WNYC, New York Public Radio, brings you Soundcheck, the arts and culture program hosted by John Schaefer, who engages guests and listeners in lively, inquisitive conversations with established and rising figures in New York City's creative arts scene. Guests come from all disciplines, including pop, indie rock, jazz, urban, world and classical music, technology, cultural affairs, TV and film. Recent episodes have included features on Michael Jackson,Crosby Stills & Nash, the Assad Brothers, Rackett, The Replacements, and James Brown.
Laura Stevenson: "A Purge and a Prayer"
Singer-songwriter Laura Stevenson documents the turbulent and heavy stuff of life with warmth and fierce intensity. The multi-instrumentalist offers an album, “written as a sort of purge and a prayer,” of dynamic contrasts, clasping hands with blistering rage and working out how to deal with fear and pain. Laura Stevenson plays tunes remotely with her band from her self-titled 2021 record.
Set list: “State,” “Don’t Think About Me,” “Sky Blue, Bad News”
Jaimeo Brown's Work Songs (From the Archives)
The jazz drummer Jaimeo Brown formed his trio Transcendence back in 2013 – their first album, also called Transcendence, was built around samples of old southern singing married to an inventive mix of blues, jazz, and distant echoes of hip hop. Jaimeo Brown’s Transcendence released Work Songs in 2016, which takes more sampled sounds from America’s past and uses them as the template for a new series of songs. Actually, the samples extend well beyond the States this time, but the song “For Mama Lucy” has a clearly American sound: it’s built around a 1959 recording of an inmate at the Parchman Farm Prison in Mississippi, surrounded by some classic blues guitar from trio member Chris Sholar (Grammy-winning producer of Kanye West, Jay Z, and many others). It's a creative re-appropriation of a complicated cultural back-catalog, and the group stops performed in-studio for a taste of its insightful historical remixing. (From the Archives, 2016.)
Forró In The Dark: A Charismatic Update on a Brazilian Classic (Archives)
Forró In The Dark's music is meant to be played under the cover of night. The band is named after forró, a type of Northeastern Brazil dance music. The New York based Brazilian ex-pats give traditional music an update with jazz, rock, psychedelia, folk and charismatic and attentive rhythms.
Since their formation in 2002 (beginning as a birthday entertainment for lead singer, Mauro Refosco), Forró In The Dark has worked with musicians like the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Thom Yorke's Atoms For Peace and David Byrne among others. Their cross-cultural sound takes on new elements on their 2015 album, Forro Zinho: Forro in the Dark Plays Zorn, where the group takes on American avant-garde sax player/composer John Zorn's works with a Brazilian twist. They perform in-studio.
"Life is only real then when I am"
For more pictures from the session visit our Tumblr.
Olivia Chaney: A New Wave Of British Folk (Archives)
Olivia Chaney is part of the latest wave of British folk music, although her definition of “folk” is as likely to include Baroque music, Norwegian jazz, and original songs as it is old murder ballads or sea shanties. Chaney plays an assortment of instruments, including guitar and piano, and has a strikingly pure vocal tone.
Her debut full-length, The Longest River, is on Nonesuch Records, and while performing a brief set at a Nonesuch 50th anniversary event in 2014, she so impressed her label-mate Robert Plant that he asked her to open for him during his 2015 run of shows at BAM. Olivia Chaney performs three of her own songs, in-studio, in this session from the archives.
Quiet Hollers: Roots Music with Indie Swagger (Archives)
In Appalachia, a "holler" is a colloquialism for a valley or "hollow." So not only is the band name Quiet Hollers a fun oxymoron, it's also a sly shout-out to the band's roots in Kentucky. The group says it makes "weird, sad music for weirdos like you." But they named one of the standout songs from their 2015 self-titled record "Aviator Shades," which might just mean they're going for something cool and even sexy. They share their tunes in live setting, in-studio.
Cellist Mabe Fratti Figures Out Her Driving Forces
Guatemalan-born, Mexico City-based cellist, singer, producer, and songwriter Mabe Fratti creates music using electronics, voice, and cello, and the sounds of nature. Fratti has a mighty array of effects, turning the cello into sound source capable of drone, full feedback squeals, percussive plucky samples, and talks about how she is "addicted to improvisation." Her latest soundscapey, outer-worldly album is called Será Que Ahora Podremos Entendernos? (Will We be Able to Understand Each Other Now?) and deeply considers the structure and arranging of words and sounds. Mabe Fratti and her trio, sometimes with amps to 11, play remotely from Mexico City.
Set list: “Nadie Sabe,” “Hacia el Vacio,” and “Inicio Vinculo Final”
Watch "Nadie Sabe":
Insightful & great
John the host actually listens to music, & asks thoughtful questions. He doesn't just read the publicity sheet.
The in-studio live sessions interest me less than the conversations. I miss the conversations with critics, biographers, & comedians about music history, especially the "THAT was a HIT?" recurring segment.
If you’re looking for new music...
... this is a perfect place to find it. Guests are often musicians or groups that are just under the popular radar but deserve more love and attention.
Just read e-mail from WNYC’s new CEO, reversing the decision to cancel the show! Good things are still possible - Schafer is a wizard we’d be poorer without.