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Straight No Chaser - A Jazz Show

Straight No Chaser is the place for jazz lovers (and those who will soon be jazz lovers) to enjoy podcasts with their favorite music and artists. Winner of the 2017 JazzTimes Readers' Poll for Best Podcast, your host Jeffrey Siegel will take you inside the world of jazz, from the new releases to the best festiva;s to remembrances of jazz legends.

Sep 13, 2013

The short list of great music schools available for jazz students these days clearly must include the New England Conservatory. Their internationally renowned Jazz Studies and Contemporary Improvisation Departments not only educate in the classroom, but provide students a chance to interact with working musicians in residency programs and guest visits. 

The 2013-14 is particularly stellar, bringing residencies by John Zorn, Fred Hersch, Luciana Souza, and Dave Holland as well as a public talk by songwriter Elvis Costello after a morning working with NEC student-songwriters. A number of large scale free concerts are also on tap, most interestingly a Sun Ra Centennial event, “Jazz and the Struggle for Freedom and Equality” featuring some of the landmark compositions created to combat racism and bigotry; and Ran Blake’s annual Film Noir Concert, this year featuring music inspired by Otto Preminger’s Laura. All concerts are free and open to the public. For more information, log on to: or call 617-585-1260

I spoke with Ken Schaphorst and Hankus Netsky, the heads of the Jazz Studies and Contemporary Improvisation Departments, respectively, as the new season was about to begin. Podcast 375 features our insightful conversation, including musical interludes by:

Gunther Schuller – “Transformation” from The Birth of the Third Stream. NEC’s Jazz Studies Department was the first fully accredited jazz studies program at a music conservatory. It was the brainchild of Gunther Schuller, who moved quickly to incorporate jazz into the curriculum when he became President of the Conservatory in 1967. Schuller may be best remembered among jazz historians as one of the leading lights of the “Third Stream” movement of the 1950’s. Schuller defined “Third Stream” as "a new genre of music located about halfway between jazz and classical music" and he contributed this track to the two LPs that featured representative music from the likes of Miles Davis, George Russell and John Lewis.

John Zorn – “Larkspur” from Alhambra Love Songs. The reclusive downtown jazz icon will have a spring residency at NEC, which will end with a retrospective concert curated by his pal Anthony Coleman. This music comes from a 2009 release, and is performed by a trio of Rob Burger (piano), Greg Cohen (bass) and Ben Perowsky (drums).

Elvis Costello and the Roots – “Sugar Won’t Work” from Wise Up Ghost and Other Songs. On October 25, Costello will be awarded an honorary Doctor of Music degree from NEC. Costello, who was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2003, is the fourth Hall of Famer—following Miles Davis, Aretha Franklin and Quincy Jones—to receive an honorary degree from NEC.

Sarah Jarosz – “Fuel the Fire” from Build Me Up From Bones. Ken Schaphorst and Hankus Netsky hold out this up and coming singer-songwriter as a perfect example of how a student can complete her studies while beginning a promising music career. Ms. Jarosz graduated from NEC at the age of 22, and still managed to tour and while recording original music and carving out her own sound.

Eden MacAdam-Somer – “Lullaby” from an unreleased live recording. Schaphorst and Netsky also rave about Ms. MacAdam-Somer, who has been hailed by the New York Times as reflecting "astonishing virtuosity and raw expression."  She opened the 2013-14 season with a concert on September 12. This recording comes from a performance last winter.