Writing about how jazz in the mid-20th century reflected lived experience in New York city’s tenements, the scholar Shane Vogel quoted Duke Ellington’s description of his swing symphony, Harlem Air Shaft
“So much goes on in a Harlem air shaft...You hear fights, you smell dinner, you hear people making love. You hear intimate gossip floating down. You hear the radio. An air shaft is one great big loudspeaker.” In the crowded city, the musician-composer becomes a living receiver, distilling a static field of sounds and sensations into an evocative whole."
This keynote event gathers together four prominent artists whose work reflects a cosmopolitan worldview, with each artist rooted in his or her particular urban home.
Grammy winning Beninoise singer-songwriter Angelique Kidjo has truly had a global career, having recorded albums in a staggering array of languages, styles, genres and cities. Her recently-released live album Spirit Rising is a career retrospective featuring diverse guests like Ezra Koenig, Josh Groban and the Kuumba Singers.
Grammy winner Esperanza Spalding is about to release her third album, Radio Music Society, a border-crossing blend of jazz, soul, funk and pop that reflects the cities she loves: New York, Barcelona, and her birthplace of Portland, Oregon.
Philadelphia-bred, Brooklyn-based Santigold (Santi White) is one of the brightest lights of the East Coast bohemian underground; her upcoming second album, Master of My Make Believe, takes her incendiary blend of hip hop, indie rock and dance music to a new level.
On his recent mixtape Nehru Jackets, Himanshu Suri (Heems) of the Queens-identified hip hop group Das Racist drops wit and wisdom about the ups and downs of life in Gotham’s five boroughs. Discussing their new work and how they’ve formed their own sound and vision in relationship to the urban spaces where they thrive, these artists consider what’s changed and what remains consistent in the half-century plus since the Duke found heaven in the clanging multiplicity of the air shaft.
Moderated by: Ann Powers