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.


New York, NY




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.






WNYC Radio 160 Varick St. New York, NY 10013 (212) 433-9692

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The Jazz Passengers Cover Themselves, In-Studio

New York’s The Jazz Passengers – despite the name – don’t just play jazz. Founded in 1987 by sax player Roy Nathanson and trombonist Curtis Fowlkes, the band has worked with spoken word artists, rock stars like Elvis Costello and Deborah Harry, and theatrical elements that have an almost modernist vaudeville flavor. Over the years the band would become a place where some of New York’s most creative musicians could spread their wings and have some fun. Their new album, Big Large, is a journey back through the band’s long musical history – it is also the last album made with Curtis Fowlkes, who died last year. The Jazz Passengers is now a mix of the veterans and a new generation, and Roy Nathanson has led them all to our studio to play tunes by turns angular and searing, warm and masterful from the band’s repertoire. Band members: Roy Nathanson, sax, voice; with Bill Ware, vibes; Brad Jones, bass; EJ Rodriguez, drums; Marc Ribot, guitar; Sam Bardfeld, violin; Lucy Hollier (Curtis' student, now playing his trombone); Isaiah Barr, sax; Gabe Nathanson, voice and trumpet. Set list: 1. Tikkun 2. Kidnapped 3. Jolly Street Big Large: In Memory of Curtis Fowlkes by The Jazz Passengers


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Storyteller and Songwriter Alice Merton Plays In-Studio

Alice Merton burst out of the starting gate with her 2016 single "No Roots", a song that celebrated her nomadic upbringing in four different countries. Since then, the British-based German-Irish-Canadian singer-songwriter has released two albums of songs with somewhat introspective, perhaps brooding lyrics, set to uplifting and sunny melodies. When we last checked in with her in 2019, she’d just released her debut LP called Mint and was living in Germany. She has lately been touring on music from her new EP called Heron, and plays a stripped-down intimate set, in-studio, including her rearranged single, "No Roots". Set list: 1. Don’t Leave Me Alone With My Thoughts 2. Run Away Girl 3. No Roots


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Kiran Ahluwalia's Songs of Protest and Hope

Singer Kiran Ahluwalia was born in India, grew up in Canada, and is largely based here in New York. Her music reflects her transcontinental upbringing, as she mixes the sounds of traditional South Asian song forms with Western rock and jazz. A two-time JUNO (Canadian Grammy) winner, Ahluwalia’s work has featured collaborations with leading musicians from the Celtic and Fado worlds, as well as Malian super group, Tinariwen. Her six-piece band includes electric guitar, tabla, drum kit, accordion/organ and electric bass and is led by guitarist Rez Abbasi, a Pakistani-American who is also Ahluwalia’s husband. Her latest album, Comfort Food, features songs that protest Hindu fundamentalism in India and the nationalism that continues to stir conflicts between India and Pakistan and celebrates pancakes… Kiran Ahluwalia and her band perform some of these songs in-studio. - Caryn Havlik Set list: 1. Dil 2. Tera Jugg 3. Pancake


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Shabaka's Latest Adventure: Connecting to Nature and Breath With Flutes

Shabaka Hutchings, now Shabaka, has been a crucial and connected London-based musician for years, leading arena dance-jazz band Sons of Kemet, cosmic psych-dub-funk trio The Comet Is Coming, and the collaborative band Shabaka & the Ancestors. He began incorporating layered flutes on the last Sons of Kemet record Black to the Future, and kept on picking up more and other woodwinds, first on his 2022 ambient meditation, Afrikan Culture, and now on his new full-length, Perceive Its Beauty, Acknowledge Its Grace. On it, Shabaka plays flutes: the Slavic woodwind called svirel, Japanese shakuhachi, Andean quena, and even clarinet. Plus, rapper and flutist André 3000 contributes flute to “I’ll Do Whatever You Want”. This time, in his visit to our studio, Shabaka, together with Charles Overton on harp and Austin Williamson on drums, play some of the songs from Perceive Its Beauty, Acknowledge Its Grace. Plus, Shabaka talks us through the different flutes in his bow case, including a clay turtle ocarina and a non-student shakuhachi. Read more on Shabaka’s Shakuhachi journey via SoundAmerican. – Caryn Havlik Set list: 1. Insecurities / As the Planets and the Stars Collapse 2. Living 3. I'll Do Whatever You Want


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José James Threads the Past Into Message-Music With Soul

José James has often been called a “jazz singer for the hip hop generation,” having come to jazz through tracing hip hop samples and over the course of twelve records, he’s also incorporated R&B, soul, rock, funk, and Latin music into his songs. While he’s mostly sung his own music over the years, he has occasionally covered songs by some of his favorite artists: Bill Withers, Gil Scott-Heron, Erykah Badu and Billie Holiday. James has just released a new album called 1978, which sees him looking back, past hip hop, to the soul music of the 70s. But this is soul music with a message; songs like “For Trayvon” make that clear. But it’s also message-music with soul: José James closes the album with “38th & Chicago,” which has a jazzy bassline, an almost bossa nova guitar sound, and a Caribbean lilt in the percusson. José James and his band play some of these hot grooves in-studio. -John Schaefer Set list: 1. Let's Get It 2. Planet Nine 3. Saturday Night (Need You Now)


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Community-Fueled Chamber-Pop By San Fermin

American indie rock-chamber collective, San Fermin, has been making lush, wide-angled Baroque-pop songs for more than a decade. The band was founded by Brooklyn-based keyboardist Ellis Ludwig Leone, who has multiple creative outlets as a songwriter, classical composer, and founding partner (with bandmate Allen Tate) of a record label focused on collaborations. The latest batch of 'immediate pop' songs on the 2024 album, Arms, is about things falling apart, but the process of making it brought people together, (Brooklyn Magazine). The band San Fermin plays some of these new songs, in-studio. Set list: 1. Weird Environment 2. Didn't Want You To 3. Arms


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Cameroonian Composer Blick Bassy's Folk, Soul and Electro Songscapes

France-based Cameroonian musician and composer Blick Bassy’s quiet and beautiful songs fall somewhere on the spectrum of R & B, pop, and folk, while the sounds of West and Central Africa have continued to resonate. His Bandcamp calls it "Africanity at the crossroads of soul, folk, and electro". Past albums by Bassy have also referenced Delta blues, and his latest effort, Mádibá, dedicated to the theme of water, is full of modern electronic beats, delicate guitars, brass arrangements, and rich Bassa vocals. Blick Bassy is about to release an extended version of that 2023 LP; it’s called M​á​dibá Ni Mbondi and is due out on May 17. Catch him on tour in the U.S.A. this May. -Caryn Havlik Set List: 1."Loba" 2."Hola Me" 3."Li Yanga" Mádibá Ni Mbondi by Blick Bassy


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Lizz Wright Transforms the Beauty of the Visual Into Song

Vocalist and songwriter Lizz Wright is usually referred to as a jazz or gospel singer, and she certainly does sing both of those styles. But she’s also comfortable with blues and R&B and the Great American Songbook. Her latest album is called Shadow, and it features striking versions of songs by Cole Porter, Sandy Denny, and others. The record also includes a number of Lizz Wright’s own songs, which draw inspiration from her Southern upbringing in Georgia, and wander freely among the many styles of American music. “Shadow” happens to be Wright's studio debut under her label, Blues & Greens Records, a new step in her artistic freedom, and without the genre constraints imposed by record labels. Lizz Wright and her band perform some of these acoustic songs, in-studio. Set list: 1. Sparrow 2. Circling 3. Your Love


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Reyna Tropical's Spiritual Survival Songs

Reyna Tropical is led by guitarist, singer, songwriter and co-producer Fabi Reyna, who is the founder of She Shreds Media, dedicated to women and non-binary guitarists. Investigating landscapes of the tropical diaspora - from Cartagena, Colombia to Fajardo, Puerto Rico and Cuaji (la costa chica de Guerrero), the latest release, Malegr​í​a, is a collection of 20 tracks infused with the beat of all things tropical. The music is a blend of Latin rhythms with rock, dance music, and psychedelia and offers connection to the land and the ancestors as well as resilience, and a continuation—a celebration of spiritual survival pulsing with sunny dance beats. Reyna Tropical plays in-studio. - Caryn Havlik Set list: 1. Suavecito 2. Catagena 3. Conexion Ancestral Malegría by Reyna Tropical


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Producer and Rapper Erick the Architect Smiles Through It

Brooklyn-born rapper, producer & founding member of Flatbush Zombies, Erick the Architect released his debut solo LP, I’ve Never Been Here Before, in February. While it’s full of trenchant social commentary, it’s also focused on dealing with loss and finding freedom in vulnerability. The tracks draw from funk, gospel, soul, reggae and jazz, with throughlines to musical greats like John Coltrane and George Clinton (who contributed to the album). Erick the Architect and his touring trio bring their elastic funk basslines, character studies, killer beats, and spacey sound effects to perform in-studio. Set list: 1. Ezekiel's Wheel 2. Beef Patty 3. Liberate I've Never Been Here Before by Erick the Architect


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Indie Fuzz-Rock Duo Deerlady's Shoegaze With Bite

Deerlady is the name of the band led by singer and bassist Mali Obomsawin and guitarist and singer Magdalena Abrego. Mali was part of the folk rock trio called Lula Wiles; then she released her album of Indigenous jazz called Sweet Tooth in 2022, drawing heavily on her Abenaki heritage. Magdalena, a Chicago-born guitarist whose parents migrated from Mexico and Puerto Rico, has played with the minimalism-meets-jazz collective known as Numinous, as well as the improvising sax player Allison Burik. In January, the two of them released their first album together, with the cheeky title Greatest Hits, “a collection of songs about intimacy under colonialism by Mali Obomsawin" (Bandcamp), and it sees the two of them turning the amps to 11 and pairing softly sung vocals with roaring guitars. Deerlady plays their shoegazey headbangers, in stripped-down arrangements, in-studio. - Caryn Havlik 1. Masterpieces 2. Believer 3. There There Greatest Hits by Deerlady, Mali Obomsawin, Magdalena Abrego,


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London-Based Naturalist Cosmo Sheldrake's Marvelous Sound World

London vocalist, multi-instrumentalist and producer Cosmo Sheldrake creates songs and sound worlds out of people, places, creatures, plants, fungi, and collected sounds. With his combination of traditional instrumentation and electronic production, field recordings, and both human and more-than-human voices (birdsong and insect choruses), Sheldrake pursues adventures in song, capturing the childlike wonder of a curious tea party, and staying connected to the natural world throughout. Cosmo Sheldrake juxtaposes these orchestrated natural sounds with his racks of gear to share his marvelous sound world in some songs from his latest, Eye to the Ear, in-studio. Set list: 1. Stop the Music 2. I Did and I Don't and I Do 3. Does the Swallow Dream of Flying? Eye To The Ear by Cosmo Sheldrake


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Empress Of Explores Yin/Yang of Romance and Plays Intimate Songs, In-Studio

Honduran-American artist Lorely Rodriguez, known professionally as Empress Of, is a singer, songwriter, musician and record producer based in Los Angeles, California. Her albums are full of bright, indie pop that mixes dance music, electronica, trap, and on her most recent album, Latin music. Empress Of’s new album, her fourth, is called For Your Consideration, and it’s a mischievous exploration of heartbreak, affairs, regaining your sexiness, and pursuing lust and control. Empress Of plays some stripped down versions of some of the new songs, in-studio. - Caryn Havlik Set list: 1.Lorelei 2. Kiss Me 3. What's Love


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Welsh Musician and Songwriter Gruff Rhys Coexists and Persists

Welsh musician and songwriter Gruff Rhys (of Super Furry Animals, the pop outfit known for their catchy songs and weird videos) poetically harnesses both the gritty and the trippy in his own music. But he’s also a composer, producer, filmmaker and author. His latest release, the 25th album of his career (individually, collaboratively and as a member of various bands), is a solo album called Sadness Sets Me Free, sung in English, and left open to chance. Rhys and his bandmates play some of these new songs, in-studio. Set list: 1. Bad Friend 2. Sadness Sets Me Free 3. Celestial Candyfloss Sadness Sets Me Free by Gruff Rhys


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Genre-Less British Rock Band Bombay Bicycle Club, In-Studio

Formed in North London, Bombay Bicycle Club is the sound of four best friends finding joy and savoring the connection in making music together and experimenting. They think of themselves as a genre-less band (The Independent), “not bound down by genre in a way that a lot of our contemporaries were”. With the 2023 release of My Big Day, and an EP called Fantasies, both of which feature a host of guest vocalists, it’s clear that they’re still freely mixing sounds and cover a lot of ground, sonically. Bombay Bicycle Club plays an unplugged set in-studio. Set list: 1. Turn The World On 2. Diving 3. Luna


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Singer and Producer Hatis Noit Connects Worlds With Her Voice

The Japanese singer/composer/producer Hatis Noit, is originally from the northernmost island of Hokkaido. Her name, hatis noit ハチスノイト, means the stem of the lotus flower and is intended to serve as a connection between the living world (represented by the lotus flower) and the spirit world (the lotus root). Further, Hatis Noit feels that singing is not unlike Tai chi, and is a way to connect the physical world to the spiritual world and nature. Now based in London and using vocal techniques she’s adapted from around the world, Hatis Noit makes music by using electronics to layer and occasionally process her voice. She sings in a pure, Renaissance vocal style, in the keening tradition of the Balkans, in the style of Japanese gagaku or court music, and in a classical operatic mode… sometimes all in the same song. The Japanese singer and electronic musician Hatis Noit creates these choirs of sound all by herself, using a looping station, live, in-studio. - Caryn Havlik Set list: 1. Aura 2. Himbrimi 3. Inori


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Spanish Singer María José Llergo's Flamenco Has Roots And Wings

Spanish singer and songwriter Maria José Llergo grew up in the region of Andalucia, the home of flamenco music, where she learned violin, and listened to her grandfather sing. From these roots, she grows her own flamenco - and it has "wings" - the sounds of contemporary pop, R&B, and electronica to augment and transform the style. Where there could be flamenco guitar and the "torn throat" crying vocals of flamenco singing, her music is soaring and buoyant global pop, showcasing her instrument - her voice. Maria José Llergo and her band perform in-studio. - Caryn Havlik Set list: 1. Juramento 2. SuperPoder 3. Aprendiendo A Volar Watch "Aprendiendo A Volar":


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The Slow Pastoral Beauty of Roger Eno's Shifting Chords

The “distinctive style” of British composer and musician Roger Eno’s slowly unfolding sonic landscapes has “attracted a cult following” (Eno’s bio). As well as first collaborating with his brother Brian and Daniel Lanois in 1983 on Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks, he has made over a dozen solo albums and other collaborative pieces. He’s composed for theatre, TV, and film; formed the ambient music supergroup Channel Light Vessel in the 90s; collaborated with The Orb, Lou Reed, Laraaji, Jarvis Cocker and Beck; and was the Musical Director for Tim Robbins and his band, The Rogues Gallery, ( In 2020 the album Mixing Colours by Roger and Brian Eno brough him to the prestigious classical music label Deutsche Grammophon. Roger’s latest solo release for that label is called the skies, they shift like chords, and includes solo piano tracks, layers of instrumental and electronic colours, along with an appearance by vocalist Cecily Eno, his daughter. Roger Eno and Cecily Eno perform in-studio. Set list: 1. There Was a Ship 2. Shadow Clock 3. Tapestry


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The Songs and Prayers of Tibetan Singer Yungchen Lhamo

The Tibetan singer Yungchen Lhamo was given the name Lhamo at birth by a Buddhist monk. The name means Goddess Of Melody, and Yungchen has spent her adult life living up to that title. After fleeing Tibet by walking over the Himalayas, in 1989, she established herself as a leading voice for Tibetan culture in the west, releasing a series of albums on Peter Gabriel’s Real World Record label and has become one of the signature voices on the global music scene, even singing for the Dalai Lama. In her work, she combines songs, prayers, and mantras dedicated to spiritual awakening, unconditional love, and compassion for all beings. Now based in upstate New York, she’s put the principles of Tibetan Buddhism to work not only in her music, but also in her activities leading the One Drop Of Kindness Foundation. Her latest album is also called One Drop of Kindness, and it brings Yungchen Lhamo back to our studio. Set list: 1. Sound Healing 2. Sun and Moon (acapella) 3. Four Wishes


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Daymé Arocena Infuses Spirituality and Pan-Caribbean Pop Into Afro-Cuban Jazz

Daymé Arocena, an Afro-Cuban singer from Havana now based in Puerto Rico, has been performing semi-professionally since she was 8 years old. She was trained as a composer, arranger, choir director, and band leader (Wikipedia) at conservatory, in addition to being “a practitioner of the Santeria religion, and a master of its profound musical tradition,” (Afropop Worldwide). Arocena was also part of the band Maqueque, an all-female band of young Cuban artists blending folkloric Cuban music and jazz (NPR Music). Since emerging as a solo artist, her songwriting has been a winning mix of jazz, soul, Caribbean, rumba, and folkloric music, imbued with Yoruban spirituality. But her latest release, Alkemi, celebrates the sounds of North American and Latin pop, intentionally so, as she picked Eduardo Cabra of Calle 13 to help produce on the album, which also features guests and sounds from around the Caribbean. Daymé Arocena and her band play some of the songs from Alkemi, in-studio. - Caryn Havlik Set list: 1. America Boy 2. Como Vivir Por El 3. Por Ti