Chion Wolf / WNPR

Alan Doyle is best known as lead singer of the internationally acclaimed band Great Big Sea. Recently, however, he's been touring with a different act: Alan Doyle and The Beautiful Gypsies

Gerry Lauzon / Creative Commons

Volkswagen is having a moment. Not a good moment, but it's certainly a moment. VW owners are glaring at their vehicles with suspicion after it was revealed the automaker's diesel vehicles were designed to cheat on emissions tests.

Hopefully, VW is not capturing its moment with a selfie because that could be deadly. Plus, selfies are so easy to take, a monkey can do it and maybe even make some money from it.

Hartford Symphony Orchestra / Facebook

A new arts season dawns. And despite the lingering cloud of the Hartford Symphony labor impasse – it originally looked like the HSO season-opening concerts might be lost, but in fact they will go on as scheduled – the new cycle brings a reassuringly plentiful supply of music, both familiar and challenging.

The '60s, Through the Notebook of a Rock Critic

Sep 24, 2015
Danny Birchall/flickr creative commons

Sex, drugs, and rock & roll -- now there's a phrase that conjures up images and memories of the 1960s. But of course it wasn't all peace and love. The counterculture was completely intertwined with the serious challenges and changes that swept America in that decade, from civil rights and women's rights to the trauma of Vietnam and the anti-war movement. The violence, turmoil, and clashes between the generations paved the way for a surge in self-expression and creativity. We saw it through protests on college campuses, we watched it in the marches, and -- maybe most of all -- we heard it in the music that would become the common thread that wove it all together.

Michael Crommett / Courtesy of Amir ElSaffar

Hailed by Down Beat magazine as “an exquisite alchemist” for his magical blend of traditional Middle Eastern motifs with free-wheeling jazz elements, the Iraqi-American, Chicago-born trumpeter/composer Amir ElSaffar has made a breakthrough discovery with his latest album, Crisis (Pi Recordings).

Ryan Caron King / WNPR

The Hartford Symphony Orchestra contract impasse staggers along.

As anyone reading this is likely to be aware, the HSO musicians continue to be engaged in a dispute with management over the number of services they will be contracted for and therefore the amount of money they will earn next season.

It's official - 2015's song of the summer is "Cheerleader" by OMI. So now that horse race is over, what about an anthem for Autumn? And how do you even make that choice?

If a summer song needs to be fun, upbeat, and sound good blasting from car windows at Hampton Beach, what qualities define a memorable fall tune?  Pumpkin-related lyrics?  Wistful melodies, and acoustic guitars?  We asked three music industry insiders to tell us what they think 2015's (Unofficial) Song of the Fall should be and why -  and here's what they had to say.

A Bold Experiment: How Pop Music Might Sound In 2065

Sep 16, 2015


“Society 50 years from now needs its own drug.”

John Abercrombie

Perhaps best known for his long, amazingly fruitful relationship with Manfred Eicher’s ECM Records, guitarist John Abercrombie has enjoyed such a diverse, distinguished career that you can’t lock up his restless, lyrical artistry into any one air-tight, neatly convenient category, not even with the venerable ECM label.

Ryan Caron King / WNPR

The National Labor Relations Board has filed a complaint against the Hartford Symphony Orchestra for failing to come to the bargaining table to hammer out a new contract with the orchestra's musicians.

Nate Gagnon / WNPR

At a rally on the steps of the state Capitol Wednesday, a huge crowd came out to support the musicians of the Hartford Symphony Orchestra who are being asked to take a huge pay cut next season. 

Rory Anderson / Quincy Jones Productions

The close teacher-to-pupil, father-to-son-like relationship that developed between the dying, nonagenarian trumpet great Clark Terry and his last protégé, the young, gifted blind pianist Justin Kauflin, was the highly moving, emotional core of director Alan Hicks’s excellent, award-winning documentary, "Keep On Keepin’ On."

Cuatro Puntos

When we think about the major agents of social change we don’t immediately think of classical chamber music.

Thanks to groups like Cuatro Puntos, we need to perhaps start changing our thinking.

Daniel Feingold / Hartford Jazz Society

More than a half-century ago, a small, devout band of jazz-loving members of a then obscure, but courageous group called The Hartford Jazz Society launched HJS’s first riverboat jazz cruise on the Connecticut River.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

Earlier this month, a group musicians and activists from Connecticut joined artists from around the country, who traveled to Missouri to participate in events marking the one-year anniversary of Michael Brown's death.

The "All Roads Lead to Ferguson: Black Lives Matter Tour," included musicians like The Peace Poets and Peter Yarrow of the folk group Peter, Paul and Mary.

Hugh Burkhardt /

Whatever airline horror story you have about lost or mishandled luggage, I’m pretty sure Robert Black can top it.

Robert, as many of you around here know, is a brilliant, nationally recognized double bass player and teacher. He is perhaps best known for being a founding member of the avant-garde music ensemble, the Bang on a Can All-Stars, a group that regularly plays all over the world. Robert has also been a faculty member at The Hartt School for many years, and is currently the chairman of the school’s string department.

Carlos Hernandez Chavez

Renowned region-wide since 2007 for its abundant servings of savory, red-hot Latin sounds and friendly, festive communal vibe, the free, outdoor Ray Gonzalez Latin Jazz and Salsa Festival presents its annual sizzling summer celebration in downtown Hartford on Saturday, August 29, from 5:00 to 10:00 pm at Mortensen Riverfront Plaza.

Protest Music: Then and Now

Aug 25, 2015
Chion Wolf / WNPR

Music can be a powerful, transformative tool in the quest for social change. Protest songs are the songs associated with a particular movement. 

Earlier this month, Janelle Monáe and Wondaland produced the searing protest song "Hell You Talmbout." Nearly seven minutes long, it's a tribute to a long list of black men and women lost, and has been performed alongside protesters at Black Lives Matter rallies.

  B-52s founding member Kate Pierson has been having a very busy 2015. Earlier this year, she released her very first solo album, Guitars and Microphones. Produced by Tim Anderson, the record features writing from “Chandelier” singer, Sia — who also served as its executive producer — and guitar-work from the Strokes’ Nick Valensi.

If that wasn’t enough excitement - earlier this month, Kate married her long-time partner Monica Coleman in Hawaii. They co-own Kate's Lazy Meadow in Mount Tremper, NY. 

She has also been touring with the new album and will be doing a benefit for the Woodstock Byrdcliffe Guild Ceramics Expansion Project next Friday night.

Corey Lynn Tucker Photography / Courtesy Isabella Mendes

Just as she’s fluent and elegantly at ease in both Portuguese and English, the rising, young Brazilian-born, singer/songwriter and pianist Isabella Mendes is also much at home with her seemingly contradictory dual careers in music and engineering.

Dirk Knight / Creative Commons

Earlier this summer, we spent a full hour listening to candidates for "song of the summer." Now that summer is winding down, we’re still trying to figure out the winner. Was there a song you just couldn’t get enough of recently? We talk to someone who says for the first time in a long time, there was no "Call Me Maybe," "Blurred Lines," or "California Gurls" (for better or worse).

Also, one popular retailer for music (and everything else) is under harsh criticism. The New York Times reported on the working conditions at "The Everything Store."

In the final segment, we address tall person guilt. Should they feel obligated to stand in back?

The Hartford Symphony Orchestra is asking its players to take a big pay cut. Meanwhile, the musicians are looking for a better deal, and wonder, "How do you build the symphony by cutting it?" 

Chion Wolf / WNPR

With ongoing tensions between Palestinians and Israelis, life for musicians there can be challenging. Israeli political and military control over most of the West Bank can mean a separation between Palestinian artists and their audience. In Jerusalem, that sense of isolation can be even more acute. 

Courtesy of Chuchito Valdes

If Cuban pianist Chuchito Valdes is intimidated by the burden of being the heir apparent to his family’s dynasty of world-renowned keyboard kingpins, you’d never know it from his regal virtuosity and royal touch and tone crowned by a majestic expressiveness that can hurl sonic thunderbolts and release endless torrents of joy.

Rob Dozier / WNPR

This past weekend, over 50,000 people gathered in downtown Hartford to celebrate their cultural heritage.

Juanibb / Creative Commons

I have seen the future of music.

I think.

I’m speaking here of Apple Music, the new music streaming service just introduced by our good friends out in Cupertino.

The Litchfield Jazz festival celebrates its 20th anniversary this weekend. Friday's opening night will include a special tribute to Connecticut jazz legend Thomas Chapin, who died of leukemia in 1941.

Avery Sharpe

When Avery Sharpe, the standout standup jazz bassist, was a little boy growing up in the still segregated South, he’d often tag along with his mother, a gifted gospel pianist and devout member of the Church of God in Christ, when she played sacred music everywhere from emotionally powerful services in sanctified churches and tabernacles to fervent tent revival meetings.

Matt Clark/Creative Commons

The Litchfield Jazz Festival celebrates its 20th Anniversary this year, and we’ll be broadcasting from the site of the festival’s jazz camp - which exposes young musicians to some of the best instructors in the world of jazz. The festival is also celebrating the groundbreaking Connecticut composer and saxophonist Tom Chapin - we’ll hear from those who remember him.