Music

Music

It seemed only fitting for us to have a nine-piece, family-centered band come back to the Tiny Desk to help us celebrate the holidays in 2016. Maggie and Tyler Heath head up The Oh Hellos vocally, but this band — which played a non-holiday show at the desk just a year ago — feels very much like an extended family, in terms of both camaraderie and harmonies.

In Memoriam 2016

Dec 19, 2016

Music suffered heavy losses in 2016, a year like no other in recent memory. We bid unexpected farewells to the very brightest stars — David Bowie and Prince — but we also lost masters from every corner of the music world, from classical composers and jazz greats to world music superstars, soul singers, country giants, prog-rock pioneers and record producers. They left us with unforgettable sounds and compelling stories. Hear their music and explore their legacies here.

(Credits: Tom Huizenga, producer; Mark Mobley, editor; Brittany Mayes, designer)

Low's dreamy and deliberate sound lends itself to holiday music beautifully: The Duluth, Minn., band knows how to evoke winter, as well as the heartfelt reverence it takes to infuse Christmas songs with meaning beyond the usual mutant reindeer and other Santa-adjacent shenanigans. It's a high compliment to say that Low's holiday songs sound like Low songs, with all the attendant beauty and ache.

On a Sunday night in Washington D.C., a white-haired grandmother is warming up for her set at a local dive bar. She taps out a simple melody on her keyboard, then pauses to address those listening. "You know what that is?" she asks, chuckling. "'Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer.'"

Neil Diamond is celebrating 50 years in the music business, and he has a lot of fans to celebrate with him. In the past half-century, he has sold more than 125 million records, released more than 40 albums, and put songs into the minds of millions. Now, Diamond is back with another album: Acoustic Christmas.

When we hosted the Pretenders on World Cafe this week to celebrate the release of Chrissie Hynde and company's new album, Alone, we were reminded that the band's self-titled debut came out in 1980 — the same year as more than a handful of other classic and influential records.

In hundreds of cities across the U.S. –- and a few abroad, too –- tuba and euphonium players are gathering for an annual tradition: TubaChristmas. The mandate of the event is simple: Gather a group of tuba and euphonium players and play holiday songs. Its scope, however, is large: These gatherings can include hundreds of tuba players, and this weekend alone, there are more than 60 TubaChristmas events from Hattiesburg, Miss, to Las Cruces, N.M. to San Ramón, Costa Rica.

Watch live Saturday as Americana musicians of all stripes gather to support the recovery effort after wildfires that ravaged eastern Tennessee in recent weeks. The "Mountain Tough" benefit concert will raise funds and awareness for recovery, with donations going to the Sevier County Community Fund.

Recommended Dose is devoted to surfacing the world's most intriguing underground dance music, and our 2016 mix is no exception. The 25 tracks that make up this 2-hour mix came to us from small dance communities all over the globe. Berlin and Vancouver are obvious hot spots right now (and that's reflected in the mix), but there are developing scenes in Atlanta, D.C., Melbourne, Glasgow, Cairo and Tokyo that are generating truly memorable tunes.

You probably shouldn't be reading this — just listen to Derek Gripper play and watch his fingers work. You can see and hear his classical training from his first notes behind the Tiny Desk.

Chrissie Hynde has been seeking inspiration ever since she left her hometown of Akron, Ohio, in the '70s for London, where she ended up founding The Pretenders. The band's 1980 debut was cutting-edge, sexually direct and a major hit.

Angélique Kidjo is a force to be reckoned with. She is one of Africa's most internationally celebrated female musicians and continues to break new ground with each release. For her Morning Becomes Eclectic session, she lit up our studio with her tireless energy — and her dance moves.

SET LIST

  • "Shango Wa"

Photo: Larry Hirshowitz/KCRW.

In principle, music makers have agreed to a certain order — a certain way of doing things. First, pop artists work hard to put out finished albums with polished tracks. Second, music critics get those albums ahead of the release date so they can listen to and review them. Finally, albums come out on Fridays — they're events to look forward to and items to spend your money on at the week's end. And yet, says NPR Music's Daoud Tyler-Ameen, in 2016 it appeared those rules were made to be broken.

On weekends, I love to cook and listen to records. It's a ritual that began out of a necessity for meditation from the week — minding a pot of grits and sipping tea while Neil Young or Leon Thomas LPs spin in the background.

It's the great pleasure of my work that I get to spend my days watching and reading — and it's the great frustration that every year I'm haunted by all the terrific things I haven't talked about on Fresh Air. I call this collection my "ghost file," and as 2016 comes to an end, I want to un-haunt myself by sharing six of my favorite ghosts. They range from the cosmic to the comic.


Dekalog

In this festive annual tradition, the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra and Wynton Marsalis offer swinging and soulful performances of classic holiday music.

In addition to the selections heard on their Big Band Holidays album, the ensemble will perform new arrangements of songs both sacred and secular, from "Silver Bells" to favorites like "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas."

The occasion features Sherman Irby, an extraordinary saxophonist, arranger and composer whose most recent commissioned work was met with a standing ovation in Rose Theater.

Gospel singer Joe Ligon died Sunday at the age of 80. He was the electric and vibrant frontman for the Grammy award-winning group Mighty Clouds of Joy, which helped bring gospel to the mainstream.

Copyright 2016 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

DAVE DAVIES, HOST:

Thirty years ago, the beloved Texas guitarist Eric Johnson made his general-release debut, Tones. Since then, he's made platinum albums and won a Grammy award for Best Rock Instrumental Performance. In this session, he tells us why he does it: "I just like to try to have it have substance or quality or give some kind of emotion to people ... Really, it's more about that than it is the gymnastics or the 'look at me' effect."

Jon Batiste has two big gigs –- he's the band director for The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, and he's an artistic director at the National Jazz Museum in Harlem. And now, he also has his very own holiday album: Christmas With Jon Batiste.

Pages