July 8th, 2015

Ladies Sing the Blues with John Szwed on Billie Holiday, Catherine Russell


For the definitive jazz singer Billie Holiday's centennial celebration, we listen to her voice through songs ranging from "God Bless the Child" and "Summertime" to "My Man" and "Strange Fruit." We also hear about Billie's style and significance from biographers John Szwed and Robert O'Meally as well as music historian Chris Albertson, who knew and interviewed the singer. Cassandra Wilson describes and sings her approach to the Billie Holiday oeuvre on a recent recording; and we follow "Lady Day" through her beginnings to musical high points, a complex life of troubles and triumphs, her compelling "autumn" voice and untimely passing. Singer Catherine Russell tells us about drawing on Billie Holiday and more in bringing classic jazz vocals into contemporary style. We also dig into our archive to hear about blues in their sound from Nina Simone, Bonnie Raitt, Irma Thomas and Koko Taylor.


July 15th, 2015

Giants of Jazz: Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane


For this special American Routes program, we follow the lives of two giants of jazz: Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane. From their humble North Carolina beginnings to their triumphs on the world stage, we'll trace their individual and inspired paths to creativity. And we'll visit with the musicians who played with the greats, including McCoy Tyner and Pharoah Sanders, and the next generation, TS Monk and Ravi Coltrane.


July 22nd, 2015

Van Dyke Parks & Tom McDermott


Conversation with and music from Van Dyke Parks, an eclectic, popular classicist known as a composer and keyboardist, arranger and producer, with a great love of calypso and Hawaiian cowboy music. The man behind the curtain for so many artists, the Hollywood-based Parks is well-regarded for writing and studio work with Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys, Ry Cooder, Lowell George and Randy Newman, among many. He recently became a fan of pianist Tom McDermott, a St. Louis-born, New Orleans-dwelling and Brazilian-influenced vernacular virtuoso. Parks thought enough of McDermott's recorded repertoire to collect and reissue some of it as Bamboula -- so named for the composition by the mutually-admired New Orleans 19th century pianist Louis Moreau Gottschalk. Tom McDermott, also a fan of Scott Joplin, Jelly Roll Morton, Professor Longhair and James Booker, plays in his parlor for us.