The world mourned the death this week of Indian maestro Ravi Shankar, whose name became synonymous with the sitar. Tributes eulogized Shankar as the great connector of the East and West who'd hobnobbed with The Beatles and collaborated with violin virtuoso Yehudi Menuhin. Less has been said about the roots of the music he spent a lifetime perfecting and innovating.
Originally published on Mon December 17, 2012 3:58 pm
Gary Clark Jr.'s new album Blak and Blue is his major-label debut, but the blues guitarist is hardly a newcomer. Clark made his first album at 17, and by then he'd already spent several years hanging out in the blues clubs of Austin, Texas.
There's a certain intensity of spirit in jazz and improvised music, to the point where it occasionally aligns with religious worship. You especially see it around Christmastime, when certain musicians who happen to be Christians purpose their craft in observance of the season.
Of course, sometimes jazz musicians just like playing familiar songs.
Here are five records, all from 2012, which run the gamut of Christmas jazz. From deep meditations on the holiday's narrative to more offbeat ways to get into the spirit, inventiveness isn't a scarce resource this winter.
This is FRESH AIR. I'm David Bianculli sitting in for Terry Gross. Ravi Shankar, who popularized the sitar and Indian music in America, died this week at the age of 92. He befriended the Beatles, gave George Harrison sitar lessons, and inspired Harrison to launch the first superstar benefit concert, 1971's the Concert for Bangladesh.
That's when Ravi Shankar, tuning up before his performance, responded to the polite but clueless support of the U.S. audience. His ad lib was good humored but pointed.