Holiday Songs With Rory Partin

Posted December 24th, 2013 at 7:58 pm (UTC+0)
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Washington, DC – Singer Rory Partin is putting together a new album for release next year,  a blend of big band jazz standards infused with soul. But in the meantime  he’s here with a few holiday favorites, such as “Baby It’s Cold Outside.”

Rory paid his way through college by playing trumpet though he was a vocal major. He recorded his first big band album The Very Thought of You in 2006.

Listen to more music and interviews here on Jazz Beat

Diaa Bekheet
Diaa Bekheet has worked for a host of media outlets, including Radio Cairo in English, ETV News, Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa) and the Associated Press. He joined VOA in Feb. 1989 as an International Broadcaster, hosting a variety of popular news and entertainment shows such as Newshour, Radio Ride Across America, Business Week, and Jazz Club USA. He has interviewed a number of Jazz celebrities, including the legendary Dizzy Gillespie, Ramsey Lewis, Wayne Shorter, and George Benson. Diaa is currently an editor for our main English site, VOAnews.com.

Holiday favorites for 2013

Posted December 24th, 2013 at 7:10 pm (UTC+0)
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OK, it’s down to the wire—NORAD is already tracking Santa Claus and his sleigh on his journey around the world, so we’ve just a few more precious hours to enjoy Christmas music until it’s all packed away for another year. I have a couple of new favorites to share with you this year. (If you’re looking for my 2012 out-of-the-mainstream shares, click here.)

British troubadour Nick Lowe says he wasn’t exactly filled with the holiday spirit when his label first approached him with the idea of recording a holiday record—but he gave it a second thought and the result is the utterly charming Quality Street–12 tracks that mix seasonal standards (each arranged with some kind of new twist) with clever originals like “Christmas At The Airport.” Any of us who’ve been thwarted by “Mother Nature” can empathize with this stranded traveler–though I don’t subscribe to his “don’t save me any turkey, I found a burger in a bin” school of staving off hunger.

Dr. Dog gave fans a nice gift this year–a four-song Christmas EP called “Oh My Christmas Tree.” Lead singer Scott McMicken says he wrote the songs last year and recorded them to give as gifts to family and friends. But the project turned out so well that he decided to share it with the world.

Eleven years after it first came out, Conor Oberst has re-issued the Bright Eyes
“A Christmas Album”–and there’s even a vinyl version pressed on 180gram white vinyl! In case you missed it the first time around, this is a collection of 11 seasonal standards, including “Silver Bells,” “Little Drummer Boy” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”

If you’re in the mood for more holiday tunes, I’ve got an hour of them on the 12/23 edition of  Roots and Branches–you can find it here.

Host of VOA's Roots and Branches, and world traveler extraordinaire! When I'm not listening to music, I'm probably talking about it or thinking about the next band I'm going to see. Or my next interview! Join me every week for the best in folk, bluegrass and all other forms of American roots music!

Wayne Shorter, a Living Sax Icon

Posted December 9th, 2013 at 3:32 pm (UTC+0)
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Wayne Shorter's latest album: Without A Net

Wayne Shorter’s latest album: Without A Net

Washington, DC – American saxophone legend Wayne Shorter is touring Europe to promote his new album, Without A Net. While in Europe, the multi-Grammy winner performed for a few days ago at the EFG London jazz festival. His European tour included performances with the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra and the London Orchestra for his upcoming new album next year.

in November, Shorter and his quartet toured the United States and performed with several orchestras, including the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra and the Washington Symphony Orchestra.

“We are going to do more with Chamber orchestras,” Shorter tells VOA’s Jazz Beat. Those “different compositions” will come out on another album as soon as they finish mixing it. “We already recorded a chamber orchestral stuff that I wrote with the Orpheus Chamber orchestra in New York City. That album is coming out with a science fiction graphic-novel.”

I talked with Shorter about his new album. The release coincided this October with a gala at the Kennedy Center celebrating his 80th birthday.


For more than 65 years, the iconic saxophonist has been on what he describes as “a kind of fantasy journey in the music.” Shorter was part of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers in the early 1960s. He came to fame playing with Miles Davis, and later co-founded the band Weather Report with pianist Joe Zawinul.

From left, Wayne Shorter, Joni Mitchell and Sting listen to a program on stage during an all-star tribute concert for Herbie Hancock, Sunday, Oct. 28, 2007, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo)

From left, Wayne Shorter, Joni Mitchell and Sting listen to a program on stage during an all-star tribute concert for Herbie Hancock, Sunday, Oct. 28, 2007, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo)

“In the early 70s, I had left Miles Davis and Joe Zawinul left the Cannonball Adderley group. We were on the telephone talking to each other about getting our own band,”  Shorter said. “Why don’t we get a band together? So that’s what we did. And that’s how we started Weather Report.”

Earlier this year, Shorter received the UNESCO Medal of the Five Continents award for his lifetime contribution to jazz.

Listen to more music and interviews here on Jazz Beat

Diaa Bekheet
Diaa Bekheet has worked for a host of media outlets, including Radio Cairo in English, ETV News, Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa) and the Associated Press. He joined VOA in Feb. 1989 as an International Broadcaster, hosting a variety of popular news and entertainment shows such as Newshour, Radio Ride Across America, Business Week, and Jazz Club USA. He has interviewed a number of Jazz celebrities, including the legendary Dizzy Gillespie, Ramsey Lewis, Wayne Shorter, and George Benson. Diaa is currently an editor for our main English site, VOAnews.com.

Black Friday, Record-Store-Day Style

Posted November 25th, 2013 at 6:09 pm (UTC+0)
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Black Friday is the name that has been assigned to the day after the American Thanksgiving holiday—it’s traditionally the biggest shopping day in the US, the start to the big holiday shopping season.  Over the years, large retailers turned Black Friday into a circus of sorts, opening their stars earlier and earlier (somes even at 2 and 3 in the morning), offering food and hot drinks to eager shoppers who camp out in front of the stores all night, in hopes of snagging big bargains.

Now, the folks who organize Record Store Day are getting in on the action, but they’re celebrating in a more low key way. Independently owned record stores in the US and Canada record stores (no large retail chains are allowed to participate) will be selling some special items in very limited quantities. Unlike Record Store Day (the third Saturday of April), this is an “extended play” holiday—items will be launched on Friday, November 29th, but stores can carry them for sale as long as supplies last.  And, they’ll be made available online—so you can get in on the action, no matter where you live.

What’s available?

Rush has a picture disc available for the Black Friday Record Store Day November 29th.

Rush has a picture disc available for the Black Friday Record Store Day November 29th.

Rush has a limited-edition 10-inch picture disc for “The Garden,”which contains  both the studio version of the song from the  Clockwork Angels album, as well as a recording from the just released live set recorded on the last tour (CD, DVD and Blu-ray). The live version features the band performing with the Clockwork Angels String Ensemble. This video looks amazing and makes me sorry I didn’t catch Rush this time around!

The Dave Matthews Band has 2 special sets on offer November 29th.

The Dave Matthews Band has 2 special sets on offer November 29th.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Dave Matthews Band has two special releases on offer–Live Trax Vol 2: 9-12-04 Golden Gate Park, San Francisco CA and Live Trax Vol 3: 8-27-00 Meadows Music Theater, Hartford CT.  Both are multi-LP colored vinyl boxed sets, numbered and exclusive to this November Record Store Day special event.

Other artists participating include Elvis Costello and The Roots (a CD of remixes), Dawes (live LP) and Lady Gaga (picture disc, with remixes).  Even U2 is getting in on the action, putting out a special edition 10″ vinyl with 2 brand new tracks. Side A is the song “Ordinary Love,” written for the soundtrack to the upcoming film Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom. The B side is a new recording of “Breathe.”

A complete list of all the Black Friday rarities  is available here, along with a list of participating online merchants. Let me know if you pick up any cool stuff!

Host of VOA's Roots and Branches, and world traveler extraordinaire! When I'm not listening to music, I'm probably talking about it or thinking about the next band I'm going to see. Or my next interview! Join me every week for the best in folk, bluegrass and all other forms of American roots music!

Jeff Lorber’s Hacienda

Posted November 20th, 2013 at 4:33 pm (UTC+0)
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By Diaa Bekheet | Washington, DC

Jeff Lorber new album

American keyboardist and composer Jeff Lorber has released a new album. Hacienda is another fusion gem by one of the founding fathers of jazz fusion. It showcases eleven tracks, building on a huge success of Lober’s 2011-2012 European tour that produced his earlier album Galaxy.

“The last record [Galaxy] had a song called ‘Live Wire‘ [a seven-minute opener] that had a sort of a European house beat,” said Lorber who has 25 albums under his belt. “And that was very successful for us, and we kind of continue that on this record with the song Hacienda kind of has that.”

The song title is named after a nightclub in Manchester, England in the 1980s. The Hacienda was the Rock & Roll hub for groups like New Order.

Hacienda  also includes a rendition of Frank Zappa’s “King Kong,” with French jazz fusion co-founder Jean-Luc Ponty on violin.

Hacienda features a powerful comeback of Lorber’s formidable Grammy-nominated  trio the Jeff Lorber Fusion, featuring bassist and co-producer Jimmy Haslip, and saxophonist Eric Marienthal.

Lorber’s last album, Galaxy, was a great success, not only in the United States, but also in Europe where he toured in 2011. At that time, I talked with him about his career and music. Here’s a short version of the interview with two songs from Galaxy: “Live Wire” and “Horace.”

Listen to more music and interviews here on Jazz Beat

Diaa Bekheet
Diaa Bekheet has worked for a host of media outlets, including Radio Cairo in English, ETV News, Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa) and the Associated Press. He joined VOA in Feb. 1989 as an International Broadcaster, hosting a variety of popular news and entertainment shows such as Newshour, Radio Ride Across America, Business Week, and Jazz Club USA. He has interviewed a number of Jazz celebrities, including the legendary Dizzy Gillespie, Ramsey Lewis, Wayne Shorter, and George Benson. Diaa is currently an editor for our main English site, VOAnews.com.

Bob Dylan Receives French Honor

Posted November 15th, 2013 at 8:33 pm (UTC+0)
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Bob Dylan & his acoustic guitar--date unknown. The 72-year old was awarded France's highest cultural honor November 13th in Paris. (AP Photo)

Bob Dylan & his acoustic guitar–date unknown. The 72-year old was awarded France’s highest cultural honor November 13th in Paris. (AP Photo)

Bob Dylan was presented with the Legion of Honor Wednesday in Paris. No cameras were allowed into the ceremony, so there’s no video to share, but it’s been reported that Aurelie Filippetti, France’s Culture Minister presented the award to the 72-year-old singer-songwriter. In her speech, the Minister talked about Dylan being an inspiration to the youth of France and also a role model to everyone fighting for justice and independence. “More than anyone, in the eyes of France, you demonstrate the subversive power of culture that can change people and the world,” she said.  She also name checked many of his albums and songs from the 1960′s through today, tying them to causes like the United States civil rights movement.

After the speech, Bob Dylan said simply that he was “proud and grateful” to receive the award.  The Legion of Honor was created by Napoleon in 1802 –it’s given to people who’ve served France in various ways or achievements that uphold the ideals of the country. It’s usually awarded to military or civil servants,  but other international artists have been honored, including  Liza Minelli, Miles Davis and Paul McCartney.    Dylan’s award had been temporarily blocked earlier this year with the committee in charge reportedly voicing reservations over his anti-war stance and use of marijuana. But they reconsidered, with the committee leader going on record as calling the singer “a tremendous singer and great poet” in a letter to Le Monde.”

Last year, Bob Dylan received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the top civilian honor awarded in the United States.  His never ending tour rolls on—-the day after receiving his French honor, Dylan performed in Paris  and he’s got ten dates left  in the U.K. before wrapping things up for the year.

Host of VOA's Roots and Branches, and world traveler extraordinaire! When I'm not listening to music, I'm probably talking about it or thinking about the next band I'm going to see. Or my next interview! Join me every week for the best in folk, bluegrass and all other forms of American roots music!

Unlocking The Truth….

Posted November 1st, 2013 at 10:50 pm (UTC+0)
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“Just be yourself and do what you do best.”
That’s the message  Malcolm Brickhouse,  Jarad Dawkins and Alec Atkins hope you take away after listening to their band, Unlocking the Truth. The three  African-American tweens (Alec and Malcom are 12, Jarad is 11 and all are in grade 7)  from Brooklyn, NY aren’t rap fans—they love heavy metal music.  And they don’t care that it isn’t the music of choice among their friends–the guys have loved metal ever since first hearing it back when they were little kids.  By the time the boys were six, they’d formed their first group.  It wasn’t long lived, but lasted long enough for the trio to realize they wanted to form their own group and get more serious about writing songs and performing.

unlocking

 

 

 

Soon they were playing in parks and and on the streets around their hometown—and people started taking notice.  I mean, it’s always hard to walk by a cute kid band playing outside the subway, but when they’re playing something unexpected, you’re more likely to stop and take a listen. At least I am.  Soon people started posting Unlocking The Truth videos to YouTube—and the views went up and up and up. A one minute clip of the band performing part of the Star Spangled Banner quickly racked up more than a million views.  And this original song, “Monster,” is closing in on 200-thousand clicks.

Last summer,  Unlocking The Truth hit another milestone when they played the Afropunk fest in Brooklyn, sharing the bill with Jada Pinkett Smith‘s band Wicked Wisdom,  ?uestlove, and Chuck D & DJ Lord, among others.  Add all their ages together and they still are younger than most of the weekend’s other headline acts!

According to their website, Unlocking The Truth is back in the studio, working on albums number 3 and 4 (!) of original material. Their dream for the future? To become one of the world’s best heavy metal bands.

Unlocking The Truth – Malcolm Brickhouse & Jarad Dawkins from The Avant/Garde Diaries on Vimeo.

Host of VOA's Roots and Branches, and world traveler extraordinaire! When I'm not listening to music, I'm probably talking about it or thinking about the next band I'm going to see. Or my next interview! Join me every week for the best in folk, bluegrass and all other forms of American roots music!

The Piano Guys Scale the Great Wall of China…

Posted October 16th, 2013 at 9:20 pm (UTC+0)
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Do you know about The Piano Guys?

The Piano Guys new video was filmed on the Great Wall of China. (from L: Paul Anderson, Steven Sharp Nelson, John Schmidt, Al Van der Beek)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Piano Guys are four music loving dads from Utah who got together and started making videos just for fun. They wound up posting them on YouTube and soon the hits started coming—millions and millions of them to be exact.  And once I sat down and saw one, I understood why.  Check out their  10-hand version of One Direction’s “What Makes You Beautiful.”   Even if you go in thinking this doesn’t look like something you’d like, their videos are so original and fun that it’s impossible to watch just one.
Go ahead, I dare you.

Who are these guys? Despite the name, there’s only one  piano player, Jon Schmidt, and one other instrumentalist in the group — cellist  Steven Sharp Nelson.    The  two other Piano Guys are videographer Paul Anderson and music producer Al Van der Beek. Together, they write original songs  and produce mash-ups like this Taylor Swift/Bach mix. Sounds crazy, but it works!

So, where does  the Great Wall of China fit in all of this?
Turns out  The Piano Guys had long dreamed of putting a grand piano up on the Great Wall and after much hard work, it happened. The Piano Guys were given permission by the Chinese government to film a video on the portion of the  Great Wall  called Huangyaguan.

And that’s when the really hard work began. I’m not talking about all the energy spent deciding what to play (a mash-up of Oogway Ascends” from the Kung Fu Panda soundtrack & Chopin’s Prelude Op. 28 No. 20 in C minor) or the time spent arranging the very special tune. Do you know what it takes to put a piano on one of the seven wonders of the world? Some 60 people raising it up.

The Piano Guys were given only 12 hours to film their video. Weather was a worry, but their biggest obstacle was the fact that the Great Wall is one of the major tourist attractions in China! They couldn’t just shut down an area to get the perfect shot, they had to work around curious sightseers.
Did it all work out? Judge for yourself.

Host of VOA's Roots and Branches, and world traveler extraordinaire! When I'm not listening to music, I'm probably talking about it or thinking about the next band I'm going to see. Or my next interview! Join me every week for the best in folk, bluegrass and all other forms of American roots music!

Mary Alouette’s hot jazz electronica

Posted September 19th, 2013 at 8:54 pm (UTC+0)
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By Diaa Bekheet | Washington, DC

Jazz singer and guitarist Mary Alouette (courtesy photo)

Mary Alouette is a jazz singer and guitarist from Brooklyn, New York.

Her music starts with “hot jazz, which is of  Django Reinhardt and Stéphane Grappelli from the 1930s and 40s,” said Alouette in an interview with VOA’s Jazz Beat. Singing in both French and English, she combines that nostalgic style with “modern instrumentation and electronics to bring a current edge to the music.”

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Alouette has just released her third album, The Lark which showcases songs such as “Just You,” an intimate song about lost love.

On an earlier disc, Fête de la Musique, she showcased French chansons, such as “Ménilmontant” by Charles Trenet, and the Django classic, “Nuages.” “They have a great international appeal,” she said.

She talks about herself and her music in this interview with VOA’s Jazz Beat:

 

Listen to more music and interviews here on Jazz Beat

Diaa Bekheet
Diaa Bekheet has worked for a host of media outlets, including Radio Cairo in English, ETV News, Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa) and the Associated Press. He joined VOA in Feb. 1989 as an International Broadcaster, hosting a variety of popular news and entertainment shows such as Newshour, Radio Ride Across America, Business Week, and Jazz Club USA. He has interviewed a number of Jazz celebrities, including the legendary Dizzy Gillespie, Ramsey Lewis, Wayne Shorter, and George Benson. Diaa is currently an editor for our main English site, VOAnews.com.

Remembering Hank Williams On His 90th Birthday

Posted September 17th, 2013 at 8:35 pm (UTC+0)
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By Katherine Cole

I always think Hank Williams appears so frail in comparison to the robust, chiseled country stars of today, but don’t let those looks fool you. Despite battles with illness and drug and alcohol addiction that lead to a career cut short by his death at 29,  Hank had a career that today’s stars can only dream of. In six short years, Hank Williams wrote and recorded only 66 songs under his own name (he also recorded as “Luke the Drifter”, but that’s for another day)–but of those, an incredible 36 were Top Ten hits and 11 went all the way to Number One on the equivalent of today’s Billboard Country Chart.

Let that sink in for a minute. 6 years, 66 six songs, 36 top ten hits. 11 number ones. So, you could break that down to an album a year for six years. 6 top ten hits each year, and two of those going to number one. And he wrote all but one.  Oh, and all those number-one songs are considered standards today. How many of hit makers today (in any genre) can claim that?

Born in Mount Olive, Alabama on September, 17, 1923, Hiram “Hank” Williams was a shy and sickly child. He was born with a spinal condition (believed to be spina bifida, but never diagnosed)  which meant he’d never be able to work a farming or factory job or do any kind of manual labor. Good thing his musical talent showed itself early, with Hank learning gospel songs in church, traditional folk and country  songs from his neighbors. He also learned the blues from a local African-American street musician, who also taught him the basics of playing the guitar.

He must have been a quick study, because young Hank Williams was entering local talent contests soon after he moved to Montgomery, Alabama (the big city!) with his mother in 1937. Ten years later, when he was only 23, Hank had his first hit, “Move It On Over.” Two years later, at 25, Hank hit it big with “Lovesick Blues” (which he didn’t write) and was honored with an invitation to join the Grand Ol’ Opry—an even bigger deal in 1949, than it is today. For the next few years, Hank was THE MAN–releasing a string of hits that included the now classic songs “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry,” “Honky Tonkin’,” “Your Cheatin’ Heart” and “Jambalaya” and “I Can’t Help It (If I’m Still In Love With You).”

And while Hank Williams couldn’t be more country, his songs can’t be stuck in a box and labeled one style or another. They’ve been hits when pop, gospel or blues singers. One of Tony Bennett’s biggest hits was his cover of “Cold Cold Heart,” but as he explained in this video, it almost didn’t happen!

Even with all his success, Hank Williams wasn’t happy. The constant traveling was difficult on his back and kept him in pain.  He hoped that spinal surgery would help, but it only made things worse. Hank turned to drugs and alcohol to ease the pain and that’s never the answer. He began missing shows. Soon he lost his wife (mother to son Hank Williams, Jr.) and was kicked off the Grand Ol’ Opry. And while he was still writing and releasing hit records, Hank Williams  was proving to be an unreliable performer—showing up late for gigs or not at all. Soon, his bookings started dropping off and instead of playing the big joints, it was back to the beer gardens and dance halls.

At the end of 1952, things might have been looking up. “Jambalya” was one of the biggest hits of the year. Hank decided to go home to Montgomery and recuperate. But he also decided to keep two dates that were on his schedule—New Year’s Eve in Charleston, West Virginia and New Year’s Day in Canton, Ohio. It makes sense that he’d want to play those, they’d be well-paying gigs. But, in an ending befitting a character in one of his songs,  Hank Williams died alone, in the back of a Cadillac en route to his Charleston shows, surrounded by sheet music, beer cans and whiskey bottles. He was only 29.

Sixty years after his death and on what would have been his 90th birthday, Hank Williams has not been forgotten. He is still an icon in American music, his songs rediscovered by every generation.  They pop up in movie soundtracks like Forrest Gump and Steel Magnolias and have been licensed to television programs in almost every country around the world.

There are countless hits collections and boxed sets out there–ranging from simple ones that include only the Number One hits to treasure troves with live radio broadcasts and concerts. And “The Lost Notebooks of Hank Williams” features lyrics Hank left behind turned into finished songs by artists including Norah Jones, Bob Dylan  and Jack White.

And if you’d like to retrace Hank Williams’ last ride, hop in and ride along with singer-songwriter and journalist Peter Cooper. He did just that in this haunting story from a few years ago.  You can follow that up with a scrubbed up and fictionalized film version of the story–it’s called “The Last Ride.”

By the way, I have an every changing list of my top five Hank Williams songs. Today, “Your Cheatin’ Heart” is atop the list (I have no idea where it will be tomorrow). You?

Host of VOA's Roots and Branches, and world traveler extraordinaire! When I'm not listening to music, I'm probably talking about it or thinking about the next band I'm going to see. Or my next interview! Join me every week for the best in folk, bluegrass and all other forms of American roots music!

About

About

VOA’s music bloggers bring you info about all kinds of music. Katherine Cole will keep you up-to-date on the world of Bluegrass and Americana music while Ray McDonald rocks the Pop charts and artists. Diaa Bekheet  jams with you on Jazz.  Visit us often. Your comments are welcome.

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