We celebrate America’s diverse heritage by spotlighting the 2018 National Endowment for the Arts Heritage Fellows—recognized for their excellence in folk and traditional arts. Live in concert, Texas guitar maven and singer Barbara Lynn commands the stage with her brand of Gulf Coast rhythm & blues; old-time fiddler Eddie Bond shreds Appalachian-style; Don & Cindy Roy from Gorham, Maine, punch out French reels; and New York City cultural documentarian Ethel Raim sings a Yiddish song of her own. We talk tradition and technique with Native American basket-weaver Kelly Church; Palestinian embroiderer Feryal Abbasi-Ghnaim; rodeo tailor Manuel Cuevas; Chicana altarista Ofelia Esparza and African American quilter Marion Coleman. And we revisit performances and conversations with past NEA fellows like Hawaiian slack-key guitarist Ledward Ka’apana, circus aerialist Dolly Jacobs, soul singer Mavis Staples and the late guitar virtuoso Doc Watson, among others.
“From Bourbon Street to Vegas”: a look at New Orleans native and trumpeter Louis Prima, the originator of what’s known as the Vegas lounge sound. Nick Spitzer interviews Prima band members—saxophonist Sam Butera and singer/ex-wife Keely Smith—and talks with Vegas gamblers and a pastor at a 24-hour wedding-chapel.
Photo courtesy of the New Orleans Jazz Museum
We reach for “mystic chords of memory” with singer-songwriter Joe Ely and gospel/soul man Roscoe Robinson to hear about the ground they’ve covered as veteran touring musicians. Joe starts us off in Lubbock, Texas, where he grew up, and tells of railroading across America, running off with the circus, musical explorations with the Flatlanders and his role in Austin’s Cosmic Cowboy scene. Roscoe, now in his 91st orbit around the sun, remembers his childhood in Dermott, Arkansas, the family’s migration north, traveling the gospel circuit through the Jim Crow South, taking the stage at the Apollo Theater and his life-long spiritual journey. Plus, we spin travel tunes from artists’ influences like Buddy Holly, Flaco Jimenez and the Staple Singers.
We’re celebrating 50 years of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival by looking back at historic performances from the first festival in 1970. We’ll hear live recordings from Jazz Fest royalty, Duke Ellington and the Queen of Gospel, Mahalia Jackson. We’ll start with commentary from jazz clarinetist Dr. Michael White on Duke Ellington’s New Orleans Suite, which was commissioned by Jazz Fest founder George Wein, premiered at the 1970 festival, and was turned into an iconic studio recording. Then, we’ll hear from Mahalia Jackson in her own words in historic interviews and performances. Also Irma Thomas’ tribute in Jazz Fest’s Gospel Tent; plus Jackson biographer Mark Burford and New Orleans gospel singer Cynthia Girtley on the Gospel Queen’s legacy in and beyond New Orleans. Join us for Jazz Fest’s 50th anniversary with a trip back to its birth in Congo Square, 1970.
Photo by Michael P. Smith courtesy of The Historic New Orleans Collection