Heavy Rotation

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Heavy Rotation: 5 Songs Public Radio Can't Stop Playing

This month's installment of Heavy Rotation demonstrates the breadth of music played on public radio stations every day. Hip-hop, electronica, contemporary classical, Cuban jazz, blues rock — it's a truly eclectic mix.
WBGO's new digital channel The Jazz Bee features jazz musicians from every corner of the genre, and its selection of Cuban pianist Omar Sosa's smooth yet surprising "S'Inguldu" is a great example of its adventurous programming. Q2 — WQXR's contemporary classical music channel — picked the transfixing piano playing of Lisa Moore, who recently recorded Donnacha Dennehy's piece "Stainless Staining." KEXP is playing a passionate confessional by Seattle rapper Raz called "They'll Speak" — its closing lyrics "They'll speak if you don't" are certainly words to live by. KCRW's pick of Poolside's downtempo "Next To You" practically screams "From LA, with love." And WGLT in Illinois highlights a local favorite, a bluesy exercise from 17-year-old guitarist Matthew Curry called "If I Don't Got You."
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Omar Sosa

Currently in rotation on: WBGO 88.3 FM in Newark, N.J.

When Omar Sosa played an outdoor concert in Berchidda, Italy, trumpeter Paolo Fresu climbed a tree near the stage, horn in hand, so he could duet — heard, but unseen — with the Cuban pianist. Sosa liked the beautiful countermelodies wafting down through the leaves, and before long the pair were fast musical friends. Since Sosa and Fresu were also both fans of Brazilian cellist Jacques Morelenbaum, when Sosa met Morelenbaum at a club in Tokyo, he invited the cellist to join the musical conversation. As Sosa lives on the island of Menorca in Spain, Fresu in Sardinia and Morelenbaum in Rio de Janeiro, it's thanks to the Internet that they were able to create their remarkable new album Alma, emailing tracks like "S'Inguldu" back and forth across the oceans. Listen as they paint an imaginary landscape that exists above borders. — Tim Wilkins, WBGO's The Jazz Bee

Download "S'Inguldu" (right-click and "Save Link As")

Lisa Moore and Donnacha Dennehy

Currently in rotation on: Q2 in New York City

At Q2 Music, we're obsessed with Stainless Staining, the title track of former Bang on a Can pianist Lisa Moore's latest EP. Written for Moore by Irish composer Donnacha Dennehy, the piece is equal parts texture and propulsion. It pairs her solo piano performance with a soundtrack of recorded and manipulated samples taken from a piano re-tuned to produce exactly 100 pulsating overtones. Like standing in an endless hallway of grandfather clocks, the music alternately conjures feelings of anxiety and ecstatic hypnosis. It's an addictive and seamless blend of woman and tape that pendulums between bouts of active and passive listening and marks one of Moore's strongest, most inspired performances to date. — Hannis Brown, Q2 Music

Download an excerpt from "Stainless Staining" (right-click and "Save Link As")


Currently in rotation on: KEXP 90.3 FM in Seattle

At the top of this track, Seattle MC Raz tells the world his government name, Solomon Simone — a name that references powerful, truthful titans of soul — so it's only right that "They'll Speak" is as strikingly naked as it is. In his gushing, stream-of-consciousness style, Raz articulates the sort of old-school pain that's too often lost behind the glamor and nihilism particular to contemporary street rap; no drug lord fantasy, no feeding-my-family rhetoric, just the realization that his addict aunt is going to get her fix somewhere, from somebody he might not know, so he might as well serve her. The short worth of life where he lives has rarely been expressed better: "I've had n***** that shoot n***** for me but wouldn't give me food when I was hungry." — Larry Mizell Jr., KEXP's "Street Sounds"

Download "They'll Speak" (right-click and "Save Link As")


Currently in rotation on: KCRW 89.9 FM in Santa Monica, Calif.

If there's a breakout artist in 2012 that screams summer vibes, it has to be L.A.'s homegrown crew Poolside. The name says it all: the perfect soundtrack for chillin' out and catching some rays in gorgeous sunny southern Cali, or wherever you may be. Pacific Standard Time is one of those albums that grabs my attention from start to finish, from the heavy dance floor cuts to their stellar "daytime disco" rendition of Neil Young's "Harvest Moon." "Next To You" pays homage to a classic sound with a new and modern flavor that brings its own heat. Listening to Poolside, it's clear they're making music for pure enjoyment — and we enjoy it so much it's been one of the most played albums at the station for almost a month now. — Raul Campos, KCRW

Download "Next To You" (right-click and "Save Link As")

Matthew Curry

Currently in rotation on: WGLT and GLT Blues Radio in Normal, Ill.

There are a lot of young gunslingers out there imitating Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jimi Hendrix and Joe Bonamassa, but few are writing and performing in their own voices. Matthew Curry, a 17-year-old guitarist, has a special "it" factor that's difficult to define but easy to recognize when seeing him in person. Curry has certainly listened to his share of blues greats, including Stevie Ray and Albert Collins, but with the release of his debut, If I Don't Got You, you can hear that this gifted teen is forging his own path. Central Illinois has known about this phenom for nearly a decade, but even so, it seems as if Curry grows by leaps and bounds every month. — Jon Norton, GLT Blues Radio

Download "If I Don't Got You" (right-click and "Save Link As")