Segments and Articles
- Listen Movie Date: Best On-Screen Bands
- Listen That Was A Hit?!?: "Disco Duck"
- Listen Marcellus Hall's Double Life: Illustrator And Musician
Bobby McFerrin is a masterful vocal improviser -- you never know what will come out of his mouth next. But as he described on Soundcheck earlier this year, he finds improvisation to be as simple as forward motion.
"You start something and you just keep going," he said. "The first part is just getting enough courage to forward ho -- start, and don’t stop."
Best known for his solo performances, the vocalist and conductor returns to his musical roots on his latest album, Spirityouall. The record features an all-star jazz ensemble and McFerrin's famously joyous interpretations of the Americana songs he grew up with, like "Swing Low" and "Whole World." On the song "Joshua," he transforms a 19th century slave spiritual into a swinging, jazzy number that you can't help but tap your toe to.
Download our live recording of Bobby McFerrin performing "Joshua" in the Soundcheck studio on Tuesday, Dec. 10.
Hear more from Bobby McFerrin's session here -- and watch a video of Bobby McFerrin performing the song in the Soundcheck studio below.
Coming up on Wednesday: A free download from The Julie Ruin.
In this episode: For a long time, Lynn Goldsmith didn’t want to be known as a “rock and roll photographer.” Yet with her new book, Rock And Roll Stories, she’s embraced the label. The collection collects four decades worth of photos and behind-the-scenes tales about music's biggest stars.
Then, Will Ferrell's surly news anchor and magnificent jazz flute extraordinaire Ron Burgundy returns to theaters in Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues. John Nau -- one of two composers behind the new movie’s soundtrack and score -- talks about the music behind the eagerly-anticipated comedy.
And, Seasick Mama -- the pop moniker of singer, songwriter and model Marial Maher -- performs songs from her latest EP, Tip Top Shape, as well as a previously-unheard new song.
ARTIST: Saeid Shanbehzadeh, Basel Rajoub, Naghib Shanbehzadeh, Kenan Adnawi
The news surrounding Iran and Syria as of late has been overwhelmingly about nuclear weapons and war. But tomorrow night, the two nations’ common musical interests will be explored at an Asia Society performance called Sound: The Encounter. Four Iranian and Syrian performers will take the stage, including the Iranian bagpipe player and dancer Saied Shanbezadeh and the Syrian saxophonist/duclar performer Basel Rajoub. Download their piece called "Mina," which is the Arab word for harbor.
Nelson Mandela, South Africa's first black president and a treasured symbol of hope in the struggle against racial oppression, died Thursday at 95. Soundcheck host John Schaefer has this musical remembrance.
On June 20, 1990, Nelson Mandela made his historic visit to New York. The way this city opened up to him was like nothing I’d ever seen. In fact, I was afraid the city’s emotional embrace of Mandela would do what all those years in prison couldn’t -- namely, squash him like a bug.
There was a ticker tape parade up the Canyon Of Heroes in lower Broadway. A grueling schedule of meetings, interviews, and broadcasts. And a big concert at Yankee Stadium. I’m sure there was more stuff I’m forgetting. But what I will always remember are the musicians from South Africa who came to our studio to honor, in their own distinctive and personal ways, this man who meant so much to them.
On June 19, I did a session with the Mahotella Queens, one of South Africa’s greatest vocal groups and leaders in the music style known as mbaqanga, or “Township Jive.” If you’re familiar with Paul Simon’s Graceland then you’ve heard elements of that sound. On June 20, the day of Mandela’s arrival, we had another, very special guest.
Abdullah Ibrahim -- or Dollar Brand as he was originally known -- has been one of South Africa’s great musical exports since his surprise hit “Capetown Fringe” in the early 70s. He is not known as a singer. But he came in that day and played a moving version of his song “Jacaranda Blues,” about the jacaranda tree of South Africa. It’s a tree that can be a home to flowers, or to locusts, and Ibrahim used it as a metaphor for the choice facing South Africa, which was still under white rule. The jacaranda flower has a sweet scent -- a “perfume for Winnie,” as he sings here in a reference to Mandela’s wife, and of course could provide a respite from the sun -- “and Nelson’s shade.”
I believe I had a lump in my throat as Abdullah Ibrahim ended the song (which, for you fans, includes references to a couple of his other pieces towards the end). Over the many years and many live performances our studios have seen, this remains one that I know I will never forget.
Today, it seems appropriate to hear it again.
Nelson Mandela, South Africa's first black president and a treasured symbol of hope in the struggle against racial oppression, died Thursday at 95.
Born in a country that saw him as a second-class citizen, Mandela was convicted of treason by the white minority government and spent 27 years in prison. After his release in 1990, he led the African National Congress to victory in 1994 -- the first fully democratic election in South African history -- becoming one of the world's most respected statesmen and icons.
Unsurprisingly, Mandela stirred musicians from all over the world to write songs about apartheid and the political strife of the times, and Mandela's inspiring life. To reflect on the impact and importance of Nelson Mandela, Soundcheck has put together a collaborative Spotify playlist of songs that honor and remember him.
If you wish, feel free to add some of your favorites to the list, or make song suggestions in the comments section below.
In this episode: Actor Oscar Isaac talks about starring -- and performing much of the music -- in the Coen brothers' latest film, Inside Llewyn Davis.
Then, the Grammy Award winning jazz vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater performs live in the Soundcheck studio.
A new compilation, Purple Snow: Forecasting the Minneapolis Sound, chronicles ten years of lesser-known Twin Cities funk and R&B that set the stage for Prince. The curator behind the set and one of the featured artists talk about the Minneapolis music scene of that time.
ARTIST: Seasick Mama
DOWNLOAD: "Tees and Jeans"
Neil Young sang about “seasick mamas” in his 1974 song “For the Turnstiles.” Now, Seasick Mama is the stage name of singer and model Marial Eve Maher – who calls her brand of music “intellectual pop.” Her new EP, Tip Top Shape, was produced by Dave Sitek of TV on the Radio. Here’s one of the tracks off of that EP, called “Tees and Jeans.” If you want to see her performing live, Seasick Mama and her band are taking over Santos Party House tonight.
Download "Tees and Jeans" above and watch a video below.
In this episode: Stax Records built a soul music empire, but Memphis music historian Robert Gordon says it was more than a record label: Stax provided a refuge from the racial tensions roiling the South in the 1960's.
Then, songwriter Lucy Wainwright Roche -- the daughter of Loudon Wainwright III and Suzzy Roche -- stakes out her own territory on There’s A Last Time For Everything, a new album that features a collaboration Colin Meloy of The Decemberists, and a cover of Robyn's "Call Your Girlfriend." Hear her perform in the Soundcheck studio, with her mom.
And, this season, the NFL teams in Kansas City and Seattle are battling for the title of “loudest crowd roar at a sports stadium,” after a Chiefs game recently topped 137 decibels. We delve into it with The New York Times' Joyce Cohen and Chiefs super-fan Ty Rowton -- a.k.a. “X-Factor” -- who helped organize fans to break a decibel-record at the NFL team’s home, Arrowhead Stadium.
ARTIST: Jean-Michel Pilc
DOWNLOAD: "Un Poco Fandango"
Download "Un Poco Fandango" above and watch a video below.
In this episode: Thanksgiving is behind us and you know what that means: Christmas music. Everywhere. All the time. Esquire's Sean Manning shares some new holiday releases including some new gems and a few stinkers too.
Then, jazz bassist Ben Allison and his band performs songs from The Stars Look Very Different Today, his sci-fi film-influenced new album with a title that tips its hat to a David Bowie song.
And: Lisa Kron -- who wrote the book and lyrics for the new musical Fun Home, which is playing at the Public Theater through the end of December -- shares a Pick Three playlist of some of her favorite songs.
ARTIST: Jagwar Ma
DOWNLOAD: "Come Save Me (Matthew Dear Remix)"
Download "Come Save Me" above and watch a video below.
In this episode: That Was a Hit?!? -- Soundcheck's occasional series on surprising pop-chart success -- examines "One Night In Bangkok," that rare beast: a No. 3 hit from a concept album that later inspired a stage musical about, yes, chess. The writer and Sirius XM personality Mario Correa joins us to talk about Murray Head’s utterly weird, completely infectious song.
Then, the virtuosic electric bassist Stephen Bruner has gigged with singer Erykah Badu and fellow L.A. natives Snoop Dogg, Flying Lotus and Suicidal Tendencies. Bruner and his soul-funk trio come to the Soundcheck studio to play songs from his second solo record, Apocalypse, released under the moniker Thundercat.
Plus: You probably know most -- but not all -- of the road warriors and product pushers on Forbes magazine’s list of highest-grossing musicians of 2013. Zack O'Malley Greenburg talks about who made the list and why.
ARTIST: Los Lobos
STREAM: "Tears of God"
40 years ago in California, a band called “Los Lobos del Este (de Los Angeles)” was formed. Luckily, they quickly shortened their name – and Los Lobos took off. The Chicano group’s blend of rock, folk and traditional Mexican music has earned them multiple Grammys and many years of success on the road. They’re playing at City Winery tonight – which happens to be where they recorded their most recent album – called Disconnected in New York City.
Stream "Tears of God" above and watch a video below.
In this episode Soundcheck revisits a few recent favorite segments:
First: Sarah Jarosz is just 22, but she’s already made a mark on the folk and bluegrass scene thanks to her deep bluegrass knowledge and exceptional instrumental skills. The Grammy nominated singer-songwriter from Texas plays live in the Soundcheck studio.
Then, comedian Kurt Braunohler talks about his debut comedy album How Do I Land?, and plays three favorite songs as part of Soundcheck's Pick Three series.
And, British electro-pop artist and producer Ebony Bones has a flair for larger-than-life musical performances. Her tendency toward the flamboyant earned her a spot opening for Cee Lo Green a few years back. Hear -- and see -- why when she performs live in the Soundcheck studio.
ARTIST: Lucy Wainwright Roche
DOWNLOAD: "Seek and Hide"
Before Lucy Wainwright Roche released her self-titled debut in 2010, she was an elementary school teacher here in New York City. But the daughter of musicians Loudon Wainwright III and Suzzy Roche eventually succumbed to the family business, and recently released a follow-up to that first album, called There’s A Last Time For Everything. Download a song from that album, “Seek and Hide,” featuring Colin Meloy of the Decemberists, above, and watch a video about the making of her cover of the Robyn song "Call Your Girlfriend" below.
ARTIST: Michael Powers
DOWNLOAD: "Spanish Castle Magic"
Here’s someone to be thankful for: Jimi Hendrix. The legendary musician was born this week 71 years ago, and tonight at Terra Blues in the West Village, guitarist Michael Powers and his band, the Michael Powers Frequency, pay tribute to the electric guitar god. Download his cover of the Hendrix classic “Spanish Castle Magic" from his 2011 album, “Revolutionary Boogie.”
This week, many of us are taking time out to spend time with family and friends for Thanksgiving -- so there's no better time than now to gather around the warm glow of the laptop, cue up some videos and have a group singalong. Right? Who's with me?
And so we've got another great video playlist stuffed with a mix of something for everyone: A little hip-hop from a one-of-a-kind hip-hop star in the making, a pair of jazz visionaries just playing some blues, and an intimate solo performance from an exciting blues rocker -- all live in the Soundcheck studio.
So help yourself to a second helping of some extra starchy foods, or find yourself a slice of pie and dig in with more excellent music.
In today's playlist:
In this episode: Thanksgiving is just one day away, and that means that it's the perfect time to introduce your parents to some new music. We hear from some of our listeners about their attempts at doing just that -- and we also listen to some voicemails that we received about the New York City nightclub Area, which we talked about in our Vanished Venues series earlier this week.
Plus: Find out what happens when James Beard Award-winning chef Michael Anthony of New York’s Gramercy Tavern and Wilco drummer Glenn Kotche meet for the first time on Soundcheck.
And: The infectiously fun electro-Afrofunk pop band Rubblebucket performs in the Soundcheck studio.
ARTIST: Maria Schneider
STREAM: "Aires de Lando"
For most Americans, Thanksgiving traditions include eating turkey, watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, and maybe playing a little touch football. For bandleader and composer Maria Schneider, however, Thanksgiving brings with it her orchestra’s annual week-long residency at the Jazz Standard – a tradition now in its 9th year. Get a sneak preview by listening to this piece by the group, called “Aires de Lando," and watch Maria Schneider with her orchestra and soprano Dawn Upshaw in the video below.
In this episode: Some parents stubbornly cling to music of the past: the Eagles, Joni Mitchell, that George Winston album that gets dragged out over the holidays. Writer Paul Ford joins us with some simple ways to trick parents into liking, say, Sky Ferreira.
Then, as the world readies itself for the NBC "Sound of Music" live remake, we debate the merits of the original musical and film with NPR’s Linda Holmes and Sound of Music enthusiast Peter Kiesewalter.
And, the heralded young Detroit-based rapper Danny Brown talks about his hometown, explains why he likes to cuss so much when he’s not on the radio, and tells us what he’ll be having for Thanksgiving dinner (spoiler alert: chitlins with hot sauce). Plus, he performs live in our studio.