Podcasts

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Jnennifer Pickering

Photo courtesy of LEAF

Founder and director of LEAF Community Arts

For Jennifer Pickering, all art is both local and global and LEAF is that philosophy in action.

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Photo by Joseph Blough

Saxophonist, composer and 2020 NEA Jazz Master

Saxophonist, composer and 2020 NEA Jazz Master Roscoe Mitchell is a musical seeker. He’s interested in sound and its colors. He is one of the most influential (and prolific) jazz musicians around who nonetheless says he has never been as excited or inspired as when I spoke with him in December 2019. And this from one of the original members of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians and one of the founders of the Art Ensemble of Chicago! Our interview was on my birthday—and it was the best present I could have received. Roscoe Mitchell—aside from being a fabulous musician--is an eloquent philosopher about music. Speaking with him was a true pleasure and I hope you’ll feel the same listening to this podcast.

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Photo by Richard Kholer

Bassist and 2020 NEA Jazz Master

Bassist and 2020 NEA Jazz Master Reggie Workman is aptly named. The man might not have played with everyone in jazz, but he has come close. I don’t want this to turn into a list of Workman’s gigs, so I’ll just touch on some of the major ones: He was a member of both the John Coltrane Quartet playing in such legendary recordings as Live at the Village Vanguard, and Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers during one of the band’s great line-ups. According to Reggie, Coltrane and Blakey were very different leaders: Coltrane gave his band a lot of freedom while Blakey knew exactly what he wanted. Because he could play any style of jazz from the American songbook to avant-garde, he became the go-to bassist for Blue Note Records backing folks from Abbey Lincoln to David Murray. He’s also led his own groups like the Reggie Workman Ensemble and performed in collaborative trios. In this wide-ranging conversation, Workman talks about what makes a good supporting artist and what he was looking for when he began his group. As professor at the New School for more than 30 years, Workman also talked about teaching and helping young musicians to understand “there are mistakes (in jazz),…but you have to be able to justify each note.” This music-filled podcast is a look at a fascinating artist.

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Courtesy of Col Don Schofield

Commander and Conductor The US Air Force Band

Commander and conductor of the US Air Force Band Colonel Don Schofield leads a remarkably diverse set of musicians. The Air Force Band consists of 172 members and six ensembles playing music that ranges from rock to jazz to brass to an orchestra. (We can't forget the string ensemble or the fabulous Singing Sergeants!). They play over 1600 performances around the world each year with a repertoire that is expansive and extensive. In this tuneful podcast, we learn how it all comes together, why Colonel Schofield went from music teacher to military service member, and why leading the U.S. Air Force Band is his dream job.

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Crys Matthews

Photo courtesy of Crys Matthews

Singer/Songwriter

Singer/songwriter Crys Matthews makes music that is absolutely her own. Sometimes the songs are bluesy, at other times they’re country soul. Maybe a song has a little funk or maybe it’s absolutely bluegrass or Americana. Matthews lets the song decide what it wants to be. It’s working for her: she won first prize at the 2017 New Song Music and Performance competition, which led to performances at both Lincoln Center and the Kennedy Center. The preacher’s kid from a small town in North Carolina is doing quite well with eight releases under her belt including songs about social justice, love, loss, and her dog. She’s really terrific--immensely talented and personable. And miracle of miracles, she can actually support herself through music. No small feat! Find out how she does it and listen to some very cool live music on this week’s podcast. And yes, we talk about her dog!

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Photo by Gregg Mizuta

2019 National Heritage Fellow Basque musician and tradition bearer

2019 National Heritage Fellow Basque musician, teacher and restauranteur Dan Ansotegui brings his passion for the Basque culture into everything he does. But he also sees culture as a breathing entity—not something set in amber. The roots of the tree may come from the Basque Region, but those leaves are growing in Boise, Idaho. Ansotegui is a great talker. In this podcast, ­learn about Basque music, dancing, and food (he does it all!) and the deep social connections these traditions give a community.

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Photo courtesy of J. Dash

Musician, composer, producer, and arts advocate

You might know J. Dash as the man who wrote and performed the double platinum song “WOP,” but that hardly scratches the surface. J. is a musician, composer, and producer who is also a great advocate for arts education. He works with schools in his hometown city of Jacksonville, Florida, and his current town of Austin, Texas. And J is a longtime volunteer with the National Association of Music Merchants’ Foundation, or NAAM, making yearly trips to Congress to lobby for more Title IV funds and working with students trying to break into the music industry. Even though he is best-known in the hip hop world, J. Dash is also a big fan of jazz and blues (he used to play in a blues band). And he also has begun to score films and television shows. Have I mentioned he has a parallel career as a computer scientist? What sparks his creativity and how does he juggle all the aspects of his careers? Listen to the podcast and find out…..

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Photo courtesy of Dr Nina Kraus

Neurobiologist and director of the Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory at Northwestern University

Dr. Nina Kraus is a professor of neurobiology at Northwestern University where she directs the Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory, also known as Brainvolts. She has made the study of how we biologically process sound her life’s work. She and the Brainvolts’ team have conducted long-term, multi-year studies looking at the brainwaves of children and found that making music—whether with instrument or voice—actually makes biological changes to the way the brain processes sound which, in turn, strengthens the ability of the brain to better apprehend the depth and breadth of language and speech. Simply put, creating music builds our capacity to turn sound into meaning. Nina is passionate about sound—she remembers as a child sitting under her mother’s piano as she played. She brings that same sense of wonder and excitement to her rigorous biological research, and you’ll hear it throughout the podcast…which is a perfect way to explore the way we process sound.

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Photo by Marina Umari

Pianist and 2019 NEA Jazz Master

Pianist and 2019 NEA Jazz Master Abdullah Ibrahim combines the musical influences of his childhood in Cape Town, South Africa, which include traditional South African songs, gospels and spirituals, and Indian ragas, with the improvisation of jazz to create a sound that is distinctly his. Born Adolph Johannes Brand in 1934, he was known professionally as Dollar Brand before changing his name when he converted to Islam in 1968. Ibrahim, along with Hugh Masekela and Kippi Moketsi, formed the short-lived but impactful septet The Jazz Epistles who recorded the first South African jazz album, Jazz Epistles, Verse 1. Because of the limits imposed on black South Africans by the repressive apartheid government, Ibrahim left the country. He traveled first to Zurich, where he met Duke Ellington who recorded him, and then to New York City, where he met everyone else and played in Carnegie Hall. He returned to South Africa briefly and in the mid-1970s composed what became the people’s national anthem, “Mannenberg.” Exiled once more, he returned to South Africa at the invitation of Nelson Mandela and performed at Mandela’s presidential inauguration. In this podcast episode, Abdullah talks about his many diverse musical influences, his deep love of jazz (which he calls “the highest form of music”), living and performing under apartheid, exile, and the musician as healer. We pack a lot into this podcast, but Ibrahim has had a long, rich life.

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Photo courtesy of Christian McBride

Jazz Bassist

Jazz bassist Christian McBride takes us through his own musical journey--from his early days in Philadelphia to playing with some of the great jazz legends like NEA Jazz Masters Sonny Rollins and Chick Corea. He also talks about fronting a group and walks us through composing one of his signature songs "Brother Mister." Christian also reflects on his long friendship with 2019 NEA Jazz Master Stanley Crouch and Stanley's importance to jazz criticism and advocacy.

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