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The Musical Universe

 

No, Taylor Swift did not spend her quarantine nurturing her sourdough starter or tie-dying old sweaters. Nor did she use the period to re-record her catalog as promised last year after a label dispute.

The Newport Jazz Festival was just one year old when the Clifford Brown/Max Roach Quintet blazed onto its stage in 1955. By 1960, when pianists Dave Brubeck and Horace Silver each played a rollicking set, the event was an institution, known all over the world. And so it remains today — though there's something to be said about the fest in that formative era, when every step forward was historic.

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On Thursday, July 23, Bob Boilen was joined by Rita Houston, Program Director of NPR Member station WFUV in New York, for the penultimate episode of Tiny Desk Contest Top shelf.

Ten years ago today, July 23, One Direction created the universe. Read an excerpt from Maria Sherman's new book, Larger Than Life: A History of Boy Bands from NKOTB to BTS, about 1D's formation and meteoric rise.

Annie Ross, Mid-Century Jazz Icon, Dead At 89

Jul 22, 2020

Annie Ross, the veteran jazz singer, actress and founding member of the historic vocal trio Lambert, Hendricks & Ross, died on July 21, four days before her 90th birthday. According to her friend and former manager, Jim Coleman, Ross died in her sleep at her home in Manhattan. She had been suffering from emphysema and a heart condition.

The first time around was special, and everyone knew it. But ask any member of the former Joshua Redman Quartet — Redman on saxophones, Brad Mehldau on piano, Christian McBride on bass, Brian Blade on drums — and he'll confirm there was some magic in the air when they reconvened last fall at The Falcon in New York's Hudson Valley, breaking a 25-year hiatus.

The Tiny Desk is working from home for the foreseeable future. Introducing NPR Music's Tiny Desk (home) concerts, bringing you performances from across the country and the world. It's the same spirit — stripped-down sets, an intimate setting — just a different space.


After performing her opening song, "Heat Rises," Nilüfer Yanya pauses to say a few things about herself, something we've been asking artists to do for these Tiny Desk (home) concerts.

Copyright 2020 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

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Rapper and fashion designer Kanye West posted, then deleted, a series of tweets Monday night claiming that his wife Kim Kardashian was trying to get him hospitalized.

"Kim tried to bring a doctor to lock me up with a doctor," he tweeted.

This was among a stretch of wide-ranging tweets where he claimed that the movie Get Out was based on him, said that actor Shia LaBeouf was supposed to do a shoot for his Gap clothing line but never showed up, and asked his mother-in-law Kris Jenner to call him.

Packing into a small, dimly lit room while you and a few hundred strangers dance and listen to your favorite artists is one of the many small joys we've been missing for months. For many of those spaces and their fans, that experience could be gone forever if a new piece of legislation called the Restart Act doesn't pass Congress before it goes on recess in August.

Each year, the Tiny Desk Contest receives entries from all 50 states — and that's thanks in part to help from our friends at NPR Member stations. This year, the Contest introduced us to so many new artists and brought us new songs from previous entrants we love. Today, we're sharing some great entries chosen by Member stations across the country.

The Tiny Desk is working from home for the foreseeable future. Introducing NPR Music's Tiny Desk (home) concerts, bringing you performances from across the country and the world. It's the same spirit — stripped-down sets, an intimate setting — just a different space.

Rina Sawayama's self-titled debut album is a complex work of pop music, often calling to mind early 2000s R&B, nu-metal, and shuffling between genres in the same song. In the same way she flips through sounds, Sawayama also sings about a lot of complicated topics: her parents' messy divorce, her identity as Japanese British person and her burgeoning understanding of systemic racism, which she says she experienced while studying psychology, sociology and politics at Cambridge University.

The tombstone on Isaac Stern's grave reads simply "Isaac Stern, Fiddler," but the violinist was much more than that: He was an educator who mentored generations of musicians, including Yo-Yo Ma and Itzhak Perlman, and he was an activist who helped save Carnegie Hall from the wrecker's ball.

In the first frames of the documentary, We Are Freestyle Love Supreme, you glimpse a group of charming young men at a New York bus stop in 2005; they're beat-boxing and rapping to amuse a little girl. They shout across the street to a friend, Lin-Manuel Miranda. As he dodges cars to dash across the street, you realize: A key figure in show business history almost got run over.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

After years of open mic nights and posting music on myspace.com that anyone could hear, Ellie Goulding finally got her big break in the early 2010s with hit after hit, like this one.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LIGHTS")

In the inaugural season of Play It Forward, we've followed a musical chain of gratitude across genre, regions and time. First up was Dan Snaith, the Canadian indie-electronic auteur who records as Caribou.

The city of Oakland has settled a lawsuit with the victims of the 2016 "Ghost Ship" fire that killed 36 people. The total settlement is for $32.7 million — $23.5 million will go to families of people who died, and $9.2 million will go to Sam Maxwell, who survived the fire with lifelong injuries.

For Tiny Desk Playlists, we ask musicians, creators and folks we admire to choose the Tiny Desk concerts they've come to love. For this edition, the team of How I Built This join us. The first pick is from the show's creator and host, Guy Raz.

Pixies

The Chicks — formerly known as the Dixie Chicks — is back with a new record called Gaslighter after 14 years. Why the long time gone? Martie Maguire, Emily Strayer and Natalie Maines say they wanted a break to raise their kids, among other things, but after a 2016 reunion tour, they felt the hunger again. Their new album is rooted in failed relationships, some good ones, anger and a lotta humor. Maguire says life experience never hurts writing.

Australia's New South Wales state is implementing restrictions on "high-risk activities" such as singing in choirs and dancing at nightclubs and bars amid concern of a fresh outbreak of COVID-19 that has spilled over from a neighboring state.

Here's the thing about breakups: Sometimes you have to burn down the house you thought was home, but at night you still need to find a place to sleep. This is true for those who leave a long marriage, or a toxic family, or a community that proves oppressive. Artists can experience this painful unsettling too, especially ones nurtured within scenes that present themselves as loving unbroken circles, with all the promised comforts and invisible strictures that word entails. The freedom can be exhilarating, the severing of ties necessary, even life-saving.

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On Thursday, July 16, Bob Boilen was joined by Tiny Desk Contest judge and Tiny Desk alumna Gina Chavez for episode six of Tiny Desk Contest Top Shelf.

An international collective of electronic music DJs and composers is taking beats from the dance club to jungles and forests and back, all to help save nature's greatest singers. A Guide to the Birdsong of Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean is a new album that samples the sounds of endangered birds and whose proceeds go directly towards efforts to save them.

Popular rapper and singer Megan Thee Stallion said on Wednesday that she had been shot during an incident that took place in the Hollywood Hills early Sunday morning.

In an Instagram post, Megan wrote: "On Sunday morning, I suffered gunshot wounds, as a result of a crime that was committed against me and done with the intention to physically harm me."

The Thistle & Shamrock: New Summer Sounds

Jul 15, 2020

New music is always in season on Thistle. This week it's all about the albums that have been gathering in our North Carolina and Scottish mailboxes just waiting for an hour of your time. We'll hear new music from Maggie MacInnes, Joan Shelley and Caroline Keane.

Even if you're not familiar with Jonathan Wilson's music, you may have heard his work before.

During jazz's first half-century, there were several great musicians who were all-but criminally under-recorded, relative to their talent. They include the clarinetist Jimmy Noone, trumpeter Freddie Webster and, most famously, pianist Herbie Nichols. With recording facilities increasingly accessible after the end of World War II, there are fewer such lost masters today — but the recent death of Eddie Gale is a reminder that they are not extinct. Gale was a stellar trumpeter who played in several crucially important bands and on a handful of exceptional recordings.

Here's a seemingly simple question: Can musicians in quarantine play music together over an Internet connection? We've migrated birthday parties, happy hours and church services to video calls these days, so couldn't we do the same with band practice? Across ubiquitous video conferencing tools like Zoom, FaceTime and Skype, it takes time for audio data to travel from person to person.

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