Podcast

Soundcheck

Live performances and conversations in which artists talk about their work, their process, and themselves. Genre-blind but open-eared. Hosted by John Schaefer.

Episodes

  • Pop and Protest Music by Puerto Rican singer-songwriter iLe

    Feb 24 2020

    Grammy-winning singer and songwriter Ileana Mercedes Cabra Joglar – is better known as iLe - but for a long time she was known as PG-13, in the Puerto Rican hip-hop group Calle 13. Her 2016 solo debut, iLevitable, was a masterful survey of traditional Latin forms - boleros, ballads, boogaloo, and mambo. Now, with her latest, Almadura (the title means “strong soul” and is a play on words of the Spanish word for "armor" ("armadura") - thanks, Wikipedia) she draws from traditional musical genres li...more

  • Omar Sosa and Yilian Cañizares Reinterpret Cuban Roots, In-Studio

    Feb 20 2020

    Pianist Omar Sosa grew up in the Afro-Cuban tradition, studied jazz in America, and now lives in Barcelona. Yilian loves to go back to her Cuban roots but refuses to be locked into stereotypes. Together, these two Cuban artists living outside their homeland blend Afro-Cuban roots, jazz, and Western Classical music in work inspired by the important influences of water – and called AGUAS Trio. Omar Sosa and Yilian Cañizares (Venezuelan percussionist Gustavo Ovalles) play live in our studio. Watch ...more

  • Bonny Light Horseman Takes New Look at Old Folk Songs

    Feb 17 2020

    Bonny Light Horseman is a new trio consisting of Anais Mitchell, the songwriter behind the all-conquering Broadway musical Hadestown; Eric D Johnson, who leads the band Fruit Bats; and Josh Kaufman, who’s played with The National, Craig Finn, and many others. Together they are taking a new look at old folk songs from both sides of the Atlantic. The band name is actually from an old Napoleonic folk song about a handsome soldier who may or may not ever come home (here's their version.) With intima...more

  • The Mighty and Relentless Groove of the Funky, Afrobeat Band Antibalas

    Feb 14 2020

    The 12-piece plus Afrobeat orchestra known as Antibalas (Spanish for "bulletproof") first made its reputation with hard-hitting, politically charged music in the style of the Nigerian bandleader Fela Kuti. In the more than 20 years that they've been playing together, the Brooklyn collective served as the house band and musical directors for the Broadway show Fela!, in addition to being the house band at Carnegie Hall at tribute shows performing the music of Paul Simon (2014), David Byrne and Tal...more

  • Acoustic Storytelling From The Lone Bellow

    Feb 09 2020

    Brooklyn-born folk-rock outfit The Lone Bellow blends passionate, acoustic-based blues, country, and roots music into acoustic Americana with three-part vocal harmonies. That sound can be a very comforting one, but the trio has responded to our turbulent times with their most expansive album yet. With a big sonic palette that acknowledges the darkness but also offers reassurance and togetherness, their brand new album called Half Moon Light might be just what we need right now. The Lone Bellow j...more

  • The Wild Ride of Nashville-Based Indie-Rockers The Grahams

    Feb 05 2020

    New York grown, Nashville-based couple Alyssa and Doug Graham lead the roots-rock band The Grahams. With their 2013 debut record, they hit the Americana scene, continuing with their 2015  followup, influenced by the couple’s train adventure all over America. And now comes Kids Like Us, written during a wild motorcycle ride along Route 66, at the height of the 2016 election season. The Grahams and their band play guitar-led songs about the desert, heartbreak, rust, and nostalgia, from Kids Like U...more

  • Norwegian Bass Player Sigurd Hole Explores Light and Dark

    Feb 02 2020

    The Norwegian bass player Sigurd Hole is generally thought of as a jazz musician, and for good reason – he’s played with many of the top players like Tord Gustavsen trio/quartet, Karl Seglem, and Helge Lien on Norway’s thriving jazz scene. But he’s also a composer, and his most recent project is at once both intimate and ambitious. It’s a double LP set called Lys/Mørke, which means Light/Darkness, and it’s essentially a solo bass album. But it was recorded on an Arctic island and those sounds ar...more

  • 'Gregorian Country Music' By Guitarist-Songwriter Torres

    Jan 29 2020

    Mackenzie Scott has made ever-evolving pop throughout the 2010’s as TORRES. Raised in Bible-belt Georgia, she learned to sing and play the guitar in front of the residents of a senior citizens center. Building on her 2015 self-described “space cowboy record,” her latest, Silver Tongue, is an album about being in love, and one where she embraces both her love of Gregorian chant and country music (and her inner "redneck alien" - Vinyl Me Please.) The silver-tongued guitarist, songwriter and produc...more

  • Survival Music by Post-Punk Power Quartet Algiers

    Jan 27 2020

    The London/Atlanta band called Algiers makes “churning, electrifying gospel-inflected rock, with singer Franklin James Fisher leading his congregation in songs that take on social injustice, racism, and government corruption” (Schaefer.) Fisher’s ferocious crooning over a whip-tight rhythm section of Ryan Mahan (bass, beat programming and synth constructions) and drummer Matt Tong (ex-Bloc Party), together with guitarist/saxophone player Lee Tesche’s sound-sleeves always leaves more to discover ...more

  • The Eloquent Musical Interplay of the Anat Cohen Tentet

    Jan 23 2020

    Tel Aviv-born, New York-based Anat Cohen is a multiple Grammy-nominated clarinetist, composer, and bandleader whose Anat Cohen Tentet ranges from chamber-funk to large and sensuous orchestral jazz, from Brazilian music to African grooves, vintage swing to tango, boogaloo to ballads. Their latest album, Triple Helix, has been nominated for a Grammy and is built around a three part clarinet concerto, co-commissioned by Carnegie Hall and Chicago’s Symphony Center,and written by Anat’s longtime musi...more

  • Agnes Obel Delights in the Quiet Recesses of the Inner Mind

    Jan 20 2020

    Berlin-based Danish singer, pianist, and composer Agnes Obel presents her ghostly, beautiful, classical chamber music-informed self-produced art-pop. Listen for luthéal (a kind of mechanism that can make a piano sound like a harp or cimbalom), piano, viola, cello, percussion, and lots of dreamy, ethereal vocals, asking questions about trust and doubt. For the latest record, Myopia, Obel experimented with recording processing, warping and pitching down vocals, melting and twisting the chamber mus...more

  • Ethio-Jazzer Meklit Invites Us Into Joy

    Jan 16 2020

    San Francisco-based Ethio-American singer, composer, songwriter and bandleader Meklit Hadero, is a TED Senior Fellow, National Geographic Explorer, and co-founder of the visionary pan-African Nile Project ensemble. With a sound that merges Addis Ababa, Los Angeles, New Orleans and San Francisco, Meklit’s approach as bandleader sees two percussionists, groovy sax and bass. Singing in both English and Amharic, she delivers Ethio-roots-jazz with a heavy dose of pop and soul that makes bodies move. ...more

  • Les Amazones d’Afrique Team Up in Music and Power

    Jan 12 2020

    Les Amazones d’Afrique is a creative collective of women from West and Central Africa, formed in Mali in 2014. At their strongest, they are 16 multi-generational vocalists spanning Africa, Europe and Latin America. The music blends electronic sounds, African traditional sounds, reggae and hip-hop elements together with cool harmonies and grooves, and the Congotronix-style production of legendary producer Doctor L (aka Liam Farrell.) Members of Les Amazones d’Afrique may come from many different ...more

  • Gypsy Jazz Guitarist Stephane Wrembel's Hot Django-Inspired String-Swing

    Jan 09 2020

    French-born, NYC-based jazz guitarist Stephane Wrembel, a leading player and improviser in "gypsy jazz," has recorded with mandolin legend David Grisman, toured with master violinist Mark O’Connor, and famously wrote a theme song for a Woody Allen film, Midnight In Paris. The Gitane guitar company has even named a model after him.  Wrembel honed his "gypsy jazz" skills in Roma campsites in the French countryside and has championed music of the brilliant Belgian-born Romani-French guitarist Djang...more

  • Attacca Quartet Plays Caroline Shaw in the Greene Space

    Jan 06 2020

    The Attacca Quartet performs music by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Caroline Shaw and chats about collaborating with a living composer, gardens, and Star Wars. The music and interview were recorded live in the Greene Space for the 10th anniversary marathon in April 2019.  Set list:  Entr’Acte Plan and Elevation Punctum Valencia

  • Party Horns and Drums of Red Baraat, From Brooklyn Bowl

    Jan 02 2020

    The group Red Baraat has become synonymous with a raucous good time, a celebratory mix of bhangra – the dance music of the Punjab region, New Orleans horns, go-go and a bit of hip-hop besides. They’re led by drummer-composer Sunny Jain, who plays the dhol, a traditional two-headed drum slung over the shoulder. A talented and energetic army of horns, guitar, and percussion instruments rounds out the lineup, wedding the bhangra roots of the dhol to a N’awlins brass funk ‘n’ street party. The band ...more

  • Best of Soundcheck 2019, Part 2

    Dec 30 2019

    Hear some of the best performances from the Soundcheck Podcast series from 2019, including spacey folky confessional electro-pop by Helado Negro and new hooky pop from British guitar band Bombay Bicycle Club. Also, hear joyous folklore-infused electro-chamber music using Haitian women's voices, flute, and strings, from Nathalie Joachim & Spektral Quartet. Listen to “Worthy,” a mostly acoustic, yet powerful assurance from Grammy-winning singer/songwriter/producer India.Arie. Plus, sweaty cosm...more

  • Best of Soundcheck 2019, Part 1

    Dec 26 2019

    Hear some of the best performances from the Soundcheck Podcast series from 2019, like the tropical psych-rock from NYC-based quartet Combo Chimbita and the slamming wordplay in work by London's Kate Tempest, a poet, rapper, and spoken word performer. There's also collaborative music from soul singer Emily King and chamber band yMusic. Then, Baltimore-based electronic duo Matmos share some of their sampled "audio gold" mines from the sounds of nothing but plastics. Plus hear the crafty chamber-ja...more

  • Banjo Master Tony Trischka and Friends Celebrate the Winter Holidays

    Dec 23 2019

    Banjo master Tony Trischka and sacred harp tunester and multi-instrumentalist Tim Eriksen, with fiddler Hannah Read, mandolinist Dominick Leslie, bassist Larry Cook, and drummer Sean Trischka play seasonal tunes turned loose on Bluegrass and Americana. Trischka and Eriksen and crew revel in little-known songs and carols, working in the haunting sound of shape note music that might date back to the Revolutionary era. Tony Trischka and friends play a few of these tunes, in-studio. - Caryn Havlik W...more

  • Black Violin Challenges Stereotypes With "Classical Boom" Sound

    Dec 19 2019

    From J.S. Bach to Biggie Smalls, Shostakovich to Nas, and the odd Tchaikovsky or Imagine Dragons, the classical-meets-hip-hop duo Black Violin continually challenges stereotypes with their music. Composed of classically trained violist and violinist Wil Baptiste and Kev Marcus, Black Violin combines musical ingredients of jazz, hip-hop, funk, and classical to create a distinctive sound that is described in their press as “classical boom.” Black Violin's Wil and Kev also connect with more than 10...more

  • Black Belt Eagle Scout Shares Community With Songs

    Dec 16 2019

    Black Belt Eagle Scout is the work of Oregon-based singer and multi-instrumentalist Katherine Paul, whose songs often draw on her Native American (specifically Swinomish) heritage. KP identifies as a radical indigenous queer feminist, and some of her lyrics touch on her being a water protector, connected to the land, and a womxn. Her latest record, At the Party With My Brown Friends, explores love, desire and friendship. Black Belt Eagle Scout and her band play some of these songs, in-studio. Wa...more

  • Guitarist Thurston Moore's Spirit Counsel, In-Studio

    Dec 12 2019

    During his four decades making music, Thurston Moore has been many things – guitarist, composer, improviser, collaborator, co-founder of the trailblazing rock band Sonic Youth. His new project might be his most ambitious yet.  It’s a 3-record set of expansive, guitar-driven sonic meditations called Spirit Counsel. Radical guitarist Thurston Moore and his co-conspirators present these altered states based in guitars, in-studio, and in tribute to some of the musicians and art that have influenced ...more

  • Vintage and Modern Philly Soul From Son Little

    Dec 09 2019

    Son Little is a singer, songwriter, and multi instrumentalist based in Philadelphia, born Aaron Earl Livingston to a preacher and a teacher in Los Angeles. He cites Stevie Wonder and Jimi Hendrix as heroes, and has collaborated with both The Roots and RJD2. Little's music blends a bit old Philly soul with R&B and classic rock. But Son Little isn’t rehashing earlier styles – he’s made something new and personal out of those familiar old elements. His third album, called Aloha, comes out at th...more

  • Gloria Gaynor Gives 'Testimony' With Gospel-Roots Groove Music

    Dec 04 2019

    New Jersey-born and Grammy Award-winning superstar singer Gloria Gaynor might be best-known for her disco-era hits, but she has deep gospel roots and with her 2019 release, Testimony, she gives powerful voice to these roots. She cites as influences Blind Boys of Alabama, the Five Blind Boys of Mississippi and Sam Cooke and the Soul Stirrers, and watching her brothers perform as a gospel quartet (Cross Rhythms Radio.) While she had recorded a Christian music record to go with her 2013 book, We Wi...more

  • Robbie Robertson Leans In the Direction of Noir

    Dec 02 2019

    Canadian musician, film composer, and songwriter Robbie Robertson is probably best known as the lead guitarist in The Band. He’s written written a wide variety of music over the years, not just for The Band. On the release of both the score for The Irishman and his first solo record in years, Sinematic, Robertson talks us through several main events.

  • Jangle Rockers Real Estate, From Brooklyn Bowl

    Nov 28 2019

    Brooklyn rockers Real Estate (their home state is New Jersey) are a self-admitted “indie band that should become a jam band.” Their bright and jangly songs are laid-back, with tidy clean guitars and “unfussy” drums (The Quietus) that might evoke the sounds of R.E.M., Big Star or Teenage Fanclub, for some. There’s a new record coming in 2020, along with a tour, but this past June of 2019, Real Estate played a mighty set for New York Public Radio at Brooklyn Bowl. Here are some of their latest tun...more

  • Drummer Terri Lyne Carrington and Social Science, In-Studio

    Nov 25 2019

    Grammy Award-winning drummer, producer, collaborator, and educator Terri Lyne Carrington is a drummer’s drummer whose laudable technique, creative choices, and tasteful flow speak to wide listening, and intense focus. Carrington is also the director of Berklee’s Institute of Jazz and Gender Justice, working towards a vision of “jazz without patriarchy.” (NY Times) She’s played with countless jazz luminaries over her career, and has gathered many more for her new band, Social Science; pianist Aar...more

  • Saxophonist Matana Roberts Carves Out Her Own Musical Space

    Nov 20 2019

    Composer, saxophonist, and mixed media artist Matana Roberts presents her latest in the multi-chapter work Coin Coin project which documents the African-American cultural and historical experience. “Memphis,” which is chapter four, mixes jazz, blues, traditional songs, free improv, and Afro-futurism into a heavy sonic quilt of “21st century liberation music.” (Matana Roberts calls her approach “panoramic sound quilting.”) She "speaks memory," and "sings an American survival" in this chapter of t...more

  • Olivia Jean's Unusual Mix of Surf-Infused 'Bubblegum Garage'

    Nov 18 2019

    Detroit-born Nashville-based guitarist and songwriter Olivia Jean worked as a hairstylist and makeup artist before she was able to make music full-time (Mariana Timony, Bandcamp Daily.) She first cut her teeth as a Third Man Records studio musician, then with the garage-goth band, The Black Belles. She released her debut solo record of “bubblegum garage” Bathtub Love Killings in 2014, which had some heartache, revenge, and a bit of delightfully dark strangeness to it. Now with her latest, 2019's...more

  • Yasser Tejeda y Palotré Celebrate Ancestral Dominican Traditions

    Nov 13 2019

    Brooklyn-based guitarist and composer Yasser Tejada & the group Palotré combine African-rooted Dominican traditional folk styles and fuse them with r&b, church gospel, funk, jazz, and rock into a celebration of Afro-Dominican culture. They play this roots and funk fusion from their brand-new record, Kijombo, in-studio.  Watch the session here: 

  • Singer and Songwriter Tom Goss Tells Stories That Need To Be Told

    Nov 11 2019

    LA-based singer and songwriter Tom Goss is a romantic who tells overlooked stories through soulful vocals and lush pop soundscapes. A former Catholic seminarian turned guitar- and keyboard-toting troubadour, Tom is known for his songs about love (some inspired by his husband Mike, whom he married in October 2010), and all of its complexities. He's taken up the cause to raise awareness about same-sex domestic violence and partnered with Trevor Project and PFLAG, in an effort to give LGBTQ youth h...more

  • Benny Gebert's Piano Music Holds Promise of Serenity

    Nov 07 2019

    Sound artist, songwriter, pianist, and composer Benny Gebert is one-half of the Brooklyn-based pop group HAERTS. For his latest solo adventure, Triptych, he combined the sounds of nature through open windows and used three pianos to create zen-like sound sculptures. He joins us to perform some of his inviting and serene piano-based instrumentals.  

  • Orchestral Pop Band San Fermin's Enchanting Grandeur

    Nov 04 2019

    Brooklyn-based orchestral pop outfit San Fermin has a reputation for grand and enchanting music. Led by songwriter and composer Ellis Ludwig-Leone, and joined by new collaborators Attacca Quartet and harpist Lavinia Meijer, as well as talented vocalists and bandmates who play violin, trumpet, sax, percussion, and guitars, San Fermin's latest, ‘Cormorant I,’ is both a search for the profound and a dose of nostalgic reflection. Although the full record combines the elegance of chamber music and th...more

  • Nathalie Joachim and Spektral Quartet, In-Studio

    Oct 31 2019

    Haitian-American composer Nathalie Joachim is the co-artistic director and flutist of the Grammy-winning contemporary chamber ensemble Eighth Blackbird, and one half of the art-pop duo, Flutronix. She's worked with Bryce Dessner, Bonnie “Prince” Billy, Richard Reed Parry, Miguel Zenón, and the International Contemporary Ensemble as well. Her latest, with Chicago-based string ensemble Spektral Quartet, is "Fanm d’Ayiti" (Women of Haiti), a joyous and magic-infused work celebrating Haitian song, a...more

  • Folk-Rocker Frank Turner Shares Lesser-Known Stories in Songs

    Oct 28 2019

    The English singer-songwriter Frank Turner who was once a vocalist for hardcore band Million Dead – has become a folk-punk troubadour, spinning jangly songs with punk intensity that often respond to social and political situations. Frank’s latest record, No Man’s Land, is a collection of songs about overlooked historical figures – Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Christa McAuliffe, "Nica" Rothschild - many of whom happen to women. He joins us to play a solo set in-studio. - Caryn Havlik Watch the session ...more

  • Bombay Bicycle Club Finds Solace in Music

    Oct 24 2019

    British guitar band Bombay Bicycle Club cites New York bands like LCD Soundsystem, The Strokes, Yeah Yeah Yeahs as inspiration. But since they signed to Island as teenagers more than a decade ago, they’ve run the gamut from indie-jangly-folky, then electro-based, and now growly yet melancholy guitar-based pop. Now back together after some time away, there is new hope in their riff-driven hooky sound, which is about finding solace in music. Bombay Bicycle Club joins us in the studio to preview so...more

  • Ani Cordero's Protest Music for Dancing

    Oct 21 2019

    New York-based Puerto Rican musician, songwriter, and activist Ani Cordero has toured as the drummer for the legendary Os Mutantes, and was a founding member of the celebrated Mexican rock band Pistolera. She's written love letters to a complicated world, addressing issues like immigration, Black Lives Matter, Feminism, and government corruption. Her latest record, El Machete, goes into subjects like colonialism, feminism, and the harsh reality of life in Puerto Rico after the devastation of Hur...more

  • Queer Punk Pioneers Team Dresch Are Back on Active Duty

    Oct 16 2019

    Formed in the 1990’s in the Northwest, queercore icons Team Dresch were one of the first “out” bands who wrote about homophobia (fearing holding hands with their partners in public, and railing against conservative Christian anti-gay policy), and searching for love and companionship. (The “queer” coming from the identities of all members, and the “core” from the band’s punkass and metal roaring tendencies.) Team Dresch's members also embody the punk DIY spirit - they ran their own record labels ...more

  • Rwandan Band The Good Ones Offers Strength and Peace

    Oct 14 2019

    The Good Ones are Rwandan genocide survivors who write acoustic folk songs. They’re often sung in the Kinyarwanda street dialect of the outskirts of their nation's capital, Kigali, (the area had for centuries been known as the region for producing poets for the Kings.) With vocalists trading melody and harmony lines seamlessly, these “worker songs from the streets” use one-of-a-kind instruments, often incorporating their own farming tools as percussion. Their forthcoming record, (due out in Nove...more

  • Dusty Psych-Soul and Fiery Groove From Black Pumas

    Oct 10 2019

    Both old and new, Austin-based band Black Pumas is centered around guitarist and producer Adrian Quesada and 27-year-old songwriter Eric Burton. Grammy Award-winning Quesada has played in Grupo Fantasma and Brownout, and accompanied artists from Prince to Daniel Johnston. Burton grew up in church and then got heavily involved in musical theater. He arrived in Austin in 2015 after busking his way across the country from Los Angeles, and connected with Quesada on the phone. From idea to session to...more

  • L.A. Band La Santa Cecilia Sparks Joy With Salsa-Punk

    Oct 07 2019

    Los Angeles-based band La Santa Cecilia named themselves after the patron saint of music when they formed in 2007. Their Grammy-winning sound embraces cumbias, corridos, mambos, rancheros, rockenroll, reggae, and even a bit of New Orleans jazz. With topics ranging from folks’ addiction to social media, ICE keeping kids in cages and the immigration crisis, along with love songs and songs about paying the bills, their smart, vibrant, and timely tunes reflect Los Angeles’s mix of cultures. La Santa...more

  • Splashy, Body-Moving Rubbery Dance Punk by !!!

    Oct 02 2019

    New York-based band !!! (chk chk chk) has gone to the synth side, with their latest rubbery-funk dance punk. Their candyfloss melodies and beats conjure technicolor dance parties at the end of the universe. They play in-studio. - Caryn Havlik Set list: "Off the Grid" "$50 Million" "This Is The Door" Watch the session here: 

  • Love Fame Tragedy Deals in Raw Synth-Rock Intimacy

    Sep 29 2019

    Named for an exhibition in the Tate Modern, Love Fame Tragedy is how Matthew “Murph” Murphy, frontman of the indie-pop band The Wombats is scratching an itch to explore new musical avenues. Murph, plus a bunch of guests, including members of The Pixies, Alt-J, The Killers, and Soundgarden, are trying to find as many new ideas and do as many new things as possible, and having there be no politics about it. The band's synth-pop confessional sound is full of "ridiculously catchy choruses and unexpe...more

  • Chamber Soul-Pop by yMusic and Emily King, In-Studio

    Sep 25 2019

    New York’s top-notch and prolific classical six-piece group yMusic "serves as a ready-made collaborative unit for bands and songwriters, and has lent its distinctive sound to dozens of albums, most recently In The Blue Light by Paul Simon" (yMusic's Bandcamp.) They've played with the likes of Simon, Bruce Hornsby, Regina Spektor, Ben Folds, and English indie folk trio The Staves. Their most recent recording is of music by Marcos Balter, "...which enables us to fly", a multimedia work, in collabo...more

  • The Simple Beauty of Devendra Banhart's Poignant Songs

    Sep 23 2019

    The folk songwriter, visual artist, and poet Devendra Banhart offers tenderness, introspection, and space in music, poetry, and art. Part Dylan, part Dalí, Devendra Banhart’s so-called psych-folk, (or “freak folk”) comes with what might be fantastical or surreal lyrics rooted in voice and guitar -and humble appeals to help Venezuela- the country of his mother. In fact, in naming his latest record, Ma, he addresses “the unconditional nature of maternal love, the desire to nurture, the passing dow...more

  • Seratones Rocks Your Socks Off

    Sep 18 2019

    Seratones is a band from Shreveport, Louisiana, who combines strutting groove, fuzzed-out slinky guitars, grounded tremolo organ, lush strings – and soaring over it all, frontperson AJ Haynes’s powerful singing voice, first honed at Brownsville Baptist Church in Columbia, Louisiana. This is music to sear earholes and "replenish your faith in the power of Rock & Roll" (Seratones' Bandcamp.) It’s electrifying Southern rock where punk rawness meets soul power, topped with a bit of blues swagger...more

  • Futuristic Day-Glo World Pop by Gruff Rhys

    Sep 16 2019

    Super Furry Animals frontman Gruff Rhys is also a composer, producer, filmmaker and author. Recently, while recording the track “Vessels” for Damon Albarn’s world music collective Africa Express, he met South African electronic producer Muzi. They have since collaborated on a futuristic Welsh Language pop album, with a couple of verses of Zulu and an English title, Pang! (also partly inspired by Gruff’s visit to Prince’s Paisley Park studio and the gloss of Prince's Around the World in a Day.) G...more

  • Nordic Klezmer Band Mames Babegenush Jazzes It Up

    Sep 11 2019

    Danish outfit Mames Babegenush cooks up a Nordic-Jewish-Balkan musical stew both manic and melancholy. Their tunes embrace the ambience of Nordic snowscapes as well as the lively weddings of Romania, all the while incorporating the vibrant dance music and klezmer traditions of eastern Europe. Since their formation some 15 years ago, the group has performed everything from electronic music to string quartets to opera. Mames Babegenush brings their rich blend of Balkan-Klezmer Jazz for dancing to ...more

  • Icelandic Duo Hugar Creates Glacial Soundscapes In-Studio

    Sep 09 2019

    The Icelandic duo Hugar is multi-instrumentalists Bergur Þórisson & Pétur Jónsson, who sculpt dreamlike layered soundscapes using keyboards, guitar, and electronics. Occasionally they’ll include other chamber players, including one Ólafur Arnalds. Sometimes the music is an attempt to “put our everyday experiences into sounds” – like “walking to school in a snow blizzard and riding your bike in the calm midnight sun” (Sony Masterworks). Their latest record is Varða, which translates to “cairn...more

  • Drummer Marcus Gilmore Creates Continuous Melodies

    Sep 04 2019

    Drummer and composer Marcus Gilmore looks to the creative openness of his drum elders – like his grandfather, Roy Haynes, tabla master Zakir Hussain, or renaissance man and drummer Milford Graves - and underscores the drum set as melodic instrument – exploiting all of the potential of the components – bending notes, playing with the natural vibrations, or augmenting his set up with Sunhouse Sensory Percussion. (With thanks to Modern Drummer Magazine’s June 2019 issue.) He joins us in-studio to a...more

  • Pop Songwriting Mastermind Skylar Grey, In-Studio

    Sep 02 2019

    From pop and hiphop to love anthems, Grammy-nominated songwriter Skylar Grey has multiple hits to her credit. She's the co-writer on Eminem's 'Love The Way You Lie' featuring Rihanna, and featured artist on Diddy's 'Coming Home', and has written and recorded theme songs for TV and film. Lately,  Skylar Grey has embraced her folk rock roots in new songs from her upcoming project ‘Angel With Tattoos’. Fresh from an appearance at the Video Music Awards, she performs in-studio. - Caryn Havlik Watch ...more

  • Flatpicking Acoustic Guitar-Folk From Courtney Hartman

    Aug 29 2019

    Singer, songwriter, award-winning flatpicking guitarist, and Colorado native Courtney Hartman has musical roots in the bluegrass world with her family band, The Hartmans. She recorded and toured with the Grammy-nominated group Della Mae for seven years, and has collaborated with Texan Robert Ellis on a record of tunes by American folk, country, and bluegrass composer and musician John Hartford. Her latest solo record, Ready Reckoner, co-produced with Shahzad Ismaily (a multi-instrumentalist know...more

  • Modern-Day Troubadour Pete Yorn's Jangly-Pop

    Aug 26 2019

    Multi-instrumentalist singer/songwriter Pete Yorn’s latest record of anthemic, lyrical jangle pop is called Caretakers. It’s also the first release on his own new label, Shelly Music. The New Jersey native joins us in-studio to play some of these tunes in a solo acoustic setting. - Caryn Havlik Set list (Click to watch): “Calm Down” "I Wanna Be The One" "Life On A Chain" Watch the full session here:       

  • Nashville-based Lillie Mae's Countrified Americana-Pop

    Aug 21 2019

    Nashville singer, songwriter, fiddler and guitarist Lillie Mae’s sound has a bit of dark twang, some psychedelia, and the intimacy of front-porch singing. She started out in a countrified sibling band Jypsi and now has two solo records to her credit on Jack White’s Third Man Records. Lillie Mae’s latest is Other Girls, backed by members of her family and a few trusted collaborators. She’s been touring with White’s current band The Raconteurs, and is on the road in the fall as part of Robert Plan...more

  • Quiet Reflection in Acoustic Songs by Daughter of Swords

    Aug 19 2019

    North Carolina singer and guitarist Alexandra Sauser-Monnig records under the name Daughter of Swords, in which she "combines the eerie sound of old Appalachian folk music with elegant guitar playing and touches of lo-fi pop." (John Schaefer) She’s also part of the alternative folk trio Mountain Man, a group of women whose precise harmonies offer songs of warmth, belonging, and community. Sauser-Monnig’s record, Dawnbreaker, a homespun country-pop offering of vulnerability, brings liberation to ...more

  • The Calm Spark of South African Jazz Master Abdullah Ibrahim Persists

    Aug 14 2019

    The South African pianist and composer Abdullah Ibrahim (aka "Dollar Brand") has had a notable career, helped early on by Duke Ellington,and  acknowledged later by Nelson Mandela, who called Ibrahim “our Mozart.” In 2019, Abdullah Ibrahim became a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master, and he’s recently released a new album, The Balance, (which is his 70th or 71st LP, and that's not including his work as a sideman, which might push the total album credits to over 100!) It's full of "lush h...more

  • Cosmo Sheldrake's Eccentric, Strangely Alluring Pop

    Aug 12 2019

    London composer Cosmo Sheldrake is also a vocalist, multi-instrumentalist, and producer. He’s got a knack for refreshingly playful and whimsical pop music that often incorporates natural sounds. On his latest record, The Much Much How How and I, the music gyres and gimbles like circus music meets forest-dwelling faeries in the wabe. There’s also a clever interplay of frolicking rhythms which perhaps reflects Sheldrake's work with young people. Cosmo Sheldrake performs some of his latest music in...more

  • The Slamming Wordplay of Poet and Rapper Kate Tempest

    Aug 08 2019

    London-based Kate Tempest is a spoken word performer, poet, recording artist, novelist and playwright. Her visceral writing demands foreground-listening with its physicality of emotions, spoken-sung, delivered as incantation, slammed poetry, swaggering rap verse, a bit tent preacher and protest march. Her work was nominated for the Mercury Prize, her epic narrative poem “Brand New Ancients” was awarded the Ted Hughes Prize for innovation in poetry and she won a Herald Angel Award at the Edinburg...more

  • DOOMSQUAD's Personal and Political Outsider Dancefloor Jams

    Aug 05 2019

    Toronto electro-psych dance-rock sibling trio DOOMSQUAD brings a mix of protest music, catharsis, and groove, plus banging flute solos to their outsider electronica. They’ve written songs about the anarchist and activist Emma Goldman along with New York drag queen Dorian Corey as well as modern societal struggles and eco-crises. Trevor, Jaclyn and Allie Blumas cite as inspirations their tour-mates Tanya Tagaq and Peaches, along with Underworld,  Peter Gabriel, Diamanda Galás, and Genesis P-Orrid...more

  • Sound Artist Lea Bertucci Transforms and Extends the Saxophone

    Aug 01 2019

    NYC-based sound artist, sax player, and composer Lea Bertucci uses tape technology, resonant spaces, and sounds that occupy a gray area between music and noise. She augments her alto sax with processing and delay, turning it into a polyphonic instrument, and creates microtonal effects and complex rhythms as she does so. Her latest album is called Resonant Field; and Lea Bertucci joins us to play two extended pieces, in-studio. Watch the session here:     

  • Anything Goes From Swedish Pop Trio Peter Bjorn & John

    Jul 29 2019

    Hear songs about darker days through a largely upbeat pop lens from Swedish trio, Peter, Bjorn and John. The Swedish trio will “probably never live down the whistling in their song “Young Folks”—an earworm if there ever was one.” (-John Schaefer) Their latest record, Darker Days, is an catchy and dancey, yet lyrically somber collection of songs, where the members find themselves digging into the past, taking on relationship issues, breaking their own bones (hence the imagery), to dig deep and wo...more

  • Indian Tabla Master Zakir Hussain's Percussive Wizardry

    Jul 25 2019

    Genius Indian tabla player Zakir Hussain, is one of the world’s exceptional percussionists. The son of Ustad Alla Rahka (who would have been 100 years old this year), Zakir is also a composer, improviser, and a great communicator in Persian, Gujarati, German, English, as well as in jazz, Afro-Cuban rhythms, Nigerian talking drums, or Indonesian gamelan. One of the most exciting ways that Zakir Hussain shares this deep and vast knowledge in performance is by way of the Masters of Percussion Tour ...more

  • The Big Sound of Bayonne's Experimental Electro-Pop

    Jul 22 2019

    Bayonne is quite literally a one-man band. That one man is minimalist composer and experimental musician Roger Sellers, who’s based in Austin, TX, not actually Bayonne, NJ. Partly inspired by the big-sounding symphonic pop of the 1960’s, Roger stacks and layers his voice, synths, live instruments, and percussion through his live looping station to achieve his music. His latest album is called Drastic Measures and he’ll play some of these ultra-layered, textured songs, in-studio. -Caryn Havlik  W...more

  • Quantic's Dancefloor-Ready Jazzy Grooves

    Jul 18 2019

    British producer, musician, and DJ Quantic (aka Will Holland) builds up jazzy, groovy, and dancefloor-ready music around funk guitar and bass riffs, keyboards and synths, punchy drums, sometimes featuring a vocalist, sometimes not. Sometimes he’ll explore traditions from somewhere else: Caribbean, Latin America and Africa, or from other times: psychedelia, experimental and rhythmically rich sounds of deep funk and soul. His latest is called, ‘Atlantic Oscillations’ and Quantic has hand-picked mu...more

  • Pianist and Programmer Dan Tepfer - Man Vs. Machine

    Jul 14 2019

    Dan Tepfer is a sought-after composer and pianist who also studied computer programming and physics. His album of improvisations on Bach’s Goldberg Variations drew a lot of attention some eight years ago. Now, he’s released Natural Machines, a record of music for pianist and computer that responds to his real-time improvisations according to “simple rules” - musical algorithims that he programmed. Dan Tepfer joins us to explain what he’s done, and to do some of it on a Yamaha digital piano, in-s...more

  • A-WA's Timeless Yemeni-Jewish Traditional Songs Meet Arabic Pop

    Jul 10 2019

    The Israeli band called A-WA had a huge hit on its very first attempt when their song "Habib Galbi" (“Love of My Heart”) – which blended traditional Yemenite folk music with modern dance beats – became the first Arabic-language song to ever become the #1 song in Israel. It was also a viral hit throughout the Arabic-speaking world. Even Pitbull got into the act, featuring on a remix of the song.  A-WA is led by a trio of sisters from a Yemeni Jewish family who sing in Arabic and English. Their mo...more

  • Blick Bassy Heals By Remembering The Stories

    Jul 08 2019

    France-based Cameroonian musician Blick Bassy’s quiet and beautiful songs fall somewhere on the spectrum of blues, folk-soul, and pop, and embody a deep reverence for the traditional music of Cameroon and other parts of Africa. On his latest, record, 1958, dedicated to the memory of Ruben Um Nyobé, Felix Moumié and the other heroes of Cameroonian independence, Bassy embraces a listener (mostly in his ancestral language of Basaa) over minimal cello, trumpet, trombone, keyboards, and electronic pr...more

  • The Sweet, Slow Burn of Nakhane's 'Anti-Gospel' Pop

    Jul 04 2019

    London-based Xhosa singer, actor, musician, and author Nakhane (born Toure) grew up on a musical diet of Mozart, Handel, and South African choral pieces, along with Marvin Gaye and the O’Jays in South Africa, eventually wrenching himself away from a conservative Christian upbringing to accept, then embrace his sexuality. Now a leading voice among queer musicians, Nakhane seduces, swaggers, and charms with his tender falsetto in his sometimes dance-leaning, grandly orchestrated “anti-gospel” glam...more

  • Sinkane's Funk Exploration of the Immigrant's Journey

    Jul 01 2019

    The Sudan-born, Ohio-raised and Brooklyn-based singer and musician Ahmed Gallab records under the name Sinkane and the latest Sinkane record, Dépaysé, is an irresistible mix of western and African funk, Sudanese folk music, 1960s psychedelia, with pop, rock, soul music besides. Dépaysé is a French word that means being taken out of your homeland, being dislocated and as Gallab writes, the record “is the story of an immigrant’s journey of self-discovery in the Trump era.”  Sinkane, as an American...more

  • Ambient Chamber Space Pop By Big Bend, In-Studio

    Jun 27 2019

    Big Bend is a collaborative project led by pianist Nathan Phillips, who assembled a rotating cast of musicians, including ambient zither player Laraaji, the renowned slide guitarist Susan Alcorn, and many others. Although Phillips is a composer, the Big Bend project grew out of improvisations, and the resulting songs live in a gray area between art song, pop song, and ambient music. Nathan has assembled a version of Big Bend, with guitar and strings, and they'll perform songs from his latest, Ra...more

  • Tamino's Intimate and Confessional Pop, In-studio

    Jun 24 2019

    Belgian singer and songwriter Tamino is of Egyptian and Lebanese descent and has had recent success as a model. Comparisons to Jeff Buckley and Thom Yorke might be inevitable; his is a voice that feels like a cuddle, with an incredibly rich falsetto at his high end. That Tamino's vocal lines and riffs sometimes incorporate Arabic quarter notes and that he brought in a group of Middle Eastern instrumentalists, known as “Nagham Zikrayat,” to record on his debut, Amir, hearkening to the so-called g...more

  • Arabic Poetry-Infused Chamber Jazz by Layale Chaker and Sarafand

    Jun 20 2019

    Violinist and composer Layale Chaker has done something exquisite in her music with the Ensemble Sarafand from the record, Inner Rhyme: she has gone about capturing the “shape and essence of epic testimonials on life, death, war and love that make the heart of Arabic poetry.” (Layale Chaker) It’s an alchemical wedding of music derived from the form, rhythm and structure of Arabic sung poetry using chamber music instruments: her violin, along with piano, cello, double-bass, and hand percussion. C...more

  • Australian Bass Virtuoso Tal Wilkenfeld Shines a Light

    Jun 17 2019

    Australian-born Tal Wilkenfeld has made her sizable reputation by playing bass for some of the music world’s biggest stars – Prince, Mick Jagger, Jeff Beck, the Allman Brothers. In March she released her first album of her own singing and songwriting, Love Remains, and perhaps unsurprisingly, it went right to the top of Billboard’s Heatseekers chart. Tal Wilkenfeld joins us in-studio with her band to play some of these tunes in-studio. Set list: Killing Me Love Remains Corner Painter Watch the...more

  • Baroque-Pop and Folk-Leaning Songs From Henry Jamison

    Jun 13 2019

    It would be easy to label the Vermont-based singer/songwriter Henry Jamison as a folk musician. After all, his voice sounds a little like Nick Drake, and he’s covered a song by Canadian folkie Gordon Lightfoot.  His songs are full of vivid and arresting imagery, and on this record, Gloria Duplex, he addresses toxic masculinity, drops in some feminine wisdom, draws on an Irish folk ballad, and distills psychological writings. The record was produced by Thomas Bartlett, aka “Doveman”, and contains...more

  • Saying What Must Be Said, The Oddysy Combines Funk, Bass, Beats, And Samples

    Jun 10 2019

    The Oddysy is a funk/rock/hip hop duo comprised of KJ (Kevin Jacoby, formerly of the psychedelic salsa band La Mecanica Popular) and DJ Johnny Juice, a Rock N Roll Hall of Famer best known for his work with Public Enemy and Rob Swift. They’ve got a lot to say about frustration and anger, protest and resistance. Recently, they released music dedicated to Martin Luther King Jr., and his refusal to meet violence with violence, featuring a verse by the hip hop legend Chuck D, of Public Enemy. The Od...more

  • The Playful Arty Post-Punk and Swirling Psych of Michelle Blades

    Jun 06 2019

    Michelle Blades was born into a well-known family of salsa musicians in Panama – you may have heard of her Grammy-winning uncle Ruben Blades. But she grew up as a multi-instrumentalist nomad who is now based in France. Her own music draws on rock, especially the psychedelic end of things and the angular arty sounds of post punk. Michelle Blades and her band play some music from her recent record, Visitor. Watch the session here:    Michelle Blades - Visitor by Michelle Blades

  • Guitarist Sarah Louise's Experiments in Drone-Folk

    Jun 02 2019

    North Carolina based composer and guitarist Sarah Louise is also one-half of the duo House and Land. Her music evokes forests and creeks and frogs, and when she’s on a 12-string acoustic guitar, combines both drone and folk (somewhat reminiscent of the fingerpicked styles of “American Primitive” guitar (think John Fahey, Jack Rose, Gwenifer Raymond, or Glenn Jones). She’s also recently released an album, Nighttime Birds and Morning Stars, built around improvisations on electric guitar, which wer...more

  • Qasim Naqvi's Experiments in 21st Century DIY Modular Synth

    May 30 2019

    Composer and modular synth experimenter Qasim Naqvi, who is also a drummer and one-third of the electronic jazzers Dawn of MIDI, writes chamber and electronic music for film, dance, theater and ensembles. His latest creation, two years in the making, “Teenages”, is for his own custom-built modular synth, which he encourages to behave “almost autonomously” (The Quietus). The combination of machine, (dare we say AI?), and subtle guidance by the composer will be on display as Qasim Naqvi performs h...more

  • Flamenco Guitar Pyrotechnics of Rodrigo y Gabriela

    May 27 2019

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  • Nick Waterhouse Wants to Make You Boogie

    May 23 2019

    With his heavy horn section, electric backing vocals and a crack band, California soulful rocker Nick Waterhouse serves up a neo-noir concoction of modern rhythm and blues with surf-rock. Inspired by crate-digging in record stores for 45’s, Waterhouse has embraced the mid-century sound and is looking to make folks boogie. He and his retro-modern band play songs in-studio from his latest record, his fourth, a self-titled affair, Nick Waterhouse.   - Caryn Havlik Watch the session here: