Earlier this year we asked public media’s musicians to send us their songs so we could compile a playlist. We heard from 40 musicians from across the country, covering a wide variety of genres. For this week’s selections, we’re listening to bluesy, jazzy tunes made by some of public media’s finest.
Imagine you’re in a small theater. It’s the 1930s. A red velvet curtain rises. Patrons rush to their chairs before the show starts. Cigarette smoke catches the spotlight on a burlesque dancer.
“Everybody loves my baby, but my baby don’t love nobody but me, nobody but me,” she sings.
A 1930s burlesque show is exactly what the song “Everybody Loves My Baby” was intended for, according to musician Laura Ellis of Louisville Public Media. Ellis is a producer and podcast editor at the station. Her band is the Billy Goat Strut Revue.
“My band started out as a backing band for a troupe of burlesque dancers!” she told us. “We play mostly 1930s and 1940s jazz and swing music.”
Ellis’ submission was just one of a handful of jazzy, blues-infused tunes submitted by public media personalities.
Mike Shobe works as PD at WQXR, the classical station in New York City. His band Wu Li submitted a jazzy song about a different kind of baby.
“‘Babies Are The New Black’ was written when many of us started having kids, seemingly at the same time as every else in Crown Heights,” Shobe said.
The instrumental tune is reminiscent of a black-and-white film set in New York, with people pushing old-fashioned baby buggies down the sidewalk.
On the opposite coast, Steve Bass, CEO of Oregon Public Broadcasting, submitted a song titled “Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye.” The tune was a collaboration between renowned musician Thomas Lauderdale and his band, Pink Martini — the very Pink Martini that NPR’s Ari Shapiro sometimes sings with.
“I’ve done a couple of recordings with Thomas Lauderdale and Pink Martini,” Bass said. “Ari Shapiro has also recorded with them, but we’ve never recorded together on the same track.”
Seems Pink Martini has a thing for public media people! Bass is responsible for a banging clarinet solo at the 2-minute mark of the Cole Porter cover that features a noted civil-rights leader in Portland, Kathleen Saadat.
The tune is not Bass’ first time at the rodeo with a clarinet.
“I don’t play jazz generally — I’m a clarinetist in the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, the Colorado Mahlerfest Orchestra and the Oregon East Symphony, so my focus is on symphonic works and chamber music,” he said.
Michigan Radio’s Bob Skon admitted to skipping his day job to finish up a song that he thinks many chief engineers can identify with “as they go through their day with responsibilities ranging from fixing a transmitted to unclogging a toilet.”
His song, “Not Great at One” by the Bob Skon Trio, talks about the classic jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none dilemma.
“I’m good at so many things, but I’m not great at one,” he sings.
Jecorey Arthur’s song “Secular” combines a soulful gospel style with rap in a way that reminds me of Chance The Rapper. Arthur works as music education manager at Louisville Public Media but has been on his music hustle for years before joining the public media scene.
“I have been performing as a classical percussionist and hip-hop artist for almost a decade now,” he said. “When I started working at Louisville Public Media, it just so happened that my keyboardist/violinist/producer was also working at the company.”
It’s worth noting that Louisville Public Media had the most representation on the Public Media Rocks Playlist!
Arthur says the song follows his struggle to be free from political choices and parties he felt conditioned to align himself with in Louisville.
“Throughout the song I come to terms with what I believe to be some values to live by,” he says.
“Secular” feels like attending the church of self-care, a much-needed shelter from the news and political climate.
“This is the face of accomplishment,” Arthur sings. “May my world be cool, calm and confident. May we stray away from those that live in malice, live a healthy life with positivity and balance.”
Listen to the rest of our Public Media Rocks playlist: