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This American Routes takes a look at the two-way musical influence between the Caribbean and Latin America and the U.S. Plus we’ll examine the role of the violin and fiddle in jazz, blues, country and other genres. In hour one, Cuban vocalist and Buena Vista Social Club star Ibrahim Ferrer recalls his long life and career as a guarachero and bolerista. Jazz violinist Regina Carter joins us in hour two and talks about going from Detroit to the conservatory and back again. And there’s great music including Fats Domino, Celia Cruz, The Band and much more.


This American Routes examines new directions for traditional music. Jazz singer Cassandra Wilson talks about coming home to Mississippi from New York to embrace her blues and gospel roots and take them in a new direction. Guitarist Bill Frisell positions his style in a long line of groundbreaking jazz composers and performers. And a great music mix including Robert Johnson, Uncle Tupelo, Billie Holiday and more.


This American Routes focuses on Jewish, Arab-American, Middle Eastern and Islamic influences on African-American music and culture. Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller talk about how “two young Jewish guys” from the east coast wrote some of our most memorable songs, like “Hound Dog,” “Yakety Yak,” and “I’m a Woman.” Plus: music portraying Old Testament tales in gospel and reggae; Middle Eastern images in jazz and pop; and the impact of Islam on the blues. Also, Atlantic Records founder and Turkish ambassador’s son Ahmet Ertegun looks back on over a half-century producing blues, jazz, R&B, soul and rock.


It’s Labor Day weekend, and time to go back to school! Many of the lessons learned in school are valuable, but more often people carry their memories of great teachers, friends and growing up to think for themselves. Likewise, much of America’s greatest music — blues, jazz, country, Cajun — was passed on informally from master players, in clubs, at jam sessions or dances. We’ll visit two special professors who really believe in teaching the musical vernacular both formally and informally. Ray Charles shows kids how to play the blues at his Los Angeles studio, and trumpeter Wynton Marsalis tutors New Orleans high school students in jazz technique and appreciation. We’ll also talk to the all-teen Cajun band from French Louisiana Feufollet about why they learned to play traditional music. Plus, tune in to children’s songs and back-to-school anthems from Chuck Berry, Louis Armstrong, Willie Nelson and Aretha Franklin.