Tuesday, February 22, 2005

NPR runs the changes.

In parallel with Presidents' Day, perhaps, NPR got all Prez-y and jazzed up their Monday line-up. In New York, the public radio affiliate WNYC had Butch Morris on Leonard Lopate's show; you can listen in here. Morris is performing every day of this month around town in a marathon he's calling Black February. It's his way of celebrating the 20th anniversary of "conduction," his amalgam of improv and conducting. He explains it much better himself, though Lopate at times seems either distracted or simply out-matched. Morris is a major figure in jazz; it's amazing to me that his performance onslaught has not received more attention here. Caught his New York Skyscraper ensemble a few Sundays ago at the Bowery Poetry Club and it was hugely entertaining.

On Monday afternoon, Terry Gross aired a long and engaging conversation with clarinetist Don Byron, which you can listen to here. Like Morris, Byron is extremely good on own music---aware of the history on which he draws, of his goals and modern inspirations, and the extent to which listeners want to hear about the intricacies of playing music. He's NPR-friendly---Gross can't help touting the Byron track that has been used endlessly as an NPR bumper, and the black-on-klezmer action makes us all feel like intrepid cross-pollinators---but he keeps Gross on her toes, and schools her when necessary.


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