American Routes

Saturdays at 7 p.m. and Sundays at 6 p.m.
  • Hosted by Nick Spitzer

American Routes is a two-hour weekly excursion into American music, spanning eras and genres—roots rock and soul, blues and country, jazz, gospel and beyond.

American Routes Shortcuts: Charlie Gabriel

Oct 20, 2017
Charlie Gabriel
American Routes

Sax and clarinet player Charlie Gabriel’s roots are in New Orleans traditional jazz, but he made a name for himself playing with Lionel Hampton and Aretha Franklin. Charlie learned how to play saxophone and clarinet from his father in the Crescent City, and he began playing in local bands at age 11. As a teen, his family moved to Detroit, where he lived for almost 60 years before returning home to New Orleans to play with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band.

Creoles and Cowgirls

Oct 17, 2017

We hit up Preservation Hall in the French Quarter for a potent dose of trad jazz, as bandleader and fourth-generation Creole musician Charlie Gabriel tells of his Caribbean roots, jazz funerals, and New Orleans’ hybrid rhythms. Then we head to the Lonestar state to hear the reworking of jazz into Texas swing, as played by the Quebe Sisters. The fiddling siblings tell of their sheltered upbringing outside Ft. Worth and their fiery baptism into western swing.

American Routes Shortcuts: Laura Cantrell

Oct 13, 2017
Laura Cantrell
American Routes

This week on American Routes Shortcuts, we hear from Nashville-native, Laura Cantrell, about finding success as a country singer after moving to New York City. Laura worked as an investment banker, a day job she happily gave up a couple of years ago when her musical career took wing. With a strong sense of the country song tradition, Laura is also the host of her own show, Radio Thrift Shop, on the freeform station WFMU in Jersey City. Laura recalls her Nashville pedigree.

More Words and Music

Oct 10, 2017

Music as literature…a concept explored by songwriter, singer and guitarist Laura Cantrell who joins us to talk about her picaresque journey from Nashville to New York.  And writer, cultural critic and Boston Boy Nat Hentoff recalls his famous associations from Charles Mingus to Billie Holiday and why Charlie Parker loved country music.  Plus Delhi, LA soul man Toussaint McCall talks about the writing of his magnum opus "Nothing Takes the Place of You."  Country, jazz, blues, R&B and more come together for this hardcover edition

American Routes Shortcuts: Ira Padnos

Oct 6, 2017

Raised in a Jewish suburban family from in Chicago, Dr. Ira Padnos is an anesthesiologist who uses music to bring relief and especially joy to many. Known here as Dr. Ike, he's got a bush of curly hair packed under a fez, and can be seen urgently pedaling his bike through the streets of New Orleans arranging the details of his meteoric masterpiece — the Ponderosa Stomp — since 2002. We slowed him down long enough to talk about it.

Nick Spitzer: How did you get the name Ponderosa Stomp?

Ponderosa Stomp and Americana Swamp

Oct 3, 2017

This week, we’re previewing the 2017 Ponderosa Stomp with master of ceremonies Dr. Ike, who shares his memories of pioneering the yearly extravaganza that turns the spotlight on the unsung heroes of American music. We visit the archives for a conversation with this year’s headliner, R&B guitar-woman from Beaumont, TX, Barbara Lynn.  We’ll also hear from Arizona Twangmaster Duane Eddy, who headlined back in 2010.

American Routes Shortcuts: Charles Neville

Sep 29, 2017
Charles Neville with the Jazzmen at Angola Prison
Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities

This week on American Routes Shortcuts, saxophonist Charles Neville shares about his time at Angola Prison in the '60s. He was among many great musicians who were sent to the penitentiary for drug offenses. One of his great contributions as an inmate was helping to racially and musically integrate prison life. Charles helped form the unlikely but prolific bebop group, the Nic Nacs, and found solace in the music he encountered while at Angola.

In this special program, we visit Angola, the notorious plantation-turned-penitentiary, to hear stories and songs from within the prison’s walls. We talk with saxophonist Charles Neville about serving time at the “Farm” during the Jim Crow era, playing with fellow inmates in the Nic Nacs, and the role of music in integrating prison life. We hear previously unreleased Harry Oster field recordings of Mardi Gras Indian chants and bebop jazz from Angola in the late-50s.

American Routes Shortcuts: Tito Puente

Sep 22, 2017
Tito Puente
American Routes

This week on American Routes Shortcuts, we hear the mambo and rumba sounds of the late Puerto Rican percussionist, Tito Puente. Tito was born in New York City in 1923. After a youth of dancing, playing drums, and hearing Cuban musical influences, his great break came when he joined Machito’s big band as a teenager in the early 40s. He formed his own band a few years later, and literally brought his instrument, the timbales, to the foreground by moving them from the back to the front of the stage.

Latin Tinge

Sep 19, 2017

For National Hispanic Heritage Month, we’re celebrating the “Latin tinge” in American music.  We’ll hear a classic interview with the late nuyorican bandleader and King of the Timbales, Tito Puente, who tells us about the roots of tropical Latin jazz in Spanish Harlem. Then, it’s off to the West Coast, where we visit the Los Angeles club of the late, great bandleader Nati Cano. As leader of Mariachi Los Camperos, Nati Cano was a central figure in the Mexican Mariachi scene of East LA.

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