A visit with inventive and eccentric jazz composer Carla Bley, who brings wry humor to a conversation about the challenges of writing for her very big bands, her early days as a cigarette girl in NYC jazz clubs, and why America might be famous for baked beans. Then we head southwest and west to the borderlands of Mexican-American music with a stop for conversation with San Antonio’s Belen Escobedo, a master of the traditional conjunto violin. Plus songs from Freddy Fender, Elizabeth Cotten, Sunny and the Sunliners and Flatt & Scruggs.
For Thanksgiving, we’re celebrating the 2022 National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellows. Great musicians, storytellers, artisans and advocates, who have received our nation’s highest honor in traditional arts with these new honorees: Richmond gospel family, The Legendary Ingramettes; Navajo Diné weaver and sheep rancher, TahNibaa Naataanii; Washington DC step choreographer, C. Brian Williams; Excelsior Brass Band of Mobile, Alabama; master Hawai’ian Hale builder Francis “Palani” Sinenci; Tibetan Opera singer and dancer Tsering Wangmo Satho; Flamenco dancer Eva Encinias; Bluegrass fiddler Michael Cleveland; St. Croix Quelbe flute player and bandleader, Stanley Jacobs; and New Orleans Black-masking craftsman, stilt dancer and musician, Shaka Zulu. Plus music from former fellows Doc Watson, Cedric Burnside, Clifton Chenier, Flaco Jiménez, Andy Statman, Dr. Michael White and Wanda Jackson, among others.
It’s Blueswomen, Jazzmen, African roots and branches. Chicago blues singer Shemekia Copeland‘s father, the late blues guitarist Johnny Copeland, brought her into his music as a child. As an adult, she found new ways to use blues to express her perspective. We’ll hear from some of Shemekia’s heroes including Etta James, Ruth Brown, Alberta Hunter and Big Mama Thornton. Then a conversation and performance by Boston-based Mandinka balafon player Balla Kouyaté and music inspired by and from the continent of Africa from Randy Weston, Miriam Makeba and the Modern Jazz Quartet.
From small town Louisiana to Memphis, from hellfire to honky tonk, we trace the meteoric rise, fall and rebound of rocknroll’s most wayward son-the late Jerry Lee Lewis. We revisit conversations with the Killer about his hits, his misses and being the last man standing of the “Million Dollar Quartet,” which also included Elvis, Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins. Jerry Lee’s sister Frankie Jean Lewis, a.k.a. the Chiller, gives us a tour of the family’s homestead in Ferriday, LA. Natchez, MS bluesman Hezekiah Early shares memories of Haney’s Big House, the Chitlin’ Circuit nightclub where underage Jerry Lee sneaked in to hear boogie woogie. Drummer J.M. Van Eaton describes what it was like to record with the Killer during his early Memphis days. Sun Records publicist Barbara Sims recalls the scandal that derailed the pianoman’s career. And Linda Gail Lewis, nicknamed the Thriller, tells of her brother’s second act as a country star and the string of duets they recorded together, as well as her own career as a pianist and dueting with Van Morrison. Plus, we hear Jerry Lee Lewis’s collaborations with Bruce Springsteen, Kris Kristofferson and Gillian Welch, among others. All killer, no filler, this week on American Routes.
Jazz pianist Jason Moran started out in Houston playing classical music, but found his way to jazz through Thelonious Monk. We’ll learn more about his adventures in the NYC jazz scene. Then a conversation and tour around the piano with Philadelphia cabaret player and creator Heath Allen, plus music from Fats Waller, Jerry Lee Lewis, Herbie Hancock, and Sweet Emma.