Arts Desk

Check out stories and album of the week features by Susan Lewis, Debra Lew Harder, Kevin Gordon, Maureen Malloy, Matt Silver, and Bobbi Booker.

April 26, 2021. Multi-instrumentalist Joe Chambers made his name as a drummer on some of Blue Note Records’ most celebrated albums of the mid-to-late 1960s. But it’s his vibraphone playing here—bobbing and weaving in a synchronized courtship with pianist Brad Merritt worthy of David Attenborough narration—that’s foregrounded on Samba de Maracatu, his first release as a leader for the famed jazz label since 1998’s Mirrors.

Misty Sol

Closing out what’s been a jam-packed Jazz Appreciation Month is International Jazz Day on April 30th. But not lost on us here at WRTI is that April 30th also marks the last day of National Poetry Month. How best to honor both? How about with live readings from a book of poetry conceived and executed by local poets, where each piece is inspired by music immortalized by the High Priestess of Soul, Miss Nina Simone?

The word "pivot" has emerged during the COVID-19 pandemic and taken on new meaning as people and businesses found creative ways to thrive during the crisis. Jazz Philadelphia's pivot resulted in the 2020 Virtual Jazz Appreciation Month (VJAM Philly) launch of the popular Hometown Heros profile series, which gives local jazz artists visibility and shines a light on the region's rich music legacy.

Credit: Jeff Herman

Music can be mysterious, even to those who spend their lives creating it. As WRTI’s Susan Lewis reports, the late composer Christopher Rouse pondered the profound power of music with his concerto for organ and orchestra.

Kevin Vondrak

Premiered in late 2019, and digitally released in April, 2021, A Native Hill provides solace and reflection about our human place in the natural world. British composer Gavin Bryars wrote the music to text by American environmentalist Wendell Berry, specifically for the voices in the Philadelphia-based professional chamber choir, The Crossing, and presented it as a gift to the ensemble.

April 19, 2021. Unless you’re a serious jazz wonk or an avid auditor of Philadelphia’s jazz history, you’re probably not that familiar with a pianist named Hasaan Ibn Ali. The fact that he was known by his musician peers as the "Legendary Hasaan" both belies this relative obscurity and clarifies the esteem in which he was held for a near-maniacal work ethic and a musicality thought to be ahead of its time.

April 19, 2021. The Grammy-winning Catalyst Quartet uncovers music and the stories of the people who wrote it in its new recording series, UNCOVERED. The first volume focuses on music by late 19th-century English composer, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor.

Courtesy of The Philadelphia Orchestra Association Archives

During the Cultural Revolution of 1966 to 1976 in the People's Republic of China, Western classical music all but disappeared from Chinese cultural life. The Philadelphia Orchestra's trailblazing 1973 trip to China helped turn that around. Led by Music Director Eugene Ormandy, and part of a larger plan of cross-cultural exchange, the tour planted the seeds for a relationship between China and the Orchestra that has grown and blossomed in the last three decades.

April 12, 2021. Trigger warning: If having too much fun listening to music tends to send you spiraling out of control, take caution with Emmet Cohen’s Future Stride. With his natural feel and an ability to draw from a massive store of repertoire, it’s easy to see—and hear—why Cohen’s been a fast-rising star for a while now.

April 12, 2021. Sergei Rachmaninoff considered The Philadelphia Orchestra his favorite American ensemble, and our Classical Album of the Week reveals why.