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.






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Grandbrothers, Messing With Pianos and Trying Out New Ideas

The German-Swiss duo with the unlikely name of Grandbrothers draws on electronic dance music, ambient music, and minimalism. Their tag line is “messing around with grand pianos since 2012,” which captures the essence of their play: they use ALL parts of the piano to generate raw sounds –the notes of the keyboard but also striking the wooden case; or flossing, well, bowing the strings; and E-Bow-like contraptions that oscillate the strings – which are sampled, processed, and assembled in real time. The results are striking creations that are not out of place in either a cathedral or a dance club. Their latest record is Late Reflections, and it brings Grandbrothers, who are the Swiss engineer/mechanic/software designer Lukas Vogel and German-Turkish pianist Erol Sarp, to play in the studio on the occasion of their first U.S. tour. Set list: “Bloodflow”, “What We See”, “Bloom”


Composer and Pianist Carlos Simon: ‘You Never Know Who’s Listening”

Born in Washington, D.C., and raised in Atlanta, Carlos Simon has become one of classical music’s most eloquent and visible chroniclers of the Black American experience. Although it’s not just classical music – Carlos draws on jazz, R&B, and especially gospel music, as Simon is the son of a preacher. Music is his pulpit, and he says he uses music as therapy and to make sense of it all. He's toured from the back of a flatbed truck, done street-busking, and played cocktail piano music in bars, with an ever-optimistic outlook of "You never know who’s listening”. He’s currently Composer-In-Residence at the Kennedy Center, and his 2022 LP called Requiem For The Enslaved was nominated for a Grammy. Now, he’s released two recordings in quick succession – first Breadth, an orchestral response to the killing of George Floyd, and just one week later, Together, a collection that features Carlos Simon performing solo piano works and a few small ensemble pieces. He plays some of these solo works at our piano, and a rendition of a well-known hymn, with special guest cellist Seth Parker-Woods. Watch Amazing Grace with Seth Parker-Woods, cello: Watch Memory of Summer: Watch Traveling Song:


Singer Nellie McKay Offers Fresh and Timeless Perspectives, In-Studio

Singer Nellie McKay’s songs hearken to pre-Elvis pop and maybe even Tin Pan Alley, and are offered with charm and intimacy. She has also released a whole album of Doris Day songs and a record of 60s covers, in addition to her 2004 splash debut, Get Away From Me and appearances in Broadway and Off-Broadway productions. And while she still sounds like a singer from another time, she’s back with an album of originals called Hey Guys, Watch This. Nellie McKay plays new songs on both piano and ukulele, in-studio. - Caryn Havlik Watch The Drinking Song: Watch Driftin': Watch Did I Catch You Dreaming:


The Dark and Heavy Sounds of Electronically-Enhanced Chamber Music by Pathos Trio

Brooklyn-based Pathos Trio consists of percussionists Marcelina Suchocka and Felix Reyes with keyboardist/composer Will Healy- all of whom are equally capable of playing acoustic chamber music or darker-hued electronically-altered sounds. The trio’s new album is called Polarity, and it’s a collection of works specifically written for the Pathos Trio by several composers - drummer/composer Ian Chang of Son Lux; percussionist and member of the International Contemporary Ensemble Clara Warnaar; and digital and electronic composer Phong Tran among them - with nods to alternative rock, progressive/black metal, minimalism, and electronic synthwave. The trio performs some of these newly-commissioned works, in-studio. Set list: "Mega Cicada" by Ian Chang; "Home/Gone" by Clara Warnaar; "Split" by Phong Tran


Bill Frisell & Luke Bergman, From the 2023 New York Guitar Festival in The Greene Space

Listen to a set from contemporary jazz guitar legend guitarist Bill Frisell, together with guitarist, bassist, and vocalist Luke Bergman. Frisell is a singular player in the jazz world, consistently sticking to his roots and American folk, while trying out any other thing that may move him. Bergman is, in Frisell’s words, “a master harmonizer, organizer, orchestrator, imaginator” (Program notes, Grace Cathedral). Together they swapped musical ideas remotely during the pandemic and composed a number of pieces. Listen to some of those tunes, including “Waltz for Hal Wilner” from his 2022 album, Four (Blue Note), and other works. - Caryn Havlik Set list: 1. "Claude Utley" 2. "Let Them Ring" 3. "Fathers Day" 4. "Canon" 5. "Waltz for Hal Wilner"


The Folk-Rock of Passenger, from Busking to 'Runaway" Hit-Maker

English singer-songwriter and folk-rocker Mike Rosenberg, formerly of the band Passenger, might be best known for his song “Let Her Go.” Originally from Brighton & Hove, Rosenberg busked his way through England and Australia in the early 2000’s and worked with a five-piece band until 2009, when he decided to continue under that name as a solo artist. He’s played giant stages and summer festivals in Europe, opening for old friend Ed Sheeran. Mike Rosenberg, aka Passenger, plays songs from his 2018 record, Runaway, in-studio. (From the Archives.) Watch the individual songs below:


Songwriter Kendra Morris Breaks Out of Old Habits

Brooklyn singer-songwriter Kendra Morris draws on 60s pop, 70s funk, the indie rock of the 2000’s, and the timeless sounds of soul and R&B on her latest record I Am What I’m Waiting For. She’s also a visual artist who’s done videos for her own songs in the past as well as those by the hip hop supergroup Czarface and the producer MF Doom. Notably absent are “love songs” – instead, the record dives into her fears of flying, the mundane conflicts of domesticity and cohabitation, and a valiant attempt to expand the birthday song canon. Kendra Morris and her band play some of these songs, in-studio. Set list: 1. Still Spinning 2. Dominoes 3. What Are You Waiting For? I Am What I’m Waiting For by Kendra Morris


The Quiet Thrill and Expressive Song-Play of Sofía Rei and Jorge Roeder, In-Studio

Bassist Jorge Roeder is from Peru; vocalist Sofía Rei is originally from Argentina. Both of them are based here in New York, and have worked with a broad range of New York musicians (John Zorn, Bobby McFerrin, Julian Lage, and many others); and that experience is reflected in the ease with which they move between Latin, jazz, and experimental music. (Between them they’ve worked in classical music, jazz, avant-garde, Latin music, metal, and electronics.) Their brand new album together, called Coplas Escondidas, is just the two of them – voice and bass – and it's a collection of songs with a variety of quietly thrilling textures and dramatic melodies. Sofía Rei and Jorge Roeder play in-studio. Set list: 1. Días de Sitio 2. Prestados 3. Negro Sobre Blanco


The Transformative Sound-World of Cellist Issei Herr

Cellist Issei Herr, classically trained at Juilliard, creates expansive waves of sound through the processing and layering of her instrument. Her debut record, Distant Intervals, includes ambient soundscapes that explore openness, vulnerability, and a sense of wonder, and is full of titles that hint at transformation, both musical and personal. There also seems to be a Zen element in her layers; they’re contemplative, yet quite ordered as they build delicate crystalline structures. Issei Herr plays some of those pieces, as well as a brand new work where her acoustic cello interacts with forest sounds, in-studio. Issei Herr shares a bill with percussionist Matt Evans at the Noguchi Museum on Sunday. Aug. 27. Set list: Prelude & Aubade, Flutter, Aveu (The Beginning Is a Farewell) feat. Maria BC Watch "Prelude & Aubade": Watch "Flutter": Watch "Aveu (The Beginning Is a Farewell)" feat. Maria BC:


Junun Featuring Shye Ben Tzur and The Rajasthan Express (Archives)

Junun is a musical collaboration between India-based Israeli composer Shye Ben Tzur, a group of Indian musicians called The Rajasthan Express, and composer (and Radiohead’s guitarist) Jonny Greenwood. The music is in the ecstatic Sufi music style known as qawwali (made famous by the late Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan), and it's devotional music—sometimes in Urdu, Hebrew, and Hindi, and is built on a percussion-dense and brass enriched groove with everything to love. In 2018, the band was opening for Radiohead on tour, but they joined us to perform some of these ecstatic tunes, in-studio. (From the Archives, 2018.) -Caryn Havlik Watch the individual songs below:


Too Sad For the Public's Elastic Take on American Roots Music

The sounds of American roots music – folk ballads, fiddle tunes, early blues, New Orleans second line grooves – may seem like they belong to another century. But the NY-based collective called Too Sad For The Public takes those old songs and remakes them, often in surprising ways. Too Sad For The Public’s arranger and producer Dick Connette, along with a sextet version of the band featuring vocalist Ana Egge, play some of the tunes from the latest album, Vol. 2, Yet And Still, in-studio. Set list: 1. Railroad Bill 2. Old Forty Watch "Railroad Bill": Watch "Old Forty":


Kinshasa Band Jupiter & Okwess Shares Music and Messages

From Kinshasa, the capital of Congo, comes the band known as Jupiter & Okwess, led by the charismatic singer Jupiter Bokondji. When we last met the band, in 2018, they had just released their second album, a star-studded collection called Kin Sonic. Jupiter & Okwess are touring around to support their latest record, Na Kozonga, which offers a striking mix of high-energy dance, funk, and Afropop, while mixing samba, New Orleans, and soul influences in different languages. Set list: 1. Solobombe 2. Mieux que ca 3. Muba Watch "Solobombe": Watch "Mieux que ca": Watch "Muba": Na Kozonga by Jupiter Okwess


Sessa, From the 2023 New York Guitar Festival in The Greene Space

Brazilian singer/songwriter Sessa (born Sergio Sayeg in Sao Paolo) is heir to the great tradition of MPB – Brazilian popular music, in the vein of Gilberto Gil or Caetano Veloso. But he favors a stripped down approach that reflects his own love of the German minimalist group Cluster, and his lyrics – often about love, heartbreak, and the power of music – echo themes in Leonard Cohen’s songs and Sun Ra’s cosmic jazz. He plays songs from his latest, Estrela Acesa, or “Burning Star” at the 2023 New York Guitar Festival in the Greene Space. Set list: Grandeza, Ponto de Faca, Pele de Estera, Sereia Sentimental, Flor do Real Watch "Grandeza": Watch "Ponto de Faca": Watch "Pele de Estera": Watch "Sereia Sentimental": Watch "Flor do Real":


Jazz-Fluid Singer Magos Herrera's Rich and Silky Lightness

The Mexican singer Magos Herrera has a distinctive, elegant, and expressive voice, and while she’s usually thought of as a jazz singer, she’s also done a lot of collaborating with artists from the worlds of pop and classical music. Largely based here in New York, Herrera has recently put out a new album, called Aire, which features her own sextet and a full orchestra – a kind of communal response to the isolation of the pandemic, when most of the songs were written. Her own band and members of the Brooklyn-based orchestra called The Knights present some of these jazz-fluid songs, rich with drama and feeling, in-studio. Set list: 1.Aire 2. The Calling 3. Choro de Lua Watch "Aire": Watch "The Calling": Watch "Choro de Lua":


Jiji, From the 2023 New York Guitar Festival in The Greene Space

Classical Korean guitarist and improviser Jiji has a penchant for blowing minds with her playing, improvising, and stage banter. She adapts the stunning and acrobatic Caprice No. 24 by 19th century virtuoso violinist and composer Niccolò Paganini. Plus, she plays a work by the Icelandic composer, guitarist and professor of electronic composition, Gulli Bjornsson. Both performances were recorded live at the 2023 New York Guitar Festival in the Greene Space. Set list: Claudia Sessa (arr. Jiji): "Occhi Io Vissi Di Voi"; Gulli Björnsson: "Dynjandi"; Niccolò Paganini (arr. Jiji)- "Caprice No. 24" Watch "Occhi Io Vissi Di Voi": Watch "Dynjandi": Watch "Caprice No. 24":


Black Belt Eagle Scout Heeds the Call of the Land

Black Belt Eagle Scout is the work of the singer and guitarist Katherine Paul, KP for short, whose music is deeply rooted in the culture of the Swinomish community on the coast of Washington. Black Belt Eagle Scout’s latest album is called The Land, The Water, The Sky, and it often pairs Katherine Paul’s quiet musings on land, love, and community with roaring guitars and pounding drums. Black Belt Eagle Scout plays some of these new songs, in-studio. Set list: 1. Nobody 2. Don't Give Up 3. My Blood Runs Through This Land Watch "Nobody": Watch "Don't Give Up": Watch "My Blood Runs Through This Land": The Land, The Water, The Sky by Black Belt Eagle Scout


Altin Gün Glams Up Folk Tunes From Turkey As Dance-Psych-Funk, In-Studio

The band Altin Gün is based in the Netherlands but they’ve gained global attention – and a Grammy nomination – for their psychedelic, glam rock and disco-tinged versions of songs from Turkey in the 1970s. So, in the 70s the folk rock movement racing through the British Isles made its way to Anatolia, inspiring young Turkish musicians to recast old Turkish folk songs with electric guitars, synthesisers and the like. Forty years later, Altin Gun has been resurrecting the creativity and the energy of this corner of the music world, with their own hi-octane, dance-ready arrangements. Their latest album is called Ask, and they play new tunes, in-studio. AND they play at Brooklyn Steel on Monday, July 31. Set list: 1. Su Sızıyor 2. Canim Oy 3. Doktor Civanim Watch "Su Sızıyor": Watch "Canim Oy": Watch "Doktor Civanim":


Updated Chamber-Pop By Gracie and Rachel, In-Studio

The chamber pop duo known as Gracie and Rachel have always had a kind of yin and yang quality to them: Gracie Coates, the pop songwriter at the piano; Rachel Ruggles, the classically trained violinist. "Blending baroque elements, ethereal soundscapes, and penetrating vulnerability, the duo creates an emotionally haunting sound" with an electric energy, (Righteous Babe Records.) The high school friends from Berkeley, California were operating out of Brooklyn, where the duo made its reputation, but Gracie has moved to upstate New York. Rather than signaling an end, though, Gracie’s move has spawned a new collection of songs, called Nowhere Now Here, which focuses on the continued connection between the two. Gracie and Rachel play some of these new songs, in-studio. Gracie and Rachel play at Public Records on July 21. Set list: "Middle Ground", "Sidelines", "Call Away" Watch "Middle Ground": Watch "Sidelines": Watch "Call Away":


The Off-Kilter Experimental Pop of Goldfeather

Goldfeather is the work of vocalist and composer Sarah Goldfeather and guitarist/producer Mike Tierney. Sarah Goldfeather is also a founding member of the ensemble Excpetet, a group modeled on the instrumentation of Stravinksy's "L'Histoire du Soldat" and created to commission new works by living composers. In fact, all of the band members are classically trained, with experience and interests from bluegrass to experimental pop. Goldfeather’s new album, Change, is a head-spinning blend of hyperpop filtered through the lens of contemporary classical and electronic music. With its processed voices, sudden shifts in rhythm and harmony, and catchy pop hooks, the new songs are off-kilter fun, even as they tell a serious tale of "uncomfortable self-reflection" The band plays some of these tunes in-studio. Set list: "Who Am I When I Am All Alone", "The Animal", "Beautiful Tree" Watch "Who Am I When I Am All Alone": Watch "Animal": Watch "Beautiful Tree":


Ondara Negotiates a Rebirth of Self

Singer and songwriter Ondara's story is that of a young person in Kenya falling in love with Bob Dylan songs and winning a green card lottery that let him follow his dream of moving to America. Now Ondara has released his third LP, Spanish Villager #3, and while it has a more produced, electric sound, he’s touring around doing solo acoustic performances. He plays solo acoustic songs in-studio. Set list: "A Shakedown in Berlin", "A Nocturnal Heresy", "A Seminar in Tokyo" Watch "A Shakedown in Berlin": Watch "A Nocturnal Heresy": Watch "A Seminar in Tokyo":