-part Latin Roots Christmas series begins Tuesday with Judy Cantor-Navas of Billboard magazine. In conversation with host David Dye, the Latin-music expert discusses the distinction between Cuban Christmas music made before and after the Revolution.
Latin Roots on World Cafe is made possible by a grant from The Wyncote Foundation.