Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Soprano Renée Fleming

Renée Fleming

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Photo: Jemal Countess/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions

"America's Diva," Soprano Renée Fleming on acting in musical theater

Known as "America's Diva," Renée Fleming has performed in venues all over the world, singing in acclaimed productions of operas composed by Mozart, Puccini, Verdi, Dvorak and more. If you're no expert in the world of cabelettas, cavatinas and coloraturas, fear not! Renée has mastered jazz, country and just about every other music genre as well.

She grew up in a musical household, the child of two music teachers and she knew from a rather early age that music was her destiny. As a teen, she took chorus classes and music theory. A few years later she attended college at the Crane School of Music at the State University of New York at Postdam. There, she joined a jazz trio. An invitation was extended for her to go on tour with the band but she had other dreams in mind.

She was awarded a Fulbright scholarship and attended graduate school at Julliard while performing professionally in the 1980s. Since then, she's performed with the New York City Opera in La bohème, with the Royal Opera in London in Cherubini's Médée and with the Metropolitan Opera and San Francisco Opera alike as Countess Almaviva in Le nozze di Figaro. She's appeared on popular movie soundtracks including The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King and The Shape of Water.

She's also performed under truly unique circumstances like singing the National Anthem at the 2014 Super Bowl while 50 million people watched from home and Black Hawk helicopters flew overhead! There was also her performance at President Barack Obama's 2009 inauguration. It was...amazing!

Lately, she's been working on stage in musicals. Her latest, The Light in the Piazza just wrapped up in Los Angeles, with productions in Chicago and Sydney on the horizon.

Renée talk to Bullseye about managing acoustics, growing up in a musical home and not only cultivating her talent but her image, too. Plus, she gives Jesse some pretty solid music advice. What an episode!

Renée sings the music of Brahms, Schumann and Mahler. You can listen to the album here.

Click here to listen to Renée Fleming's interview on YouTube!

EP110: Jason Concepcion on Herbie Hancock's "Thrust"

Heat Rocks
Jason Concepcion

Album: Herbie Hancock: Thrust (1974)
Thrust followed on the heels of Herbie Hancock’s genre-altering best-seller Head Hunters album, one in which the gifted keyboardist and composer played with new conceptions of fusion jazz and synthesizer technology. Thrust, in many ways, could be considered a second half to Head Hunters; recorded within months of its predecessors with almost all the same players. Once again, Hancock and his team plumbed the possibilities of mixing funk rhythms with jazz improvisation, resulting in four tracks of fusion fire that, to our guest Jason Concepcion, marked a high point before a onslaught of “smooth jazz” would dial everything down. 
Concepcion is perhaps best known to people as a basketball savant as a staff writer for The Ringer and Emmy-winning producer behind their NBA Desktop segment. I first discovered him via Twitter, thanks to his expert, witty writing as @netw3rk. However, for all his sports acumen, Concepcion is also Berkelee School-trained, having once attended there with the ambition of going into film composition. Thrust was a revelatory way in which he engaged with the possibilities of jazz, soul and funk experimentations. During our conversation, we discussed Hancock’s penchant for innovation in that era, the highs and lows of 1970s fusion jazz plus we took a side trip into the current state of the 365 day NBA “season.”
More on Jason Concepcion

More on Thrust

Show Tracklisting (all songs from Thrust unless indicated otherwise):

  • Palm Grease
  • Spank-A-Lee
  • Butterfly
  • Actual Proof
  • Van Halen: Cathedral
  • Spank-A-Lee
  • Palm Grease
  • Herbie Hancock: Watermelon Man
  • Herbie Hancock: Rockit
  • Palm Grease
  • Weather Report: Young and Fine
  • Rusty Bryant: Fire Eater
  • Grover Washington Jr.: Hydra
  • Actual Proof
  • Rhodes Piano Demo
  • Actual Proof
  • Butterfly
  • toe: two moons
  • Palm Grease
  • Gil Scott Heron & Brian Jackson: Peace Go With You Brother
  • Herbie Hancock: Chameleon

Here is the Spotify playlist of as many songs as we can find there.
If you're not already subscribed to Heat Rocks in Apple Podcasts, do it here!

EP84: RJ Smith on James Blood Ulmer's "Odyssey" (1984)

Heat Rocks
RJ Smith

The Album: James Blood Ulmer: Odyssey  (1984) 
“Electric guitar” and “free jazz” may not be terms that folks normally pair together but when James Blood Ulmer first began collaborating with jazz giant Ornette Coleman in the mid 1970s, Ulmer found an instant kinship is the heady, improvisational style of Coleman’s harmolodics theory. The influence would shape the beginnings of Ulmer’s solo career later in the decade, culminating, for many, in Odyssey, recorded in 1983 with just Ulmer, drummer Warren Benbow and violinist Charles Burnham. Since then, the album is considered one of Ulmer’s greatest achievements, what longtime New York music critic, Robert Christgau lauded as a “ur-American synthesis that takes in jazz, rock, Delta blues and even country music…you’d be hard-pressed to pin just one style on any of this painfully beautiful stuff.”
Odyssey came to us via music historian and author RJ Smith. He's already written  books on everything from the Los Angeles post-war jazz scene to photographer Robert Frank to an R&B artist named James Brown. He's currently working on a new biography, this one about Chuck Berry. For RJ, Ulmer's masterpiece represented a distillation of musical movements all colliding together in early 1980s New York City and where Odyssey's opening song felt like an invitation to prayer and mediation. 
More on RJ Smith

More on Odyssey

  • Robert  Christgau's review of Odyssey (and other Ulmer albums of the era)
  • 1998 interview between Ulmer and Jason Gross (Furious.com)

Show Tracklisting (all songs from Odyssey unless indicated otherwise):

  • Love Dance
  • Church
  • Smothered Soul
  • Ornette Coleman Quartet: Live in Roma
  • Swing and Things
  • Wynton Marsalis: When It's Sleepytime Down South
  • Swing and Things
  • Church
  • Please Tell Her
  • Little Red House
  • Are You Glad To Be In America

Here is the Spotify playlist of as many songs as we can find there.

If you're not already subscribed to Heat Rocks in Apple Podcasts, do it here!

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Avantdale Bowling Club

Tom Scott

New to Bullseye? Subscribe to our podcast in iTunes or with your favorite podcatcher to make sure you automatically get the newest episode every week.

Photo: Bandcamp

New Zealand rapper Tom Scott on his latest project: 'Avantdale Bowling Club'

Tom Scott is a rapper from New Zealand's underground hip-hop scene. He's been rapping for over a decade now. He grew up in Auckland – the biggest city in a very small country. Last year, Tom released an amazing, beautiful album under the name Avantdale Bowling Club. He named it after the place where he grew up.

On the record, he reflects on his roots. His childhood. The friendships he's lost. The places he's been. His family. He kicks things off with an autobiography on "Years Gone By." It's an intimate hip hop record with jazz instrumentation. The sound is lush. Maybe less Low End Theory, more to Pimp a Butterfly. It's pretty remarkable.

Tom explains why he left Auckland for Australia, and what brought him back to his hometown after spending many years away. Plus, what it's like to write an album that brings back somber memories, and why Tom felt it was important to use original jazz songs, rather than jazz samples.

Check out the self-titled record by Avantdale Bowling Club here.

Check out this interview on YouTube!

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Susan Orlean and Jazz singer Gregory Porter

Susan Orlean
Gregory Porter

New to Bullseye? Subscribe to our podcast in iTunes or with your favorite podcatcher to make sure you automatically get the newest episode every week.

Photo: Jesse Thorn

Author Susan Orlean on her new book 'The Library Book'

Susan Orlean is a staff writer at The New Yorker. Her work has also appeared in Vogue, Esquire and on This American Life. She's the author of eight books, covering topics like New England and Rin Tin Tin. Her first book, "Saturday Night," used narrative journalism to paint a portrait of how Saturday night in America is lived. She's probably best known for "The Orchid Thief." That book ended up being the basis of the Academy Award nominated film "Adaptation," starring Nicolas Cage and Meryl Streep.

She now lives here in Los Angeles. Being an author and a reader, she's visited the beautiful, historic central library in downtown Los Angeles dozens of times. Her latest book "The Library Book" is about that library and its history.

It wasn't until she took a tour of the library that she was inspired to write this book. The tour guide opened a book and said some of them still smelled like smoke. A bit perplexed she probed and asked more about the smell. This is how she learned of devastating fire that almost demolished the building in 1986. She always hoped someone would tell this story, and unknowingly years later she would be the one to tell it. The book is also also kind of a paean to libraries everywhere – what they mean to her, and why every library is a vital institution.

We're big fans of Susan Orlean at Maximum Fun. A few years ago she gave a talk at Max Fun Con called: "Finding the extraordinary in the ordinary." You can check out that talk here.

Photo: Valery Hache / AFP / Getty Images

Jazz vocalist Gregory Porter on his new album 'Nat King Cole and Me'

Gregory Porter is a Grammy Award winning jazz vocalist. The route he took to get there is really unique. He was a offensive lineman at San Diego State. Then, during his junior year, an injury ended his football career. During that time he could sing, but he wasn't a singer. That changed when his mom, literally from her deathbed, told him to start singing.

In 2010, he moved to New York with his brother and recorded his debut record "Water." Whereas most young jazz singers start their careers recording standards, Porter recorded an album of mostly originals.

Now, almost a decade later, he's laid down an new album with jazz standards. "Nat King Cole and Me" pays tribute to one of the greatest jazz singers of all time. It's music he grew up on. Porter spent a lot of time researching the music of Nat King Cole - his records, books, and documentaries. He'll tell us what made Cole one of the most unique singers of the civil rights era of the 1950's. He'll also tell us what it was like to grow up in Bakersfield, California and how that's influenced his lyrics.

The covers are great, but if you want to hear some more of his original work, check out his 2016 album: "Take Me to the Alley" – the album was inspired by his mother's teachings as a street minister and it's one of our favorites.

The Outshot: Hot Dog Timmy

Jesse explains why great things can come of simple premises and simple situations. Like in this sketch from "The Whitest Kids You Know."

EP35: Cut Chemist on Cymande's "Cymande" (1972)

Heat Rocks
Cut Chemist

The Album: Cymande: Cymande (1972)

"Say go DJ, cause that's my DJ..." - Weezy

Cut Chemist is nice with the wax, nice with the loops, nice on the decks. A central figure in West Coast hip hop (Jurassic 5, Ozomotli) and the art of turntablism, both he and his record collection are legendary. While he joined us to talk about British funk pioneer Cymande's 1972 self-titled debut, our conversation covered a myriad of topics including Cut's journey as a crate digger, a record he may or may not have pilfered in 1987, the influence of Chuck Chillout and DJ Red Alert on his development as a DJ, Cymande's seamless genre-fusing and the band's relationship to hip-hop. Needless to say, we went in.

About Cut Chemist:

About Cut's latest album, Die Cut 

Oliver's Rolling Stone interview with Cymande:

Cymande website:

Show Tracklist (all songs from Cymande unless indicated otherwise):

  • "One More"
  • Cut Chemist: The Audience's Listening "The Garden"
  • Harlem Underground Band: Harlem Underground Band "Smokin' Cheeba Cheeba"
  • "Bra"
  • "The Message"
  • "Dove"
  • DJ Chuck Chillout: clip from 98.7 Kiss FM show from 1986
  • Clip from the 1983 film "Wild Style"
  • Red Hot Chili Peppers: Blood Sugar Sex Magik "Give It Away"
  • "Getting it Back"
  • "The Message"
  • Assagai: Assagai "Telephone Girl"
  • "Dove"
  • "Listen"
  • "Getting it Back"
  • "Zion I"
  • "Rickshaw"
  • Hielo Ardiente: El Original Ritmo Ardiente "Mensaje"
  • The Meters: The Meters "Cissy Strut"
  • "Rastafarian Folk Song"
  • The Fugees: The Score "The Score"
  • De La Soul: 3 Feet High and Rising "Change in Speak"
  • The Doors: L.A. Woman "Riders on the Storm"
  • Tune Yards: Nikki Nack "Water Fountain"
  • Alice in Chains: Facelift "Man in the Box"
  • Cymande: Second Time Round "Bird"
  • Kaidi Tathem: Feed the Cat "Armz R Deh"

If you're not already subscribed to Heat Rocks in Apple Podcasts, do it here!

Ep 6 Go Fact Yourself with Lizz Winstead and Alonzo Bodden

J. Keith van Straaten
Helen Hong
Alonzo Bodden
Lizz Winstead
Marcus Miller

In this episode, J. Keith and Helen play host to comedians Lizz Winstead and Alonzo Bodden. Lizz is the founder of Lady Parts Justice and was the co-creator and head writer of The Daily Show. Lizz’s topics of expertise were: fitted sheet folding, Scrabble, and the 1980s Minneapolis music scene. Winstead also demonstrates that loose lips sink...one’s chances to succeed at game shows. Alonzo won the third season of Last Comic Standing and is a regular panelist on Wait Wait...Don’t Tell Me! His areas of expertise are: Motorcycles, LA Clippers, Contemporary Jazz. Bodden shares tales from his time hanging out with elite soldiers, as well as elite musicians. It’s a really fun episode so pop your headphones on and enjoy! You can also enjoy this episode without headphones. Up to you.

Appearing in this episode:

J. Keith van Straaten
Helen Hong
Alonzo Bodden,
Lizz Winstead, Co-creator and head writer of The Daily Show and Lady Parts Justice League founder

With guest experts:
Marcus Miller, Two-time Grammy-winning multi-instrumentalist jazz fusion artist

Alan Stern, former Guinness World Record Scrabble player and Director of NASPA Los Angeles Scrabble Club #44

Go Fact Yourself was devised by Jim Newman and J. Keith van Straaten, and produced in collaboration with Maximum Fun. The show is recorded at the Angel City Brewery in downtown Los Angeles.

Theme Song by Jonathan Green
David McKeever is the Live Sound Engineer.
Maximum Fun's Senior Producer is Laura Swisher
The show is edited by Christian Dueñas

Heat Rocks, EP 19: Bardo Martinez on Eugene McDaniels' "Headless Heroes of the Apocalypse" (1971)

Heat Rocks
Bardo Martinez

The album: Eugene McDaniels: Headless Heroes of the Apocalypse (1971)

When we approached Bardo Martinez of Chicano Batman, we figured he'd go with a left-field album choice and he did not disappoint. Headless Heroes of the Apocalypse was a cult LPs for years, one of the most overtly political albums of the entire '70s (least of all on Atlantic Records!) and might have been wholly forgotten if not for '90s hip-hop producers rediscovering it and using it as sample fodder. However, all groovy groove aside, Headless Heroes is also an astonishing album in regards to McDaniels' explicit politics regarding everything from the U.S. treatment of Native Americans to blue eyed minstrels to Watergate. It was supposedly blacklisted by no less than the Vice President of the U.S. (Spiro Agnew). As Chicano Batman are no strangers to merging message and music, it was the perfect LP for Bardo and us to dig into, least of all in this current political moment.

More on Eugene McDaniels and Headless Heroes

More on Bardo Martinez and Chicano Batman

Show Tracklisting (all songs from Headless Heroes unless indicated otherwise):

  • “Jagger The Dagger”
  • Chicano Batman: “Freedom is Free” Freedom Is Free
  • “The Parasite”
  • “Supermarket Blues”
  • “Lovin Man”
  • John Lennon: “Instant Karma”
  • Gene McDaniels: “Tower of Strength” Tower of Strength
  • Eddie Harris & Les McCann: “Compared to What” Swiss Movement
  • Eugene McDaniels: “Cherrystones” Outlaw
  • “Susan Jane”
  • “Freedom Death Dance”
  • Eddie Harris: “Freedom Jazz Dance” The In Sound
  • “The Lord Is Back”

If you're not already subscribed to Heat Rocks in Apple Podcasts, do it here!

Minority Korner 106: Scooby Doing It! (Candyman, Quizlet is BACK, Korla Pandit, John Roland Redd, Bianca Lawson, Gay Porn and Racism, Queen Sugar, and Rutina Wesley)

mk logo
Minority Korner

The wonder twins are full, happy, and filled of love after Thanksgiving and they want to spread the wealth! They got a fun joyous episode for ya'll this week... but first! CANDYMAN... candyman, candyman! They deconstruct the horror movie from the 90s which was WAY more political than they remembered! They also discuss the amazing ageless Bianca Lawson, In the Korners...ooooooo she's back! Quizlet Korner has returned and this time she is called, What's Good In The Neighborhood? Will James finally get Nnekay with the Quiz?! SOme of the topics covered: gay porn and racism, Wes Goodman, HIV Drugs, Adoption, Grindr mysteries, and getting CAUGHT UP! In Nnekay's Korner- she takes James (and you) on a ride about two jazz pianist, Korla Pandit and John Roland Redd, and how their lives intersect and create magic. ALSO.... DRUMROLLLLLLL The winner is announced for the iTunes review raffle!!!! Happy Friday and have a good weekend, ya'll!

Twitter: @minoritykorner
Email: minoritykorner@gmail.com
Like Us On Facebook: Minority Korner

Guide To A Gay Bar: Straight Guy Edition Tip #1: https://youtu.be/1e-XaNHqdbI

Guide To A Gay Bar: Straight Guy Edition (FULL VIDEO): https://youtu.be/leJQU5oxoJY

Catch Nnekay At SF Sketch Fest w/ Her Comedy Team Nice Tan! Get Tickets:











Tale of Two Pianist


Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Emily Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani of The Big Sick and Terrace Martin

Emily Gordon
Kumail Nanjiani
Terrace Martin

New to Bullseye? Subscribe to our podcast in iTunes or with your favorite podcatcher to make sure you automatically get the newest episode every week.

Photo: Jesse Thorn

Emily Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani on writing a romcom based on their lives

Emily Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani co-wrote the Judd Apatow produced romantic comedy The Big Sick. It's a sweet, hilarious and truthful story about how the two of them fell in love, tossing all of the classic romantic comedy tropes out of the window. Kumail and Emily come from really different backgrounds; Kumail's from Pakistan. Emily: North Carolina. The film tells their story of finding each other after navigating Kumail's family's traditional views on marriage and an illness that almost breaks them apart.

Before Emily Gordon was writing screenplays and making films, she was a therapist, working with mentally challenged individuals. After over 5 years working as a therapist, she realized that she needed to change careers, moving on to writing full time, and contributing to online and print magazines.

Most people know Kumail Nanjiani as Dinesh on Mike Judge's HBO hit, Silicon Valley. He's also been on Broad City, Newsreaders, and voices characters on Adventure Time. He has been a stand-up comic for a long time and in 2013, got a Comedy Central stand up special called Beta Male.

Jesse, Kumail, and Emily talk about what it was like making a movie about their real life relationship, and about the changes that were made from the first draft to the one that we see in cinemas. They also talk about learning to let go of their story to other people in the creative group, and the first time they showed the movie to their parents.

You can find The Big Sick in theaters nationwide. Emily also wrote a self-help book for superheroes called Super You: Release Your Inner Super Hero. Also, don't forget to watch Kumail's Beta Male for a solid 40 minutes of laughter.

Click here to listen to Jesse's interview with Emily Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani!

Photo: Jesse Thorn

Terrace Martin on Jazz, Hip-Hop, and working with Kendrick Lamar

Terrace Martin is a musician and producer. He is from Los Angeles' Crenshaw District and grew up in a jazz household, with both of his parents being musicians. He picked up the saxophone at a young age, his talent for the horn leading him all the way through arts high school to California Institute of the Arts. After deciding college wasn't for him, he went on tour with some big acts and began producing for people like Snoop Dogg and YG. Terrace was heavily involved in Kendrick Lamar's To Pimp a Butterfly, producing many songs on the album including the hit "King Kunta."

Terrace and Jesse talk about his views on hip-hop and jazz, and why working with Kendrick Lamar is so important to him. They talk about the differences between releasing solo albums and working within a band. Finally, we find out why Terrace roamed from neighborhood to neighborhood as a teenager with his MPC 3000 drum machine.

Terrace's new record label Sounds of Crenshaw Records put out Terraces 6th studio album last year called Velvet Portraits and The Sounds of Crenshaw Vol. 1 by his band The Polyseeds this month.

The Outshot: All Creatures Great and Small

What's the book that claims to be, and actually is, bursting with love? James Herriot's All Creatures Great and Small.

Click here to listen to Jesse's Outshot about All Creatures Great and Small!

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