The Playlist

The tune your bones play as you keep going

The Playlist is changing. Mutating. Still resembles Bonnie Jean’s blueprint for the program, but week after week, the process of replication has been imperfect, allowing irregularities to enter the mix. Vince Guaraldi. Jerry Garcia. Digable Planets. “Baby That’s Backatcha.” You get the picture. Just what The Playlist will have become when the KUSP management arrests the process of mutation, hard to say. Shortly, a new program will take the place of The Playlist. In the meantime, the mutant is still here for all to enjoy. So enjoy.

Tonight (midnight December 12 and the early morning hours of Thursday December 13), for example, you may enjoy new records by Bat For Lashes, Neil Young & Crazy Horse, Los Straitjackets, David Byrne & St. Vincent and Gregory Porter; older records by The Decemberists, Nicholas Payton with Esperanza Spalding, Fleet Foxes and Nick Drake. Check out some videos of these performances below.

Once again, we dip into Karriem Riggins’s hip-hop mosaics, from his new album, Alone Together. Karriem has played the drums with a bunch of mainstream jazz greats, including Betty Carter and Oscar Peterson. But he’s a Jekyl-and-Hyde guy: Karriem’s label, Stones Throw Records, lets you listen to a mixtape of his many hip-hop productions, including work by Common, Slum Village, Black Thought and Erykah Badu. The link is here.

This evening’s featured poem is “Lines For Winter,” by Mark Strand (from which this blog entry’s title is taken). A few years ago, in another job on another continent, I wanted to use a few lines of another Mark Strand poem in an economic report that I was writing. Our copy editor pointed out that we would need permission. I was pessimistic — Mark is as close to a rock star as you get among contemporary poets — but we wrote to Mark and he just gave us the green light, no hassles. As such, his poetry is there, alongside Antonio Machado’s “Caminante, no hay camino.”

The Playlist: Brubeck edition

This week (December 6) on The Playlist, we commemorate the passing of Dave Brubeck. What better way to honor the man behind “Take Five” and “Blue Rondo a la Turk” than to listen to new records by some contemporary jazz artists passionately busting down barriers between genres – much like Dave did. We listen to a little of Karriem Riggins‘s new hip-hop/jazz sound collages:

And idiosyncratic covers: French jazz trumpeter Médéric Collignon does Nick Drake’s “River Man,” Santa Cruz saxophonist Donny McCaslin does Boards of Canada’s “Alpha and Omega,” and Playlist favorite pianist Robert Glasper does “Smells Like Teen Spirit”.

Videos of the original tunes can be watched, with pleasure, below:

All this, and first-time spins of new records by Bat for Lashes, David Byrne & St. Vincent, Neil Young & Crazy Horse, the Crystal Ark and Sierra Maestra. Ravishing stuff!

This morning’s poem: Lawrence Raab‘s “Last Day On Earth.”

Playlist winter storms edition

This week The Playlist includes DâM Funk, John K. Samson, Norah Jones, Georgia Anne Muldrow, Wallace Stevens, Merl Saunders and Jerry Garcia (pictured above, in that order). Among others.

Also, a couple of great old tunes by Graham Parker & The Rumour, who come to the Catalyst in Santa Cruz on December 15: more information at

And here, videos of a couple of the songs you will hear on this week’s show:

Special Thanksgiving Playlist!

Give thanks for long, uninterrupted sets of music featuring favorites for the whole family: Lykke Li! PM Dawn! Gang of Four! Joan Baez! The xx! Hindi Zahra! Alec K. Redfearn and the Eyesores! New Order! Beloved by young and old, the Playlist wishes you and yours the best of holidays!

Last Days of Chez Nous

The Playlist, a stalwart standby of the KUSP program schedule since, well, I don’t know how long, is coming to an end. The last broadcast is imminent. I’d like to think of that sad eventuality in the bittersweet terms of the fine Australian movie The Last Days of Chez Nous, a shambling, tragicomic family drama; kind of like an early Margaret Drabble novel.

That movie, those novels, seem to suggest that we’re always in the tragicomic last days of something great, and we might not quite grasp that it’s truly great until after the fact. In its little way, this radio show – thanks entirely to the programming prowess of Bonnie Jean, who brought it into being and shepherded it through the years of its life – has that feeling, too. Certainly many of the great musicians Bonnie Jean highlighted over the years – Neko Case, Fleet Foxes, Cat Power, Connie-Kim, the list is a long one – tell just such a tragicomic story.

Look around you. Take stock. You are probably, in some aspect of your life, in the midst of the last days of something truly great. (And I’m not talking about the radio show now.) The last days of Chez Nous. It’s autumn, after all. Take a moment to savor it. You’ll be glad you did down the road.

Meanwhile, tonight you can groove to music by Tame Impala, the xx, Alec K. Redfearn and the Eyesores, Christine Fellows and the Mastersons. Plus, there’s a poem by Gary Snyder about his Macintosh computer. Not to mention Vince Guaraldi and Bobby “Blue” Bland (what the hell has become of the Playlist anyway?).

And thanks, Bonnie Jean!

Nostalgia de la muerte

Tonight (Wednesday 7 November into the early-morning hours of Thursday 8 November) on the Playlist, we commemorate, belatedly, the Day of the Dead. There are lively bits of new Mexican alternative sounds (Tijuana Sound Machine, Mexican Institute of Sound). This morning’s poem, by Xavier Villaurrutia (above, right) sits at the threshold between this world and the next. Patti Smith pays tribute to the memory of Amy Winehouse.

All that, and more new music from the fine new records by the xx, Bob Dylan, Jakob Dylan (with the Wallflowers and Mick Jones of the Clash), the Temper Trap, Beachwood Sparks (see them perform live at the video link below), John K. Samson, Robert Glasper (with Mos Def) and Marty Dread. Meklit & Quinn celebrate Lou Reed, Marianne Faithfull (above, left) celebrates Fleetwood Mac. Shabazz Palaces (above, center) provide suitably late-night deep-underground hip hop, meanwhile, in one of the few FCC-compliant tracks from their album Black Up. English, Spanish, French, Arabic and maybe some other languages besides.


A hard-rockin’ Playlist

Tonight (Halloween 2012, as it transitions into Thursday morning, 1 November), tune into what is a pretty hard-rockin’ Playlist. Of course, there are some sublimely mellow moments as well (notably “Swept Away,” from the new xx album — see them perform it live at the video link below). And this episode’s poem is by the late Adrienne Rich, Santa Cruz’s own: “Diving Into The Wreck” is a nice accompaniment to having seen the new Jay Moriarty biopic “Chasing Mavericks.”

The whole Playlist Gestalt is a matter of spinning new records, and we have an embarrassment of riches in that regard. Played for the very first time on The Playlist tonight, new records from the Wallflowers, the Temper Trap, Bob Dylan (above center), Sundog, Beachwood Sparks (above left), Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffitti, the Tragically Hip and the aforementioned lower-case-lovin’ xx (above right). It’s just scary how many new records we have tonight! (That’s the only Halloween tie-in I have to offer.) Plus we hear from Cuba’s inimitably elegant Orquesta Aragón, coming Monday night (5 November) to Kuumbwa Jazz. See them on Cuban television below.

All that, and close listeners will hear me confuse John Prine with John Hiatt (surely not the first time?)

Baby that’s backatcha!

The hits just keep on comin’

Tonight (Wednesday 24 October) at midnight on The Playlist: fine new records from the Robert Glasper Experience (above right, remixed by ?uestlove), Cat Power, Hoots & Hellmouth, Little Feat, the Little Willies, and Big Willie (Nelson, above left) in an unholy musical alliance with Snoop Dogg and Kris Kristofferson. Patti Smith (above center) is heard singing “Just Kids,” a bonus track from the special edition of her new album Banga, a track that shares its name with her excellent memoir. There’s something lovely by Rodríguez, from the soundtrack to Searching for Sugar Man (see the trailer below, just in case you’ve been living in a cave for the last six months), and fondly remembered older records by Portishead, Neko Case, Molotov (órale pues!) and the Decemberists. (The latter are heard from their debut album Castaways and Cutouts: you will hear me forget the name of the record on the air. Merde.) All this and a poem by Harold Nemerov.

I hope you’ll tune in: and remember, you can listen anytime you want by going to the Music Show Player, elsewhere on this web site.

And really, cave-dwellers, no offense intended. All listeners are welcome.

Support Big Bird! Support Andrew Bird!

Tonight on the Playlist, music from Andrew Bird’s 2012 release, Break It Yourself. Does the featuring of an artist whose surname is Bird signify implicit support for Big Bird? Is this thereby a political act?

While you mull that over, enjoy new music by Jill Barber, Gregory Porter, Michael Kiwanuka, Tyler Matthew Smith, the Shins (love those Shins); not-quite-new music by Calexico, tUnEyArDs (or is it TuNeYaRdS?), and Fleet Foxes; and not-at-all-new music from Billie Holiday (trust me, the Lady Day track will make perfect sense in context). This morning’s poem is by former poet laureate Rita Dove.

I’ve been playing a lot from the Robert Glasper Experiment’s Black Radio: he’s just put out a remix EP. Herewith the remix (by ?uestlove) of their version of Little Dragon’s “Twice.” In concerts last year, the Experiment performed a mashup of “Twice” with “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”

If you’re listening, drop me a line: jeff [DOT] daytonjohnson [AT] gmail [DOT] com.

Autumn closin’ in


This week on The Playlist: great songs from recent releases by Hoots & Hellmouth, Jill Barber, Memoryhouse, Gregory Porter and much more. I dip once again into the fine new record by Bobby Womack, for a duet with Lana del Rey (!). Also: we celebrate Patti Smith’s Tuesday night concert in Monterey with a smattering of selections from her discography; we mark John Lennon’s 72nd birthday with a handful of hits; and we remember the late R.B. Greaves. ¬†Finally, a Playlist first (I think): a poem by Sharon Olds. Enjoy!

Patti Smith sings “Banga” on the David Letterman Show: