Art Works Blog

The Fab Five, Art Works podcast edition

As the producer and host of the podcast series Art Works, being asked to choose five of my favorites is a little like asking someone to name their favorite child, or---in my case---favorite pet. I've done so many---well over 100 at this point---with such a variety of artists I deeply admire, it's almost an impossible task. Should I choose one from Column A, another from Column B; that is, pick a dancer, singer, director, writer, composer, visual artist? But if I take that route, would I pick Liz Lerman ( Parts 1 and 2) over Meredith Monk? Jimmy Heath rather than Aaron Diehl? Rita Dove or Claudia Rankine? And what about Jennifer Egan? These are not easy choices, my friends. So, my first decision is to choose conversations with musicians because they always include excerpts of music. It would take another blog to relate the amount of work these short excerpts require. It takes me time to edit in the music, but that's a drop in the bucket. My colleague Adam Kampe can and does spend hours and days procuring permissions to play even 30 seconds of those puppies. So, I want to show some love to music podcasts. Problem one solved.

On to problem two: which musicians? Since context is everything, here's my solution: we are approaching the Labor Day weekend, which has always been a dual purpose holiday. Traditionally, it's the last fling of the summer, and many of us have the joy of getting the kids ready for school. Some are in cars or on public transportation returning from that final weekend at the beach and others are running to the store to buy last-minute school supplies. So, the podcasts I'm choosing are the ones that are terrific to listen to while you're traveling, shopping, ironing, cooking. The perfect companions for the multitasker, aimed to ease the end of summer. And in no particular order, here they are (click on the name to get to the podcast):

Andy Statman (Part 1  and Part 2--even if that may be cheating)

I think Andy Statman is a genius. He's also a 2012 NEA Heritage Fellow, named for his outstanding work as a performer and a composer in Klezmer. But as great a Klezmer musician as Andy Statman may be, (and believe me, he is!) Klezmer only tells part of the story of Andy's musical genius. He cuts an extremely wide musical path. He began as a bluegrass mandolin player, following that with a fascination with jazz and the saxophone. Statman then took up the clarinet and studied Greek, Albanian, and Azerbaijani music. But Andy Statman doesn't drop one musical style for another---he just keeps adding to his stockpot of knowledge and sensibility, moving effortlessly from genre to another. He's also a very curious and kind man who thinks about music deeply. Enjoy his rich and varied musicianship!

Morris Robinson

Morris Robinson is an opera singer who in earlier lives was a football player at the Citadel and a corporate salesman. He had his first voice lesson when he was thirty. He is very talented, funny, and charming. You can hear him talk about his unusual path to the Metropolitan Opera and marvel at his gorgeous voice.

Gary Giddins

This is one of two podcasts I did with Gary Giddins who is one of the best jazz critics and writers in the country. He loves the music and the musicians but couples his passion with intelligence. in this podcast, we discuss the incomparable Louis Armstrong whom Giddins calls. "the single most important person in the development of jazz.” By the end of the podcast, you'll believe it too!

Liz Carroll

Liz Carroll is a 1994 NEA National Heritage fellow and an outstanding Irish fiddle player. She has been acclaimed around the world for the astounding breadth of her playing. She's played at the White House for President Obama, while her hometown of Chicago has declared September 18 Liz Carroll Day. She's a natural storyteller with an infectious laugh and charm to burn. Plus, she played the fiddle during our interview, so you can hear her fiddling recorded live in the podcast.

Chuck Brown

The one and only father of Go-Go and another NEA National Heritage Fellow sat down and talked about his music as only he can. He told stories the way he performed; he just lit up the room. He passed away earlier this year, and we're grateful he left such an indelible mark on the art of music.

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