Music

From jazz, to classical and world music, NEPR entertains, inspires and enriches lives seven days a week with its signature music programming. Our hosts provide in-depth knowledge about music they share and keep listeners up-to-date on music events happening throughout the region on air and on Facebook.

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Kevin Mahogany
The Kansas City Star

You've probably heard by now that Kevin Mahogany died on Monday, December 18, at his home in Kansas City, Missouri. A heart attack claimed his life at age 59. I heard Kevin many times in person, got to introduce him on various stages, and talked with him about the musical legacy of Charlie Parker, Ben Webster, Big Joe Turner and other legends from his hometown. He had a profound and humble sense of himself as a keeper of the flame.

December 18 marks the 100th anniversary of Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson’s birth in Houston, Texas. Vinson straddled two divides, jazz and blues, swing and bebop, and was a double threat as a singer and alto saxophonist. He got started in his teens with Milt Larkins, who led a renowned, though unrecorded territory band whose ranks included Illinois Jacquet, Arnett Cobb, Tom Archia, and Wild Bill Davis. Larkins toured primarily in the Midwest and occasionally shared the bill and backed the bluesmen T-Bone Walker and Big Bill Broonzy.

Paul Butterfield in Woodstock, 1976
Catherine Sebastian

Paul Butterfield, who died 30 years ago, was born on December 17, 1942. Most of us who had any connection with Butterfield back then were more saddened than surprised when we learned of his death on May 4, 1987, at 44.

Fenton Robinson
B.L.U.E.S.

Dear Reader: Please don't mistake this blog as an endorsement of cigarette smoking. I chain-smoked Pall Malls, Kools, Marlboro Lights and other coffin nails for 23 years and have never regretted the cold turkey dues I paid in quitting them 26 years ago. But the display ad seen below, which I found posted on the Facebook page for "Dave's Orbit" last week, was just too cool to ignore. It shows the bluesman Fenton Robinson posed between a garland of hip poetics in a Newport ad that ran in Ebony magazine in January 1970.

Updated, Dec. 8, 8:20 a.m. ET with a subsequent statement from James Levine and James Lestock.

New allegations of sexual assault have been made against James Levine, the music director emeritus of the Metropolitan Opera in New York and its conductor for over forty years. Levine was suspended from his position over the weekend, and now, with more allegations made public, repercussions for the lauded musician are continuing to pile up.

George Avakian in 2003
Ian Clifford / WBGO

One of the first album covers to grab my attention as a kid was Ambassador Satch. Released in 1956, it pictured Louis Armstrong in a formal cutaway jacket, contrasting gray vest, and striped trousers, and it conveyed a composed elegance about the man that belied the outsized figure I'd felt bemused by when I saw him on television. I would have been seven or eight when I began rifling through the small stack of albums that my parents owned, mostly symphonic and Broadway musical, and this lone record with a black face on the cover.

Jon Hendricks, who died on Wednesday at 96, was for over seven decades an artist who embodied the characteristic “sound of surprise” that the late New Yorker writer Whitney Balliett coined to describe jazz. Jon’s came in two forms, first as a singer who came to prominence with the vocal trio, Lambert, Hendricks, and Ross in the late ‘50s, and in his extraordinary skill as a lyricist. 

This rare footage of Coleman Hawkins playing "I Wish I Were Twins" was discovered by Harry Oakley and posted on YouTube four years ago. I've just come upon it for the first time, five pages deep into a Google search. I'm sure you'll agree that in the annals of jazz, as well as the archive of Hawk's filmed performances, it should pop up at the slightest mention of his name.  

Fats Domino
PBS

There's no doubt in my mind that the first music I heard from New Orleans was by Fats Domino, and that he was in my head for well over a decade before the city's music became a passion of mine. That didn't take place until I saw Professor Longhair performing in Central Park in 1973, but I would have heard Fats as early as the late fifties, and there the seed was planted. His hit tunes "Blueberry Hill,"  "Ain't That a Shame," and "Walkin' to New Orleans," were part of the aural wallpaper of my youth, and the intriguingly named Antoine Dominique Domino was no stranger to television either. (Since his recent death, I've been surprised by the number of people who've told me they thought Domino was a nickname that went along with Fats.)

Andy McGhee
Berklee College of Music

Andy McGhee was a household name in the world of jazz education, but Berklee's gain meant that Andy remained one of the least-known and most under-recorded tenor masters of the past half-century. Why, even his name is subsumed under a colleague's in this 2006 performance of "Body and Soul."

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