Blues

Sleepy John Estes was a Tennessee-based blues singer of the 1920’s and 30’s. Though not a flashy guitarist, his voice was packed with power, and the songs he wrote have lasted through the years to be sung by Led Zeppelin and Bob Dylan.

Justin Steyer / KPLU

On his first trip to Seattle, Grammy-nominated vocalist Gregory Porter stopped by the KPLU Seattle studios for a live studio session that you do not want to miss.  This also happened to be the day that Blue Note Records announced the release of Porter's new album, Liquid Spirit. 

Ken Thomas

The Legend of John Henry is an iconic myth of American railroad history, a battle between man and steam drill. One of the intriguing things about the legend is that no one knows for sure if John Henry existed. At least part of the myth is based  on historical events from the mid-1800’s; some say the source lies in Alabama, others point to West Virginia, both places where significant railroad tunnels were dug.

Justin Steyer / KPLU

Want a good recipe for soul music?

Here’s what you do: Start with vocalist, Joan Osborne, who has had pop music hits, performed on The Grand Old Oprey, toured with members of The Grateful Dead and yet never strayed from her roots in rhythm ‘n blues music.

It’s one of the defining songs of the Blues, written by one of its formative figures, Son House. The opening lyric “Woke up this morning…” would be considered trite today, but its 1930 recording date makes it more iconic than anything.

With its simple but insistent guitar rhythm and mournful lyrics, “Walkin’ Blues” is a virtual blueprint for Delta Blues, and a powerful influence on the development of modern blues.

Verve Records

Over the past few years, Take 5’s theme-based music lists have covered a wide variety of subjects. We’ve covered all the seasons of the year, all the holidays, different types of weather, the careers of jazz legends, the cutting-edge work of up-and-coming jazz artists and have gotten into the musical minutiae of things like flowers, birds, baseball, prohibition and civil rights.  And now it’s time for Take 5 to go meta and present a five-song list of songs about….LISTS.  It had to happen sooner or later.

Louis Jordan is one of the pioneers of American music, and an important force in the transition from the Jazz Era to Rock and Roll. He was one of the first to down-size the big band format to a combo of five or six players, pounding out high energy jump, swing and rhythm and blues for dance audiences.

One of the early bands to use electric guitar, he established a musical style that rock originators like Bill Haley followed closely. Louis Jordan’s 1947 recording of “Early in the Morning” is an example of the influence of Afro Cuban rhythms on American music.

Most blues started in the country before becoming urbanized, and Bukka White brought his brand of Mississippi blues to Chicago in the 1930’s and 40’s.

It is likely that he met and learned from elemental bluesman Charley Patton, and he was known for playing a National steel guitar with a slide. He recorded “Shake ‘Em On Down” in 1937 and established the cutting edge.

Little Walter made a harmonica sound like nothing that had been heard before – somewhere between a saxophone and an electric guitar. By the early 1950’s he not only used amplification, he used the amp to creatively alter his sound with distortion and sonic effects.

You might say he was the Jimi Hendrix of the harmonica. One song in particular has rolled through history: 'Mellow Down Easy.'

It’s another one of those mysteries — who actually wrote “One Way Out”?

Elmore James recorded it in 1961, but didn’t release it until ’65. Sonny Boy Williamson released a version in 1961 and 1965 and G.L. Crockett had a 1965 hit with the same song under a different name.

Joel Mann

It’s one of the most iconic songs from New Orleans, and like the city, it’s origin and meaning are a product of may different influences.

Its meaning is still being debated by scholars and linguists, but “Iko Iko” was first recorded in 1953 by James “Sugar Boy” Crawford, who wrote the pop song “Jock-A-Mo” based on 2 different Mardi Gras Indian chants. The Mardi Gras “Indians” are actually African-American groups who have been parading as Indian tribes at Mardi Gras since the mid-19th Century.

Last month more than 4,600 votes were cast by our listeners for the songs they felt were the greatest jazz vocal of all time.

The votes have been counted and the top 50 songs are now available below in our 24/7 stream!

Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup has been called the “father of rock and roll” for writing the song that launched Elvis Presley’s career. His own career had a rough start-- after migrating from Mississippi around 1940, he was living on the Chicago streets, playing for tips.

His unique, though unpolished sound was distinctive enough to land him a record deal, and he had several songs on the mid-40’s r & b charts. Despite the success of his songs, he was never paid fairly for the music he composed and worked as a laborer to support his family.

In the Western Hemisphere, January is typically the coldest month of the year.  Most of us feel that if we can somehow drag ourselves through January, things will begin to turn around and we’ll be on the road to springtime. 

But January is also typically the month that feels as if it will never end.  So as we slog through the cold rain and snow, awaiting January’s demise, here are five winter blues songs to help get us through:

Thirty years after presenting its first concerts in San Francisco, the organization SFJAZZ has built a permanent home and performance venue. The SFJAZZ Center, conceived as the first stand-alone building for jazz in the U.S., opened with a star-studded concert on Jan. 23.

Listen to the concert. Video will be available in the following days. 

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