In 1963, the jazz pianist George Shearing, an enormously popular act in his day, made an album that was unusual for him. He asked his new, 20-year-old vibraphone player to write an album of contrapuntal, classical-music-inspired compositions, and recorded them with a woodwind quintet atop a jazz rhythm section. It's out of print now, but Out of the Woods received good reviews, and it remains an early career highlight for its young architect, Gary Burton.
All this week, All Things Considered has been broadcasting from Southern California, a hotbed for Latin Alternative music. Felix Contreras, co-host of NPR's Alt.Latino podcast, says that even for him, that music often evades definition.
"Latin Alternative is a combination of tradition mixed with hip-hop and rock and electronica. But then sometimes it's just straight hip-hop, and that throws my theory into shambles," he says. "It's all of the above, but none of the above."
The Minneapolis-based noise-rock band Marijuana Deathsquads has a name that implies mind-altering chaos. And that's largely what you get in the group's live performances - a thrilling, relentless bombardment of sight and sound. For this concert, originally webcast live on Nov. 6, 2013, the group's members were lost in a flickering shower of lights while blasting their way through highlights from its latest album, Oh My Sexy Lord.
If you love jazz and pop from the 1920s and '30s, you might already love the HBO series Boardwalk Empire, set in Atlantic City during Prohibition. The music played throughout the show is performed by Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks, and a second album of music from the series was recently released.
Electro-pop band Poliça is known for its memorable live performances, propelled by the alluring voice and moves of lead singer Channy Leaneagh, not to mention two drummers with full kits. The group broke out of the Minneapolis music scene just a year ago with its 2012 debut, Give You The Ghost, a heady mix of beauty and power.
"A Rational Conversation" is a column by writer Eric Ducker in which he gets on iChat or Gchat or the phone or whatever with a special guest to examine a music-related subject that's entered the pop culture consciousness. It previously appeared at The Daily Swarm.