Give Now  »

Noon Edition

Recent Releases 2020, Part 1

Read Transcript
Hide Transcript



Welcome to Afterglow, I’m your host, Mark Chilla.

On this episode, I’ll be featuring some new jazz releases for the first half of the year 2020. Ahead, we’ll hear some jazz standards by folk icon James Taylor and jazz diva Kandace Springs. Plus, we’ll hear some new, original jazz by Curtis Stigers and Raul Midon. And as the coronavirus has defined much of life in the year 2020, we’ll hear some new music written and performed in response to the new normal by Norah Jones and singer and guitarist Vilray.

It’s a look at new releases for the first half of 2020, coming up next on Afterglow


Kurt Elling, collaborating there with pianist Danilo Perez, from their latest album called “Secrets Are The Best Stories.” That was a song called “Stages II, and III” written and originally performed by Norweigan singer Sidsel Endresen. This album is one of Elling’s more personal albums, it includes many songs co-written by Elling. But it’s also one of his most experimental albums, if you’re the kind of person who likes following him down the occasional musical rabbit holes. Frankly, I like his voice so much, I’d listen to Kurt Elling sing the phone book.

Mark Chilla here on Afterglow. On this show, I’m exploring what’s new in the world of jazz and traditional pop. I’m going to start with an album that might be of some interest to fans of the Great American Songbook. It’s an album called American Standard by American treasure James Taylor. On this album, Taylor is tackling some of the most beloved songs from the early 20th century, including standards by Harold Arlen, Hoagy Carmichael, Jerome Kern, and Richard Rodgers.

American Standard is clearly a James Taylor album, not a jazz album, so it’s these jazz standards as interpreted by a folk singer and guitarist. I’ve always been a big fan of Taylor’s voice, and he manages to bring out tender aspects to these timeless classics that many singers aren’t able to capture.

Here’s a track from that album now. This is James Taylor with the Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer classic, “Moon River,” on Afterglow.


The one and only James Taylor, giving his folk spin on an American Standard, Mancini and Mercer’s “Moon River.” That comes from Taylor’s latest albums called American Standard.

The next artist I’d like to feature is Curtis Stigers, whose latest album called Gentleman reflects upon the concept of masculinity in the 21st century. Most of the songs on the album were actually written in the 21st century, by Stigers himself, and a slew of his frequent collaborators, like songwriter David Poe and pianist Larry Goldings. 

Curtis Stigers is now in his 50s, and the age present in his voice gives it a lot more depth and nuance. This song I want to play called “As Usual,” co-written by Larry Goldings, is a portrait of a long-term relationship full of its familiar patterns. There’s a naturalness to both the songwriting and Stigers’s delivery that evokes something Nancy Wilson might have performed half a century ago.

Here’s Curtis Stigers from his latest album with the song “As Usual,” on Afterglow.


Singer Curtis Stigers and pianist Larry Goldings, performing the song “As Usual,” co-written by Goldings. That comes from Stigers’ latest album called Gentleman

Just as Curtis Stigers’s latest album reflects upon his own masculinity, the latest from singer Kandace Springs is a reflection upon her own womanhood. Springs’ album The Women Who Raised Me is a tribute to the female vocalists who inspired her, including Nina Simone, Billie Holiday, Lauryn Hill, and Roberta Flack. It’s a marvelous album, showing off Spring’s impressive vocal chops with an all-star band that includes guest spots by Christian McBride and Chris Potter.

I’ll play a song now that Springs recorded in honor of Billie Holiday. It’s a song written by Abel Meeropol (aka “Lewis Allen”), and a song that still has resonance today over 80 years later, amidst all of the racial tension that still exists in our country.

Here is Kandace Spring with the song “Strange Fruit,” on Afterglow.


Kandace Spring, singing and performing on the fender rhodes there, with the song Billie Holiday made famous, “Strange Fruit.” That comes from Springs’ latest album The Women Who Raised Me.

The next new release I want to feature is from singer Robin McKelle, an album called Alterations. Like Kandace Springs’ latest album, McKelle devotes her album to the catalogs of other female vocalists, adding a jazz spin to songs that sit mostly outside the jazz canon. On this record, you’ll find songs by Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Janis Joplin, and Dolly Parton alongside more recent artists like Adele and Amy Winehouse.

I’m going to play now McKelle’s version of an Amy Winehouse song. Winehouse herself had glimpses of jazz in her musical interpretations, but here McKelle cranks up the jazz to the fullest extent.

This is singer Robin McKelle and the Amy Winehouse song “Back To Black,” on Afterglow.


Singer Robin McKelle performing a jazz version of the Amy Winehouse song “Back To Black.” That comes from McKelle’s latest record called Alterations, an album featuring many newer standards by female artists.


Coming up after a short break, we’ll hear from some more new releases for 2020 so far, including a few songs written in response to the coronavirus crisis. Stay tuned.

I’m Mark Chilla, and you’re listening to Afterglow.



Welcome back to Afterglow, I’m Mark Chilla. We’ve been featuring some new releases for the year 2020 so far, and that little bagatelle of a song we just heard was from singer Nellie McKay, off of her latest record called Bagatelles

It’s a charming album featuring minimal arrangements of jazz standards, like the Hoagy Carmichael standard we just heard, “(Up A) Lazy River).” And each of the songs on the short album clock in right around 2 minutes, with the whole album totaling less than 20 minutes—a charming departure from the excesses of many other jazz artists.

Speaking of musical departures, let me turn now to a new album by singer Karrin Allyson. She and the rest of the members of the Karrin Allyson Sextet have put together a marvelous concept album called Shoulder To Shoulder, a centennial tribute to women’s suffrage. 2020 marks 100 years since women gained the right to vote. So Allyson collected many of the pieces of musical propaganda that were essential parts of the women’s suffrage movement 100+ years ago, arranging and recording them to create a modern jazz history of the movement. 

The record includes a number of guest stars both singing along with her and reciting some famous speeches from the day, including Madeleine Peyroux, Harry Belafonte, Veronica Swift, Kurt Elling, and Roseanne Cash. And Allyson makes a point to include some of the “anti-suffrage” propaganda as well, to highlight the absurdity of some of the arguments. In fact, my favorite song on the album, from strictly a musical standpoint, is singer Veronica Swift’s take on a 1915 song called “Anti-Suffrage Rose.” It’s a song that contrasts the suffragette white with the color red. Here’s a snippet….


But I want to focus on one of the more empowering songs. This next song dates back to 1835, before the Seneca Falls convention that largely kicked off the suffrage movement—a testament to how long women fought for this right. Allyson’s delivery is fast and intense, emphasizing the message behind the song.

This is the Karrin Allyson Sextet with a modern jazz interpretation of the 1835 song “I’ll Be No Submissive Wife,” on Afterglow.


Karrin Allyson and her sextet with a jazz take on “I’ll Be No Submissive Wife,” a progressive American song that dates back to 1835. You might call it a member of the Great-Great American Songbook. That comes from the album Shoulder To Shoulder, an album of songs from the suffragist movement, commemorating the centennial of the nineteenth amendment in 2020.

Another new album from this year comes from singer Lila Ammons. Her latest record is called Genealogy: A Celebration of Jazz Tradition & Family Legacy. Ammons knows a thing or two about jazz tradition and family legacy. Her grandfather was the legendary boogie-woogie pianist Albert Ammons and her uncle was the equally legendary tenor saxophonist Gene Ammons. Lila Ammons’s musical journey was focused for years on classical vocal performance and opera. But more recently, she pursued the family business of performing jazz. Her first jazz record came out in 2013, and this latest album is an even more overt acknowledgment of her roots.

Ammons has a rich, sensuous voice especially suited to ballads, and I’ll play her take on a classic jazz ballad now. This is Lila Ammons with Duke Ellington’s “In A Sentimental Mood.”


Singer Lila Ammons, granddaughter of the great jazz pianist Albert Ammons, performing Duke Ellington’s “In a Sentimental Mood.” That comes from her latest record called Genealogy.

I’ll turn now to another new release from an artist who is making more and more in-roads into the world of jazz: guitarist and singer Raul Midon. Midon got his start singing and playing guitar in the world of Latin pop music, but as a solo artist, he blends his Latin soul style with jazz, creating a sound that’s reminiscent of the best of Jose Feliciano (and I’m not just saying that because both singer/guitarists are also blind). Midon’s last two albums were nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Jazz Vocal Album, and we’ll see if he gets a third nod for his latest record called The Mirror.

Midon is known also for penning original tunes, and I’ll play one now. Here is Raul Midon with “I Love The Afternoon,” on Afterglow.


Singer and guitarist Raul Midon performing his original song “I Love The Afternoon,” from his latest record called The Mirror. Janis Siegel of the Manhattan Transfer and Lauren Kinhan of the New York Voices were providing some of the background vocals in that song.

Raul Midon performed this song recently as the opener to his “Tiny Desk (Home) Concert,” organized by NPR’s All Songs Considered. You’ve probably seen a number of these Tiny Desk concerts online before... but since Midon’s album came out in mid-March, right when the U.S. was beginning quarantine for the coronavirus, his Tiny Desk concert had to be taped from his home rather than at NPR’s headquarters in D.C. 

Sadly, the coronavirus has had a major impact on the jazz world and really the entire music world around the globe. Live performances constitute a huge portion of any working musician’s income, and without the ability to perform for a crowd, many musicians have been struggling both emotionally and financially. This particular episode of recent releases has only focused on releases from the past six months, but most of these records were recorded well before the lockdown began. I’m tentatively planning on doing a “part two” later in the year, as I always do, but I can’t imagine right now what shape that show will take, as recording schedules in the studio have likely been put on hold.

I want to spend the last part of this show focusing on new music that was released in response to the coronavirus crisis. I’ll start with Norah Jones. Jones’s latest record Pick Me Up Off The Floor came out last week, and it’s an eclectic mix of styles, none of which are really jazz. The album’s overall vibe is moody and dark, but most of it was recorded before the quarantine began. 

In early May, Jones took what was supposed to be a bonus track on the album and released it to the public. The song is called “Tryin’ To Keep It Together,” and it’s a meditative, somber drone whose opening line is repeated almost like a mantra. Jones thought that the song might provide some comfort for those struggling—and I’ll play it here now in the hopes that it might provide you some comfort.

This is Norah Jones with her original song “Tryin’ To Keep It Together,” on Afterglow


Norah Jones with her original song “Tryin’ To Keep It Together,” a bonus track off of her latest record Pick Me Up Off The Floor.

Norah Jones wrote and recorded that song months ago, but released it early in response to the coronavirus crisis. This next song was actually written right in the middle of the crisis, all about the crisis, and recorded while under quarantine.

It comes from singer, guitarist, and songwriter Vilray, who is known as half of the duo Rachael and Vilray, who I’ve featured on this program last year in another Recent Releases episode. Vilray is known for writing music in mid 20th-century jazz-pop style, but here in this song I’m going to play for you he’s adopted more of a mid-century country sound. Think Merle Travis, with some of the sad realism of Townes Van Zandt or the recently departed John Prine. I have yet to hear a song that quite captures the mood of the height of this coronavirus crisis, especially one that’s so tuneful and artfully constructed.

This is singer and guitarist Vilray, along with a couple of his friends performing additional instruments from their respective homes, and his original song “Here I Lie,” on Afterglow.


An original song written and recorded while in quarantine, and exhibiting a feeling that likely all of us have experienced these past few months. That was singer and guitarist Vilray with “Here I Lie (Olly Olly Oxen Free).” You can find that single on his Bandcamp page, that’s Vilray (V-I-L-R-A-Y).

Thanks for joining me for this look at some recent releases for the first half of 2020, on Afterglow.


Afterglow is part of the educational mission of Indiana University and produced by WFIU Public Radio in beautiful Bloomington, Indiana. The executive producer is John Bailey.

Playlists for this and other Afterglow programs are available on our website. That’s at

I’m Mark Chilla, and join me next week for our mix of Vocal Jazz and popular song from the Great American Songbook, here on Afterglow.

Kandace Springs

Pianist and singer Kandace Springs, and her latest album for Blue Note Records "The Women Who Raised Me" (Album Cover - Blue Note)

On this episode, I’ll be featuring some new jazz releases for the first half of the year 2020. Ahead, we’ll hear some jazz standards by folk icon James Taylor and jazz diva Kandace Springs. Plus, we’ll hear some new, original jazz by Curtis Stigers and Raul Midon. And as the coronavirus has defined much of life in the year 2020, we’ll hear some new music written and performed in response to the new normal by Norah Jones and singer and guitarist Vilray.

Music Heard On This Episode

Support For Indiana Public Media Comes From

About Afterglow

About The Host