Music

Selecting the Spoleto Festival USA Orchestra

Jun 7, 2019
Spoleto Festival USA Orchestra members carry their insturments in downtown Charleston
Victoria Hansen

They are sure signs of Spoleto in downtown Charleston; instrument toting musicians and scorching heat.  Among the jostling violin cases, is Shannon Fitzhenry.  She’s back for her second year with the annual Spoleto Festival USA Orchestra, one of 92 musicians chosen to play.

“The goal is to get up in time to warm up before rehearsal,” she laughs.  The Charleston native grew up with Spoleto, but admits she didn't fully appreciate it until she  moved away to study music at the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore, Maryland.

Pianist David Virelles and percussionist Roman Diaz teach a class at the Charleston Jazz Academy
Victoria Hansen

Scribbling notes on a dry erase board just won't do.  So David Virelles plays them instead, on a piano.  The Cuban composer and pianist is teaching a masters class at the Charleston Jazz Academy in North Charleston, as part of the Spoleto arts festival's community outreach program.

In just a couple of hours, he's performing too.

"I hope the students walk away with what it takes to play music," Virelles says.  "It takes a lot of discipline, perseverance and love.  You have to be passionate about it and really spend time to be any good."

Paul Wiancko
paulwiancko.com

Paul Wiancko started playing cello at age five. By age eight, he had composed his first piece of music.

“If you can call it a piece,” Wiancko says. “I think it was maybe a thirty-two measure little tune, mostly in C major, mostly consisting of a couple of triads. And I believe it was called “Breeze.” I had one of my parents’ friends print out the sheet music for it."

But for a long time following that early effort, Wiancko would shift his musical talents elsewhere.

Spoleto Festival USA, 2019 logo
Spoleto Festival USA

Sonatas and Soundscapes Live from Spoleto, Spoleto Backstage, Chamber Music

The Spoleto Festival USA returns to Charleston beginning on May 24th and running to June 9th. South Carolina Public Radio's Sonata and Soundscapes will be there, broadcasting live each weekday. Host Bradley Fuller will bring you the latest happenings at Spoleto, along with guest interviews, previews of upcoming performances and highlights: Monday – Thursday 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.; Friday May 31 and June 7, 10 a.m. to noon on our News and Music Stations.

Bradley Fuller / South Carolina Public Radio

“If you’re afraid of getting into Shakespeare, start with the music.”

For Dr. Sarah Williams, associate professor of music history at the University of South Carolina, the sometimes-challenging task of understanding the works of William Shakespeare can be made easier -- and more enjoyable -- through music. A specialist in the popular music and culture of England in Shakespeare’s time, Sarah suggests that common notions about the playwright and his works often miss the mark.

Bradley Fuller / South Carolina Public Radio

For many composers, getting started on a symphony can be a serious challenge. Johannes Brahms famously spent some twenty years completing his first such work.

But for South Carolina composer Meira Warshauer, inspiration was a bit easier in coming. She found it in the world around her.

“I knew that I wanted to write something about the Earth,” Meira says. “Really, since the first Earth Day in 1970, I’ve been an environmentalist.”

Diana Krall was one of the many guests Marian McPartland welcomed to Piano Jazz over its long run.
SCETV

For many years, jazz great Marian McPartland welcomed some of the biggest names in - and out of - jazz to her NPR program, Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz.  March 20, on the 101st anniversary of her  birth, an evening of McPartland's music inaugurated a new music series, Live in the Lobby, offered by Columbia's Koger Center for the Arts.  

Bradley Fuller / South Carolina Public Radio

Traditionally, a night at the symphony has entailed dressing up. For performers and audience members alike, the sight of a sharply-dressed crowd is nearly as much of a given as the sound of orchestral music.   

But the move toward a more casual concert experience is becoming a tradition in its own right, including in the Palmetto State.

After two decades, the South Carolina Philharmonic’s annual “Beethoven & Blue Jeans” concert continues to offer classical music in a casual-clothes setting.

Folk Songs

Dec 7, 2018
A Minute with Miles
SC Public Radio/Mary Noble Ours

For at least six hundred years, composers have been borrowing the melodies of folk songs and incorporating them into their compositions. And there’s a good reason: they’re good melodies; they’re melodies that have stood the test of time—that have never lost their hold on people. 


Wynton Marsalis Jazzes Up the Holidays

Nov 28, 2018
Wynton Marsalis plays holiday songs with the jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra
Frank Stewart for Jazz at Lincoln Center

Ask Wynton Marsalis to name his favorite holiday song and he might tell you, “The Christmas Song” by Mel Torme.  Then he’ll likely explain it’s personal.  When Marsalis first moved to New York, he played in a show with Torme.  He was 18 years-old.

“The contractor thought I was only a classical trumpet player,” Marsalis recalled.  “He said this boy can’t play.  I don’t know why he’s playing this gig, and Mel heard me play and said, this boy can play.  Leave him alone.”

It’s not every day that the musicians of Fort Jackson’s 282nd Army Band have the opportunity to perform alongside an organist.

“This is very unique. This usually doesn’t happen,” Bandmaster George T. Bauer says of the ensemble’s upcoming Veterans Day Concert. With fifteen brass players, three percussionists, and an organist performing selections by composers ranging from J.S. Bach to Maurice Duruflé, the concert is far from what many might think typical for one given by a military band.

Courtesy of the artist

For violinist Benjamin Beilman, the music of Johannes Brahms has timeless appeal. Striking what he considers a “perfect balance” between the personal and the objective, works like the German Romantic composer’s Violin Concerto in D major, op. 77, still have the power to move performer and listener alike.

Fud Livingston
Discogs

Charleston’s Fud Livingston, 'Jazz Age' arranger, composer, and musician, made memorable music.

(Originally broadcast 05/18/18) - Joseph Anthony “Fud” Livingston, born in Charleston, SC, in 1906, was an American jazz clarinetist, saxophonist, arranger, and composer who played with some of the most renowned musicians of the Jazz Age, including Bix Beiderbecke, Red Nichols, Joe Venuti, Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman and the Dorsey brothers, Tommy and Jimmy. He arranged for Broadway and wrote songs, the most famous of which is “I’m Through with Love.”

Pat Metheny on Piano Jazz

Sep 17, 2018
Pat Metheny
Jim Katz/Nonesuch

Guitarist Pat Metheny is one of the brightest stars in the jazz firmament. The only person to win a Grammy in ten different categories, the ever-evolving artist is constantly experimenting with new technology and honing his improvisational skills and unique style. On this 2006 Piano Jazz, The Pat Metheny Trio, which includes bassist Christian McBride and drummer Antonia Sanchez, performs an exclusive version of “Go Get It” and “Bright Size Life.

News & Talk Stations: Sat, Sep 22, 8 pm | News & Music Stations: Sep 23, 7 pm

Michel Camilo on Piano Jazz

Sep 10, 2018
Michel Camilo
michelcamilo.com

Grammy Award-winning pianist, composer, and bandleader Michel Camilo is one of the most fascinating jazz artists working today. A prodigy from the Dominican Republic, he began his professional career at sixteen, the youngest member of the National Symphony Orchestra. In his twenties he moved to New York City, where he took the jazz scene by storm with his whirlwind approach to music, technical brilliance, and post-bop Latin rhythms. In this 1989 Piano Jazz session, Camilo plays his own composition “Nostalgia.”

Sissiertta Jones
Napoleon Sarony/National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institite

In August of 2013, Walter Edgar's Journal featured a conversation with Maureen D. Lee, about her biography Sissieretta Jones, "The Greatest Singer of Her Race," 1868-1933 (USC Press, 2012), which told the forgotten story of the pioneering African American diva whose remarkable career paved the way for many who followed her.

Gene Harris on Piano Jazz

Aug 27, 2018

Pianist Gene Harris (1933 – 2000) was an integral part of the well-known group The Three Sounds trio, with bassist Andy Simpkins and drummer Bill Dowdy. After a brief hiatus in the 1970s, he teamed up with bassist Ray Brown to form a new group and also made his way as a solo act. An accomplished leader and sideman, Harris played with such greats as Aretha Franklin, Lou Rawls, and B.B. King. On this 1988 Piano Jazz, Harris opens with a slow and easy “Black and Blue,” then McPartland joins him on “Bag’s Groove.”

Marlene VerPlanck on Piano Jazz

Aug 20, 2018

This week, Piano Jazz remembers Marlene VerPlanck (1933 – January 14, 2018), who died from cancer this year at age 84. One of the finest interpreters of American Popular Song, VerPlanck’s artistic sensitivity made her a favorite of songwriters and listeners alike. As a studio singer, she was sought out by everyone from Frank Sinatra to KISS, and she also had a dynamic career as a solo performer. She was McPartland’s guest in 1999. In this session, VerPlanck joins McPartland to sing “Skylark” and “Our Love is Here to Stay.”

Beyoncé and Jay-Z will perform at Williams-Brice stadium on August 21 as part of their On the Run II Tour.
Wikimedia Commons

August 21 will bring the first concert in five years to Columbia’s Williams-Brice Stadium  when Beyoncé and Jay-Z make a stop on their On the Run II Tour.

For Columbia local and Beyoncé superfan Merrell Johnson, this is an especially big event.

Stefon Harris on Piano Jazz

Aug 13, 2018
Stefon Harris at the North Sea Jazz Festival 2007.
Siebe van Ineveld [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Vibraphonist Stefon Harris is one of the most innovative and impressive artists in jazz, blazing new trails on vibraphone and marimba. While much of his music is on the cutting edge, he has a strong sense of tradition and his technical facility knows no bounds. On this 2002 Piano Jazz, Harris shows off his fresh, clear sound on a number of duets with McPartland, including “Whisper Not,” “Blue Monk,” and “Bemsha Swing.” McPartland solos on her own “Twilight World.”

News & Talk Stations: Sat, Aug 18, 8 pm | News & Music Stations: Aug 19, 7 pm

Jess Stacy, New York, N.Y.(?), ca. Jan. 1947.
The Library of Congress, via Wikimedia Commons

This week’s Piano Jazz presents an episode from the early years of the program with guest Jess Stacy (1904 – 1995), who came out of retirement to appear on the show in 1982. One of the leading pianists of the swing era, Stacy was best known for his work with the Benny Goodman Orchestra and had a prolific career before stepping back from the music world in the 1950s. In this classic session from the archives, Stacy needs no introduction as he starts the show with a solo performance of “Dancing Fool.” McPartland joins to end the hour with “St. Louis Blues.”

Wikimedia Commons

In 1932, the musicologist Wilfrid Perrett reported to an audience at the Royal Musical Association in London the words of an unnamed professor of Greek with musical leanings: “Nobody has ever made head or tail of ancient Greek music, and nobody ever will. That way madness lies.”

Rachel Z on Piano Jazz

Jul 30, 2018
Rachel Z
Courtesy of the artist

Pianist and composer Rachel Z grew up in Manhattan in a musical family. Her mother taught her classical voice and opera from a young age, but she found her own sound in the jazz and rock worlds. On the keys, she is lightning-quick and her percussive yet lyrical approach enhances her technique. In 2010, she formed a group called The Trio of Oz with her husband, Omar Hakim. On this 1999 Piano Jazz, Rachel Z performs her original “Gently Sleeps the Pear Tree.” She and McPartland switch gears with “All the Things You Are.”

Tony Bennett on Piano Jazz

Jul 23, 2018
Tony Bennett and Marian McPartland, Manhattan Beach Studios, New York City, 2004.
RJ Capak

Ever-popular song stylist Tony Bennett was McPartland’s guest for the first time in 1990. Bennett vocalizes American popular songs like nobody else can. When he was starting out, a voice teacher, Miriam Spier, famously told him: “Don’t imitate singers, imitate musicians.” So, Bennett decided to emulate Art Tatum. He also credits his relaxed delivery to the inspiration of Mildred Bailey. On this edition of Piano Jazz, Bennett sings “Stay as Sweet as You Are” and “Imagination.” There’s no need to guess who’s playing the accompaniment.

Renee Rosnes on Piano Jazz

Jul 16, 2018
Renee Rosnes
reneerosnes.com

Upon moving to New York from Vancouver, Canada, pianist and composer Renee Rosnes established a reputation as one of the premier jazz musicians on the scene. Over her 30-year career, Rosnes has collaborated with a diverse range of artists, from established masters such as Jack DeJohnette to younger giants such as Christian McBride and Melissa Aldana. On this 1990 episode of Piano Jazz, she plays Monk’s “Four in One” then improvises with McPartland on her own tune “Fleur De Lis.”

News & Talk Stations: Sat, Jul 21, 8 pm | News & Music Stations: July 22, 7 pm

Don Byron on Piano Jazz

Jul 9, 2018
Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz
SC Public Radio

Pulitzer Prize finalist and 2007 Guggenheim Fellow Don Byron is a prodigious multi-instrumentalist and  composer. One of the most inventive and compelling musicians of his generation, he is credited for reviving interest in the jazz clarinet, his primary instrument. He has presented projects at major music festivals around the world and is known for playing in a wide variety of genres. In this 1999 Piano Jazz session, Byron demonstrates his flexibility and duets with McPartland on “Perdido,” “Moon Indigo,” and a creative free piece.

Barbara Carroll on Piano Jazz

Jul 2, 2018
Barbara Carroll, Clyde Lombardi, and Chuck Wayne, Downbeat magazine, New York, N.Y., ca. Sept. 1947
William P. Gottlieb Collection, Library of Congress

Pianist and vocalist Barbara Carroll (1925 – 2017) was described as a joyous and swinging jazz stylist. A dear friend of McPartland’s, Carroll had a monumental career. When she was a guest on the program in 1979, she had just started her engagement at Bemelmans Bar in Manhattan, where she would perform for a remarkable 25 years. On this episode from the first season of Piano Jazz, she plays an original, “Barbara’s Carol,” and duets with McPartland on a timely rendition of Stevie Wonder’s “Isn’t She Lovely.”

Andrew Hill on Piano Jazz

Jun 25, 2018
Andrew Hill
National Endowment for the Arts

Pianist Andrew Hill (1931 – 2007) began playing jazz as a teenager in Chicago, where he was encouraged by Earl Hines. As he came of age, Hill played with jazz legends Miles Davis and Charlie Parker. He may be known best for his classic Blue Note recordings in the 1960s, which extended the possibilities of bop and hard bop through complex tunes. On this 2005 Piano Jazz, Hill demonstrates his mastery of melody, rhythm and technique on his own “Nicodemus” before joining host McPartland for “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square.”

Marcia Ball on Piano Jazz

Jun 18, 2018
Marcia Ball
Mary Bruton

Pianist, vocalist, and songwriter Marcia Ball brings together Texas blues with Louisiana flavors, melding boogie-woogie, zydeco, and Swamp Rock. Influenced by artists of the region, such as Janis Joplin, Ball first came to the blues as a child by listening to Etta James and learned the piano through a mix of formal and informal lessons. On this 1997 Piano Jazz, Ball demonstrates her unique sound with “Crawfishin’” and her original “That’s Enough of That.” McPartland joins for a dual-piano rendition of “Woke Up Screaming.”

Martin Pizzarelli, John Pizzarelli and Marian McPartland

Jun 12, 2018
Marian McPartland with John Pizzarelli and Martin Pizzarelli, Avatar Recording Studios, NYC, 2001
RJ Capak

John Pizzarelli began playing at an early age with the help of his jazz guitarist father and teacher, Bucky Pizzarelli. The young musician had the opportunity to play with many outstanding musicians throughout his childhood and teen years, giving him a solid understanding of jazz. In the 1990s John and his brother Martin Pizzarelli toured as part of a trio that opened for Frank Sinatra. In this 2001 session, McPartland asks the brothers to play “It's Only A Paper Moon,” which was made famous by the legendary crooner. “Only if you play it with us,” John replies.

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