Courtesy David Foster

Blue legend B.B. King died Thursday at the age of 89. Connecticut blues singer and former club owner David Foster had a decades long friendship with King, and played with him as recently as last year.

A Mississippi car accident in 1937 cut short the life of Bessie Smith.

She was just 43 years old. But she'd already established her legacy as "Empress of the Blues" — a pioneering American performer who demanded respect and equal pay in a world dominated by men and controlled by whites.

She'd also achieved a degree of infamy for her boozing, her brawling and her sexual appetites.

Ryan Caron King / WNPR

Sometimes being in the right place at the right time -- with your radio tuned into WNPR -- can lead to unexpected connections...

When WNPR's Where We Live first met Stanley Maxwell, we asked musicians Andy Chatfield, Mark Crino, Eric DellaVecchia, and Evan Green to explain the origin of their unusual name. 

Ryan Caron King / WNPR

For the past fourteen years, Mark Crino, Evan Green, Andy Chatfield, and Eric DellaVecchia have been performing under the name Stanley Maxwell. They’re a Connecticut-based quartet with a jazz-meets-rock-meets-funk sound that’s bound to get you off your feet. The four of them recently joined us in our Studio 3 to share some of the music that’s kept them all together for so long.

It seemed as if he'd go on forever — and B.B. King was working right up until the end. It's what he loved to do: playing music, and fishing. Even late in life, living with diabetes, he spent about half the year on the road. King died Thursday night at home in Las Vegas. He was 89 years old.

This may seem like flagrant nepotism, but in fact it’s only mild and forgivable nepotism:

There will be remarkable musical event next Sunday, May 24, at the new downtown Infinity Music Hall and Bistro in Hartford.

Joe Mabel / Wikimedia Commons

As a child prodigy, the now adult, prodigious drummer Johnathan Blake made an appearance on “Mr. Rogers Neighborhood,” the legendary children’s series on PBS created and hosted by Fred Rogers.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

A lot of interconnected things were happening in the 1990s, an oncologist and hematologist  named Mitchell Gaynor discovered through a Tibetan monk, the so-called singing bowls and began incorporating them into the guided meditation and breathing work he did with his patients.


This weekend, family and friends gathered in Bridgeport for the funeral of DeMonte Anozine. The 20-year-old was killed in a crash early Tuesday morning that closed down I-95 in Fairfield for several hours.

Banning Eyre

If you listen closely to the music of Thomas Mapfumo, you will hear the pulse of Zimbabwe. It’s a sound unlike any other, driven by decades of struggle, brutality, and cultural sabotage. 

Mark Kent / Creative Commons

I did a double take the other day as I browsed the music-themed blog called Slipped Disc.

As many of you music-minded readers might know, this is the daily blog put out by the sharp-tongued British critic Norman Lebrecht. It’s read religiously by people in the classical music world, both for the steady stream of music news Lebrecht provides, but also for the acerbic commentary he freely dispenses. It gathers music-related bulletins from all over the world.

I was surprised, to say the least, that one of the items he recently chose to include was a piece on the Hartt School’s decision to close down its Organ Performance major, and to sell the pipe organ that had been the major’s central instrument for 45 years.

Diane Sobolewski / Goodspeed Theater

So, you think it's easy to write a Broadway song? I say not so fast. 

The four aspiring writing teams that attended Goodspeed's Festival of New Musicals this past January say it's plenty hard. They spend a lot of time kicking around ideas, most of which never see the light of day. But, really, they have no choice. "If you can do anything else, you do do anything else," says Marcy Heisler, one half of one of our amazing teams. 

John Abbott /

Without ever sounding the least bit formulaic, saxophonist/composer Russ Nolan makes his musical calculations by using his favorite working equation, which is: Latin rhythms + post-bop harmonies = infinitely expanding quantities of energetic expression.

Capitol Studios / Courtesy Allen J. Hill, Gress-Miles Organ Photo Collection

The University of Hartford's Hartt School will graduate its last organ major in May. Once a robust program, Hartt made the tough decision to abandon the organ program two years ago. Alumni of the organ program will gather this weekend to say goodbye to the school's pipe organ, which has been sold to a church on Long Island. 

Creative Commons

One spring afternoon, maybe 20 years ago, I found myself having lunch with some guys who were all big supporters of Connecticut Opera. They were talking about ways that the company might increase its audience and thereby stabilize its finances. Various strategies were proposed.

Finally one of the guys said, “Look, if we’re really going to make any progress, we should just do ‘La Boheme’ every single season.”

William P. Gottlieb / U.S. Library of Congress

Maybe the best way to celebrate Billie Holiday’s centennial year is to pay Lady Day a one-hour visit by listening to the 20 signature songs on Columbia/Legacy’s new, fine and mellow single-CD tribute called Billie Holiday: The Centennial Collection.


An oratorio based on the life of gay rights advocate and politician Harvey Milk gets its New England premiere this weekend in New Haven. Oratorios are typically large musical compositions with a dramatic theme, written for orchestra, choir, and soloists; think Handel's "Messiah," or Haydn's "Creation."

Noah Baerman

If you knew absolutely nothing about Noah Baerman except for the music you heard on his nine triumphant recordings, you’d never suspect for a minute that the brilliant pianist/composer from Middletown has struggled for years with the debilitating pain caused by a rare and incurable connective tissue disorder called Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS).

Chion Wolf / WNPR

Will she or won’t she?

For months now, people who pay attention to the arts scene in town have been wondering: will Hartford Symphony music director Carolyn Kuan stick around, or will she split for brighter lights, bigger cities?

When Jeff Barnhart, a ragtime and traditional jazz piano virtuoso, and his wife Anne, a classically-trained flutist, got married in 2000, one might have thought the sectarian differences between the faiths of jazz and classical music would prevent this Connecticut couple from ever hitching up in a harmonious professional musical partnership.

Singer Percy Sledge, perhaps best known for his hit "When A Man Loves A Woman," has died, Artists International Management Inc., his talent agency, said.

Sledge died of natural causes a little after midnight at a hospice in East Baton Rouge, La., according to a coroner. The coroner said Sledge was 74, though the Encyclopedia of Music as well as his talent agency says Sledge was 73.


If you've ever wondered how a group of French musicians might play the music of The Ramones, you are in luck. Direct from Toulouse, France: Los Jamones, a Ramones tribute band, performs this Saturday night, April 18, at Cafe Nine in New Haven with Elm City punk rockers The Hulls.

Lydia Brown / WNPR

Since the 1970s, musicians Paul Howard, Tom Hagymasi, and Phil Zimmerman have been performing together as Last Fair Deal. They’re a local trio whose music puts an original twist on the old-style sound of American roots music. 

Musicians are always searching for inspiration, and sometimes they find it in some unlikely places.

Take Brian Friedland, a prolific Boston composer and jazz pianist who’s discovered a creative goldmine in his cupboards. He takes words on packaging for products such as granola, mouthwash and tea, then sets them to some pretty sophisticated music. Friedland calls the funny-but-serious project “Household Items” and he has a new CD.


James Vaughan / Creative Commons

Maybe you caught the four-hour, two-part HBO documentary on Frank Sinatra last week.

Or maybe you have downloaded the new Sinatra smartphone app.

Or poured a couple of fingers of the recently unveiled “Sinatra Select” edition of Jack Daniels’ fabled Tennessee whiskey.

Frank would have turned 100 this year, so everybody’s weighing in.

Liron Joseph / Jovan Alexandre

At just over six-foot-five, the modest but immodestly talented musician Jovan Alexandre speaks softly but carries a big-toned tenor saxophone that speaks with a deeply expressive personal sound full of towering promise.

A Story for the Ages

Apr 2, 2015
Courtesy of, Berkeley Rep, and Hartford Stage

If you’re the parent of a kid who’s taking music lessons, or one who's  just generally interested in music, you should be aware of the remarkable one-person show that just opened at Hartford Stage.

The show is “The Pianist of Willesden Lane,” and it’s been out making the rounds in various cities for a couple of years, but this is the first time it’s been seen in Hartford.

Steven Sussman

Like Lewis Carroll’s Alice climbing through the looking glass, Cyrille Aimee, a future jazz princess, was instantly transfixed after scrambling through her bedroom window as a child in France. Quite magically, the little girl found herself in a fantastical cultural kingdom of Gypsies from all over Europe happily encamped nearby at a festival celebrating the legacy of the legendary Gypsy jazz guitar genius, Django Reinhardt.

lolo-38 / Creative Commons

You may leave the radio or the TV on for your kitty when you head off to work, but new research is saying that might not be the best idea. Instead, why not try out a few of these songs, composed specifically for your cat master?

Yale University Art Gallery

Africa Salon, Yale University’s first contemporary African Arts and Culture Festival, starts Friday night. It's part of a larger initiative to advance the university’s focus on the continent.