2023 Grammy Winner Samara Joy in Madison

Jazz singer Samara Joy has been celebrated for her effortless control of timeless jazz standards. Just a few months after winning her first two GRAMMY Awards, including the coveted award for Best New Artist, she showcased her smooth, mature vocals when she brouGht IT to Shannon Hall in Memorial Union on May 4. Joy’s performance was the final event of the Wisconsin Union Theater’s 2022-23 Jazz Series. Prior to her GRAMMYs, she won the Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition in 2019 & became an Ella Fitzgerald Memorial Scholar in 2020. She has a significant number of followers on social media platforms, revitalizing jazz for a new, younger audience through her genuine love of the music. Each of her songs highlights the regal resonance and effortless ease of her vocals. Critics & listeners have likened Joy’s proficiency in the genre to music legends like Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald & Billie Holiday. After making her jazz debut with her eponymous first album in 2021, she released “Linger Awhile” in 2022 through Verve Records, the label home to many of the jazz greats to which Joy has been compared. “Linger Awhile” features a mix of familiar jazz standards and lesser-known gems. Samara also flexes her own lyricism on the album using vocalese, a technique in which an artist writes their own lyrics atop a pre-existing melody, so DOPE! “Linger Awhile” earned her a GRAMMY Award win for Best Jazz Vocal Album. She also won the GRAMMY for Best New Artist, a category that the GRAMMY Awards describes as recognizing an artist who has notably impacted the musical landscape. All of this was on full display here in Madison at the Theater. A person who I see as a path backwards for anyone who does not remember, and a jetliner forward into the future of that past. If you get a chance, be like the Union Theater and have Samara come to town, and then go be a part of yesterday and tomorrow.

Linda Sikhakhane at the Lincoln Center

30-year-old saxophonist Linda Sikhakhane stands as an outstanding voice among the rising generation of South African musicians—along with his collaborators Nduduzo Makhathini, Thandiswa Mazwai, and the late Sibongile Khumalo—who are changing the sound of contemporary jazz. Mr. Sikhakhane’s latest album, 2022’s Isambulo (“Revelation” in Zulu) finds the composer exploring the sonic histories of modern music filtered through the prism of transatlantic movement from across the African diaspora. A continuation of his earlier LP, An Open Dialogue, Isambulo presents a full and mature expression of Sikhakhane’s talent and growing chops as a bandleader. A regular performer on Lincoln Center‘s many stages, this appearance with his amazing quartet at the David Rubenstein Atrium, is his premiere headline show on the campus.

Anthony McGill with UW-Madison Symphony Orchestra

Principal clarinetist of the New York Philharmonic, Anthony McGill, will join the UW-Symphony Orchestra as a guest soloist under the direction of conductor Oriol Sans. This evening’s performance will be held at the beautiful, Mead Witter Foundation Concert Hall | Hamel Music Center. Mr. McGill is the first African-American artist to hold a principal position in the NY Philharmonic. As one of classical music’s most familiar figures, he was awarded the Avery Fisher Prize in 2020, and he previously performed at the inauguration of President Barack Obama.

The Program:

1. Claude Debussy (1862-1918)
– Première Rhapsodie (1910)

2. Carl Maria von Weber (1786-1826)
– Clarinet Concerto No. 1 in F minor, Op. 73 (1811)

3. Gustav Mahler (1860–1911)
– Symphony No. 1 (1888)

House The Houseless | Music and Action with Cole Williams

Musician & WWOZ radio host Cole Williams is in the vanguard of a powerful movement of direct action in the city of New Orleans, defending the rights of unhoused people. In recent years New Orleans housing activists created a political space for people to come together. Following frequent street demonstrations at City Hall, activists succeeded in getting the City to provide emergency housing in empty hotels. Now grassroots activists are renovating City-owned blighted houses with unhoused people by their side. Organized by The Greater New Orleans Citizens Relief Team (GNOCRT), they are asking the city government and those individuals with construction skills to assist in this dramatic and impactful Project. Cole Williams is leading this struggle with deep community participation and her powerful songs of love and struggle. Her new album with the Cole Williams Band, “Give Power to the People” puts them in the tradition of Gil Scott-Heron, creating songs that reflect the everyday experiences and hopes of Black people all around the world. These songs are anthems of the Movement for Black Lives and certainly for peoplestruggling to make sense out of this dangerous and hopeful moment. Listeners are invited to observe on web2 platforms Youtube and Twitter, or to participate in VR at The Ropeadope Lounge. VR participants will be granted microphone access to speak directly with the panel, and the discussion will continue in VR as we play selections from Cole’s album.

Sandeep Das HUM Ensemble At Lincoln Center

Internationally acclaimed tabla virtuoso Sandeep Das and his classical Indian instrumental HUM Ensemble harness the transformative power of Eastern music as an inspiration of positive social change. The ensemble’s newest project, Delhi to Istanbul, is the latest initiative in their socially driven series, Transcending Borders One Note at a Time. This eclectic mix of original compositions and traditional arrangements explores the shared musical heritage of India and Turkey via the conjoined traditions of Indian ragas, Arabic maqams, Sufi poems, and lyrical thumri. The Grammy Award-winning Guggenheim Fellow Sandeep Das leads his quartet—featuring Tamer Pinarbasi on the kanun (zither), Rajib Karmakar on sitar, and Jay Gandhi on bansuri—for the NYC premiere of this transcendental work. This was an amazing event that was free to anyone near the Lincoln Center and online. This is the spot to go if you can make it there, on way or any way.

Imani Winds At Hamel Music Center

Known for their dynamic performances, adventurous programming, imaginative collaborations and outreach endeavors, two-time GRAMMY-nominated Imani Winds has revolutionized the wind quintet in the past two decades of performing. Their latest album, “Bruits” received a 2022 GRAMMY nomination for “Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance.” The group beguiles audiences with an amply diverse repertoire ranging from traditional chamber music to jazz to contemporary works that reflect significant historic and prevailing events.

Tonight’s Performance

Jeff Scott (b. 1967)
Titilayo (2006)

Reena Esmail (b. 1983)
The Light Is the Same (2017)

Paquito D’Rivera (b. 1948)
Aires Tropicales (1994)

Valerie Coleman (b. 1970)
Rubispheres for Flute, Clarinet, and Bassoon (2015)

Wayne Shorter (b. 1933)
Terra Incognita (2006)

Júlio Medaglia (b. 1938)
Belle Epoque en Sud-America


They always take me out of my seat and leave me breathless – I feel more complete after an evening with Imani Winds and this time was no different. Open and opening, that’s what they do for me.

Elvin Jones Revival: Live At Pookie’s Pub

Attending a livestream panel discussion celebrating the brand new Blue Note Records release, Elvin Jones Revival: Live At Pookie’s Pub. As you can see the list of panelists is perfect. Friend of the proGram, Mr. Zev Feldman once aGain had the distinction of being heavily involved in this coming to life. Stories from times gone by, observations about the creation of the music and the man as well as snippets of the record itself [I have shared it with listenrs already and it is beeter to hear it many times to really ‘SHUT UP AND LISTEN’].

Elvin Tree to find this new record.

American Patchwork Quartet At The Play Circle

The American Patchwork Quartetsews together echoes of traditional folk music dating back to Colonial America with the contemporary voices of its members’ ancestral roots to create a multicultural, folk music tapestry. The Quartet made its Wisconsin debut on Nov. 17 at the Wisconsin Union Theater’s Play Circle. Featuring a program of blended new and old folk music traditions, the group works to shine a light on what the quartet’s musicians call the immigrant soul of American root music as well as to combat prejudice against race & immigration. The Quartet [errr Quintet for the evening] has said that it’s on a mission to reclaim the immigrant soul of American roots music. Leading in this mission are GRAMMY-winning vocalist and Indian American and friend to the proGram, Falu Shah; GRAMMY-winning guitarist, vocalist & South Carolina-born Clay Ross; 3-time GRAMMY-winning drummer & Detroit native Clarence Penn; and Jazz Life Album of the Year winner & Tokyo-born bassist Yasushi Nakamura. Joining this lively folk quartet for this evening was special guest Harini Raghavan (Rini), a composer, producer & violinist who is known to blend her training in Indian Carnatic traditions w/electronica & rock. Rini has performed/recorded with Grammy-winning artists such as A.R. Rahman and composed music for the trending Indian Netflix show ‘The Fame Game.” Together, these musicians master the art of showcasing culture through reimagined American root music. In APQ, these musicians bring together their many musical influences, education & experiences, and part of that effort, they say, means helping audience members acknowledge people’s commonalities and differences to strengthen America’s patchwork. On this evening, the success of this mission was easily felt by the audience members and the musicians. You could feel the smiles.

Caroline Shaw and Sō Percussion

In the middle of 2021, Pulitzer Prize–winning composer Caroline Shaw released a new album with Sō Percussion, her 2nd project with the New York ensemble that year ‘Let the Soil Play Its Simple Part’ came out on June 25 2021 via Nonesuch Records. Let the Soil Play Its Simple Part is Shaw’s first album to feature her own vocals. The record follows January’s Narrow Sea, which also featured soprano Dawn Upshaw and pianist Gilbert Kalish. The musicians returned to work with Narrow Sea producer Jonathan Low for Let the Soil Play Its Simple Part. (Low recently won the 2021 Grammy Award for Album of the Year for his work on Taylor Swift’s folklore.) The new project also includes Shaw’s reinterpretation of ABBA’s “Lay All Your Love on Me,” arranged for marimba and voice. Friends of the proGram, Sō Percussion has blazed their own unique path in chamber music, redefining the genre for the 21st century with collaborations in classical music, pop, indie rock, and more. On Saturday evening, November 5th, we got a chance to drop into their awe-inspiring work alongside Pulitzer Prize-winning musician, Caroline Shaw, featuring songs from their aforementioned album ‘Let The Soil Play Its Simple Part’. Shaw also received a 2022 GRAMMY Award for Best Contemporary Classical Composition, for Narrow Sea, performed by Sō Percussion, Dawn Upshaw, and Gilbert Kalish. Caroline Shaw brings her unparalleled musical talents as a producer, composer, violinist, and vocalist center stage in this collaborative performance with Sō Percussion. The event was another offering from the Union Theater that opens the mind and senses to newness in rhythm, voice and the combination of arts. As I watched, I could not help but get taken into the very soil, whose job is never over – just like the celebration of the arts, which luckily, we have such a great space for here.

Got Lit Down

The middle portion of the proGram knew what to do with some extra light.

Inner Beast- Micah Graves
Odd Times- Micah Graves
The Hague- Micah Graves
Come As You Are- Jean Carne/Adrian Younge/Ali Shaheed Muhammad

Animal Crossing New Horizons Theme- Rudresh Mahanthappa’s Hero Trio
Missouri Uncompromised- Rudresh Mahanthappa’s Hero Trio
Bámbula- Alex “Apolo” Ayala

Didn’t My Lord Deliver Daniel- Javon Jackson
**pre-recorded conversation with Mr. Javon Jackson**
Night Song- Javon Jackson Ft. Nikki Giovanni
Wade in the Water- Javon Jackson

Mercy: Wadada Leo Smith

Groundbreaking composer/trumpeter & friend of the proGram, Mr. Wadada Leo Smith celebrate his 80th birthday with a year of special events including “A Dialogue: Creativity and Mercy with a Reflection on the Role of the Artist in Today’s World,” Harvard University’s Louis C. Elson Lecture delivered virtually at 5 p.m. on Thursday, October 14. The event features the world premiere of Mr. Smith’s new work “Mercy,” composed in honor of essential hospital workers and performed by Smith, Vijay Iyer, and Andrew Cyrille. Smith and Iyer will also participate in a virtual conversation followed by a Q&A session. Wadada’s year-long celebration of his 80th birthday includes the release of six major projects comprising twenty-two CDs on TUM Records, two world premieres, inclusion in a film and concerts, and numerous residencies culminating in an 80th birthday celebration concert to be broadcast on his birthday, December 18, 2021.

2021-22 TUM Recordings

May 21, 2021 – Sacred Ceremonies, a 3-CD box set featuring Wadada with Milford Graves and Bill Laswell in duets and a trio.

May 21, 2021 – Trumpet, a 3-CD box set featuring 14 new compositions for solo trumpet.

November 19, 2021 – Wadada Leo Smith’s Great Lakes Quartet: The Chicago Symphonies
Box set with 4 CDs. Smith on trumpet, Henry Threadgill and Jonathon Haffner on saxophones, John Lindberg on double bass, and Jack DeJohnette on drums.

November 19, 2021 – Wadada Leo Smith, Vijay Iyer, and Jack DeJohnette: A Love Sonnet for Billie Holiday
This brings the three artists together for the first time in this meeting of creative giants.

February 18, 2022 – Wadada Leo Smith: String Quartets No. 1 – 12
Box set with 7 CDs featuring RedKoral Quartet plus featured soloists including Smith, Anthony Davis, Alison Bjorkedal, Thomas Buckner, and more.

February 18, 2022 – Wadada Leo Smith: Emerald Duets
Box set with 4 CDs, one each with Pheeroan akLaff, Han Bennink, Andrew Cyrille and Jack DeJohnette. This set adds to Smith’s long history of duo recordings with some of the greatest drummers in the history of creative music.

This event in it’s entirety, help me, as a human doing, fill in some of the cracks in my foundational concreate that have been slowly eroding away in the past couple of years.

Amyl & The Sniffer Livestream “Comfort To Me”

Amyl & the Sniffers, the Melbourne, Australia rock band fronted by Amy Taylor, released their sophomore album “Comfort To Me” a few weeks ago via ATO Records/Rough Trade. I was thankful to be a part of a VIP event where the band premiered a filmed performance of the record played in full, in one take, on a slab of concrete in a suburban wasteland somewhere in Melbourne, Australia.

“Comfort To Me”, which was co-produced by the band and Dan Luscombe, is the follow-up to Amyl & the Sniffers’ critically acclaimed 2019 self-titled debut album, which won Australia’s esteemed ARIA Award for Best Rock Album and saw the band tour their anarchic and ridiculously fun live show internationally for the past two years. With its lyrics largely written during the Australian Bushfire season, when The Sniffers were already wearing masks to protect themselves from smoke in the air, Comfort To Me came together in a 3-bedroom apartment where the four band members quarantined together during COVID-19 lockdown. The result is a less spontaneous and more darkly considered record that masterfully captures the essence of the band like never before. “This album is just us — raw self expression, defiant energy, unapologetic vulnerability,” says Taylor. “It was written by four self-taught musicians who are all just trying to get by and have a good time.”

This album, this band. THIS THIS THIS!!!

The Shift Music Festival & Visionaries Summit

The Shift Music Festival & Visionaries Summit is a free, online conference and music festival with 100+ speakers and music artists from around the globe coming together to offer electrifying inspiration, deep transformative practices, powerful healing work, ecstatic music celebrations, and real game plans for change.

This year, there was this fantastic partnership with TreeSisters, a social change and reforestation charity out of the UK. While this event is completely free, we invite you to donate to Tree Sisters and aid our goal of planting 1 million trees. To plant one tree costs on average about 50 cents USD. 100% of your donation goes to reforestation efforts through TreeSisters. And it is never too late to reach out to find out more and donate to the causes.

What a mind and soul opening event

Out Field Pointing

The middle portion of the proGram this week was in game shape from the get:

I Got Burned- Tommy Castro
I Caught A Break- Tommy Castro
Peace Will Come- Tony Holiday Ft. Southern Avenue
Right Shoe Wrong Foot- Colin Linden

Like A Snake- Boogie Beasts
Heart Stealer- Rusty Ends Blues band
Dallas Man- Sue Foley

Looking Back- Dagnasterpus
White Pigeon- Davis Hall & The Green Lanterns
Marshville Station- Davis Hall & The Green Lanterns

Chain Reaction- Mister T.
Spicy Brown- Hot Mustard
Tulum- Brothers Of Brass

I Can’t Get No Satisfaction- YORK
Devil and the Deep Blue Sea- The Fontanas
Hepcats in Heat- Trog’low

Jane Lee Hooker – Drive

Joined our family Jane Lee Hooker as they celebrated the release of “Drive”. They received rave reviews from fans and music press around the globe when they released “Jericho” in January 2021 – the band’s first new music since 2017. While Drive still retains Jane Lee Hooker’s signature blend of bluesy, rock ‘n’ roll soul that can be heard throughout their catalog, the song represents a bit of a sonic evolution. With last year’s COVID-19 restrictions and social distancing requirements in effect in NYC, the band found themselves locked out of their Brooklyn rehearsal room – the creative space where they write and rehearse with amps cranked up at maximum volume. Out of necessity, band catch-ups were moved to the grapevine- filled backyard of singer Dana Athens’ family home in Brooklyn – with tiny practice amps, acoustic guitars and drummer Ron Salvo keeping the beat on upturned plastic garbage cans and recycling bins. The first song to come out of those acoustic backyard sessions was Drive, with lyrics penned by Athens. “I was not intending to write about travel, the song is really about long-standing plans to see a friend and how you can still feel connected to someone no matter the distance between you.” She continues, “Lockdown made these friends seem even further away, so I guess the song also contains a bit of escapism and fantasy – wishing that you could be together.” Guitarist Tina Gorin adds “Not being able to see friends and family in any normal way during that period of time, hearing Dana sing those words really made the lyrics hit home.” Matt Chiaravalle (Joe Bonamassa, Warren Zevon, Courtney Love, Spacehog, Kittie) produced and mixed Drive, having previously worked with the band on their Jericho single as well as both Jane Lee Hooker full-lengths: “Spiritus” and “No B!” A new album will follow later this year – and singles “Drive” and “Jericho” are a first taste for fans of what’s to come.

Billy Martin Illy B

Big shout our to our friends over at Brooklyn Raga Massive for hosting one of my favorite improvisers, Mr. Billy Martin…AKA Illy B. We were able to be a part of an improvised journey into who and what Billy has to offer in the moment. Billy Martin was born in NYC in 1963 to a Radio City Rockette and a concert violinist. At age 17, he devoted himself to music and dove into Manhattan’s thriving, eclectic musical landscape. In the years to follow, he honed his craft everywhere from Broadway orchestra pits to Brazilian nightclubs and burgeoning underground performance spaces. From the roots of the downtown scene, he emerged with Medeski Martin and Wood, bridging the harmonic complexity of jazz, the conversational fluency of free improvisation, and the groove and swagger of classic R&B and funk. A series of albums and high-profile collaborations with John Scofield, John Zorn, Iggy Pop, Natalie Merchant, and others, brought the band international acclaim. His experiences as a teacher, student, and musician led him to create and direct Life on Drums, a cinematic exploration of percussion and the creative process with his childhood drum instructor, Allen Herman. Billy is currently Executive Artistic Director and CEO of the legendary Creative Music Studio. Billy also owns and manages his own record label Amulet Records. Martin has relentlessly pursued diverse musical contexts, from free improvisation to chamber compositions to film scores. Much of his work is available via his Amulet Records label, which recently released the Road to Jajouka—a series of collaborations (produced by Martin) between the Master Musicians of Jajouka and such artists as Ornette Coleman, Flea, Marc Ribot, John Zorn, Lee Ranaldo, Bill Laswell, Mickey Hart, MMW and more.