Reports focusing on the latest music news and trends along California's Central Coast.

"As we go into the well of the black pool of genius," Common intones during the opening bars of August Greene. It's a fitting incantation for a time in which black culture increasingly defines America's pop consciousness, even as black people are defiled by the sociopolitical will of a restless nation.

Carol Sloane On Piano Jazz

Mar 2, 2018

Carol Sloane is a sublime singer of great songs. She is natural and unaffected with a voice that embraces the melody and the listener with equal parts maturity and conviction. Combining spirit with character and elegance with style, Sloane has enchanted audiences all over the world. Her command of The Great American Songbook is unmatched.

Hometown: London, England

Genre: Jazz

Why We're Excited: Ezra Collective keeps one foot planted in traditional jazz but lets the other wander far and wide, bringing back rhythmic traces of hip-hop and Afrobeat. On the new Juan Pablo: The Philosopher EP, Ezra Collective sounds alternately taut and spacey in tunes that don't stay in one place long, let alone recede into the background.

SXSW Schedule:

Hometown: London, England

Genre: Jazz

Why We're Excited: Tenor saxophonist Nubya Garcia exudes a kind of breezy, sultry, downtown cool — no surprise, given her history as a club DJ. On her debut, Nubya's 5ive, she and her band strike an engrossing balance between long stretches of dreamy exploration and surges of vital, virtuosic intensity.

SXSW Schedule:

Roy Ayers: Tiny Desk Concert

Mar 1, 2018

Roy Ayers arrived at his Tiny Desk performance beaming with positivity. The 77-year-old jazz-funk icon and vibraphonist sauntered through the office with a Cheshire grin on his face, sharing jokes with anyone within earshot. Accompanying him was a trio of brilliantly seasoned musicians — keyboardist Mark Adams, bassist Trevor Allen and drummer Christopher De Carmine. Later during the performance, pride washed across Ayers' face as his bandmates took the spotlight. (Be sure to watch as Adams woos not just the room but brightens Ayers' face during his solo.)

Country Music Hall of Fame entry
Thomas Wilmer

The Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville, Tennessee is the Mother Ship where the entire history of country music from the 1800's to present is showcased and revered in the 360,000 square-foot multi-story facility.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify or Apple Music playlist at the bottom of the page.

Judy Philbin talks with the leaders of, and a participant in a new Cuesta College program called Cabaret 805, a singing and performing class where students learn to perform cabaret-style music, work with live instrumentalists, and refine their performance skills before a live audience in a concert setting.

You'd think that people would have had enough of silly love songs? Not a chance. For Valentine's Day this year, we've modeled our love songs playlist after The Magnetic Fields' classic 69 Love Songs, a collection of, well, 69 songs about love songs written by Stephin Merritt.

The U.K.'s jazz scene is flourishing these days thanks, in part, to the young artists pumping it with new life. We Out Here, the latest compilation project from DJ and producer Gilles Peterson's indie label Brownswood Recordings, is a fitting proclamation of ownership from the contemporaries who are adding color to the landscape.

Some experiences stick with you. They cry out for reflection, for the transfigurative potential of an artistic response. That was the case for Mike Reed, the intrepid Chicago drummer and bandleader, after his harrowing encounter with white supremacists in 2009.

Stax Museum in Memphis, Tennessee
Thomas Wilmer

Tim Sampson Communications Director for the Soulsville Foundation talks about the Stax Museum of American Soul Music, the genesis of “Soulsville”, the astounding Stax Music Academy, and Soulsville Charter School. Tiffany Harmon shares the story of Rock & Roll birthplace at Sun Studio in Memphis, Tennessee.

Liz Magnes On Piano Jazz

Jan 26, 2018

In 2001, McPartland introduced Piano Jazz audiences to Liz Magnes, one of Israel's most dynamic and creative solo jazz pianists. Her signature style blends Eastern and Western influences, creating a world music flavor.

Magnes moved to New York in 2000, going on to perform coast to coast and dedicating much of her time to arts education. In this session, Magnes presents her percussive form on "Someone to Watch Over Me." She and McPartland team up for "Ain't Misbehavin'."

Originally broadcast in the fall of 1997.


Guest host, Steve Koch reports from Little Rock, Arkansas about the life and music of Conway Twitty. Conway Twitty was born Harold Jenkins in Friar's Point, Miss., where his dad ran the ferry to the Arkansas side of the Mississippi River. When Jenkins was a boy, the family moved to Helena, Arkansas, where Jenkins got into music and started his first band. 

McCoy Mrubata was born in 1959 in Cape Town, South Africa. He left school after the 1976 Soweto uprising, first dedicating himself to painting and later to music. Playing the flute and saxophone, he toured alongside Hugh Masekela in the '90s and has led his own bands.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify or Apple Music playlist at the bottom of the page.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify or Apple Music playlist at the bottom of the page.

Fred Hersch is no stranger to the art of introspection. As a pianist, a composer, a bandleader and a sideman, he has always combined clarity of projection with a willingness to go deep. His latest expression of interiority is a graceful and revealing memoir, Good Things Happen Slowly, which takes shape as a gradual declaration of selfhood, in personal as well as artistic terms.

By 1938, clarinetist Benny Goodman was already known as "The King of Swing" — the leader of the most popular dance band in America at a time when swing jazz was America's most popular music. But nobody knew how it would be received in Carnegie Hall, America's temple to classical music.

Dan Hicks

Steve Koch reports from Arkansas about the legendary musician Dan Hicks:

Dan Hicks was born in Little Rock, Arkansas, but his family moved to Santa Rosa, California when he was five.

Hicks spent most of his life in northern California, where he honed his chops and became a ground breaking folk jazz bandleader. 

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released.

A continuity and a break: That's the history of The Bad Plus in a nutshell. An acoustic piano trio with the combustion properties of a post-punk band, it emerged in the early 2000s to an uproar — its surging attack and shrewd repertoire were framed as a radical split from the jazz tradition. Gradually a more perceptive view emerged, one that acknowledged where the band was really coming from.

A little over 75 years ago, Rita Hayworth and Fred Astaire introduced "I'm Old Fashioned," a graceful, guileless ballad that dismisses the latest trends in favor of timeless romantic verities: the glow of moonlight, the holding of hands, "the starry song that April sings."

Lorraine Desmarais On Piano Jazz

Jan 5, 2018

Lorraine Desmarais made her first appearance in the United States at the 1986 Great American Jazz Competition, where she took the highest honors. In 2012 she was awarded the prestigious Order of Canada for her work bringing Canadian jazz to the world. She was Marian McPartland's guest for this 1991 episode of Piano Jazz. Desmarais performs a few of her own compositions, including "The Third King" and "Memoir," along with a set of standards.

Gilles Toucas

Judy Philbin, host of Pacific Standard Time on KCBX, chats with singer Michael Feinstein, who is considered the Ambassador of the Great American Songbook. Feinstein is coming to San Luis Obispo on January 26th, 2018, and gives us a sneak preview of his upcoming Frank Sinatra tribute at the PAC. Plus, he tells stories about his friendship with Ira Gershwin, and how he fell in love with the great song standards.

Toast Of The Nation 2018

Dec 31, 2017

NPR's New Year's Eve tradition returns in this year's Toast of the Nation jazz party. Spirited and swinging, each hour of our annual all-night broadcast features a different live performance sure to get you ready for 2018.

Right now, you can enjoy all six hours of music any time of day or night — complete with festive Happy New Year messages throughout. Hosted by Christian McBride, it's the perfect complement to your holiday festivities.

Wayne Shorter didn't release any new music in 2017. But that's not to say the eminent saxophonist, composer and NEA Jazz Master had anything less than a banner year. In the spring he returned to Newark, for the first time in ages, as the honored guest of a festival at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center.

Arkansongs talks blues legend Grace Brim

Dec 24, 2017
Blues musician Grace Brim
Amy O'Neal

Join Stephen Koch, host of Arkansongs, a production of KUAR in Little Rock, Arkansas as he shares the story of Arkansawyer Grace Brim.