Netflix Increases Subscription Prices As It Churns Out Original Content

Netflix has increased its prices by 13 to 18 percent. The company’s headquarters are pictured here in Los Gatos, Calif., in 2012.

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Netflix has raised its prices for U.S. viewers, as the company invests in original content amid growing competition from other streaming services.

The company’s most popular subscription plan, which allows high-definition viewing on two screens, has jumped from $10.99 to $12.99 per month. Its cheapest, non-HD plan has risen from $7.99 to $8.99, and its premium plan from $13.99 to $15.99.

It’s the largest hike since the company launched its video streaming service 12 years ago, according to The Associated Press. The increase has drawn a positive response from Wall Street, where Netflix’s stock increased 6.5 percent on Tuesday.

The increase will affect all consumers in the United States, the company tells NPR in a statement, as well as countries in Latin America and the Caribbean where Netflix bills in U.S. dollars, including Uruguay, Barbados and Belize. In the U.S. alone, Netflix has 58 million subscribers.

“We change pricing from time to time as we continue investing in great entertainment and improving the overall Netflix experience for the benefit of our members,” Netflix tells NPR.

Still the dominant player in streaming and subscription video on demand, Netflix has felt pressure from current rivals like Amazon and Hulu, as well as new competition set to enter the market, including Disney, NBC and Apple.

Part of the company’s strategy to deal with increased competition has been to put money into original content, which it has been producing since House of Cards hit the small screen in 2013. Michael Pachter, a media analyst at Wedbush Securities, told NPR last month that Netflix’s goal is “to be a major production company that makes compelling content that is available exclusively on Netflix.”

In a rare move that illustrates the company’s production ambitions, Netflix recently showed an original picture in theaters for several weeks before making it available online. The cinematic, black-and-white film Roma may even be an Oscar contender, NPR’s Jasmine Gard reports. And it’s already won several critics’ choice awards.

Netflix also won an Academy Award last year, for its documentary Icarus about doping among cyclists.

But the California-based company has accumulated extensive debt as it invests in that original content, the AP reports, to the tune of more than $8 billion dollars for 2018.

Netflix has also reached into its pockets for other content that attracts viewers, including the late 90’s and early 2000’s sitcom Friends. The company is paying $100 million to keep licensing the popular program for 2019, up from $30 million, The New York Times reported in December.

Increased subscription revenue will likely help balance the books over the next several years, the AP reports, as long as Netflix’s total user base of 165 million people continues to grow.

Anyone new to the streaming service will immediately be charged the higher prices, while the increases will roll out to existing customers over the next few months. Netflix will notify existing members by email 30 days before raising the cost of their subscription.

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D.C. Judge Tells Furloughed Workers They Must Stay On The Job

Demonstrators protest against the government shutdown in Boston on Friday.

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Scott Eisen/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A Washington, D.C., judge ruled Tuesday that furloughed federal workers who are not getting paid because of a government shutdown must continue to do their jobs.

It’s a setback for the workers who brought the lawsuit against the Trump administration.

“Calling people back to work, as the federal government is doing, without paying them is unlawful,” attorney Gregory O’Duden tells NPR. O’Duden is general counsel for the National Treasury Employees Union that brought the suit in consolidation with a claim from the National Air Traffic Controllers Association.

“We will continue our fight to rectify what we think is an erroneous decision,” O’Duden adds.

The workers had sued for a temporary restraining order that would remove the obligation to go to work if they were not being paid. O’Duden says he represents about 150,000 people but seeks relief for about 400,000 federal employees who have been deemed “excepted,” meaning they are required to work without pay. In their suit, the plaintiffs claimed that the government has authorized agencies “to require employees to work in a far broader range of circumstances” than the law provides. They wanted that law ruled unconstitutional and for government offices to stop requiring that workers do their jobs without payment.

U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon denied the workers’ request for a restraining order that would require the government to pay its employees or allow them to stay home, The Washington Post reports. He reportedly said it would be “profoundly irresponsible” to issue an order that would keep thousands of workers off the job.

With his ruling, Leon maintained the status quo. However, he asked for further information from the government and union, O’Duden says. The attorney says the judge will hear additional arguments on Jan. 31.

The Department of Justice representing the government has declined NPR’s request for comment.

The NTEU represents workers at the Internal Revenue Service, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Parks Service and several other offices. The National Air Traffic Controllers Association represents about 24,000 Federal Aviation Administration employees working during the shutdown without pay, The Post reports.

“[Judge Leon] indicated that he believed that federal employees would in the end get paid. They may well get paid, or they may not,” O’Duden tells NPR. He says although Congress and President Trump have expressed interest in issuing back pay to furloughed workers, “the president, he changes his mind quite a bit, and so I don’t think any assumption can be made about if in the end they will get paid.”

The shutdown is the longest in U.S. history and has had wide effects on thousands of workers.

Admiral Karl Schultz, Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard, tweeted, “To the best of my knowledge, this marks the first time in our Nation’s history that servicemembers in a U.S. Armed Force have not been paid during a lapse in appropriations.” He published a letter to Coast Guard members sharing news that USAA had donated $15 million to the Coast Guard Mutual Assistance program.

Today you will not be receiving your regularly scheduled paycheck. To the best of my knowledge, this marks the first time in our Nation’s history that servicemembers in a U.S. Armed Force have not been paid during a lapse in appropriations. Read more: https://t.co/5tLzGhK2nt pic.twitter.com/J2o00zWm0k

— Admiral Karl Schultz (@ComdtUSCG) January 15, 2019

Federal workers have resorted to visiting food banks and taking second jobs to pay their rent, mortgage, childcare and other financial obligations.

The Guardian‘s Jamiles Lartey tells NPR‘s All Things Considered the shutdown is having an outsized effect on black workers. African-Americans rely on the wages and job security of government work that they historically struggled to find in the private sector, she says. Black-owned firms are also more likely to work with federal contracts, which will not receive back pay.

Attorney O’Duden says he hopes the next court hearing will make progress in releasing 400,000 excepted federal employees from their obligations to work without pay.

“There was no victory today,” O’Duden concedes. “I think this is part of a process. And our fight goes on.”

Previous lawsuits to get back pay and damages from the government have taken years to resolve. Attorney Heidi Burakiewicz represents two people working at the Federal Bureau of Prisons who are also suing the government over this year’s shutdown. She tells All Things Considered that it took four years to win a lawsuit she filed on behalf of federal workers during the 2013 shutdown.

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Gunman Who Fatally Shot Chicago's Hadiya Pendleton Sentenced To 84 Years In Prison

Micheail Ward continued to deny his role as the gunman in the fatal shooting of Hadiya Pendleton at a sentencing hearing on Jan. 14. Ward was convicted of first-degree murder and aggravated battery in August.

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The man who fatally shot Hadiya Pendleton, 15-year-old girl whose death became a symbol of the rampant gun violence plaguing Chicago, was sentenced Monday to 84 years in prison.

The convicted gunman, Micheail Ward, did not receive a life sentence as Hadiya’s mother, Cleopatra Cowley had asked the court, but he will likely spend the rest of his life in prison for killing the girl and injuring two other people.

Ward is 24 years old.

Ward and Kenneth Williams, who was the getaway driver in the shooting, were both convicted of first-degree murder and two counts of aggravated battery in August. The men were tried together but had separate juries due to differing defense strategies.

Despite a video-taped confession after his arrest weeks after the shooting in 2013, Ward maintained his innocence throughout the trial and the sentencing hearing.

“Why am I the only person sitting here being found guilty for something I know for a fact I didn’t do?” Ward asked the court on Monday, NPR member station WBEZ reported.

“I didn’t like anything about this case,” he continued. “I didn’t like that y’all found me guilty for something you said I did.”

His lawyers have argued that detectives manipulated Ward into making a false statement during a daylong interrogation nearly six years ago.

The South Side teenager was shot to death on Jan. 29, 2013, while standing with friends in a small park about a mile from the home of then-President Barack Obama. Prosecutors argued Ward opened fire on the group of students mistaking them for members of a rival gang.

A week before she was shot in the back, the honor student and drum majorette had performed at Obama’s second inauguration. First lady Michelle Obama attended Hadiya’s funeral.

“I loathe Michaeil and his very existence because every breath he gets to take is one breath more than my 15-year-old daughter was allowed to breathe,” Cowley said, reading from a written statement in court, according to CNN. “Hadiya is serving a death sentence handed down by Michaeil Ward and the family is doing life as a result of her death,” she added.

The Chicago Tribune reported Ward plans to appeal the conviction. Williams still faces sentencing.

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IRS Recalling 46,000 Workers To Handle Tax Returns Despite Partial Shutdown

IRS worker Christine Helquist joins a federal workers protest rally against the government shutdown outside the federal building in Ogden, Utah.

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Rick Bowmer/AP

More than half of the workforce of the Internal Revenue Service, or about 46,000 employees, will be recalled to work for the tax filing season despite the partial government shutdown, according to a Treasury Department announcement.

The recalled employees will not be paid during the shutdown, now in its fourth week, although all federal workers have been promised back pay when funding is approved.

The tax filing season for individuals begins Jan. 28. The Trump administration said last week that the shutdown would not impact tax refunds.

Bringing workers back into service is necessary “to protect Government property, which includes tax revenue, and maintain the integrity of the federal tax collection process,” the document says.

The IRS “Shutdown Contingency Plan” says the agency has 80,265 employees, and 46,052 workers “would be retained in the case of a shutdown.”

The agency will not perform audits, or other agency functions such as taxpayer assistance, during the shutdown.

The recall to work without pay was not welcomed by the National Treasury Employees Union, which represents about 70,000 IRS workers. In a statement, the union says the IRS employees are being forced “to show up in exchange only for an IOU.”

The union has filed two lawsuits against the administration. The first suit challenges the government’s ability to require federal employees to work without pay. The second suit argues that the Constitution bars the government from entering obligations (such as eventually paying workers after the shutdown is over) unless the funds are appropriated by Congress. A federal district judge in Washington, D.C., denied a request for a temporary restraining order Tuesday. Another hearing is scheduled for Jan. 31.

“There is no doubt the IRS needs to get ready for the 2019 filing season that starts Jan. 28, and IRS employees want to work. But the hard, cold reality is that they’ve already missed a paycheck and soon they’ll be asked to work for free for as long as the shutdown lasts,” said NTEU National President Tony Reardon.

“I’m worried whether these employees will have the money to put gas in their car to get to work,” he added.

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Wait Times Normal At Most Airports, TSA Says, As More Agents Call Out Sick

Transportation Security Administration agents help passengers through a security checkpoint at Newark Liberty International Airport in Newark, N.J., on Monday. Agents have been working without pay since the shutdown began.

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Seth Wenig/AP

Wait times at major airports around the country remain mostly within normal range, according to the Transportation Security Administration, despite an increase in absences among agents working without pay.

The agency saw a 6.8 percent rate of unscheduled absences on Monday, compared to 2.5 percent on the same day one year ago, according to a TSA statement released Tuesday. The number of call outs has continued to rise since the holidays as a result of the partial government shutdown, the agency says.

Some airports have had to consolidate and slow operations because of the unexpected absences, leading to long lines and closed checkpoints. But the agency says the average wait time across the country remained within “normal TSA times of 30 minutes.”

Over 99 percent of passengers waited less than a half hour, while 94.3 percent spent less than 15 minutes in security lines, according to the agency. For PreCheck lines, the average wait stayed under the expected 10 minutes.

“On a daily basis, the dedicated TSA men and women across the country who continue to report for work at airports across the nation demonstrate commitment and professionalism at the highest levels,” the statement reads.

While the TSA did not release staffing breakdowns by airport, due to security concerns, the absences have had an outsized effect at certain airports, as NPR’s David Schaper reports. Atlanta, Houston, Washington-Dulles, Miami and Dallas-Fort Worth are among airports that have had to close security lanes and checkpoints because of a shortage of screeners.

In Atlanta, travelers waited for almost 90 minutes in lines that snaked through the country’s busiest airport. Elise Durham, a spokeswoman for the Hartsfield-Jackson airport, advised travelers to arrive three hours early.

Atlanta Airport 10:15 a.m. : In this video we started at the back of the security point entrance, walked the line to baggage claim. @wsbtv pic.twitter.com/PBLd1XRhwQ

— Nicole Carr (@NicoleCarrWSB) January 14, 2019

“Given the federal shutdown, we are beginning to feel a little bit of an impact, as it pertains to having some TSA workers who have not reported to work,” Durham tells NPR.

TSA data show Dallas Love Field experienced the second-highest peak wait times after Atlanta, though The Dallas Morning News reports the lines were unrelated to TSA staffing shortages. Honolulu, Newark and Miami had the next longest maximum wait times, all clocking in at just under half an hour.

Peak wait times for PreCheck passengers were highest at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, at 14 minutes.

Government workers, including TSA agents, recently missed their first paycheck of the year, as a result of the country’s longest partial government shutdown. Federal employees are expected to receive back pay for hours worked during the shutdown, once the political stalemate ends.

But TSA employees are among the lowest-paid government workers. Agents earn an average of about 17 to 20 dollars an hour, and many live paycheck to paycheck, as NPR has reported. MSNBC’s Ali Velshi says some employees are calling in sick in order to work other jobs that pay their bills.

“They’re very frustrated,” Velshi tells Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson. “They’re hoping this ends soon.”

Meanwhile, food banks have stepped in to help furloughed and unpaid government workers, including TSA employees. And Schaper reports that air travelers across the country have been gracious, offering thanks to the employees, who are forbidden to accept tips.

“It makes it easier to do what we have to do,” an unnamed employee, who was not authorized to speak to the media, told Schaper. “There’s nobody giving you complaints about you having to go through their bag. It just makes it easier so we can get you to your plane.”

The partial government shutdown has also proved costly to airlines. Ed Bastian, CEO of Delta Air Lines, told CNBC on Tuesday that his company expects to lose $25 million this month because fewer government employees and contractors are flying.

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One Of The Last Navajo Code Talkers Dies At 94

Alfred K. Newman, a Navajo Code Talker, died at age 94.

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Courtesy of Kevin Newman

One of the last remaining Navajo Code Talkers, who relayed messages that were never decoded by enemies in World War II, has died at age 94.

Alfred Newman died Sunday afternoon at a New Mexico nursing home, one of his sons, Kevin Newman, tells NPR.

He says his father was a quiet yet courageous man. “My dad told me that the U.S. was in trouble and when they were calling for him, he needed to answer that call with the armed forces,” he says.

As a boy, Alfred Newman attended a boarding school that, like many schools at the time, forbade Indian students from speaking in their native tongue, Dine.

That complex language proved to be vital to the United States during World War II. As the Japanese cracked classified U.S. military codes, armed forces turned to members of the Navajo Nation. The messages they transmitted in the Pacific Theater were impenetrable to enemies.

Newman enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1943, after the attack on Pearl Harbor. He served in such places as Guam and Iwo Jima.

In an interview, he said that because there were no word in the Dine language for tanks, he would message fellow code talkers about turtles, “cheh-tala-hes.” The word for bomb was potato.

Newman was honorably discharged at the end of 1945. Then he worked as an ammunition inspector and at an open-pit mine overseeing blasting, his son says.

“He loved to sit out on the porch of the Whiskey Creek canyon where they had a cabin,” Donna Newman, a daughter-in-law, tells NPR. “He loved to watch the animals, chipmunks and wild turkeys walking by. He was the first to spot them.”

As NPR previously reported, Code Talkers returned to the United States without glory or fanfare. The program was kept secret until 1968 because the military continued to rely on their encrypted language.

Newman with his sister-in-law, Marian.

Courtesy of Kevin Newman


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Courtesy of Kevin Newman

In 2001, President George W. Bush honored 21 Code Talkers for giving “their country a service only they could give.” He called their work “a story of ancient people, called to serve in a modern war.”

Newman was awarded medals but, “who wants to lug that big thing around?” he said.

“He never wanted acknowledgment,” Kevin Newman tells NPR. “He was very humble about that. It was just a duty for him.” He added that his father never spoke about his time as a Code Talker, and that he only learned about his dad’s service in the 1980s.

Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye describes Alfred Newman as “a hero” who “stood amongst giants. We will be forever grateful for his contributions and bravery, as well as that of each and every one of our Navajo Code Talkers. They are national treasures.”

By the end of the war, more than 400 Navajo men were trained as Code Talkers.

According to the Navajo Times, no official count of the remaining Code Talkers exists but “most agree there are less than 10.”

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New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand Announces 2020 Presidential Run

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand speaks to supporters during an election night watch party hosted by the New York State Democratic Committee on election night in 2018.

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Mary Altaffer/AP

Updated at 6:57 p.m. ET

New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand says she is running for president, joining a growing number of Democrats who are seeking to challenge President Trump in 2020.

Gillbrand announced her decision on CBS’s The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, saying she is filing her exploratory committee for the White House on Tuesday evening.

TONIGHT: @SenGillibrand stops by @colbertlateshow to announce that she is forming an exploratory committee to run for President of the United States! #LSSC pic.twitter.com/vPUpF1gs8z

— The Late Show (@colbertlateshow) January 15, 2019

“I’m going to run for president of the United States, because as a young mom, I’m going to fight for other people’s kids as hard as I would fight for my own,” Gillibrand told Colbert. “Which is why I believe that health care should be a right and not a privilege. It’s why I believe we should have better public schools for our kids because it shouldn’t matter what block you grow up on. And I believe that anybody who wants to work hard enough should be able to get whatever job training they need to earn their way into the middle class.”

“But you are never going to accomplish any of these things if you don’t take on the systems of power that make all of that impossible — which is taking on institutional racism, it’s taking on the corruption and greed in Washington, taking on the special interests that write legislation in the dead of night,” Gillibrand continued. “And I know that I have the compassion, the courage and fearless determination to get that done.”

She’s the second senator to enter the Democratic primary, after Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren announced an exploratory committee on Dec. 31. Several other Democratic senators are also eyeing bids, including California Sen. Kamala Harris, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar. Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro is also running, as is Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard.

Gillibrand was appointed to the Senate in 2009, succeeding Hillary Clinton when she became secretary of state. Before that, Gillibrand served one term in the House representing the Albany area. She won a special election in 2010 to finish out Clinton’s term and was re-elected in 2012 and 2018. In a debate last fall, Gillibrand said she would serve out her six year term, which if she were to win the race for president, she would not do.

In a campaign video published shortly after she announced her exploratory committee, Gillibrand detailed many issues she’s worked on, including transparency in government, not accepting corporate PAC money and helping push through the 9/11 health bill.

YouTube

The 52-year-old Gillibrand has long been seen as a possible presidential candidate. In the Senate, she’s worked on legislation to combat sexual assault in the military and on college campuses, championed federal family leave and worked to elect more women to office.

“Sometimes people say, ‘Well, why do you just focus on women’s issues?'” Gillibrand told NPR in 2013. “Well, why do you focus on issues that pertain to 52 percent of the population? It’s pretty important. And women are such the untapped potential in this economy.”

Gillibrand’s previous work on sexual assault and gender equality led to her becoming a leading voice in the #MeToo movement on Capitol Hill. In 2017, she was the first senator to call on Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., to resign after he was accused of sexual misconduct. That provoked the ire of some Democrats, who saw Franken as a progressive hero standing up to Trump, and said that Gillibrand had rushed to judgment before the accusations against Franken had been vetted. Politico reported that could hurt her with some potential donors in a presidential campaign.

“It was very difficult because this is somebody I really do care about and think has done great work in the Senate,” she told NPR in 2017 after Franken resigned. “But the truth is, if we are defending this behavior but not that behavior, and talking about this, the gradations between sexual assault versus harassment versus groping, and then where on the body you’re groping — I just don’t think that’s the right conversation to be having.”

Having represented a more conservative area in upstate New York, one issue where Gillibrand could come under scrutiny in the eyes of many Democrats is gun control. When she was appointed to the Senate in 2009, Gillibrand said, “It’s an important part of upstate New York. So I’m going to be an advocate for hunters’ rights. But there is so much area where there’s common ground, where I can work together with anti-gun — with really solving the problem of gun violence.”

She told CBS’s “60 Minutes” last year that she was “wrong” about her previous stances on gun control and was “embarrassed” by them.

“What it’s about is the power of the NRA and the greed of that industry. Let’s be clear. It is not about hunters’ rights, it’s about money,” Gillibrand said.

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High Velocity And Control: Jazz Pianist James Francies Takes His First 'Flight'

Jazz pianist James Francies released his debut album, Flight, in Oct. 2018.

Jati Lindsay/Courtesy of the artist


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Jati Lindsay/Courtesy of the artist

Twenty-three-year-old jazz pianist James Francies has his musical fingerprints all over the place. From leading his own group at 2019’sWinter Jazzfest in New York City to playing shows in Tokyo with guitar legend Pat Metheny, the current pace of Francies’s life is constantly in motion.

“It just feels like you’re on a plane,” Francies says. “Four thousand feet, traveling six hundred miles an hour.”

Last fall, Blue Note Records released Flight, Francies’s debut album.

Francies’s reputation as a sideman is well-earned. The past four years, Francies has been a substitute for keyboardist James Poyser of The Roots, the house band of the Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon. The group faces the unique challenge of backing new and legendary popular recording artists every night.

“Me and my mom would watch the show on Fridays,” Francies says, remembering his teenage years. “And she was like, ‘You know, I feel like you’re going to be like him one day.”

Mom knew best.

His first piano lesson was a lifetime ago. He was 4 and could barely reach the keys.

“My piano teacher gave me this red book,” Francies says. “I remember this [one] piece vividly, because it was only three notes. The teacher showed me something just so I could go home and say I could play something.”

Growing up, Francies’s parents’ music tastes influenced his own. At 6, young Francies was obsessed with a VHS tape celebrating Michael Jackson’s 30-year anniversary.

“I used to listen to Michael Jackson before I listened to jazz, you know,” Francies says. “Which is crazy to think about.”

John Coltrane’s Lush Life with vocalist Johnny Hartman from dad’s collection and his mom’s love for Earth, Wind & Fire and Chaka Khan stuck with him. In fact, Francies did an arrangement of Rufus and Chaka Khn’s 1983 hit “Ain’t Nobody” for Flight.

Joe Sample, the co-founder of The Crusaders, was the first jazz pianist Francies ever saw live. Sample was a family friend who led a benefit performance at Francies’ family’s church.

“It was incredible,” Francies says. “He wrote me a note saying, ‘always love your music.’ I’ll never forget that.”

Fast forward to high school. Francies auditions and gets accepted to Houston’s famed High School for the Performing and Visual Arts. There, he learns technique and an appreciation for classical composers like Igor Stravinsky, his favorite. Pianist Jason Moran, the artistic director of jazz for the Kennedy Center and also an alumni of the school, takes notice in Francies.

Moran recalls a younger Francies playing on a level beyond “where we were when we were his age.”

Moran hints at a mild case of envy for Francies’ almost daily creative experiences with Anderson.Paak and Lauryn Hill, as well jazz veterans Jeff “Tain” Watts and Chris Potter.

“He’s actually done, like, a myriad of kinds of bands that work in very different ways and scales,” Moran says. “So that gives him an entirely different playing field to be starting from.”

Flight showcases Francies originals, mostly instrumentals. The recording features a collaboration with vocalist Yebba. The 23-year-old Arkansas native is a relative newcomer, but she’s sung with PJ Morton, Chance The Rapper and A Tribe Called Quest.

Francies and Yebba exchanged ideas on piano and guitar respectively for the track “My Day Will Come.” The lyrics she wrote initially reflected her grief since her mother’s suicide in 2016.

“I used to listen to Michael Jackson before I listen to jazz, you know,” Francies says. “Which is crazy to think about.”

Jati Lindsay/Courtesy of the artist


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Jati Lindsay/Courtesy of the artist

Yebba recalls Francies’s piano performance as both “fierce” and “gentle” on the finished track. Because the ease was there, she said it allowed her to focus on the simple things that she wanted to say.

“So, instead of me trying to be like, ‘All this pain, all this pain, all this pain…’ I feel like I just have to release that when I sing,” Smith says. “He helped me to release hope.”

A quietly imposing figure standing at least six feet tall, Francies sits real low at the piano to get the most of his hands and arms. His ability to play with high velocity yet control is a skill he’s developed over time. Touched with a bit of inspiration, it emerges naturally.

Francies points to Gonzalo Rubalcaba, a Cuban-born pianist and phenom now in his 50s, as a model for his own maturity to come.

“He [Rubalcaba] gives it to you in nuggets,” Francies says. “It’s kind of like a boxer, you know, setting you up with the jabs, and [then] comes the uppercut.”

Still trying to develop his virtuosity, Francies is sure he’ll get there someday.

Francies turns practical when asked to predict what he will sound like 10 years from now.

“I don’t know, I’m still thinking what I’m gonna sound like Friday. I just hope I sound good,” he says. “I just want to articulate who James Francies is, the best way I can.”

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