Live Music

Steven Sussman, Litchfield Jazz Festival

This week, we lost Dave Brubeck.

You’ve been hearing about his music and its impact on generations.

You might know that he made his home in Connecticut and influenced many artists here.

You might not know about his work in fighting the spread of communism during the cold war. Or his work for civil rights, by leading integrated bands at a time when that was not the norm.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

The ukulele was not always obscure. Two of the biggest stars of the 20th century used them as their principal instruments. One is a name you probably don't know, but George Formby was a enormous sensation in Great Britain on stage and in movies in the 1920s and '30s. He specialized in playing a banjo-shaped ukulele, and he trafficked in comical, mischievous songs full of double entendres. 

j_palmucci (Flickr Creative Commons)

Lez Zeppelin has toured the world, and has been lauded by critics for their faithful interpretation of Led Zeppelin, and their energetic live shows. Lez Zeppelin plays tonight at Up or on the Rocks in Downtown Hartford. The founder and guitarist for Lez Zepplin, Steph Paynes says playing in Hartford is a homecoming of sorts.

"Hartford was our honing ground," said Paynes. "We played Sully's and we played the Hungry Tiger."

Chion Wolf

In the past decade, West African sounds and rhythm have become part of America’s musical mainstream.  Less well-known is music from East Africa  which blends African drumming with Middle Eastern melodic inflections.  

A music and dance ensemble will bring the sounds of Ethiopia to Connecticut this weekend. 

Endris Hassan is practicing his single stringed fiddle called the masenqo.  He's part of Fendika, a collective of musicians and dancers.

Chion Wolf

Today, hear a live, in-studio performance by and conversation with the Punch Brothers, before their performance at Jorgensen Theater at UConn, Storrs. They are a five-piece band enjoying an explosion of critical esteem and new popularity over the past few years. Its leader, Chris Thile, just won a MacArthur Genius Grant, and has been working with giants from other genres, including cellist, Yo-Yo Ma, and jazz great Brad Mehldau.

See all the photos by Chion Wolf here.

Joe Webster (www.joewebster.net)

It’s been nearly 10 years since the deadliest rock concert disaster in US history. The Station nightclub in West Warwick, Rhode Island went up in flames only minutes after a pyrotechnic display by the heavy-metal band Great White.

The final death toll from the fire was 100 and looking back, one of the big tragedies is that it all could have been avoided. A tangled web of bad decisions and shortcuts along the way led to the tragedy.

Chion Wolf

Today, we’re in our studio 3 for some live music with the New Haven indie-folk band “Goodnight Blue Moon.”

They’ve been playing as a band in the area since 2008...but many of them have been playing songs together for much, much longer.

Erik Elligers is the lead singer and plays guitar. His wife Nancy plays cello and his brother Sean plays trumpet. Along with Mathew Crowley and Henry Lugo, they’ll be playing songs from the band’s new record, “How Long.”

Jill Sobule Live!

Jun 14, 2012
Chion Wolf

[Featured on the Audio to the left: A one-hour conversation and performance with and by Sobule in which she sings "Jetpack" and "Heroes" and some rarities.]

Chion Wolf

I once heard a story about Liza Minelli talking to a fellow singer about her approach to a song called "Bobo's Bar and Grille." It's a Kander and Ebb song and not one of their really memorable ones. Anyway, it turned out that Minelli had an explanation, a motivation, a strategy for how to sing every word of the song. And when she got to the end of all that she said: "Or" --dramatic exhalation of cigarette smoke -- "you could just sing the damn thing." Actually, she said something a little more colorful than "damn thing."

Chion Wolf

One of the many nice things about working here at WNPR is that our chief engineer Gene Amatruda actually seems to like setting up our studio for concerts. And every time Gene does it, the studio sounds a little better. I caught some of String Theorie on Where We Live last week, and I was knocked out by the sound.

Prehensile Eye (Flickr Creative Commons)

The Flat Duo Jets were the darling of college radio in the 80's and 90's. The duo, guitarist Dex Romweber and drummer Chris Crow Smith influenced scores of musicians with their wild, raw performances of 50's rockabilly tunes. Guitarist Jack White points to the Flat Duo Jets as a major influence on him and his own duo band the White Stripes.


Feb 10, 2012
Chion Wolf

Improv Everywhere

Feb 8, 2012
Stephen Haynes

The songwriter Paul Simon once said: Improvisation is too good to leave to chance.

Improvisation is one of the key parts of musical expression...from fiddling with chord changes until a song emerges, to full-on “free” jazz, created on the spot.  In fact, jazz is probably the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of “improv” - followed by comedy.

A troupe of actors, thrown quickly into haphazard situations - forced to think fast and create characters and dialogue on the spot.

Flickr Creative Commons, cogdogblog

We're bringing our music experts in today to give you their picks, especially those of you who have to buy stuff for other people during the holiday giving season. I decided to get out of their way and not bring in any picks of my own, but I'll use this little unencumbered moment to mention a few things.