Results for jazz

interviews

Trombone Shorty

Up next, Troy“Trombone Shorty”Andrews and his band Orleans Avenue. At just 25, Troy has already been playing music for two decades, and professionally for nearly as long. He has recorded half a dozen albums, toured the world and collaborated with a who's who of New Orleans legends like The Nevilles and Rebirth Brass Band, in addition to Green Day, Jeff Beck and Eric Clapton. Somehow he also found time to play himself in a recurring role on the hit HBO show Treme, which takes place in his neighborhood in New Orleans' 6th ward. Jim and Greg were anxious to hear the group perform songs from Trombone Shorty's albums For True and Backatown. They also wanted to hear about Troy's experience after Hurricane Katrina and his philosophy on so-called rules of jazz. Listen or watch and you'll hear (luckily) there are none.

Go to episode 314

Powerhouse Sound

This week Jim and Greg welcomed Powerhouse Sound, a veritable who's who of avant garde jazz and rock musicians. Ken Vandermark, world-renowned reeds player and MacArthur Genius grant winner, assembled this bi-coastal motley crew to experiment with fusing jazz, rock, funk, blues and reggae. With him on the U.S. side of this project is bass player Nate McBride, as well as drummer John Herndon and guitarist Jeff Parker of the group Tortoise. The group has a new album out comprised of recordings done both here and in Norway entitled Oslo/Chicago Breaks.

Ken explains to Jim and Greg that the idea for Powerhouse Sound was inspired by Miles Davis' experiments with blending jazz and popular music. In the 1970s, Davis began working with a diverse group of musicians to create an improvisational sound that is as much funk as it is jazz. Greg notes that this was a heavily controversial period for Davis; jazz purists saw it as a commercial sell out. But, like Davis, the members of Powerhouse Sound are not interested in boundaries and musical dogma. The sound is the key. You can hear this freedom in their performance of "Shocklee/Broken Numbers." Check out the piece in its entirety here.

Go to episode 114

Los Lobos

Recently, Jim and Greg were joined by an audience of Sound Opinions and Los Lobos fans for a special recording at City Winery Chicago. Louie Perez, David Hidalgo, Cesar Rosas, Conrad Lozano and Steve Berlin showed everyone what it means to have 4 decades of chops and unity under their belts. Since forming in high school in East L.A., Los Lobos has always pushed the boundaries of whatever genre they explored: rock, punk, Mexican folk, R&B, jazz, psychedelia. Most of that is a far cry from their huge 1987 hit "La Bamba." But, perhaps that cover got fans like Elmo in the door. Now the group has a new album called Gates of Gold, its first release in 5 years.

Go to episode 533

Tortoise

By the late '90s, Tortoise became the leading band of not only the Chicago scene, but the global post-rock movement. The all-instrumental band was founded by Doug McCombs and John Herndon as a bass and drums duo in the late '80s, inspired by Jamaican rhythm-section-for-hire Sly and Robbie. Eventually the band came to include John McEntire, Dan Bitney, and jazz guitarist Jeff Parker. Tortoise received massive critical acclaim for the 1996 album Millions Now Living Will Never Die and 1998's TNT. On the latest record The Catastrophist, the band experiments with the strangest innovation of all: vocals. Tortoise joins Jim and Greg for a conversation and live performance.

Go to episode 557

Esperanza Spalding

Esperanza Spalding exploded onto the jazz scene as a bass prodigy, recording her debut album in 2006 and winning the Grammy for Best New Artist in 2011. But she's never been satisfied being just one thing. Her many talents include being a multi-instrumentalist, singer, songwriter, bandleader, producer, librettist, and more. Her music ignores genre boundaries, freely incorporating funk, R&B, classical music, and progressive rock. She's even introduced a theatrical element with her latest album, Emily's D+Evolution..

Jim and Greg sit down this week with Esperanza Spalding for a spirited chat about the new record. She also discusses her collaborations with legendary saxophonist Wayne Shorter, the challenges of being taken seriously as a female musician, and the moment she discovered the bass was for her.

Go to episode 580

Andy Summers of The Police

This week Jim and Greg sit down with Andy Summers, former guitarist for 1980s supergroup The Police. Andy was in town promoting his latest tome, "One Train Later." It's a memoir — a good one according to Jim and Greg — about his years before and during the Police era. Andy is honest and frank in the book, and it comes across in the interview. Our hosts start things off by asking Andy about the origins of the band and The Police's distinctive sound. Andy was largely influenced by jazz growing up and firmly established himself as a professional musician well before he helped form The Police. He had a brief stint with the jazz fusion/progressive rock band Soft Machine and did session work during the 1970s for artists like Neil Sedaka and Joan Armatrading. His Police band mate, drummer Stewart Copeland also came from a musically trained background. Jim points the irony in having two highly trained musicians emerge out of the British punk scene — a scene that demanded unpolished musicians and hated solos. Andy considers The Police to have been fake punk band.

Although Jim did not get to catch The Police at their first US gig at CBGB's, he did see the band shortly after at New York's The Bottom Line. The young self-proclaimed“drum geek”strategically sat behind Stewart Copeland's drum kit. He discovered The Police's disdain for each other, noting the“nasty, nasty”words Stewart had written in magic marker on his drum skins cursing the other band members. Jim asked Andy what it was like to work in such acrimonious conditions, especially with the rising megastar Sting. Summers says nothing negative about his experience and feels the fights helped fuel the creativity of the band. Greg reiterates that although several people over the years mistake The Police as Sting's band, Andy and Stewart really shaped the sound. Andy concurs, detailing how songs like "Walking on the Moon" and "When the World is Running Down" involved all three members of the band.

As the interview nears a close, Jim asks the question that burns in the brain of many a Police fan: Will The Police reunite? Andy is up for reuniting and is in contact with the other two members (he had dinner with them this year) but he won‘t sit around waiting for the phone to ring. He’s busy with his own career, producing solo albums, and working as a photographer and bandleader. The closest the Police came to a reunion was in 2003 for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony. A reunion still sounds possible — let's hope this former Sting fan doesn't squelch such a possibility.

Go to episode 53

Don Was

Don Was This week, our guest is musician, producer and label president Don Was. Was hails from Detroit and since the early '80s has been a part of the group Was (Not Was). In Was (Not Was,) Don is the bassist, a songwriter and a producer, creating unique music that blended the genres of jazz, pop, rock and dance music. He then found a second career as a super producer, working with Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones, Bonnie Raitt and more. Then beginning in 2012, Was became the president of the legendary jazz record label Blue Note Records. He talks with Jim and Greg about the methodology behind Was (Not Was), working with The Rolling Stones throughout the decades and his transition into being a label head.

Go to episode 639

Robert Wyatt

Jim and Greg are joined by Robert Wyatt in the next segment. While he may not be a household name, Wyatt is one of the most influential musicians of the rock era. As a drummer with 1960s group Soft Machine, Wyatt reinvented prog rock, and was a pioneer of jazz-rock fusion. He was later ousted from Soft Machine, and in 1973 a terrible fall rendered him a paraplegic. But, as his interview with Jim and Greg reveals, Wyatt never ceased to be an innovator. Jim explains that Wyatt's been having a career resurgence in recent years. He was not only up for the prestigious Mercury Prize in England in 2003, but he is releasing a new album, Comicopera, on Domino Records, the label that is also home to Franz Ferdinand and the Arctic Monkeys.

Greg begins by asking Wyatt about his appeal to a younger generation of musicians, including Thom Yorke and Alexis Taylor of Hot Chip. Wyatt can‘t explain this phenomenon, but he imagines that people respect how he does his own thing and makes music for music’s sake. It's inspirational for young musicians to see that you can maintain artistic integrity and, at the same time, longevity.

Wyatt formed the Soft Machine with three other schoolmates, and he never imagined that they'd eventually be opening up for Jimi Hendrix on his 1968 tour. The music of that time influenced his politics as well as his sound. But while contemporaries like The Rolling Stones looked to the blues, Wyatt and the Soft Machine looked to jazz. After his accident, though, Wyatt was forced to approach drumming differently than other jazz musicians. By eliminating the element of acrobatic virtuosity that jazz drummers often focus on, Wyatt was free to focus on the beats and the sounds. But, listeners shouldn‘t confuse Wyatt’s experimentalism with an anti-pop attitude. He says, "Pop music is the folk music of the post-industrial era, and folk music is the most important music in the world."

Go to episode 100

Bryan Ferry

In his 4 decade long career Bryan Ferry formed the hugely influential band Roxy Music, launched a successful solo career and became a style icon. Now, he's gone "jazz." He joins Jim and Greg to talk about his new album The Jazz Age, which features reinterpretations of his songs in a 1920's big band style. The album reunites Ferry with his Roxy co-founder Brian Eno, and despite previous creative differences, he says Eno pushed him to places he couldn‘t have gone on his own. Plus, Mr. Eno has even stated that the Roxy album released after he left is the band’s best.

Go to episode 395

Mike Watt

doublenicklesonthedime By the early 1980's, punk had become less about sticking it to the man, and more about conforming to a set of rules. Then came The Minutemen with Double Nickels on the Dime, the 1984 album that threw out the punk rulebook. This week Jim and Greg are joined by Minutemen bassist Mike Watt, who founded the San Pedro hardcore group alongside drummer George Hurley and larger-than-life lead singer and guitarist D. Boon. The Minutemen weren't afraid to experiment with their sound, incorporating jazz and funk, as well as "Econo"—a lo-fi, DIY attitude that would later inspire indie rock. Ever the motor-mouth philosopher, Watt waxes poetic about jamming econo, the true meaning of“Double Nickels on the Dime,”and his idea of a "Hot Topic."

Go to episode 287

Calexico

Jim and Greg are huge fans of Calexico, the show's guests this week, but they do present a challenge. The Tuscon-based group incorporates so many different musical influences that they are almost impossible to define. Singer and guitarist Joey Burns explains that he's a fan of “Desert Noir,”but even that doesn't fully describe their use of Latin, African and jazz rhythms and instrumentation. The best way to get your head around Calexico's sound is to hear it. They perform live versions of tracks from their new album Carried to Dust.

Go to episode 151

Cynthia Robinson and Jerry Martini of Sly & the Family Stone

In the 1960's, Sly & the Family Stone, with its multi-racial, co-ed lineup, broke down barriers of how a band should look and sound. It also bridged rock, funk, R&B, soul and jazz, thanks in large part to its virtuoso musicians: guitarist Freddie Stone, bass player Larry Graham, drummer Greg Errico, keys player Rose Stone, trumpeter Cynthia Robinson and sax player Jerry Martini. Then, of course, you have Sly Stone, one of the most charismatic frontmen in music history. But, once the charming star who stole the show at Woodstock and on Dick Cavett, Sly Stone dropped out of public life in 1975. We've had occasional glimpses since then, but for the most part his legend only lives on in recordings. Luckily fans have a new box set called Higher! Upon its release, Jim and Greg spoke with Cynthia Robinson and Jerry Martini.

Go to episode 431

Ira Flatow

Science Friday host Ira Flatow joins Jim and Greg this week to talk about the meeting of science and music.

First, Jim and Greg ask Ira for his thoughts on a story from the Karolinska Institute in Sweden. Scientists there took pairs of identical and fraternal twins and tested their musical ability against the time spent practicing. Surprisingly, they found that practice doesn't necessarily make perfect. In other words, your ability to play music is based more on your genetic makeup than your hard work spent rehearsing.

Next, our hosts discussed whether or not teenagers should replace A&R staff at the record labels. According to Dr. Gregory Berns at Emory University, teenagers put into an fMRI machine were able to predict whether an unknown song would be a hit, based on the recorded neural responses to the songs being played.

Music scholars will appreciate the next study, which was published in Scientific American. Specific musical intervals such as the tritone and the perfect fifth influence the organizing behavior of people exposed to those different intervals. People listening to the perfect fifth intervals were able to categorize items in a list better than people who listened to tritone intervals. This may correlate to the idea that a distracted mind is actually one that is better able to concentrate.

fmri

Ira brings up a Science Friday interview with Charles Limb, a professor of head and neck Surgery. He found that Jazz musicians who played music while in a fMRI machine had language centers light up in the brain. This suggests jazz musicians may have an unspoken language they communicate through their music.

Ira also mentions a Current Biology study that found that there are some people who just don't like music. They have a condition called "Specific Musical Anhedonia." Hopefully Sound Opinions hasn't transferred this condition to any of you listening.

Go to episode 466

Mike Watt

By the early 1980's, punk had become less about sticking it to the man, and more about conforming to a set of rules. Then came the Minutemen with Double Nickels on the Dime, the 1984 album that threw out the punk rulebook. To celebrate the 30th anniversary of Double Nickels, Jim and Greg revisit their 2011 conversation with Minutemen bassist Mike Watt, who founded the San Pedro hardcore group alongside drummer George Hurley and larger-than-life lead singer and guitarist D. Boon. The Minutemen weren't afraid to experiment with their sound, incorporating jazz and funk, as well as "Econo"—a lo-fi, DIY attitude that would later inspire indie rock. Ever the motor-mouth philosopher, Watt waxes poetic about jamming econo, the true meaning of "Double Nickels on the Dime," and his idea of a "Hot Topic."

Go to episode 433

Richard Thompson

Richard Thompson is a rock survivor, and with each decade comes a new successful era—whether it's Fairport Convention in the 1960's, with Linda Thompson in the '70s or as a solo artist. (You can check out producer, Joe Boyd, talking about Thompson & Fairport Convention here.) In fact, he's one of only a handful of artists, along the likes of Bob Dylan and Neil Young, who have sustained a high level of artistic intensity and integrity since the '60s. And to further set him apart, he's one of few guitar heroes from that generation without an obvious debt to the blues. Instead, you'll hear blends of Eastern tones, jazz, Scottish balladry and Celtic folk. Jim and Greg agree he's one of the most underrated guitarists and songwriters in folk history and would urge acts like Mumford & Sons to“Listen and Learn.”The first step would be to study his live performance, which includes a gem from the "Capitolyears," the yet to be released "Fergus Lang," and the Richard and Linda classic "I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight." Plus, check out the bonus track, Greg's request, "Dimming of the Day," which may be his most beautiful love song to date.

Go to episode 446
specials

Rock Fan's Guide to Jazz

Charles Mingus If you've had trouble getting into jazz, you are not alone – even Jim and Greg took a while to figure it out. Jazz is an iconic product of the African-American experience, but there are a variety of barriers of entry that rock listeners often have to overcome. To begin with, jazz has existed for twice as long as rock, meaning that there's an intimidating ocean of music to navigate. That's why we've enlisted the help of jazz writer and curator John Corbett to create the Rock Fan's Guide to Jazz. John refutes the notion that jazz is“fuddy-duddy”music from a bygone era. Instead, it's an exhilarating, joyful genre that continues to develop today.

There are many potential entry points to jazz that share certain sensibilities with rock music. The hard bop stylings of Sonny Rollins, for example, have a sense of forward propulsion familiar to rock fans. Even though some listeners think of swing as polite, genteel music, John can cite examples of Duke Ellington recordings that have the verve of any good rock guitar solo. Rock and jazz intersect in a very real sense in the jazz-fusion records of Miles Davis in the late 1960s. And bands from The Velvet Underground to Sonic Youth have drawn inspiration from the boundary-pushing free jazz of Ornette Coleman and Albert Ayler. But jazz is really best appreciated live, so fortunately there are many exciting young jazz artists performing today who exhibit a punk rock sensibility.

Go to episode 491

2014 In Memoriam

Jim and Greg remember some great musical figures who died in 2014. Here are just some of the people we'll miss.

Go to episode 475

Remembering David Bowie

bowieremembered

Although passing away at the age of 69 seems early by today's standards, it's what music innovator David Bowie did with those 69 years that is significant. Bowie died after an 18-month battle with cancer on January 10th. He was responsible for creating magical personas, from Ziggy Stardust to Aladdin Sane to the Thin White Duke. Bowie released more than two-dozen albums exploring the genres of glam rock, dance, electronic and even jazz. Along with many of his solo hits, he participated in many memorable duets alongside artists like Mick Jagger, Tina Turner and Queen. He earned a considerable amount of success in the art world and as an actor in films like Labyrinth and The Prestige. His freedom of expression in his music, art and sexuality opened people's minds and inspired countless artists. David left behind a son (filmmaker Duncan Jones), his wife of 24 years (the supermodel Iman) and their daughter Alexandria. In this show, Jim and Greg discuss David Bowie's legacy and offer highlights from his long career. Producers and long time Bowie collaborators Brian Eno and Tony Visconti also share their memories of the pop chameleon.

If you're still missing David Bowie, take a listen to our Spotify playlist, Sound Opinions' Salute to David Bowie.

Go to episode 529

Xmas Spectacular 2011

Holiday music maven Andy Cirzan joins Jim and Greg every Christmas to share a new collection of unique tunes for the season. By day Andy runs Jam Productions in Chicago. By night he searches through record stores, dustbins and basements to find gems for his annual compilation. And he shares a few favorites during this episode. Andy describes the first set as poppin' soul music from the '60s and '70s. Then he brings in the straight ahead uptempo jazz featuring songs from his 2011 compilation "Swingin' Snowflakes: Jingle Jangle Jazz Party." Finally, we go off into the wild blue yonder and get some truly weird and wonderful Christmas songs.

Go to episode 316
classic album dissections
London CallingLondon Calling available on iTunes

The Clash London Calling

Next up is a patented Sound Opinions Classic Album Dissection – this time of one of the greatest double albums of rock history: London Calling by The Clash, which recently celebrated the 35th anniversary of its US release. London Calling represented a huge leap forward for the English band. All four members seemed to be at their peak during writing and recording: Joe Strummer on rhythm guitar and vocals, Mick Jones on lead guitar and vocals, Paul Simonon on bass and Nicky“Topper”Headon on drums. They were paired with the unconventional Guy Stevens and engineer Bill Price and were able to draw from a variety of influences – reggae, ska, rockabilly, and jazz – all layered on their particular brand of punk rock. The songwriting partnership of Strummer and Jones was at its high point. Jim and Greg are both moved by Strummer's lyrics, which demonstrate a very sophisticated worldview. To demonstrate the greatness of London Calling, they play two standout tracks: "Spanish Bombs" and "Clampdown."

Go to episode 514
London CallingLondon Calling available on iTunes

The Clash London Calling

Next up is a patented Sound Opinions Classic Album Dissection-this time of one of the greatest double albums of rock history: London Calling by The Clash. London Calling recently celebrated its 30th anniversary, and it was a huge leap forward for the English band. All four members seemed to be at their peak during writing and recording: Joe Strummer on rhythm guitar and vocals, Mick Jones on lead guitar and vocals, Paul Simonon on bass and Nicky“Topper”Headon on drums. They were paired with the unconventional Guy Stevens and engineer Bill Price and were able to draw from a ton of new influences-reggae, ska, rockabilly, jazz and rock. Also, the songwriting team of Strummer and Jones was at a high point. Jim and Greg are both moved by Strummer's lyrics, which demonstrate a sophisticated worldview, and play two standout tracks: "Spanish Bombs" and "The Clampdown."

Go to episode 228
Astral Weeks (Expanded Edition)Astral Weeks available on iTunes

Van Morrison Astral Weeks

Van Morrison recorded and released his masterpiece Astral Weeks 41 years ago, and to celebrate he released a live version of the album. This gave Jim and Greg a perfect opportunity to look back at Astral Weeks with a Sound Opinions Classic Dissection. Astral Weeks didn‘t produce huge hits, but as Jim and Greg explain, this record is unique from any other in Van Morrison’s collection, and in fact, rock history. It melds rock, blues, folk and jazz in such a way that makes it hard to define. The jazz musicians who contributed to this sound were guitarist Jay Berliner, drummer Connie Kay and bassist Richard Davis. In addition to the music, Jim and Greg both marvel at the emotions conveyed by the songs on Astral Weeks. You hear Van Morrison struggle with the search for home and the impermanence of life. It's as much a poem as it is an album, making it a classic in the Sound Opinions' book.

Go to episode 171

Van Morrison Astral Weeks

Van Morrison recorded and released his masterpiece Astral Weeks 45 years ago, and to celebrate, Jim and Greg conduct a Sound Opinions Classic Album Dissection. Astral Weeks didn‘t produce huge hits, but as Jim and Greg explain, this record is unique from any other in Van Morrison’s collection, and in fact, in rock history. It melds rock, blues, folk and jazz in such a way that makes it hard to define. The jazz musicians who contributed to this sound were guitarist Jay Berliner, drummer Connie Kay and bassist Richard Davis. But, in addition to the music, Jim and Greg both marvel at the emotions conveyed by the songs on Astral Weeks. You hear Van Morrison struggle with the search for home and the impermanence of life. It's as much a poem as it is an album, making it a classic in the Sound Opinions' book.

Go to episode 414
reviews
The Cherry ThingThe Cherry Thing available on iTunes

Neneh Cherry The Cherry Thing

For their final review, Jim and Greg turn to Neneh Cherry and her collaboration with Norwegian/Swedish jazz band The Thing. While Cherry's best known for her hip-hop inflected single "Buffalo Stance," jazz is in her musical DNA. Her stepfather, Don Cherry, was a renowned jazz trumpeter, and Neneh's first band, Rip Rig + Panic, attempted to merge free jazz with a punk sensibility. Still Greg admits, it was hard to imagine how Cherry's voice and Mats Gustafsson 's freewheeling sax could work together on her latest album, The Cherry Thing. He was pleasantly surprised. Cherry's voice is a versatile instrument. She samples hip-hop and trip hop styles and channels everyone from Billie Holiday to Yoko Ono. Still Jim says this album is unquestionably Cherry's, a feat even more impressive considering the material is almost all covers. This is a woman who can sing Iggy Stooge's“Dirt”and make it her own. Jim and Greg both say Buy It, making this an especially feel-good episode of Sound Opinions.

JimGreg
Go to episode 345
BangaBanga available on iTunes

Patti Smith Banga

In the past weeks Jim and Greg's inboxes have filled up with new records. This week, they award buy it, burn it, and trash it ratings to five of them. First up, punk godmother Patti Smith. The poetess behind Horses and Radio Ethiopia is back with her eleventh studio album, Banga. Recorded off and on between gallery showings and book readings, Banga, Greg says, is a meditation on the call of art. It's also a tour of global music styles.“We were going to see the world,”Smith intones in the leadoff track "Amerigo," and she doesn't let us down. Different tracks draw inspiration from free jazz, do-wop, celtic folk, and blues. Greg says Buy It. Jim agrees. This album is up there with Patti's best work, not the least because, Jim says, she seems to really be having fun. Double Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 345
Back to BlackBack to Black available on iTunes

Amy Winehouse Back to Black

This first album up for review this week is of Back to Black, the second album by British import Amy Winehouse. The singer/songwriter was one of the most buzzed about acts at this year's SXSW Festival, and her off-stage antics are getting her a flurry of attention in the British press. Jim and Greg, however, aren't sure the phenomenon will translate overseas. Winehouse prides herself on being influenced by jazz and the R&B and soul singers of the 1960s. But, both critics find her music to be a retro parody more than an authentic homage. In fact, Jim outright hates this album and gives his Trash It rating right up front. Greg didn‘t dislike the album as much as he thought he would, but was still unimpressed by Winehouse’s pale imitation of artists like Donnie Hathaway and Nina Simone. He also gives Back to Black a Trash It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 71
To Pimp a ButterflyTo Pimp a Butterfly available on iTunes

Kendrick Lamar To Pimp a Butterfly

In terms of combined critical and commercial success, Kendrick Lamar may be the most important rapper to emerge this millenium since Kanye West. On To Pimp a Butterfly, the followup to his 2012 breakthrough Good Kid, M.A.A.D City, he's teamed up with high-profile producers like Pharrell Williams and Flying Lotus. Greg is floored by the album's macro-level themes, depicting the world as a kind of prison and engaging with racism, injustice, and black history in general. Equally stunning is the album's diverse musical range. Greg thinks Lamar is driving the sound of hip-hop forward while also looking back to the deepest roots of African-American music. Despite a few missteps, like a pretend interview with Tupac, Greg finds the ambition and execution flawless. Jim concurs. While he felt that Lamar didn't bring enough to the characters he played on his previous album, he now believes that Lamar is providing them with proper depth and context. He calls the record a musical smörgåsbord with its jazz underpinnings and its bevy of unexpected samples. To Pimp a Butterfly is a double-Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 487
ForeverlyForeverly available on iTunes

Norah Jones & Billie Joe Armstrong Foreverly

When a jazz chanteuse teams up with a pop punk rocker, what type of music do they make? Folk country, of course! That's the story behind Foreverly, the surprising new collaboration between Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong and coffeehouse crooner Norah Jones. The record is a track-for-track reimagining of the Everly Brothers' 1958 album Songs Our Daddy Taught Us, a collection of country standards that Don and Phil Everly learned from their father. Greg admires the attempt to pass this music on to the next generation, and appreciates how Jones' vocals introduce a new tension to tracks like "Long Time Gone" and "I'm Here to Get My Baby Out of Jail." But, he doubts that we‘d care about this record had it not been made by a couple of superstars. It’s a Trash It. Jim agrees, deeming the album an“abject failure.”For starters, he wishes they would have picked a better Everly Brothers album to recreate. But, it's Armstrong's harsh vocals, completely unsuited for the Everlys' careful harmonies, that really earn Foreverly a Trash It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 421
Lupe Fiasco's Food & Liquor (5th Anniversary Edition)Food and Liquor available on iTunes

Lupe Fiasco Food and Liquor

After being leaked and speculated about for months, the final version of Lupe Fiasco's debut solo album Food and Liquor was released this week. Lupe, or Wasalu Muhammed Jaco, has previously worked with fellow Chicagoan Kanye West, Beyoncé, and Jay-Z, who executive produced this album. The first single off the album, "Kick Push," is a modest hit, but both Jim and Greg think the song and the entire album deserve more attention. They love how Lupe weaves stories in such a unique way. He's a self-professed geek ("Kick Push" is about skateboarding and the album cover shows an image of the rapper floating through space with his trapper keeper) and you won't hear any typical hip-hop fare on this record. The music digs deep for its jazz and soul samples and doesn't depend on a plethora of cameo star producers. Both critics give Food and Liquor a Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 43
The FallThe Fall available on iTunes

Norah Jones The Fall

Norah Jones has a new album out called The Fall. It's the 4th release from the successful pop-jazz artist, and for this one she's tried to juggle the formula. Jones parted ways with her former boyfriend/collaborater, and for The Fall she turned to producer Jacquire King and songwriters Ryan Adams and Okkervil River's Will Sheff. The change is subtle, according to Greg. He admires her understated approach, but wishes Jones were more adventurous. He gives this record a Burn It rating. Jim acknowledges that Jones has beaten the dreaded Best New Artist Grammy Curse, but was completely bored by Jones' sleepy crooning. He recommends listeners Trash It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 208
EmbryonicEmbryonic available on iTunes

The Flaming Lips Embryonic

The Flaming Lips are back with their 12th album, Embryonic. The band has been around for three decades now, which some people wouldn't expect from a bunch of psychedelic rockers from Oklahoma. Jim, who wrote about the band in his book Staring at Sound: The True Story of Oklahoma's Fabulous Flaming Lips, has been waiting for them to return to their roots. They are rocking out again on Embryonic, and while they've done this sound before, and better, he gives the album a Buy It. Greg agrees that they are moving in the right direction. The fans may wonder where the pop songs are, but he's fascinated to hear them attempt the jazzier material. Greg applauds the ambition, but finds the execution lacking. He gives Embryonic a Burn It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 201
Joy (Deluxe Version)Joy available on iTunes

Phish Joy

For two decades the jam band Phish has held a massive fan base. But, as Jim and Greg explain, most of these“Phish Heads”aren‘t all that interested in the band’s studio records; it's all about the live experience. Now, after a five-year hiatus during which lead singer Trey Anastasio battled drug addiction, the band is back with a new record called Joy. As always, the goal is to create songs that are successful on record and stage. With the exception of a couple of tracks, Greg doesn't think the songwriting holds up. He can only give Joy a Try It. Jim wishes the band would abandon its efforts at jazz and funk fusion and go back to its progressive roots. He loves the 13-minute suite "Time Turns Elastic," but gives the rest of the album a Try It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 197
Tetsuo & YouthTetsuo & Youth available on iTunes

Lupe Fiasco Tetsuo & Youth

Chicago rapper Lupe Fiasco was written off by some after battling his label for years and earning notoriety for his outspokenness on Twitter. According to rumor, it even took threats from hackers for his new album to be released. But according to Jim, Tetsuo & Youth is Lupe at his lyrical best. The deft pop culture references are wonderful, of course. But ultimately it's the tragic evocation of life in poor black communities that moves Jim to tears. According to Greg, the density and poetry of Lupe's rhymes is matched by the adventurousness of the music, filled with unconventional jazzy rhythms. He calls it the rapper's best work since his debut. That makes it a double double-Buy It in a single episode.

JimGreg
Go to episode 479
dijs

Jim

“Starship”MC5

There's no better desert island track for the Rock Fan's Guide to Jazz than "Starship" by MC5.“Starship”comes from the band's debut album Kick Out the Jams and showcases its musical influences. The perfect merger between the two genres, the godfathers of punk took a poem by jazz icon Sun Ra and turned it into a song. This eight minute long track exemplifies a wild free jazz experience where the band is leaving the earth and the stage. For Jim and many others, MC5 was a gateway for rock fans to jazz. Do you have a question, comment or suggestion? Contact us here.

Go to episode 491

Greg

“Compared to What”Les McCann

The last album inspired Greg to go back to the original version of "Compared to What." Vocalist and jazz pianist Les McCann paired up with saxophonist Eddie Harris at 1969's Montreux Jazz Festival to record their version of the Eugene McDaniel song. It was first made famous by Roberta Flack, but for Greg, McCann's take on the anti-Vietnam protest song is the most moving. He adds it to the Desert Island Jukebox.

Go to episode 251

Jim

“Sour Times”Portishead

It's Jim's turn to select a song to take with him to the desert island this week. His DIJ pick was inspired by the two albums reviewed in the show. Amy Winehouse considers herself a modern day Nina Simone, and Timbaland uses a Nina Simone sample in his song "Oh Timbaland." Jim is in favor of referencing the past, but wanted to go back to a band that was able to bring a hip hop attitude to classic '60s soul and jazz much more successfully than Winehouse ever could. That band is Portishead. Portishead came out of England during the 1990s as part of the "trip-hop" movement. While their tenure was short (though word is they are making music again), Jim is still impressed by the group's ability to merge American hip hop with British psychedelia with early soul and R&B. The album he urges listeners to go back to is 1994's Dummy, and the track he wants to add to the Desert Island Jukebox is "Sour Times."

Go to episode 71

Greg

“A Young Man (Young Man Blues)”Mose Allison

Greg's desert island jukebox pick this week pays tribute to the late Mose Allison. The great jazz pianist died this November at age 89. Allison had a storied career and impacted artists outside of the jazz world like Pete Townshend and John Mayall. Greg chose the track "A Young Man (Young Man Blues)" a song representative of Allison's unique talent both as a lyricist and a performer.

Go to episode 578

Greg

“California Soul”Marlena Shaw

One of the best things about music is it can transport you to a whole other place without ever having to leave the room. Greg's DIJ pick this week is Marlena Shaw's 1969 track, "California Soul." The song was written by Ashford & Simpson and had been covered by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell and The 5th Dimension. However Shaw's version is the most definitive, having been sampled numerous times over the years. Her cover combined elements of R&B, soul, jazz and a hypnotizing string arrangement. While Shaw recorded the track in Chicago, it transports the listener straight to California.

Go to episode 495

Jim

“Silver Bullet”Jack Bruce,Golden Palominos

Cream bassist Jack Bruce recently passed away at age of 71, and as Jim explains, he played an important part in the '60s English music scene. Bruce had a long career as an underground musician playing jazz, rock and avant-garde music. To pay homage to him, Jim chose a song for the Desert Island Juxebox that was actually not from his time with Cream. Instead, he goes with "Silver Bullet" by the Golden Palominos. Jim had the pleasure of seeing the larger-than-live Bruce perform this track live, and he'll never forget it.

Go to episode 467

Greg

“I Met Him on a Sunday”Laura Nyro

Laura Nyro is an artist we don't talk about enough, says Greg. Best known for writing songs that others made famous, like Three Dog Night's "Eli's Coming" and The 5th Dimension's "Wedding Bell Blues," Nyro died young in 1997 at age 49. But Greg insists that her own records are criminally overlooked — namely her fifth, Gonna Take a Miracle, an all-covers album of songs that Nyro listened to growing up in the Bronx. For that album, she enlisted as collaborator (and chef) Patti LaBelle, who in turn brought onboard her Labelle bandmates Nona Hendryx and Sarah Dash. The result was an extraordinary record, produced by the legendary duo of Gamble and Huff. Greg picks the group's (mostly) a capella rendition of The Shirelles' "I Met Him on a Sunday" to jazz up the Desert Island.

Go to episode 441

Greg

“"You Turn Me On, I'm a Radio"”Joni Mitchell

Greg's been in a Joni Mitchell phase, and is particularly smitten with the singer/songwriter's 1976 release For the Roses. Between her folk phase and her avant-jazz phase, she released this record with the track "You Turn Me On, I'm a Radio". Is it directed towards a romantic figure? Or a record company one? Add that question to the layers of sounds and influences from country to Latin to jazz, and you've got one wonderfully complicated song.

Go to episode 375
features

SXSW '06

This week on the show, Jim and Greg share their recent experiences at the SXSW Festival in Austin, Texas. Our hosts joined over 10,000 other festival registrants to attend music industry panels, conduct interviews, and most importantly, see new bands. In the four days they were there, Jim and Greg heard a lot of music. They share some of the best with you.

  • First is The Dresden Dolls. Jim went to see the Boston group and fell in love with their blend of German cabaret performance style and '80s synth-pop melodies. You can hear a little bit of "Modern Moonlight" off their upcoming release, Yes Virginia.

  • Next up, Greg discusses one his finds: Art Brut. He enjoyed this British band's straightforward melodies, catchy choruses, and witty monologues so much that he saw them twice in Austin. This critic even scrawled“New Kings of Rock”in his notebook following one performance. Jim joined him to see the band at the Pitchfork/Windish party, where they shared a bill with RJD2, Spank Rock, and one of Greg's other discoveries, Swedish indie pop quintet Love is All. Art Brut, who just recently played a sold-out show at the Metro, entertained the entire staff so much that they were invited to appear on the show the week after the festival wrapped. Listen for that interview in the weeks to come.

Beastie Boys at SXSW 2006

  • In between running from show to show, Jim and Greg took a brief moment to sit down with The Beastie Boys. The hip-hop pioneers were down in Austin to promote their recent concert film, Awesome; I Fucking Shot That, and spoke to Jim and Greg about making the movie, sampling, copyright laws, and the longevity of their career.

  • Back to the rundown of our hosts‘ favorite Austin discoveries. Jim’s next pick, The Black Angels, actually hails from the Texas state capital. After reading Jim's book on psychedelic rock, members of the band contacted him and explained that they were right up his alley. They were right. Jim, who caught some of the dark, Velvet Underground-influenced music in the sterile environment of Austin Convention Center, was totally blown away. To describe the band, he quotes their website which begs the listener to "Picture a red moonlit night, deep in the heart of Texas, with the ghosts of Nico and Timothy Leary being called back from the dead to guide you on a journey through Heaven & Hell and back again." Whoa, man…

  • Greg loves coming to Austin to see bands that may not get to the States otherwise. One such band is Serena Maneesh. The Norwegian group is one of many contemporary bands compared to My Bloody Valentine. Often referred to as“shoegazers,”these musicians are often literally standing, staring at their shoes, while producing a heavy, overdriven, almost symphonic guitar sound. Serena Maneesh is certainly channeling this influence — however, as Greg explains, this band is also quite performative. Our host describes how the lead guitar player, theatrically dressed as a gypsy showman, was joined by an“Amazonian”bass player. Only during SXSW can you see this in Texas, notes Jim.

Tim Fite at SXSW 2006

  • We next hear some audio of Jim recorded down in Austin. He is describing one of his favorite acts: Tim Fite. Some may remember Fite's previous incarnation in Little T and One Track Mic and their one hit, "Shaniqua." But after getting signed to Atlantic and touring with Outkast, Little T went nowhere. Now, Fite has reinvented himself as a 1920s southern preacher/rapper who combines an O Brother, Where Art Thou? sound with irreverent lyrics and hip-hop. Gone Ain't Gone is forthcoming on Anti-/Epitaph, making Fite label mates with Neko Case and Blackalicious.

  • The Swedish band Love is All (mentioned above) is another of Greg's discoveries. This Swedish indie-pop group is one of many European bands who are rediscovering American music. This band is particularly influenced by musicians like James Chance and the Contortions and Lydia Lunch who fused both jazz and punk. Love is All became Greg's go-to CD while he was driving around the city of Austin.

  • Listeners can now hear what Jim and Greg really sound like at SXSW: definitely over-tired, and perhaps over-served. Our hosts caught up with Sound Opinions H.Q. immediately after going to see Rhys Chatham at Austin's Central Presbyterian Church, an experience they described as slightly mind-blowing. The avant-garde guitarist has basically been living in exile in Paris for the past decade, but emerged in Austin with a newly-formed guitar army: eight guitarists including Doug McCombs of Eleventh Dream Day and Tortoise, Ernie Brooks of The Modern Lovers and Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth. Jim reports that Chatham recently received a grant allowing him to realize his long-fantasized 100-member guitar ensemble.

  • One of the SXSW events Greg always tries to attend is Alejandro Escovedo's Sunday night show. This year Grady was one of the opening acts. Greg found their huge, overpowering sound on par with that of Chatham's guitar army. He also compares their sound to that of ZZ Top's early days. Listen for yourself as Greg plays a sample of their 2004 release Y.U. So Shady?

  • White Whale is Jim's final discovery. He caught the band at the Merge showcase, a label that usually delivers for this critic. He was again not disappointed. White Whale, whose members have been in a number of other indie rock bands including Butterglory, Three Higher Burning Fire and The Get Up Kids, impressed Jim with more than just its name. He found their sound to be a mix of Nick Drake and Pink Floyd, and also reminiscent of Elephant Six bands like Apples in Stereo and Neutral Milk Hotel. So far their music can only be heard on Myspace.com, but White Whale may turn out to be another SXSW success story.

  • Greg's final pick is a band called Katahdin's Edge. He caught the group after originally trying to see a Finnish band who couldn‘t make it into the country. He was blown away, and despite getting thousands of free CDs for his day job, Greg was compelled to put down his own money for a Katahdin’s Edge album. This trio from Providence is an example of how jazz and rock can fuse in a great way. Rather than take an academic approach to jazz, Katahdin's Edge had a rock and roll, party edge that Greg really appreciated.

  • Greg was also caught on tape before and after seeing the biggest hype of this year's festival: The Arctic Monkeys. This has been quite the year for the young British band. In January they broke records for first-week sales in the U.K. with their debut release Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not. In addition, they‘ve been proclaimed by many in the press as the greatest band to emerge from the U.K. in years. That’s a lot for a new band to live up to, but Greg was pleased with what he saw. While the Arctic Monkeys may not be what their hype claims, the music was well-rehearsed, packed with rhythm, and downright“ferocious”according to our host. Plus, the lead singer already seems to have the rock and roll attitude down.

Go to episode 18

Obit: Hugh Masekela

Hugh Masekela South African jazz trumpeter Hugh Masekela died on January 23rd at the age of 78 after a long battle with cancer. A musician not afraid to express his political views, he spent many years in exile during the height of apartheid in his homeland. He is best known for his biggest hit, 1968's "Grazing in the Grass," as well as for a long list of protest songs. Greg thinks those protest songs, like "Bring Him Back Home (Nelson Mandela)" are Masekela's most poignant. He adds, "The fact that he was able to go back to South Africa, and live there… To see the revolution and the protest he advocated for in his songs, finally come to fruition in the end of apartheid… I think was a particularly powerful statement for his music."

Go to episode 635

Music of the Beat Generation

If you read On the Road in high school, you know a thing or two about the Beat movement's influence on literature. This week, Text and Drugs and Rock ‘n’ Roll author Simon Warner wants to get you thinking about the Beat influence on rock. Forget the stereotypical bongos; Warner says Beat fathers like Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac were most inspired by Harlem's avant-garde jazz invention, Bebop. Warner makes the case that the Beats influenced a whole generation of rock lyricists - Bob Dylan and John Lennon among them - to embrace a more surrealist, personal, and politically engaged approach to lyric-writing. Think of "Subterranean Homesick Blues," he says, as Beat poetry with a, well, beat. But while Ginsberg and Kerouac struck a chord with the hippie generation, it was Beat colleague William S. Burroughs who served as guru to the later musical avant-garde. 1970's punks Jim Carroll and Patti Smith, and alternative era stars like Kurt Cobain and Sonic Youth, all made pilgrimages to Burroughs' NYC bunker-apartment to pay their respects to“Old Bull Lee.”Burroughs'“cut up”writing technique may still inspire wordsmiths from Bowie to Thom Yorke, but Jim thinks it's Kerouac whose legacy may ultimately be the most lasting. It's that writer's spirit of adventure, Jim says, that continues to motivate every indie band still "on the road."

Go to episode 398

In Memoriam: Gregg Allman

Gregg Allman Musician Gregg Allman died May 27 at the age of 69. Gregg was a crucial member of The Allman Brothers Band, a group at the forefront of the southern rock genre, though they didn‘t like to be labeled as such. The band’s combined the blues, jazz, rock and psychedelia to make for a original sound. Gregg was the voice of the band, the organ player and the primary songwriter, writing hits like "Midnight Rider," "Whipping Post" and "Melissa." Greg Kot pays tribute to Gregg Allman with a track that's actually a demo called "Dreams."“Dreams”was the song that first helped the band take him seriously as a songwriter.

Go to episode 601
news

Music News

Maurice White, founder of the great R&B band Earth, Wind & Fire, passed away on February 4 at the age of 74. White started in Chicago as a jazz drummer, playing on Chess Records sessions by Willie Dixon and Etta James before being recruited into Ramsey Lewis's band. The crossover success of that gig allowed him to finance Earth, Wind & Fire, an extravagant showpiece band that could contain more than a dozen members – a flashy update of the big bands of the swing era. Greg goes so far as to call White the "Duke Ellington of R&B." Blending Latin music, R&B, jazz, and African music, Earth, Wind & Fire scored a string of hits in the 1970s. For Greg, the epitome of the band was the 1975 song "Shining Star" which offered a uplifting message during a period of racial strife.

Go to episode 533

Music News

Some interesting chart news this week: Despite being music vets, Tom Petty and Weird Al Yankovic, both just achieved their first #1 in the past month. Over on the Jazz charts, Tony Bennett, who himself took 54 years to produce #1, has reached another hight, this time with strange bedfellow Lady Gaga. Comic book fans are showing their support for Marvel's most recent super-powered adventure, Guardians of The Galaxy. The soundtrack for the flick, an eclectic mix of '70s rock, soul, and pop staples, is the current chart topper, beating out the prolific Now series, Volume 51. Over on the vinyl end of things, Jack White's most recent release, Lazaretto, is making history with its soaring sales. The LP has already sold over 60,000 copies, the most since Pearl Jam's 1994 album Vitalogy.

Go to episode 455

Music News

Jim and Greg don't like to give too much airtime to the Grammy Awards, but there was one upset worth mentioning (other than Amy Winehouse not getting a visa). Beating out big names like Winehouse, Kanye West, The Foo Fighters and Vince Gill for Album of the Year was veteran jazz musician Herbie Hancock.

Go to episode 116

Music News

Go to episode 585

Music News

Jim and Greg kick off the show by celebrating the life of another great artist: saxophonist and free jazz pioneer Ornette Coleman, dead at the age of 85. While critics sometimes loosely toss around phrases about musicians changing music, in this case, it is an undisputed truth. Coleman forever set jazz on an entirely new path, with an influence spreading into the world of rock, as well. Artists like Patti Smith, The Velvet Underground, and Sonic Youth all stood in the shadow of Coleman's innovations. He developed a musical philosophy he called "harmolodics," which set aside the traditional approach of adhering to chord changes and instead created intricately layered melodies that favored each instrument equally. Though sometimes dismissed as dissonant noise, Greg contends that Coleman had one of the greatest ears for melody in music. As an example of Ornette's unique approach to ensemble playing, Greg plays "Jump Street" from Ornette Coleman's 1979 album Of Human Feelings.

Go to episode 499

Music News

After the RIAA started to crackdown on the selling of mixtapes a few months ago, Universal Music has decided to sell legal, corporate sanctioned versions of the tradionally grassroots compilation. These "Lethal Squad Mixtapes," will sell for $5 to $6, but it's unclear whether there is a market for a series like this. Part of the appeal of mixtapes is that they are underground, and, as Greg notes, Universal is about as“street”as the next company they discuss in the news. Fellow corporate giant Walmart announced that it will sell DRM-free downloads at a lower price than competitor iTunes. Jim and Greg are surprised that the music industry would agree to sell their digital songs for lower prices, but Walmart is the world's largest retailer. Also, this fits into the big box store's M.O.: give consumers what they want at lower prices, even at the expense of other retailers.

Auto manufacturers such as Toyota's Scion brand, are planning on getting into the Internet radio business to provide special content to their drivers. Jim and Greg think this is an interesting move considering the recent hikes in webcasting royalty rates and their effect on small webcasters. And, this follows suit with Scion's attempt to establish a“cool”identity for itself. The Toyota brand was one of the few corporate sponsors of the Pitchfork Music Festival, and now they've tapped Vice Records and Ninja Tune Records to program their channel. But, despite this indie pedigree, Greg points out the reality: "You can't buy cool."

This summer's biggest blockbuster movie, Spiderman 3, racked up well over $300 million in the U.S. In fact, there were a number successful films that eclipsed the $300 million mark. The music industry, however, cannot boast such impressive figures. They were banking on big name releases from the likes of 50 Cent and Kelly Clarkson, but of those two, one got bumped, and the other tanked. The number one selling album of the year so far is from an American Idol rejectee Chris Daughtry, but that was actually a 2006 release. So, in light of these industry discrepancies, Jim and Greg wanted to invite New York Times music reporter Jeff Leeds on to the show to discuss the summer season. Jeff explains that movie studios have many sources of revenue from a film like Spiderman (DVDs, toys, etc), but record labels depend on a single revenue stream. Their only saving grace is concert sales; a live music experience, like a live movie screening, can't be replicated with a download. These three critics are curious to see what big fall releases have to offer.

Famed jazz percussionist Max Roach died last week at the age of 83. Roach was the last link to the Bebop era of jazz, but Jim and Greg explain that his love of music and his style of playing continually evolved. Greg explains that it's impossible to talk about rock drumming and hip hop without mentioning Roach. Unlike some jazz purists, the musician saw those contemporary forms as natural extensions of African music, like jazz. You can hear his unique style in the composition "Freedom Day," which also features vocals from his wife Abbey Lincoln.

Go to episode 91

Music News

Go to episode 622

Music News

Go to episode 587

Music News

phife A Tribe Called Quest founding member Phife Dawg has died at the young age of 45 from complications due to diabetes. Jim and Greg are still inspired by ATCQ's masterful early '90s rap recordings, which introduced a jazziness and Afrocentric positivity into hip-hop. Born in Jamaica, Queens, Phife had a distinctive high-pitched tone and some of the most nimble rhymes in rap history. In tribute to Phife, Jim and Greg play Tribe's biggest hit, "Can I Kick It," showcasing the humor that was his trademark.

Go to episode 539

Music News

Hard rock gods Led Zeppelin announced its surviving members Robert Plant, Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones will perform live for one night only at England's 02 arena. The missing John Bonham drum slot will be filled by his son Jason Bonham. This event is all for charity. It's in honor of the late Atlantic Records co-founder Ahmet Ertegün. All proceeds will go towards the Ahmet Ertegün Education Fund. Robert Plant's altruism and high regard for Mr. Ertegün must be quite substantial considering he had this harsh thing to say back in 2002 about the band reuniting. Jim points out that nowadays no band ever stays broken up and predicts that once the band finishes this gig, they'll launch a world tour. Zep heads everywhere are crossing their fingers.

"Amateur" singer-songwriter Marié Digby rose to pop success this summer from her“DIY”video of her covering Rihanna's "Umbrella" on acoustic guitar. The video has been viewed 2.3 million times and launched her into US radio and iTunes success. It turns out her entire“amateur”marketing campaign was orchestrated by the not-so-amateur Hollywood Records. The Disney owned Hollywood Records signed Digby back in 2005 — well before she/the machine posted her YouTube video. The fact the she was on a major label was kept hidden until only very recently. Greg points out how this shows you how much a sham the major labels have become when Digby herself states she didn't think people would like her if they knew she was on a major label. Greg feels now that the artifice is exposed, her 15 minutes are over.

Pioneering jazz keyboardist Joe Zawinul died recently at the age of 75. Zawinul was one of the founding members of the 1970s jazz fusion band The Weather Report. According to Jim and Greg, the band was the pinnacle of the jazz fusion sound, a melding of rock ‘n’ roll and jazz. Zawinul introduced the synthesizer and electronic instrumentation to jazz. He helped pioneer the jazz fusion genre with Miles Davis on Davis's In a Silent Way and Bitches Brew. Jim and Greg also ask listeners not to blame Zawinul and Davis for where the jazz/rock fusion led to. As a tribute to Joe Zawinul, Jim and Greg play The Weather Report's most iconic song, "Birdland."

Go to episode 94

Music News

First in the news, the state of Illinois may impose a tax on digital music and film downloads in order to help bail out its $13 billion deficit. If the legislature approves Governor Quinn's proposal, Illinois would join 19 other states that currently have such a tax and be able to get $10 million revenues annually. Per usual, this has prompted partisan debate, but Jim and Greg doubt either party is much concerned with the music fan's perspective.

One of rock's biggest stars, Paul McCartney, is going indie. The former Beatle has announced a plan to take his solo catalog from major label EMI and move it to the independent Concord label. McCartney previously worked with Concord as part of his now defunct Starbucks Hear Music deal. EMI is one of 4 big music companies dominating the industry these days, and as Jim and Greg explain, these labels depend on back catalog revenue. It takes little overhead to repackage an album from an artist like McCartney, and they can reissue it over and over again to new consumers.

Jim and Greg next discuss rapper Guru who died last week. The hip hop artist moved to New York City just in time for the genre's golden age. He developed alongside Public Enemy, Run DMC and Tribe Called Quest, to name a few. Guru joined up with DJ Premier to form Gang Starr, a duo with a revolutionary sound fusing rap with jazz. This, along with his fluid vocal style, made Gang Starr one of hip hop's most influential acts. To honor the late artist, Jim and Greg play "Jazz Thing," a track from the Mo' Better Blues soundtrack featuring jazz musician Branford Marsalis.

Go to episode 230

Music News

Just when you thought there weren‘t enough music industry lawsuits, now they’re going after people before they even commit the crime! AEG and Live Nation have jumped on a growing legal trend in the concert world by filing a trademark infringement claim against John Does and Jane Does. In anticipation of a number of concerts across the country, the companies have petitioned the courts to have federal and local authorities seize trademark-infringing gear. Considering last month's news that the RIAA has wasted a ton of dough on lawsuits, this one leaves Jim and Greg scratching their heads.

Jazz great Abbey Lincoln died this week at age 80. Lincoln began as a“Marilyn Monroe type,”but remade herself as an intense, political vocalist after meeting Max Roach. To honor Lincoln Jim and Greg play "Driva' Man," her performance on Roach's 1960 Freedom Now Suite.

Go to episode 247

Music News

A group of musicians led by the estate of jazz musician Chet Baker filed a lawsuit against the four major record labels in Canada. The labels were using artists' songs for compilation albums, but had yet to pay any royalties. Now they're paying up to the tune of $47 million.

Music publisher and television host Don Kirshner died this week at age 76. Kirshner began his career in music at the Brill Building, working with songwriters and producers like Carole King and Phil Spector. He then developed bubblegum acts The Monkees and The Archies before going on to host Don Kirshner's Rock Hour in 1973. Greg and Jim both fondly remember watching Kirshner's stiff, deadpan intros to that era's great acts including Kiss, Led Zeppelin and Sly and the Family Stone. To pay homage to Kirshner, Jim and Greg choose to play Blue Oyster Cult's "Marshall Plan," which features a sample of an intro by Kirshner.

Go to episode 269

Music News

The song contest/political science experiment called Eurovision took place on Saturday. Jim and Greg have been looking forward to the weird and wonderful phenomenon since speaking with expert John Kennedy O'Connor last month—and Eurovision 2014 did not disappoint. This year's prize went to "Rise Like a Phoenix," a power ballad belted by Austrian diva Conchita Wurst, the drag persona of Mr. Thomas Neuwirth. But the real star of the evening? Politics. Though some considered Wurst's win a victory for tolerance, it outraged conservatives in countries like Russia and Belarus. Meanwhile, Russia and Ukraine turned the conflict over Crimea into a fight for the spotlight, and the audience showed disdain for Putin by booing the Russian act. Americans may not“get”Eurovision, but 180 million viewers can't be all wrong…

In other bizarre international news is a story from the New York Times. Apparently the people of China have gotten used to saying "goodbye"—or, more to the point, "get out!"—to the dulcet tones of one Kenny G. All across China, the elevator jazz giant's 1989 hit "Going Home" is played at malls, gyms, libraries, and even wedding banquets to signal the day's end. Many don‘t know the song’s name, but they know to pack up and leave once it starts playing. And while China's non-existent royalty policy means that the sax-man makes very little off his ubiquitous tune, Kenny has taken it in stride, joking that at Chinese concerts, he plays“Going Home”last to keep people from leaving early. Greg thinks that China has managed some impressive social engineering—almost Pavlovian, says Jim. But our hosts can sympathize: Hearing Kenny G makes them evacuate the premises, too.

Go to episode 442

Music News

The labels are still holding onto the idea of selling physical media and have rolled out a new music format called SlotMusic. Each memory card will contain albums and other extras that can be played on mobile phones, computers and some portable MP3 players. So far listeners can only purchase these SlotMusic cards at big box stores like Walmart, but the big labels are certainly hoping they can entice digital music fans to actually purchase more than a single mp3. SlotMusic mp3s are higher quality than most purchased by consumers, but Jim and Greg aren't sure that will be enough incentive to walk into a store to buy music when you can simply do it online from your own home.

Keyboardist Rick Wright, founding member of Pink Floyd and psychedelic rock genius, passed away recently at the age of 65. As Jim explains, Wright was a quiet figure in a larger than life band, but he deserves to be honored. Wright was a huge jazz fan and brought a lot of those musical influences to Pink Floyd's sound. You can hear this in the song, "Summer '68" from the band's 1970 album Atom Heart Mother.

Go to episode 148

Music News

This week music lost one of its great producers: Teo Macero. Macero is responsible for the inventive recordings of jazz great Miles Davis. Before Macero came along Davis would record what was essentially a live jazz performance. But, Macero introduced the idea of using the studio as a tool to extensively edit extended jam sessions with Davis and his fellow musicians. Artists like Radiohead and Prince are still emulating this style of recording today. To pay tribute to Teo Macero Jim and Greg play "Black Satin," from Miles Davis' On the Corner Sessions.

Go to episode 118

Music News

Last week over 125 million viewers worldwide watched Emmelie de Forest of Denmark take the top prize in the Eurovision Song Contest. The 58th edition of the televised songfest was held in the home of former contestants Abba. But perhaps more interesting than the pop music, is the geopolitical tensions. For example, Russia claims its entry at the finals was pushed into a fifth place as a consequence of vote-stealing in Azerbaijan, leading to tension between the countries. Germany, too, is unhappy with its showing, blaming the euro zone crisis and Chancellor Angela Merkel's austerity measures.

Our own pop music contest, American Idol, wrapped up its 12th season and crowned Candice Gloverthe winner. But, while her cover of "Lovesong" was a highlight, the season itself was a low point for Fox. Ratings dropped 44% from last year, and total viewership plummeted by 7 million. Compared with NBC competitor The Voice, Greg thinks the show has become your grandparents' American Idol and wonders if anyone will care about poor Candice like they once did Kelly.

At the end of the news Jim and Greg bid farewell to The Doors co-founder Ray Manzarek. The keyboard player died Monday at age 74. And as Greg explains, he was integral to creating the band's iconic dark, L.A. sound. He brought in elements from his southside Chicago upbringing, as well as his classical and jazz training. You can hear that in The Doors' famous track "Riders on the Storm."

Go to episode 391
world tours

Cuba

Cuba

After stops in countries like South Africa, Japan, and Sweden, the Sound Opinions World Tour is trekking on. Jim and Greg hop over to Cuba, inspired by the historic changes in U.S.-Cuban relations announced recently by President Obama. Their guide to Cuba's influential rhythms is Ned Sublette, author of Cuba and Its Music: From the First Drums to the Mambo. Ned tells us that Cuba has been alive with music ever since the sixteenth century. Drawing upon its unique ethnic history, Cuba developed a polyrhythmic style quite different from what emerged in North America. Innovative artists like Arsenio Rodríguez brought Cuban dance music into maturity during World War II. The unshakeable rhythms of the mambo, rumba, and cha-cha-chá filtered into the United States, particularly in the world of jazzDizzy Gillespie's collaborations with Chano Pozo changed music forever. Rock ‘n’ roll and the blues also adopted Afro-Cuban flavors. Even after Cuba's isolation following the 1959 revolution, the music never stopped, according to Ned. Nueva trova, for example, a movement led by singer-songwriters like Silvio Rodríguez and Pablo Milanés, began to fuse revolutionary politics and idealism with traditional song forms. Cuban rhythms also provided the basis for the global salsa phenomenon of the '70s. Today music in Cuba thrives in both traditional genres and in modern ones like reggaeton. Though he's not personally a fan of the hit 1997 Buena Vista Social Club album, Ned was happy to see North Americans reengage with Cuban artists. With the political changes underway, he expects to see an even more exciting cultural exchange between Cuban musicians and the rest of the world.

Go to episode 482