Deep in the heart of Texas, we visit with western swing trio The Hot Club of Cowtown, who started out in the bright lights of New York City and made a way to becoming a local favorite in Austin, Texas. We talk about hot clubs, 78 record collectors and hear songs about milk cows from some of the band’s favorite musicians. Then, from the Bay Area, Los Cenzontles celebrate their Mexican American roots through teaching and performance, and collaborate with artists like Linda Ronstadt and Jackson Browne. It’s milk cows and mockingbirds on American Routes.
Bessie Smith was called the Empress of the Blues, but she was also the highest paid African American entertainer of her generation. We’ll explore the life and times of Bessie Smith from her early days performing on Chattanooga street corners and her travels on the TOBA circuit to her decade as a top selling recording artist. Then, a conversation with Annika Chambers, a 21st Century blues woman and classic Bessie Smith songs by Dinah Washington, Nina Simone and Alberta Hunter.
photo: Bessie Smith holding feathers by Carl Van Vechten, February 3, 1936.
ELLIS MARSALIS REMEMBERED: FAMILY MEMORIES & MUSIC WITH BRANFORD, WYNTON, DELFEAYO AND JASON MARSALIS
There is no more recognizable family name in jazz from New Orleans and beyond than: Marsalis. We’re paying tribute to the late pianist Ellis Marsalis Jr. who passed of Covid-19 in April 2020, and to his musical sons Branford (saxophone), Wynton (trumpet), Delfeayo (trombone) and Jason (drums and vibraphone). The conversation ranges from coming of age in a family of musicians, with expectations of performing at the highest level, to the interplay of traditional and modern jazz in New Orleans. Previously unheard are Wynton’s remarkable memorial oration and a live set with youngest son Jason Marsalis playing the music of his late father. It’s the enduring and thriving musical legacy of the Marsalis family this week on American Routes.
The great Texas river city is a mix of Mexican, German, Anglo and African American cultures, among others. Home to the Texas Conjunto Festival and the International Accordion Festival, San Antonio is best known for Tex-Mex or Tejano music played by squeeze box masters like Flaco Jimenez, Narciso Martinez and Mingo Saldivar among many. We’ll speak with Flaco, who in collaborations with Doug Sahm, Ry Cooder, and Los Super Seven, has carried the music worldwide. “Chicano brown-eyed soul” performers like Sunny and the Sunliners and other groups describe music that connected New Orleans and Louisiana Swamp Pop with San Antonio and East Los Angeles. We’ll also talk with Vox organ legend Augie Meyers who worked in the high hippie era with Doug Sahm as part of the Sir Douglas Quintet and later in the Texas Tornadoes. The conversation comes full circle with Max Baca, the leader and bajo sexto player of Los Texmaniacs who was influenced by both Flaco and Doug Sahm. The Grammy-winning family band sticks with tradition, but finds ways to include country, blues and rock. Plus music from Sam the Sham, Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys, Freddy Fender and Willie Nelson. Vamos!
This Labor Day weekend, we’re rockin’ from the French Quarter Festival: a free, homegrown, four-day annual event featuring a vast array of local music presented on stages throughout the city’s oldest neighborhood. We’ll hear from trumpeter Kermit Ruffins, Creole banjo man Don Vappie, zydeco accordionist Bruce “Sunpie” Barnes and his Sunspots, the all-female Original Pinettes Brass Band, Latin rockers the Iguanas, and trombonist Corey Henry’s Tremé Funket. Join us for music to chill by for the working women and men of our United States.