Music

 Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is revered as an 18th century genius who composed some of the most sublime music ever written.  The fact that a starling became his beloved pet during one of the most creative and productive periods of his short life has perplexed historians and music lovers for years. Yet the unlikely story of the great composer and his common bird is a true one, and today’s guest, Lyanda Lynn Haupt, explores it in detail in her new book, titled “Mozart’s Starling.”

Jeff Dunas

Johnny Mathis is coming to Boise. The 81-year-old singer celebrated his 60th year as a recording artist in 2016. He’s recorded 78 original albums and has sung with everyone from Barbara Streisand to Ray Charles.

He’s known for a long-string of hits – he’s had 43 singles on the Billboard pop charts – including “Chances Are,” “It’s Not for Me To Say,” and six original Christmas albums.

Gene Harris Jazz Festival

The legacy of the late Gene Harris is celebrated in the Gene Harris Jazz Festival, which next week celebrates its 20th anniversary. Dr. Alex Noppe, director of jazz studies at Boise State University, is a celebrated trumpeter, composer and scholar and the person who now oversees the jazz festival.

Noppe talks with Weekend Edition host George Prentice about this year's festival slate, the return of "club night" to downtown Boise, and Harris' musical spell that is cast on the next generation of great jazz artists.

Lucy Dacus / Facebook

It's that magical time of year when the NPR Music crew puts out their "best of" lists.

Although there aren't any Idaho bands on the list, Boise music fans may recognize a number of artists featured on the critics' 2016 lists. High on Bob Boilen's list is the first album from Lucy Dacus. She performed a solo set for Boise State Public Radio and Storyfort last March, and then played to an enthusiastic crowd at Treefort Music Fest that night.

Peter Lovera / Treefort Music Fest

Get your headphones ready, Treeforters.

The first bunch of bands set to play Boise's sixth-annual Treefort Music Fest is here, and features a mix of well-established and emerging bands.

Joan Marcus / Beautiful - The Carole King Musical

Idahoans have an affinity for singer/songwriter Carole King. She owned a ranch in Stanley for more than 30 years and spent much of her time in the Gem State. But she’s not originally from Idaho, as audiences found out in a musical that’s been burning up stages from Broadway to London. The touring company of “Beautiful,” the Carole King story, is in Boise this week.

RAQUEL ZALDIVAR / NPR

Six months before Tegan and Sara Quin played two sold-out shows at Washington, D.C.'s 9:30 Club, we booked their Tiny Desk appearance. Their mini-set would take place on Nov. 7, 2016 — the eve of one of the most contentious presidential elections in U.S. history.

A Queen Among Kings

Nov 21, 2016

The first time I ever saw Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings perform was circa 2002 at the Elbo Room, a tiny venue in San Francisco's Mission District. If you've ever been there, you know the Elbo Room doesn't need many bodies to pack the floor, and with the Dap-Kings crowding the diminutive stage, the full intensity of their act filled the space from practically the first note. I was already familiar with the group through its early records, but hadn't fully appreciated how much power Jones could pack into her stout, 5-foot frame as she sang, sweated, stamped, strutted, slayed.

Just under two years ago, the Montreal singer-songwriter Leif Vollebekk released North Americana, a warmly produced collection of soulfully tinged indie-folk songs all cut to tape.

Now comes a devastatingly beautiful new song, "Elegy," from Vollebekk's forthcoming album, Twin Solitude. With its downtempo, contemplative mix of simple piano chords, flourishes of acoustic bass and a metronomic drumbeat, the song grabs you by the heart and pulls you into its hypnotic whorl of melancholia.

As Bon Iver's Justin Vernon prepped the release for his latest mind-bender, 22, A Million, he knew he didn't want to talk too much about the album or grant a lot of interviews. So he held a single press conference in Eau Claire, Wisc., on Sept. 2, just a few weeks after performing the entire album live at Vernon's own Eaux Claires Music & Arts Festival.

Blind Pilot and the Tiny Desk series both launched in the same year, 2008, so it's hard to comprehend how the two hadn't converged until now: The band's shimmery folk-pop sound, with its vibraphone and overarching vibrancy, is perfectly suited to the space behind Bob Boilen's desk.

Few in the roots scene had heard of Yola Carter before she made her first appearance at Nashville's Americana Fest in September, which might've suggested that she was some sort of musical rookie. In fact, the 33-year-old black, British singer-songwriter is a seasoned studio and stage pro.

As partners in marriage and in the rootsy duo Shovels & Rope, Cary Ann Hearst and Michael Trent used to think there was no way their worlds could get any more intertwined. Then they had a kid.

They came, they measured, and they returned to perform a show like no other. It was the great NPR Tiny Desk Takeover by Blue Man Group.

If you've not seen this performance ensemble and their production in New York, Las Vegas, Orlando, Boston, Chicago or Berlin, then you've missed a night of magical fun. These Blue Men may never say a word, but the performances make for poignant looks at who we are as humans. They also make unusual music on instruments of their own design.

"I use the same voice I always have," Hamilton Leithauser sings in the chorus of "Sick As A Dog," and he's got a point: The former Walkmen frontman is instantly identifiable, whether he's singing with his old band, working as a solo artist or, in this case, recording with Vampire Weekend's Rostam Batmanglij under the name Hamilton Leithauser + Rostam.

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