William Tyler takes the stage at the Trumpet Blossom Café, a vegan restaurant and bar in Iowa City. Surrounded by effects pedals for his guitar, he wears jeans and black cowboy boots, and his fingernails are about an inch long.
Steinway & Sons, the 160-year-old musical instrument maker, is set to change hands.
Last month, a private equity firm emerged as the company's likely buyer. But a mystery bidder — rumored to be hedge fund manager John Paulson — has swooped in at the last minute, and now looks likely to take control of one of the oldest manufacturers in the United States. Paulson made billions betting against the housing market at a time when many thought housing prices could only go up. His reported offer for the company is $458 million.
In the cloistered world of classical music recordings, there is great interest in choral music by Catholic nuns these days. In the past year, two separate albums by a group of monastic nuns shot to the top of the classical charts.
Originally published on Sun August 11, 2013 4:09 pm
Today marks the 40th anniversary of the day Clive "Kool Herc" Campbell threw his first party in the function room of 1520 Sedgwick Ave in the South Bronx. While that Kool Herc back-to-school party marks the official beginnings of the global culture we call hip-hop, what the mainstream media at large now calls "hip-hop" is a far cry from the creative culture that emerged following the gang truce between the warring tribes of the South Bronx. When most people say "hip-hop" what they're actually talking about is rap.
A group of 20 students sits in a big circle in the front parlor of a Victorian mansion at Davis & Elkins College. Everyone has a fiddle. And all eyes are on the teacher. Heads bop and toes tap as Dave Bing plays a West Virginia tune called "Camp Chase." Outside, a bevy of banjos plink out a mournful melody. Down the road the mandolin and guitar classes combine to jam on a new tune they've learned.
We remember recording producer Cowboy Jack Clements, who died Thursday in Nashville at the age of 82. In the 1950s, he helped record Elvis, Carl Perkins and Roy Orbison when he worked at Sun Records in Memphis. He also discovered Jerry Lee Lewis and began a life-long friendship with Johnny Cash. Clement later provided the signature sound to one of Cash's biggest hits, "Ring of Fire."
Try telling a story in six seconds. With the social media app Vine, owned by Twitter, users are doing just that. They're creating everything from artistic pieces to random comedy sketches in six-second videos that loop endlessly.
Originally published on Tue August 6, 2013 10:42 am
George Duke, the legendary jazz keyboardist, died on Monday, his publicist tells NPR.
Duke's career spanned five decades and he always straddled the line between disparate genres, collaborating with artists such as Miles Davis, Barry Manilow, Frank Zappa, George Clinton and some of Brazil's top musicians.
Clap your hands now! From Michel Camilo's stomping, tassled Oxfords to Esperanza Spalding's vibrating upright-bass strings and a whole lotta dancing, here's the 2013 Newport Jazz Festival forever enshrined in animated GIFs. See a gallery of Adam Kissick's pixel portraits here — and follow us on Flickr.
It takes a while to orient yourself when you're listening to the band Dawn of Midi. The new album Dysnomia is a 47-minute-long composition by what looks like a jazz trio — drums, bass and piano. But it sounds like something completely different — looping, minimal electronic music. And there's no improvisation here: It's performed the same way, note for note, every time.
For the next year, NPR will take a musical journey across America, which is one of the most religiously diverse countries on earth. We want to discover and celebrate the many ways in which people make spiritual music — individually and collectively, inside and outside houses of worship.
The founder of the choral group Sounds of Africa is Fred Onovwerosuoke. He was born in Ghana and brought up in Nigeria, and his choir in the heart of the U.S. — St. Louis, Mo., to be exact — has recorded his arrangements of African sacred music by a composer named Ikoli Harcourt Whyte.
Originally published on Sun August 4, 2013 8:02 am
If you didn't manage to fly in, drive up or sneak your way aboard a yacht bound for coastal Rhode Island — well, we can't help you get to the 2013 Newport Jazz Festival. But if you're not near Aquidneck Island this weekend, you can still catch a lot of the festival from our live NPR Music webcast, presented with WBGO and WGBH.
Listen at the audio link to Chris Molanphy and NPR's Audie Cornish talk on All Things Considered about the history of Billboard's Hot 100 chart.
Hear that? On the radio? That slick, dreamy crooner dude, singing about how he's going out of his mind over that girl? Well, she's an animal — baby, it's in her nature. He used to play around with hearts that hastened at his call. But when he met that little girl, he knew that he would fall.
Wait a sec ... what song is this? Which dreamy dude is this? What year is this?
It is not easy to play both jazz drum set and Afro-Caribbean percussion. Lots of drummers do it, but few have mastered it in a way that makes their sound in either style unmistakable from the first beat.
The music community lost one of those true innovators Wednesday with the death of percussionist Steve Berrios in New York at age 68. Berrios could move seamlessly from jazz to Afro-Cuban rhythms in a way that perfectly reflected his bicultural roots.
Originally published on Sun August 4, 2013 8:02 am
The Newport Folk Festival is a little like summer camp — crowded, loud, fun, full of a lot of your favorite people — and you never want to leave. On this year's last day artists said goodbye by coming together.
As sales of recorded music continue to plummet, the concept of fans "owning" music may soon be considered old-fashioned. Today, it's all about access to music, rather than ownership of an album or a song, and newer streaming services like Spotify are at the center of the storm.
Originally published on Sun August 4, 2013 8:04 am
It always rains at least one day at the Newport Folk Festival, and because Newport started a whole day earlier this year, we got the downpour out of the way first. But that didn't stop folks from dancing and singing along to The Mountain Goats, JD McPherson, Blake Mills and many more.