Music: Jazz

March 10, 2011

Sheryl Crow, Alicia Keys, Madonna, Missy Elliott, More: Napster Playlists Featuring Women

As we continue our celebration of Women's History Month, we thought it would be nice to highlight some of the many Napster playlists focused on music made by women. These are from all different genres and styles, so have a look, click on whatever sounds good to you, and let's hear it from the ladies!

American Women American Women Popular roots music and country hits from some of the top female artists in America. Includes songs from June Carter Cash, Loretta Lynn, and Sheryl Crow.

Hot R&B Female Vocalists Hot R&B: Female Vocalists: Some of the hottest tracks and biggest hits from major stars, including songs from Keyshia Cole, Fantasia, Alicia Keys, and Beyoncé.

Essential Lite Female Vocalists Essential Lite: Female Vocalists: Great soft pop and ballads from many eras, featuring artists such as Peggy Lee, Blossom Dearie, and Roberta Flack.

Women of Comedy Women of Comedy: Hilarious bits from the funniest females in stand-up comedy, including Ellen Degeneres, Sarah Silverman, Sandra Bernhard, and Lisa Lampanelli.

Legendary Ladies of Country Legendary Ladies of Country: Unforgettable female stars of the '60s and '70s who paved the way for today's generations. Includes Patsy Cline, Dolly Parton, and Loretta Lynn.

Grrrl Power Grrrl Power: Celebrate the women of alternative rock with a slew of classic tracks from such mainstays as the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Hole, PJ Harvey, and more.

Pioneering Women of the Blues Pioneering Women of the Blues: Though blues artists tend to be men, a surprising number of women have made a crucial impact, including Billie Holiday, Bessie Smith, and Ida Cox.

Pop Divas The '80s Pop Divas: The '80s: A platinum setting of hits from some of the decade's most glittering solo female superstars, including Madonna, Cyndi Lauper, Debbie Gibson, and more.

Female Jazz Vocalists of Today Female Jazz Vocalists of Today: Music from stellar comtemporary vocalists informed by both traditional and modern jazz. Features Dianne Reeves, Cassandra Wilson, and Diana Krall.

Composing Women Composing Women: Works from female composers working in what was once a male-dominated field. Includes Barbara Strozzi, Fanny Mendelssohn, and Meredith Monk.

Women of Contemporary Christian Music Women of Contemporary Christian Music: The most uplifting tracks from female artists leading the way in CCM, featuring Francesca Battistelli, Bethany Dillon, and Heather Hedley.

Ladies First Female MCs Ladies First: Female MCs: Get in touch with the first ladies of hip-hop. But don't expect them to go easy on you—these MCs, including Missy Elliott, Salt-N-Pepa, Queen Latifah, are fierce.

Femmes Fatales Femmes Fatales: Devastatingly seductive sounds from the dark side of alternative music, including music by Björk, PJ Harvey, Portishead, Morcheeba, and more.

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February 24, 2011

Chaka Khan, ClassiKhan

Chaka Khan, ClassicKhan Oh boy — this is fun. Chaka Khan is best known for her high-energy R&B numbers like the classic "I Feel for You," but this lady is a masterful vocalist and can bring her skills to bear on a wide range of material, including standards. And that's what makes this 2004 set such a good time: She is more than up to the task of interpreting "Great American Songbook" material, but she does it with signature sass and unmistakable joy (and here with the help of the London Symphony, no less). Speaking of signature sass, maybe that's why she chooses to throw down on "Goldfinger," John Barry's most James Bond of James Bond moments, as well as "Diamonds Are Forever"; clearly she and Shirley Bassey are kindred spirits on some level. Beyond those magic moments, the choice of songs is just wonderful: "Hey Big Spender," "Stormy Weather," "Crazy," "'Round Midnight"? What? Yes. We told you this was fun. Wait 'til you hear it — we're smiling just writing about it.

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February 14, 2011

Lady Antebellum and Arcade Fire Steal the Show at the Grammy Awards

Arcade Fire While country trio Lady Antebellum walked away with a whopping five Grammys last night, including both Song and Record of the Year for their megahit "Need You Now," the real surprise of the night was that they didn't scoop up a sixth in the big Album of the Year category. Once Lady Antebellum was racking up wins, most viewers, including myself, expected the country group to be the ones to overtake hot-tipped Eminen for the grand prize, but it was not to be. Canadian indie rockers Arcade Fire, after making a huge impression with their high-energy performance, looked as surprised as anyone when they stepped up to receive the final award of the night. The other shocker of the evening was when jazz bassist/singer Esperanza Spalding beat out the likes of The Bieber and Drake to win the coveted "Best New Artist" award. (Check out Napster's "Award Winners 2011" playlist to hear all the big songs that won.) And yet the night wasn't only about the awards: There were numerous musical acts to entertain all the nominees, including Lady GaGa's first live performance of her new single, "Born This Way." Cee Lo, Rihanna, Eminem, Dr. Dre, B.o.B, Bruno Mars, Janelle Monae, and the all of the women of the Aretha Franklin tribute were just a few of the amazing artists to hit the stage last night. It's a shame that they couldn't all walk away winners.

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February 10, 2011

Austin Peralta, Endless Planets

Peralta With its newest release, pianist Austin Peralta,'s label debut, Brainfeeder records ventures directly into the jazz territory implied by its previous efforts. The label, run by Flying Lotus and home to many of Los Angeles' most adventurous electronic music producers, including The Gaslamp Killer, Teebs, and Daedelus, is no stranger to jazz sounds and textures, and Peralta, a piano prodigy born in 1990 (the son of skateboard legend Stacy Peralta), has already recorded and performed with an impressive list of jazz legends, including Ron Carter, Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, Buddy Collette. On Endless Planets he continues to extend his musical vocabulary by augmenting a lineup of Zane Musa (alto sax), Ben Wendel (tenor and soprano), Hamilton Price (bass), and Zach Harmon (drums) with contributions from The Cinematic Orchestra and Strangeloop. This an exciting step for both artist and label, and hopefully the beginning of a long, fruitful, genre-bending relationship.

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February 09, 2011

Bieber, Drake, Florence, Mumford, Esperanza: Who'll Be Best New Artist?

Justin Bieber and Drake This year's Grammy nominees for Best New Artist are a diverse and entertaining bunch, and it would be exciting to see any of them walk away with the coveted award—even if you don't have (Justin) Bieber fever. As high as his profile has been lately, the young Canadian heartthrob is facing stiff competition from fellow countryman Drake, who was the biggest breakout star in the hip-hop world last year. Those two artists are probably the leading contenders in this year's pack, but also in the mix are folk/indie rock up-and-comers Mumford & Sons and Brit alt-rockers Florence & The Machine, as well as the left-field nominee (and current tour mate of Prince), the charismatic, soulful jazz bassist and singer Esperanza Spalding. All five are truly talented and, in our opinion, each are deserving of the win, but we know only one can emerge triumphant on Sunday, so we'll just have to wait and see who it is. Who's your favorite?

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February 08, 2011

R&B Love, Lovers Rock Hits, Classic Rock Valentine, and more: New Valentine's Day Napster Playlists

We've got a ton of new playlists for you to celebrate Valentine's Day with this year, and you've gotta love that, right? So cuddle up with that someone special and take your pick of these romantic collections:

R&B Love (Napster Playlist) R&B Love: Major R&B hits with a common theme. Features classics from Mariah Carey, Keyshia Cole, DeBarge, Stevie Wonder, Beyoncé, and more.

Lovers Rock Hits (Napster Playlist) Lovers Rock Hits: Romantic reggae bursting with heartfelt emotion. Includes hits from Gregory Isaacs, Luisa Mark, Sugar Minott, and Deborahe Glasgow.

Classic Rock Valentine (Napster Playlist) Classic Rock Valentine: Hits and album cuts fueled by love. A mix of upbeat rockers ballads by Kiss, Bad Company, Van Halen, Eric Clapton, and more.

Modern Love (Napster Playlist) Modern Love: Romance, alternative-style. Includes modern rock from Paramore, Franz Ferdinand, Florence & The Machine, and more.

The Pompatus of Love (Napster Playlist) The Pompatus of Love: Rock, doo-wop, blues, and the mysteries of romance from Steve Miller, The Clovers, The Medallions, Lightnin' Hopkins, and Muddy Waters.

Classical Valentine, Vol. 2 (Napster Playlist) Classical Valentine, Vol. 2: Love-themed instrumentals for the lovers' holiday. Features Berlioz, Wagner, Tchaikovsky, Janacek, and more.

Easy Love (Napster Playlist) Easy Love: Romantic ballads and soft-rock beats. Includes love songs from Nat King Cole, Barbra Streisand, Michael Bublé, and Josh Groban.

My Funny Valentine, Vol. 2 (Napster Playlist) My Funny Valentine, Vol. 2: Comedians take an uncensored look at love. Anthony Jeselnik, Whitney Cummings, and Greg Giraldo hold forth.

Smooth Valentine Love Songs (Napster Playlist) Smooth Valentine Love Songs: Tender R&B/jazz-infused songs from Al Jarreau, Michael Buble, David Sanborn, Harry Connick Jr., Dave Grusin, and more.

Soft Rock Seduction (Napster Playlist) Soft Rock Seduction: Cozy classics made for romance. Features songs by Bill Withers, Karen Carpenter, Bread, Richard Marx, and Peabo Bryson.

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Kurt Elling, The Gate

Kurt Elling, The Gate Let's just put it out there: This dude is smooth. Yes, Kurt Elling's a jazz singer—and an exceptionally broad-minded one at that—and yes, this is a "jazz" record, but don't get caught up in the labels. This is one jazzist who knows and enjoys the virtues of subtlety and restraint, and that adds up to a good time for the ears. He's more crooner than belter here, but that doesn't quite get it; his delivery is earnest and thoughtful, but comes off almost effortlessly cool. We even think we sometimes hear a quality in his voice reminiscent of Boz Scaggs in "We're All Alone" or "Harbor Lights" mode, and that's a fine thing. And besides all that, this time out Elling has chosen to unfurl an especially eclectic array of colorful material with which to do his smooth sailing: King Crimson's "Matte Kudesai," Joe Jackson's "Stepping Out," Herbie Hancock's "Come Running to Me," Lennon/McCartney's "Norwegian Wood" (with an especially funky guitar interlude), Earth, Wind & Fire's "After the Love Has Gone," and Stevie Wonder's "Golden Lady," each arranged with understated imagination, plus a couple of originals that add to the soulful mix. We love this kind of ear-opening variety, where the disparate becomes warmly compatible. We also love the multitracked vocal sections. This set is moody, atmospheric, occasionally exotic, and consistently entertaining.

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January 14, 2011

LA's Jazz Bakery to Reopen

The Jazz Bakery Good news for both the Southern California and national jazz scene came yesterday when Ruth Price, the Jazz Bakery's president and artistic director announced that the venue has found a new permanent location and will reopen in 2012.  The Jazz Bakery lost its lease in 2009, and since that time had been hosting "Movable Feast" performances in venues across the city. Previous guests at the former location include Benny Carter, McCoy Tyner, Johnny Griffin, Lee Konitz, Tommy Flanagan, and many others. Price is calling the new location a "mini-mini Lincoln Center," with multiple performance spaces, an art gallery, and a "virtual museum" dedicated to the history of West Coast jazz.

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January 04, 2011

Carmen McRae, Torchy!

Carmen McRae, Torchy A noted jazz vocalist throughout her four-decade-plus career, Carmen McRae got her start in the 1940s singing with such notables as Benny Carter, Count Basie, and Mercer Ellington, drawing inspiration from the unique approach of Billie Holiday, whom she met as a teenager. This album, Torchy!, is from early in her career as a solo artist and was her first for Decca (the digital reissue comes courtesy of the current incarnation of Verve). Cut in 1955, it was her third outing as a leader, and it's a lovely collection of yearning, wistful, romantic ballads, just like the title says. It's lovely to hear McRae come into her own on beautiful numbers like "Speak Low," "But Beautiful," "Midnight Sun," and "Good Morning Heartache," and eight more fine selections, all decked out in lush orchestrations. Her forthright but subtle approach is a joy to hear, even on a sad song. Funny how that works.

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December 30, 2010

Billy Taylor, 1921–2010

Billy Taylor, The Billy Taylor Touch Billy Taylor, the jazz pianist, teacher, and radio and television broadcaster, died Tuesday in Manhattan at the age of 89. He was a noted instrumentalist who developed his style alongside the original bebop greats, including Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, and Dizzy Gillespie, but it was his later role as jazz educator and evangelist that brought him widspread recognition. In the late 50's, Taylor was the musical director for the NBC show "The Subject is Jazz," and in 1961 he founded the Jazzmobile program. He went on to become the bandleader for the "David Frost Show," and later covered jazz for the CBS "Sunday Morning" show and for National Public Radio. Taylor spoke often of jazz as "America's classical music," and it was his mission to pass on this legacy to future generations. "I think of myself in some ways as an urban griot," he said, "because the griot was someone who was a minstrel; he was a teacher, a healer, kind of a part of the collective memory of the people that he related to and served."

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