In the 1920s, the sound of music in the black church underwent a revolution. Standing at 40th and State Street in Chicago, Roberts Temple Church of God in Christ was a witness to what occurred.
The high-energy gospel beat of the music that can still be heard in this Pentecostal church is the creation, music critics say, of Arizona Dranes, a blind piano player, a woman who introduced secular styles like barrelhouse and ragtime to the church's music.
Originally published on Sun August 19, 2012 4:19 pm
In the early 1970s, British musician Bill Fay recorded a couple of luscious folk albums — which didn't sell very well. Fay was dropped from label after label, and though he continued to write his storybook songs over the years, he eventually fell off the map.
Weekend Edition continues its series on the sounds of music al fresco with a musical act founded on a very inconvenient choice. You'd think a street musician would want to travel light when selecting an instrument — say, a ukulele, a violin, maybe a guitar. But a piano?
"It's about 300 pounds," says Kirby Lee Hammel. "Only one pulled muscle in the last year and a half, I think."
If you ever listened to jazz vocalists and wondered if you could ever in your life scat like them, there's someone who's willing to teach you. The vocalist Rhiannon has long held the importance of improvisation as a personal credo, and in her career has blended that art form with jazz, world music and storytelling.
Originally published on Tue August 28, 2012 5:15 pm
Based on their instruments, they seem like an old-time string band; based on their appearance, they seem like they might play punk music. The answer lies somewhere in between. Pete Bernhard (guitar) and Cooper McBean (banjo) grew up in New England to parents who liked ragtime and old blues. The two moved to Santa Cruz temporarily, where they met Lucia Turino (upright bass), and The Devil Makes Three was born. (For our session, Adam Chilenski fills in for Lucia, who had a broken arm.)
Kristian Matsson, the smallish Swede who performs under the moniker The Tallest Man on Earth, sings, plays guitar and occasionally takes a turn at the piano. That's all there is to his act: no backing band, no frills. Heck, he barely needs amplification, given the volume at which he performs. But that right there — the gigantic force of his delivery, the percussive hyper-dexterity of his playing — is part of what makes him so magnetic on stage. On paper, he's just another poet strumming a guitar.
Originally published on Mon August 20, 2012 10:37 am
Sporting big hair and an even bigger voice, Belgian soul singer Selah Sue has attracted significant attention on both sides of the Atlantic. Her 2011 debut album Selah Sue sold more than 400,000 copies in Europe and peaked high on many European charts. Selah Sue, whose real name is Sanne Putseys, taught herself acoustic guitar at age 15 in her hometown, Leefdall. She was offered a record deal at age 17 by Universal but declined, preferring to write her songs on her own terms.
Originally published on Mon August 20, 2012 12:12 pm
Hank Williams was a great singer-songwriter who forged his own brand of honky-tonk music from a variety of influences: country, folk, blues, gospel and jazz. Yes, jazz.
If you haven't listened to his music in a while you might not recall — Williams had swing. And even if some jazz listeners have forgotten that fact, many jazz players haven't. Here then are five jazz artists out of many who have taken Williams' music and put their own spins on it.
Marian McPartland recalls meeting singer Melissa Walker for the first time in the "powder room" at Birdland. McPartland was immediately taken with the young singer's glowing personality — and she probably heard hints of Walker's warm and rich vocals in the few words they exchanged that night.
"She's got such a wonderful voice," recalls McPartland. "The tunes she did aren't heard too often, they were very well done though. I enjoyed that session."