The National Endowment for the Arts podcast that goes behind the scenes with some of the nation’s great artists to explore how art works.
Terri Lyne Carrington
Drummer, producer, educator and 2021 NEA Jazz Master Terri Lyne Carrington is not only a virtuoso musician, she’s also a strong advocate for social justice and gender equity. She has spent her life in jazz. Coming from a musical family, she had her first professional gig at the age of ten (with Clark Terry, no less!). By the time she 11, she was a part-time student of the Berklee College of Music. And her career took off from there. In the 1980s, she worked with jazz luminaries like Pharaoh Saunders and Frank West; in the 1990s, she toured with jazz greats like Wayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock. She went on the lead her own groups, and in 2014, she became the first woman to win a Grammy Award as a leader for Best Jazz Instrumental Album with Money Jungle: Provocative in Blue. She brought together women instrumentalists and vocalists for The Mosaic Project tours and recordings. Her recent album Waiting Game with her group Social Science is the definition of artistic intersectionality in terms of race, gender, age, and style. And Carrington is deeply committed to empowering the next generation of musicians--founding and serving as the artistic director of the Berklee Institute of Jazz and Gender Justice. In this podcast, we talk about her early mentors, her development as a drummer and as a bandleader, some of the great musicians she’s played with, and her advocacy for gender equity in jazz and society.
Camille T. Dungy
Award-winning writer and two-time NEA Literature Fellow Camille T. Dungy is one of the significant voices in ecopoetry. Ecopoetry is a challenge to classic nature poetry, which was often written by poets who observed nature rather than seeing themselves as part of the natural world. Ecopoetry dispels this illusion: “outside of nature” doesn’t exist. Ecopoetry probes the complexities and interconnections of all parts of the natural world. In a genre long been dominated by white voices, Dungy explores these entangled connections between humans and nature from her position as a Black woman in the United States. She does so with precise detail, rhythmic lyricism, and a broad inclusiveness. The author of four collections of poetry, Dungy is also the editor of the 2009 path-breaking anthology, Black Nature: Four Hundred Years of African-American Nature Writing. The anthology insists that the place of Black nature poets be recognized on their own terms: as writers whose connection to nature is complicated by history. In other words, existing outside of history is as impossible as existing outside of nature. In this poetry-filled podcast, Dungy discusses the issues around the absence of Black voices in anthologies of environmental poetry, editing and organizing Black Nature, her own work as a poet, and the significance of environmental poetry.
Albert “Tootie” Heath
The Heath Brothers are jazz legends—2002 NEA Jazz master Percy was a bassist, 2003 NEA Jazz Master Jimmy was saxophonist, composer, and arranger and now their youngest brother Albert, known to all as Tootie, a virtuosic percussionist, has now joined them as a 2021 NEA Jazz Master. Tootie Heath’s talent was apparent a young age—he was still in high school when he performed with Thelonious Monk. In fact, the list of musicians who have sought him out reads like a who’s who in jazz: John Coltrane, Dexter Gordan, Yusef Lateef, Art Farmer, Anthony Braxton, Ethan Iverson. The list goes on and on; after all, Heath has performed on more than 100 recordings. But note the range of styles of these musicians. Heath is known for his extraordinary versatility as a drummer—eager to play various styles of jazz as well as immerse himself in the music and rhythms of other cultures. Yet, there’s never any mistaking Heath’s own distinctive musical voice. And it was a voice that was nurtured from an early age at his home in Philadelphia where he grew up surrounded by music. In this podcast, Tootie Heath talks about his musical roots, his talented brothers, some of the celebrated musicians he’s performed with, and his commitment to embracing different musical styles. He’s funny, irreverent, and a born story-teller with great stories to tell.
2021 A.B. Spellman NEA Jazz Masters Fellow for Jazz Advocacy Phil Schaap is an original—a legendary radio host since 1970 at WKCR, an award-winning audio engineer with a facility for remastering jazz classics, a renowned teacher of jazz, a virtuoso of jazz history in general and Charlie Parker in particular, and, as you will hear in this podcast, one of the great storytellers. Schaap has won six Grammy Awards for his liner notes, audio engineering, and production. He’s taught jazz at Columbia University, Princeton University, and Rutgers University, and currently teaches in the graduate school at Juilliard. In addition, he became curator at Jazz at Lincoln Center where he created Swing University--an educational program where he teaches classes that cultivate listening and a deeper appreciation for jazz. From the mid-1970s until 1992, he booked musicians for Jazz at the West End a Manhattan club with nightly shows seven days a week. Phil Schaap literally grew up surrounded by jazz and in the company of extraordinary musicians who were close family friends—and he has funny, lovely, and appreciative stories about all of them. This podcast is a great way to kick off Jazz Appreciation Month—it’s harder to find anyone who appreciates the music more than 2021 NEA Jazz Master Phil Schaap.
Sally Wen Mao
Sally Wen Mao’s second collection of poetry Oculus has gotten a great deal of well-deserved attention. The word Oculus comes from the Latin; it means “eye.” It can also refer to the lens of a camera, and architecturally, it’s a circular window or a circular opening at the top of a dome. In her poetry, Sally Wen Mao uses these multiplicities of meanings as she examines the violence of spectacle. In Oculus, Mao presents the many ways in which Chinese people, most particularly women, have become spectacles for American audiences-- in life, in death, on film and online — objectified by a lens they don’t control. Her poems excavate this history of spectacle beginning with Afong Moy the first Chinese woman to come to America and displayed to paying audiences as an oriental curio. In a series of persona poems starring Anna May Wong, Mao travels through time from silent films to the present day. Mao also interrogates the culpability of current technology from an online suicide in 2014 to a murder that was a front page sensation and horror in 2012. Through them all, Sally Wen Mao makes clear the price these people paid and continue to pay as they hold the weight of our gaze, their visages a spectacle for others to consume, both visible and unknown. And the poet also intervenes—reanimating and resurrecting these women who have been flattened by history’s gaps and the narrowness of our stares. Earlier this week, Sally Wen Mao spoke with me about Oculus, her attempt to create poetry that can speak through historical silences, the fluid line between image and spectacle, and the weight of representation.
Tana French reigns over Irish crime fiction. She pushes the genre with descriptive lyrical language in novels that are character-driven and densely atmospheric. Her first six books center on the Dublin Murder Squad—an imaginary branch of the Dublin police force. But French defies convention—instead of a single narrator for the series, each book is narrated by a different member of the squad. So, a supporting player in book one might be the narrator of book four. These first-person narrations by various detectives whose own issues color their observations give readers a deeply personal and extremely partial perspective of colleagues, suspects, and the crimes. And the result is an understanding that truth is elusive. Then in her seventh book—a stand-alone-- The Witch Elm, French turns this model upside down. Here, the narrator is a character who is the victim of one crime and a suspect in another. Not surprisingly, the detectives and their actions look very different from this perspective...manipulative and bullying rather than cops just trying to get the job done the best way they can. In her latest book The Searcher, another stand-alone, French moves to new territory entirely: she takes the framework of the American western and shifts it to a remote rural area of Ireland where an ex Chicago cop settles by himself in a ramshackle cottage ready to begin a new life. It’s a familiar trope but Tana French molds it into a story of her own. In this podcast, Tana French talks about The Searcher, her determination not to keep writing the same book over and over, the Dublin Murder Squad and its multiple first-person narrators, her time on the stage and how that experience informs her writing, and why she blames her entire career on Stephen King.
I love this app! Love it!
Very well produced, wide range of topics. Great podcast!
Fascinating, informative, inspiring
Well-produced, thoughtful conversations with people who are making a difference through their art. This is a well-researched podcast with heart and, often, humour.
I especially like the episode with Sebastian Junger. Also, the episode length is great: enough to dive in, short enough to easily take in.