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On Being with Krista Tippett is a public radio project delving into the human side of news stories + issues. Curated + edited by senior editor Trent Gilliss.

We publish guest contributions. We edit long; we scrapbook. We do big ideas + deep meaning. We answer questions.

We've even won a couple of Webbys + a Peabody Award.

Paul @Holdengraber turned me on to this beauty: “Autumn Leaves” performed by trumpeter Chet Baker and Paul Desmond on the alto sax. Others of note include Hubert Laws (flute), Bob James (keyboard), Ron Carter (contrabass), and Steve Gadd (drums).

Tagged: #jazz #NYPL #music

As a musician and a lover of puns, this cover of “All About the Bass” by a Jazz bassist was just too great not to share for your Thursday Evening Melody.


An awesome piece of inter-species jazz shared by a listener in response to this post on the blog:

Do you know about David Rothenberg? He’s a jazz musician and philosopher who plays with animals, including whales. He has also played with birds, even cicadas! Amazing musician.



Take a moment (no puns allowed) to remember the great musician Dave Brubeck. A legend has passed.

“For as long as I’ve been playing jazz, people have been trying to pigeonhole me. Frankly, labels bore me.”

Tagged: #music #jazz #legend

Thanks for the reminder, NPR:

Happy Birthday Thelonious Monk!

Blue Monk (by rboliveira)

~reblogged by Trent Gilliss, senior editor


Tuesday Evening Melody: “Throw it Away” by Abbey Lincoln

by Michelle Slater, guest contributor

Written and performed by Abbey Lincoln, “Throw It Away” soothes my spirit, shivers my timber, and tempers my mood. The message is potent, and that voice so deeply at the center of itself that it cannot lie. The lilting version on her 2007 CD Abbey Sings Abbey is the one where I feel closest to the message — where I feel her feeling. The orchestration speaks strongly for sympathetic collaboration.

One year ago on August 14th, 2010, the great jazz vocalist and songwriter passed away at the age of 80.

Michelle SlaterMichelle Slater is a retired elder who gardens, paints, and performs in New York City. You can read more of her writing on her blog, Ms. Uncertainty Principles.

Want to recommend a song for our Tuesday evening melody, submit your suggestion and a little bit about the tune. We’ll take a listen for possible publication on the Being Blog.

There was so much description emotionally in the poetry, and the harmony was different to me as well. Her harmonic sensibility…I think she would call them chords of inquiry. There’s a question in that sound.

Brian BladeBrian Blade

The jazz musician and leader of The Fellowship Band sings the praises of Joni Mitchell’s 1990 album Hejira for Studio 360 in their "Aha Moments" series.

(photo: Wiqan Ang)

I just figured if I liked a song, it was mine.

—Jazz vocalist Nancy Wilson delivers a humdinger of a line on this week’s American Routes.

~reblogged by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

Tagged: #jazz #music #song

Esperanza Spalding Dazzles the Tiny Desk

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

I’ve been holding on to this performance for a few days now, keeping it in reserve specifically for a Friday morning or afternoon. And what better way to kick off the back stretch to the weekend than with the delightful intensity of jazz musician Esperanza Spalding. In this video, she captivates the room at National Public Radio with her intimate Tiny Desk Concert.

I particularly enjoyed the way Patrick Jarenwattananon paints a lush scene of her commanding presence, including when she doffs her cap to reveal her magnificent shock of hair. But, I best like his rundown of her set list:

"Chamber Music Society" by Esperanza Spalding"…she mostly called original tunes from Chamber Music Society, her new album pairing a jazz rhythm section with a three-piece string trio. The two tunes bookending her set alternated the gossamer with the rich and darkly hued: the album opener “Little Fly,” her setting of a William Blake poem, and “Apple Blossom,” featuring her regular guitarist, Ricardo Vogt.”

Listening to this performance made it easy to buy her album. I’ve been listening to it non-stop. It’s perfect.


"Myself When I Am Real"
Andy Dayton, associate web producer

"It was kind of like jazz." That’s what Nancy said when I asked her how Krista’s conversation with E. Ethelbert Miller went. Prior to the interview, Trent began paging through Miller’s second memoir, The 5th Inning, and seemed taken by the book’s honesty and willingness to acknowledge the darker corners of life. From the introduction:

"How do we cope with failure in life? How do we live when everyday we open our eyes to death? This memoir is about how I coped with failure and disappointment in career, marriage, and life. We fail as lovers, parents, and friends."

Charles Mingus
Painting of Charles Mingus by Matthew Rigsby Smith

With this in mind, I sent an email to Chris suggesting he give Charles Mingus’ Mingus Plays Piano a listen when scoring the program’s soundtrack. The album has a contemplative and improvisational sound that I really enjoy — an enjoyment that’s enhanced knowing a bit of the story behind it. Appearing in the liner notes to the compilation, The Impulse Story, here’s an account from inside the studio when Mingus recorded the album:

"Somebody was playing the piano in there very hauntingly — very beautifully. Then it would stop, and start again. It didn’t sound like practicing. It sounded like somebody was just thinking on the piano. That’s the best way I could say it. I looked in the music room and it was pitch black. The lights weren’t on. So I went into Thiele’s office and said, ‘Who’s playing in there?’ ‘It’s Charlie Mingus. A very close friend of his died.’ I never knew who he was grieving over. But about a half-hour later Thiele said, ‘Charles, let’s go into a studio.’ That became Mingus Plays Piano.”

"Thinking on the piano." Replace notes with words and you might say that reading (and hearing) E. Ethelbert Miller can be a similar experience.

My suggestion didn’t make its way into the program. Miller dropped enough musical references during the interview to easily fill the program’s 50 minutes. But you can listen to the first track from the album — “Myself When I Am Real” — to get a taste of what “thinking on the piano” sounds like.