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Mumford & Sons Preaches To Masses

Sep 27, 2012

Marcus Mumford may not seem like the kind of guy who'd start a bar fight.

In terms of international prestige, it's hard to think of bigger prizes in the classical community than those given annually by the British classical music magazine Gramophone (where I served as the North America editor for several years). Sure, the Grammys have more general name recognition, but these Eurocentric awards, completely dedicated to classical music, offer far more depth and breadth than their nearest American counterparts, both in terms of artists and repertoire.

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Elsewhere in program, we're reporting on a deal that appears to be ending a lock out of NFL referees. There's some other labor disputes that appear to be ending without weeks of terrible calls.

YouTube is well-known for videos, but a recent Nielsen study revealed 64 percent of teens and young adults go to it to listen to and discover music. The free website, which is owned by Google, has set up advertising deals to help musicians get compensated. But it's not clear how they're getting paid — or how much.

Singer Andy Williams, best known for his rendition of Moon River, his Christmas TV specials and his long-running show in Branson, Mo., has died.

He was 84.

Williams' publicist, Paul Shefrin, says in a statement sent to reporters that the singer "passed away last night (Tuesday) at home in Branson, Mo, following a year long battle with bladder cancer. ... Williams, 84, who also had a residence in La Quinta, Calif., is survived by his wife Debbie and his three children, Robert, Noelle and Christian."

The streaming music service Spotify has garnered some 2 million users in the U.S. since its introduction a little over a year ago. The service includes many big acts like Katy Perry, but many musicians have mixed feelings about it. Some, like Adele and Coldplay, resisted putting new albums on Spotify, citing the service's low royalty payments to musicians. Others, like the Black Keys, won't allow full albums on the service at all.

By now, everyone's heard of Kickstarter, the website that lets people with an idea or project ask other people to contribute toward realizing it. It's called crowd funding, and this summer's big success story was musician Amanda Palmer. She raised more than $1 million to produce her new album. But crowd funding doesn't work for every musician every time.

Last year, after the Atlanta rock band Black Lips released the album Arabia Mountain, its members planned a trip to tour the Middle East, but the wave of Arab Spring protests forced them to change plans. Yet even with simmering anti-Americanism persisting throughout the region, singer-guitarist Ian St. Pe was determined to see this through. Cairo, where I spoke with them on Friday, was the band's second stop.

In a ceremony and concert last night, the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz recognized Jamison Ross, 24, as the winner of its annual competition for young musicians. The competition, the highest profile event of its kind, was open to drummers this year.

Pianist Ethan Iverson launched a debate last month when he evoked "the dark side" of musical competition — specifically, of the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition, whose semifinals and finals take place this weekend in Washington, D.C. Iverson took issue with overemphasizing technical convention, and with the very nature of judging art, making the somewhat hyperbolic suggestion that Monk couldn't have competed in the contest named for him.

And then there were three — record labels, that is. Regulators in the United States and Europe have approved the acquisition of EMI Music by Univeral Music Group. The combined label will own close to 40 percent of the world music market with a trove of acts that includes The Beatles.

Around The Jazz Internet: Sept. 21, 2012

Sep 21, 2012

Happy John Coltrane birthday on Sunday.

  • Pianist Michael Wolff talks about his Cal Tjader tribute for the San Jose Mercury News. I do know Wolff as a New York pianist but didn't know he was musical director of The Arsenio Hall Show or that he's from the Bay Area.

  • The Washington Post has a long, fascinating piece on Dietmar Machold, the 63-year-old violin dealer/con man who went on trial in Vienna this week: "It is the largest fraud case in the history of a trade that goes back to at least the middle of the 18th century: Apart from criminal charges, Machold faces civil claims estimated at $200 million. ...

Why Some Musicians Last

Sep 20, 2012

The mists of eternity wafted over my Twitter feed the other night. Okay, not quite — but talk of eternity, or at least of the pop scene in thirty years, did make for a lengthy and spirited group exchange. It started when a friend who's not fond of singing competitions asked whether Kelly Clarkson will be remembered in 2042.

The Beatles had "The White Album." Prince's long-time work-in-progress became dubbed "The Black Album." Rapper Raekwon had "The Purple Tape," one the most storied cassettes in hip-hop history.

Last Wednesday I had the enormous privilege of sitting down with the masterful Bonnie Raitt for the keynote conversation at the annual Americana Music Conference and Festival in Nashville. Actually, I stood while blues fusion matriarch sat — I'd aggravated an old back injury moments before we took the stage, and my mentioning this to the crowd set Bonnie up for her first zinger of the chat: "What was his name?" she teased.

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