Jazz Giants Take The Stage At The NEA Jazz Masters Listening Party

Last month, the National Endowment for the Arts crowned four new NEA Jazz Masters, including Todd Barkan, a jazz advocate whose early interest in Latin jazz piano turned into a successful five-decade career as a prominent impresario, club owner and record producer. Guitarist Pat Metheny continues to redefine the parameters of his instrument through innovative technique and signature sound. Pianist Joanne Brackeen’s unique style commands attention, and Dianne Reeves has become one of the world’s preeminent jazz vocalists, whose genius in retrospect seems ceaseless.

The celebration of the nation’s highest honor in jazz included a tribute concert at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., and a listening party hosted by Jason Moran, pianist and artistic director for jazz at the Kennedy Center. Moran took the stage at NPR’s Studio One with Barkan, Metheny and Brackeen. (Drummer, composer and producer Terri Lynne Carrington sat in for Dianne Reeves, whose schedule would not allow her to make it.)

The musicians talked freely about their careers, and listened to the music that had made formative impacts in their lives. Rather than a concert, this week we’re sharing these intimate conversations. Listen in the player above.

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Three More Women Come Forward To Accuse R. Kelly Of Abuse

Singer R. Kelly, performing onstage in 2004 in Los Angeles, Calif.

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In a week of renewed attention to two decades’ worth of allegations of abuse and sexual misconduct against R&B singer R. Kelly, a pair of new reports from BuzzFeed News and the Washington Post published on Friday, bringing forward allegations from three more women who say they were abused by Kelly.

These new accusations come after the women of color group within the Time’s Up movement added their voices to an existing online campaign called #MuteRKelly, which asks for the music industry to cut ties to the singer, and a controversial response from Kelly’s management team which calls the campaign an “attempted public lynching.”

On Friday morning, BuzzFeed Newspublished allegations from two women about the singer’s alleged sexual abuse, written by reporters Jim DeRogatis, who has been reporting on accusations against Kelly since the year 2000, and Marisa Carroll.

In an interview with Vox published last July, the Chicago-based DeRogatis (who is a co-host of the program Sound Opinions on Member Station WBEZ) said: “The thing that makes me sick to my stomach is it’s impossible, in Chicago, to walk three or four blocks in the music communities of the South and West Side and not find ten people who have stories about R. Kelly, or their cousin has a story about him, or their sister.”

One of the women who spoke to BuzzFeed is Lizzette Martinez, who says that she began to have a relationship with Kelly when she was a 17-year-old high school senior in Florida and the singer was 28. Martinez says that Kelly hit her on five occasions, and that he pressured her against her will into performing sexual acts. She also told BuzzFeed that Kelly dictated her behavior: “What I wore, how I spoke, who my friends were, who I could bring around … He’s just so controlling, so abusive.”

The other woman who spoke to Buzzfeed is a Chicago mother going by only her first name of “Michelle”; her daughter, “N,” also began a relationship with Kelly when she was 17. Michelle says that her daughter, who is now 27 years old, has been “brainwashed” by Kelly and is part of the alleged R. Kelly “cult,” and that the few phone calls she has received from N. in the past few years are “like prison calls.”

Kelly and his management continue to deny all allegations.

On Friday afternoon, the Washington Post published a lengthy investigation by reporter Geoff Edgars in which six women spoke to the paper about Kelly’s alleged abusive relationships; two of the women, Tracy Sampson and Patrice Jones (who both say that they have received settlements from Kelly) have never spoken publicly about him before.

The Post also interviewed two senior music executives who were instrumental in building Kelly’s career, who spoke on the record about their attitudes towards the allegations.

Sampson met Kelly as a 16-year-old intern working for Epic Records. She told the Post that she hid the relationship from her parents and that she was pressured into sexual acts. Jones says that she was 17 years old when she became pregnant by Kelly, who was then married, and that he pressured her into getting an abortion.

The Post also replicated several text messages that purport to demonstrate how his live-in girlfriends have to seek permission for even bodily functions such as using the bathroom.

Kelly’s former tour manager, Demetrius Smith, told the Post that he warned Clive Calder — the billionaire founder of Kelly’s first label, Jive Records — about Kelly’s behavior. According to the Washington paper, Calder said that he regretted not intervening somehow. “But I’m not a psychiatrist,” Calder told the Post, adding “and this guy is a troubled guy. Clearly, we missed something.”

Calder also said that Kelly’s former attorney, the late Gerald Margolis, had told him that reporter Jim DeRogatis had “an ax to grind” against Kelly.

The Post also spoke to Larry Khan, the current head of urban radio promotions at Interscope Records and former Jive senior vice president for marketing. Khan told the paper that he had seen a portion of the tape that triggered the 21-count indictment on child pornography charges, but questioned, rhetorically, whether it was a record company’s place to address a performer’s behavior, citing the offstage lives of Jerry Lee Lewis and Chuck Berry as well as Bill Cosby and his relationship to NBC.

The Post also spoke to Sampson’s former supervisor at Epic, Cathy Carroll, who said, “Rob is really a good person … he’s got a very good heart … A lot of these women who claim stuff, they put themselves out there like that, and then they want to turn around and sue people and sue men.”

In 2008, a jury in Chicago acquitted Kelly of all child pornography charges; the jury foreman in the trial, Jamon Mytty, told the Post that the verdict was reached because both the female minor allegedly seen in the video and her parents declined to testify, and therefore the jury had reasonable doubt that she was the person in the video. (DeRogatis says in the Vox interview that neither the young woman nor her parents cooperated with police at all, though three dozen witnesses did.)

According to the Post, RCA Records recently paid for six weeks of studio time in Los Angeles, ostensibly for an upcoming recording project. One worker at the studio spoke to the Post anonymously, and said that the the studio floor had been badly damaged with urine stains, and that a cup of urine was left on a piano, for which the studio billed RCA. A former member of Kelly’s team sent the Post pictures of the damage. RCA did not reply to the Post with comment.

RCA has not responded to multiple requests from NPR for comment since Time’s Up published its open letter on Monday.

Kelly is quoted by the Associated Press on Friday as saying that he was “heartbroken” by the accusations. Referring to himself as a “God-fearing man, a son, a brother and most importantly a father,” he said that allegations “perpetuated by the media” are “an attempt to distort my character and to destroy my legacy that I have worked so hard to build.”

However, his management team told NPR on Friday afternoon that the statement attributed to Kelly by the AP was “an erroneous, unauthorized statement that never was said by R. Kelly himself, nor was it written or distributed by the R. Kelly management team. Mr. Kelly rejects the points the statement tries to make, and we deny all association with it… we are looking into what went wrong here.”

Kelly’s management team also said in its statement: “R. Kelly has close friendships with a number of women who are strong, independent, happy, well cared for and free to come and go as they please. We deny the many dark descriptions put forth by instigators and liars who have their own agenda for seeking profit and fame.” It adds that parents of Kelly’s girlfriends are choosing not to return their daughters’ phone calls, “because they are angling for a financial windfall.”

In addition, Kelly’s management team redistributed to NPR its controversial statement from earlier this week equating the Time’s Up open letter to a lynching.

Andrew Flanagan contributed reporting.

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Episode 839: The Indicator Goes To California

The CMA CGM Benjamin Franklin is the largest vessel ever to call at a port in the United States and is 1,300-foot long with a capacity of 18,000 containers.

MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images

California is the largest U.S. state economy, and it’s also one of the largest economies in the world. It’s home to tons of agricultural production and to the country’s biggest ports.

Last month, Planet Money’s Indicator team went to California to take a look at the state’s money-making and not-so-money-making industries. Today on the show: We visit a celery farm facing a labor drought, a metro station at the heart of the state’s housing crisis, and the Port of Long Beach, where we may or may not hear a ship horn. (Spoiler: We do.)

Music: “Psyche Peacock” and “Big Shot.” Additional music by Drop Electric.

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Subscribe to our show on Apple Podcasts, PocketCasts and NPR One.

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What The Kanye Controversy Can Teach Us About Black Voters

Singer Kanye West and President-elect Donald Trump talk as they arrive to talk to the press after their meetings at Trump Tower December 13, 2016 in New York.

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It was a week into the bizarre, Red Pill Kanye West tour that the whole affair seemed to reach its zenith — or its nadir, depending on where you’re sitting. Kanye completed his transmogrification into a sentient Reddit thread when he appeared on TMZ this week, parroting well-worn talking points about black-on-black crime and calling slavery in America “a choice.” Van Lathan of TMZ was not having it.

Kanye West — rapper, music producer, clothing designer, provocateur of debatable guile — emerged from a period of relative quietude only to spend the last two weeks thrusting himself into our exhausting culture wars. He shouted out the alt-right-adjacent commentator Candace Owens. He reiterated his affection for President Trump, who returned the love. He snapped a red-hat selfie. And for good measure, he wrote a verse that says that that black people were still on “the Democratic plantation.” Kanye said that he was “free thinking,” and that he had slipped the bonds of black political conventions.

we got love pic.twitter.com/Edk0WGscp6

— KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) April 25, 2018

The reactions to Kanye West’s noisy rightward lurch perfectly illustrated some important, particular dynamics about black voting behavior — why a country with so many black conservatives continues to have so few black Republicans.

When mainstream conservatives rallied around Kanye, they saw the possibility of a broader political shift: Maybe Kanye could make the GOP cool enough to upend black allegiance to the rival party. They were operating under the presumption that the arithmetic for black voting works the way it does for white voters: Conservative-leaning people vote for the GOP; liberal-leaning people vote for Democrats. Conservative publications hyped a lonely Reuters poll that showed that President Trump’s approval rating among black men had jumped to a slightly-less-abysmal number over the week of Kanye’s MAGA-lite paroxysms. They were making a dent!

But black folks seemed to largely respond to Ye with eyerolls, (or the way Van Lathan did in the TMZ video above.) Is this the same dude who went off script after Hurricane Katrina to say that George W. Bush didn’t care about black people?Was this some kind of elaborate troll to drum up publicity for a new album? Has Kanye lost his damn mind?

Ismail White, a political scientist at George Washington University, said that the response from black people to Kanye was to be expected: President Trump remains less popular with black people than with any other racial group, and no other group leans as heavily Democratic in national elections as black folks. But there’s long been debate about why those inclinations have remained so strong.

A common explanation has been the notion of “linked fate” — the belief among black folks that their individual prospects are tied to a collective well-being. But White said that linked fate can’t really explain how the powerful norm for black people to cast votes for Democrats has maintained itself over the last half-century; norms, after all, have to be policed.

What White and and three other researchers found in a recent study is that social pressure from other black people is how this Democratic norm gets policed. They found that the expectations around this norm were so powerful that simply having a black questioner ask a black respondent about their voting preferences made that respondent more likely to say they were voting for a Democratic candidate.

Chryl Laird, one of the study’s authors, said that this is how everyone votes. We like to think of our voting choices as purely rational, but we take cues from the people around us, especially when we don’t know much about a candidate or an issue. Laird said that social influence and pressure partly explain why most white evangelical voters in Alabama supported Roy Moore last fall, even after he was accused of sexual misconduct involving minors.

But she said these social effects are more intense for black people because of their history in the United States. “Even going back to slavery, during planned slave revolts, black people would find ways to socially sanction people who informed of their plans,” she said. “During Reconstruction, we see instances of people who were planning to vote for the Democratic Party out of self-interest — maybe they were bribed by a white person — and those people were ostracized.”

Enforcing that solidarity has historically been a matter of life or death. But entrenched segregation today keeps black people of different ideological stripes in close social and spatial proximity to each other. It’s easier to enforce collective norms, to feel affirmation or sanction from black folks, when you have black neighbors, go to black schools and mosques and churches and hair salons, when you carry around around that social history and that sense of shared stakes. Black people are surrounded by black Democrats, so they vote like black Democrats.

And when they don’t, they get checked. Laird pointed to an example of this from the Kanye mess: John Legend, Kanye’s friend and sometimes collaborator, sent him a text message nudging him to reconsider — or just consider at all — what he was saying. (Kanye, being Kanye, posted a screenshot of that exchange to Twitter.)

pic.twitter.com/L9a7OeywJ6

— KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) April 26, 2018

That nudge from John Legend, Laird says — or Chance the Rapper publicly distancing himself from Kanye’s comments — is what enforcing those norms looks like in real time.

So Kanye isn’t wrong when he says there is a lot of social pressure for black people to vote Democratic. But how those pressures extend to Kanye is a different question. Laird said that the black people who are most likely to cast ballots for Republicans tend to have more attenuated social connections to black communities — like hypothetically, a famous entertainer who lives in an ultra-wealthy town with a 3 percent black population.

Kanye has cast himself as an iconoclast, brave enough to flout prevailing expectations for black people. But it makes sense to ask how much his current ideological trajectory owes to his own, changing personal arithmetic around social sanction and social rewards. He’s not in Chicago anymore. And Kanye, ever the solipsist, could just be looking for affirmation from the people in his current social universe who can give it to him. (That math is different for John Legend and Chance, who are more closely tied to black communities through their activism.)

So where does that leave black conservatives more broadly? It’s certainly not hard to find them: the capitalists who think supporting black banks can offset the effects of racism on black wealth; the social conservatives who see absent fathers as exacerbating black marginalization. There are folks who believe that black uplift lies in sufficient guile and thrift, and folks believe that gun ownership is necessary to fend off white supremacy. There are powerful impulses coursing through institutions as disparate as black sororities and fraternities and the Nation of Islam.

And it’s the blackness of those philosophies that confounds the conventional left-right political continuum. Black conservatives are more likely to take as a given that racism — and anti-blackness, in particular — is a defining force in American life. If the old saw goes that a conservative is a liberal who has been mugged, then a black conservative is a conservative who has been assumed to be the mugger.

To put this another way: Those black conservatives differ from mainstream conservatism because they aren’t organized around white interests. Black conservatives get black people, whereas white conservatives who applaud Kanye for “escaping the Democrat plantation” are so removed from black folks that they think it makes sense to invoke the language of slavery to describe the overwhelming majority of black voters.

Whiteness, demographically and ideologically, has been so central to the mainstream conservative project that bringing black conservatives into the fold and into the Republican Party — which derives almost all of its electoral support from white conservatives — wouldn’t just change its racial demographics. It would effectively change the party’s ideological composition, as well.

Leah Wright Rigeur, a Harvard political scientist and the author of the Loneliness Of The Black Republican, said that rank-and-file black Republicans often express frustration with their party’s messaging and policies toward black people. They are often ignored by fellow Republicans.

But they’re also viewed with suspicion by other black folks. “There’s research that shows that black folks hold much more negative opinions about black Republicans than they are of white Republicans with the same views, because they feel like it’s a betrayal,” Rigeur said. And because the handful of black Republicans with higher profiles — Herman Cain, Allen West, Ben Carson, Mia Love— don’t talk to or about other black people with any particular warmth or facility, it adds to the sense that their primary role is to be the Republican party’s Black Friend.

And so the very things that endear figures like Kanye to Republicans — his willingness to troll black people, to proclaim concerns about race obsolete, to embrace white conservatives — are the very same things that ignite black people’s distrust of figures like Kanye. And it’s the thing that both Kanye and Republicans who see him as a potential evangelist to black folks keep missing: you can’t break bread if you’re not invited to the cookout.

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The Perks Of Counting The Wallflowers

Wallflowers

The U.S. economy is improving steadily. The unemployment rate continues to fall. Usually, when companies expand their workforces and start hiring, the supply of workers dries up and wages start to climb faster.

But that’s not happening right now. Wages are rising at a measly 2.6 percent. That’s barely higher than inflation.

Elise Gould, a senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute, says the way we classify workers misses a key part of the potential workforce. And there’s a lot more slack in the labor market than you’d think just by looking at the unemployment rate.

Links:

Newly Employed People Who Weren’t Looking for a Job

Wage Growth

Prime Age Employment

Music by Drop Electric. Find us: Twitter/ Facebook.

Subscribe to our show on Apple Podcasts, PocketCasts and NPR One.

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Don Friedman On Piano Jazz

In honor of the birthday of Don Friedman (May 4, 1935 — June 30, 2016), Piano Jazz presents this broadcast from 1996. Although Friedman first studied classical piano, he fell in love with the voice of jazz and performed with jazz greats such as Chet Baker and Buddy DeFranco.

In this session, Friedman demonstrates his unique sound on a solo of his “Waltz for Marilyn.” He and McPartland duet in “Stella by Starlight,” and bassist Gary Mazzaroppi joins for “How Deep is the Ocean.”

Originally broadcast Winter 1996.

SET LIST

  • “Alone Together” (Dietz, Schwartz)
  • “In Your Own Sweet Way” (Brubeck)
  • “Yesterdays” (Harbach, Kern)
  • “Days of Wine and Roses” (Mancini)
  • “Stella by Starlight” (Washington, Young)
  • “Waltz for Marilyn” (Friedman)
  • “These Foolish Things” (Strachey, Maschwitz, Link)
  • “How Deep is the Ocean” (Berlin)
  • “Getting Sentimental Over You” (Kahn, Malneck)

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India Reforms Its Anti-Rape Laws — To Mixed Reaction

Men walk near the site where the body of an 8-year-old girl, who was raped and murdered, was found in January.

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Channi Anand/AP

On May 2, two girls, ages 10 and 12, appeared in court to testify against a man they said had raped them repeatedly at the orphanage where they lived in the Indian city of Hyderabad.

They had been rescued by the police and were sent to live in a shelter run by Prajwala, an organization that has supported rape victims in India since 1996, giving them a place to live on their campus and the skills that can help them rebuild their lives.

Now seeking justice, the young girls waited in court an entire day only to learn that their case had been adjourned — for the third time.

Lawyers and activists working with child abuse victims say these kinds of delays are common in India’s overworked judicial system.

India is trying to makes its judicial system more efficient — and to set stronger penalties for convicted rapists. New laws have been passed. But there are concerns that these ordinances will be difficult to implement or could even backfire.

The kind of delay the two girls faced simply should not happen. A law called POCSO — the Protection of Children Against Sexual Offenses Act — calls for the establishment of new child-friendly courts and better procedures in existing courts so young victims wouldn’t have to make numerous appearances in order to testify. The act came into effect in 2012, after a 21-year-old student was brutally raped on a bus and later died of her injuries.

The aim of POCSO was to offer better protection for all women — in particular for minors. According to statistics from India’s National Crime Records Bureau, 4 out of 10 rape victims are minors. In 2016, only 6,626 — nearly a tenth of its 64,138 pending cases of child rape went to trial. Of those that did, the conviction rate was only 28.2 percent.

But, as in the case of the young girls from Prajwala, adjournments are still very prevalent, says Krishnan.

This year, in the wake of the rape and murder of an 8-year-old girl, there is a growing public effort to call for stiffer laws and severe punishments. And more changes are afoot.

On April 21, Prime Minister Narendra Modi responded to public pressure for tougher rape laws and passed an ordinance to amend the POCSO law.

One major revision is that anyone convicted of raping a child 12 years old or younger will automatically get the death penalty. In the case of a rape of a minor below the age of 16, the punishment is now a 20-year jail sentence or life imprisonment, compared to a 10-year maximum of jail time before.

In addition, the president’s new ordinance calls for fast-tracking all rape trials so there would be a judgment in six months — a time frame that activists believe is rather ambitious, given the sheer number of cases still pending in court.

Despite the seeming progress, activists raise a number of concerns.

Death Penalty Debate

In many of the cases involving sexual offenses against minors, Karuna Nundy, a lawyer who tries cases in India’s Supreme court, says the rapist is often a known assailant — in some cases, even a close relative.

According to the 2016 NCRB data, in 94.8 percent of the rape cases, the rapists were not strangers. They were friends, neighbors, people who were known to the children.

“By instituting the death penalty, the reporting of such crimes may decline,” says Nundy. A day after the ordinance was passed, Bharti Ali, the co-director of HAQ: Centre for Child Rights, a Delhi-based NGO, contended with one such case: “I was dealing with a woman who would soon testify against her husband. He was under trial for raping their minor daughter.”

The woman, she says, was worried about whether the death penalty would come into effect. While she wanted her husband punished, she didn’t want him to be put to death.

“It isn’t easy for victims to get past the social stigma and report rape in India,” says Ali. “When they do report it, the [prospect of the] death penalty shouldn’t cause them to reconsider. The death penalty can also induce a rapist to kill his victim, because he would not want his victim to testify against him in court.”

Fast-Tracking Could Be Slow Going

The new amendment has proposed fast-tracking of rape cases. But India does not have the infrastructure to make this an easy fix, say judicial observers.

“We still have very few courts dedicated exclusively for child victims of sexual assault,” says Sunitha Krishnan, co-founder of the anti-trafficking organization, Prajwala (who herself was raped when she was 15 years old). “In most cities, courts only have designated times for children to testify.”

As a result, cases can back up, creating further delays. “Investing in and creating this infrastructure should be the priority.” says Krishnan. “Unless we recruit and train judicial officers and redress issues pertaining to the shortage of judicial officers, nothing will change.”

Then there is the matter of evidence. Convictions in rape cases hinge on DNA evidence from forensic scientific labs. There are only six of these labs in all of India, and only 3 are equipped for DNA testing. Thousands of cases are still pending at these labs across the country. “In such a situation, the victim would have to wait at least two years to get the report, making it impossible to fast track their cases,” says Bharti Ali.

A Registry Proposal

On the same day he amended the law, Prime Minister Modi also announced the government’s intention to set up a National Sex Offender Registry to register and track rapists.

This proposal is being hotly debated in India. While activists like Krishnan feel that it will help monitor sexual offenders and prevent crime, Ali is a critic: “Once you brand someone a rapist it can prevent them from ever wanting to reform or reintegrate into society,” she says.

Meanwhile, the two young girls at Prajwala, like thousands of others in their situation around the country, are still waiting for justice.

Kamala Thiagarajan is a freelance journalist based in Madurai, South India. Her work has appeared in The International New York Times,BBC Travel and Forbes India. You can follow her @kamal_t

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