Felix Contreras

The Tiny Desk is working from home for the foreseeable future. Introducing NPR Music's Tiny Desk (home) concerts, bringing you performances from across the country and the world. It's the same spirit — stripped-down sets, an intimate setting — just a different space.

Andy González, a New York bassist who both explored and bridged the worlds of Latin music and jazz, has died. The 69-year-old musician died in New York on Thursday night, from complications of a pre-existing illness, according to family members.

Born and bred in the Bronx, Andy González epitomized the fiercely independent Nuyorican attitude through his music — with one foot in Puerto Rican tradition and the other in the cutting-edge jazz of his native New York.

Last week, the New Orleans bands Tank and the Bangas and The Soul Rebels traveled to Havana to participate in a cultural exchange; it was meant to acknowledge the past by celebrating the present.

When the crew that is Spanglish Fly pulled in behind the Tiny Desk, the group's vibrant version of boogaloo raised the temperature in the NPR Music offices quite a bit. Whether displaying their party spirit or even the slow burn of social consciousness on the song "Los Niños En La Frontera," this band plays from the heart and engages both the mind and body.

There may East Coast/West Coast beefs in other forms of music, but jazz is all-embracing. This year's edition of A Jazz Piano Christmas features artists from both coasts, and the audience shows no signs of preferring one over the other.

For just about fifteen minutes, the members of Rio Mira created a living and very melodic connection to Africa. Set behind a large marimba — and drums that are unique to their corner of the world — the members of the band performed music that is the legacy of enslaved people who were in both Ecuador and Colombia. Rio Mira takes its name from a river that separates Ecuador and Colombia and empties into the Pacific Ocean.

Something happens for me when I hear jazz mixing it up with Brazilian rhythms. In the right hands it falls into the realm of magic.

Pianist, multi-instrumentalist and composer Jovino Santos Neto certainly cast a spell over those who gathered for this joyful turn behind the Tiny Desk.

His trio rushed right out of the gate with the samba-influenced "Pantopé" that introduces the concept of the trio: seamless interaction between the musicians that make the band sound like one big, melodic rhythm machine.

Saxophonist, flautist and bandleader Jane Bunnett has been traveling back and forth between her home in Toronto and Cuba for over 30 years because, well, she can.

'Santana' At 50

Aug 30, 2019

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Woodstock celebrated its 50th anniversary earlier this month, and it's been an amazing excuse to think back to the bands that played there on that grassy field in rural New York state. Some of them were already big names - Jimi Hendrix, CCR, Jefferson Airplane; others were virtual unknowns.

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Amid the most crucial political crisis to hit Puerto Rico in its modern history, three Puerto Rican musicians have released a protest song that is spreading across the island as fast a

Updated at 9:34 p.m. ET Saturday

João Gilberto, one of the principal architects of the Brazilian musical style bossa nova, has died at his home in Rio de Janeiro, according to a Facebook post by his son. João Marcelo Gilberto wrote that his father, who was 88 years old, died following an undisclosed illness.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify and Apple playlists at the bottom of the page.


Angélique Kidjo now has a pair of albums that are essentially covers of other artists, but interpreted with an African sensibility so majestic as to render the originals almost as source material.

Andrea Cruz brought a little bit of Puerto Rico with her when she took her place behind the Tiny Desk. It was present by way of the flag she hung up on the shelves, as well as in the lyrics of the songs and the style of music she expresses herself with.

I struggled to balance the conflicting emotions of enjoying the musical celebration that is the annual SXSW Festival with the pain of the devastating loss of life in Friday's terrorist attack in New Zealand. It was an emotional push and pull that I kept completely to myself.

Two South American countries have been in the news a lot lately. Venezuela's economy has collapsed in a political crisis and in Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, the country's new far-right president, has made racist comments and been accused of stoking anti-gay violence. For musicians in both those countries, the news is affecting their work.

We all knew vocalist Rubén Blades knew his way around the clave, the rhythmic pattern that propels the Afro-Cuban dance music he's known for.

But I bet you didn't know he could swing a big band jazz tune with an easy flair that recalls past masters like Mel Tormé, Tony Bennett or Frank Sinatra.

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Let's remember this morning how Havana sounded back in the 1950s and 1960s.

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Judy Collins, one of the most iconic folk singer activist divas of our time, has lent the pristine beauty of her voice to many social justice causes over the years. Her incomparable version of "Amazing Grace" was selected for preservation in the National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress for its cultural, historic or artistic significance.

When the 10 members of Tower of Power were in place behind Bob Boilen's desk, strategically positioned around the band's famous five-piece horn section, their first collective blast three beats into the sound check literally made the video crew jump. It was more a force of nature than a sound, and an impressive display of the "five fingers operating as one hand" concept of band cohesiveness.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Bandcamp playlist at the bottom of the page.


The music on Prisma Tropical is the sound of a band maturing and finding its voice with such a strong creative force that it's akin to the birth of a star in astronomy.

Joe Jackson, patriarch of the legendary Jackson family, which included Michael and Janet Jackson, has died, the estate of Michael has confirmed in a statement. No cause of death was given, though he had reportedly been diagnosed with cancer.

Officially, Joe Jackson was a band manager, taking five of his sons from a locally celebrated pop vocal group in Gary, Ind., in the mid-1960s to international acclaim, acting as the launchpad to superstardom for his son Michael. Their paths, however, would be revealed through the decades as ones paved in checkers.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify or Apple Music playlist at the bottom of the page.


The guys in Brownout have done it again.

They have gone to the deep well of uncut funk to produce yet another homage to classic soul that further burnishes their reputation as keepers of the funk flame.

Fifty years ago, Johnny Cash performed at Folsom State Prison in Folsom, Calif. The January 1968 concert and live album it produced, At Folsom Prison, helped revitalize Cash's career, inspiring him to testify for prison reform and cementing his reputation as a voice for the downtrodden.

I am not ashamed to admit it: I was overcome with emotion a few moments after entering Areito Estudio Ciento Uno (Areito Studio 101) inside the EGREM recording complex in the center of Havana, Cuba.

What are the holidays without Charlie Brown?

Nowadays, the quietly elegant and celebratory recordings by pianist Vince Guaraldi have become as much a part of the holidays as the sound of unwrapping presents. And every year we are treated to at least one interpretation of that classic Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack by one of the pianists on NPR's A Jazz Piano Christmas. This year is no exception.

Activist, hero, rebel, icon; those are just of the few of the adjectives often used in front of Dolores Huerta's name. They are well-deserved — for her part as a co-founder of a '60s labor movement, standing up for the rights of farm workers in this country, Dolores Huerta was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama in May of 2012.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Apple Music playlist at the bottom of the page.


It's impossible to overstate the importance of both Bébo Valdés and Chico O'Farrill to 20th century Afro-Cuban music and jazz.

Their rich and multi layered influence is evident in iconic compositions, big band arrangements written 60 years ago that still sound cutting edge, and piano playing that echo Cuban classical music and jazz pianist Bill Evans.

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