NPR Music

Frank Sinatra was born a hundred years ago today. Even if you think his music just isn't your music, it's hard to get through life without uttering what I'll call a "Frank Phrase" from one of his songs at telling times in our lives.

"So set 'em up, Joe ... Fly me to the moon ... I've got you under my skin ... My kind of town ... I did it my way ... I want to wake up in a city that doesn't sleep ..." And that wry elegy for lost loves and lonely nights: "So make it one for my baby, and one more for the road."

Wayne Horvitz is one of those musicians who does almost everything — from leading a small group of improvisers to conducting a big band, and from composing for symphony orchestra to running a nightclub. The Seattle-based keyboard player turned 60 this year, and he's celebrating by adding even more to his schedule: playing birthday concerts on both coasts.

When the Grammy Awards' 2016 nominees are announced Monday morning, you'll no doubt hear some familiar names. Taylor Swift and Kendrick Lamar, for example, are expected to pop up in high-profile categories such as Album Of The Year — for last year's 1989 and this year's To Pimp A Butterfly, respectively.

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Transcript

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

When it comes to that special brand of vocal improv called scat singing, Ella Fitzgerald was the queen.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG)

ELLA FITZGERALD: (Scat singing).

Cameron Carpenter plays the organ in a way you'll rarely hear in church. He travels with his instrument on a huge truck, and it takes a small team to set it up in concert halls around the world. A virtuoso composer and performer who plays everything from Bach to pop, not to mention the first organist ever to be Grammy-nominated for a solo album, Carpenter says his connection to the instrument goes back even further than his interest in music.

Hanukkah commemorates the reclaiming of the Holy Temple of Jerusalem during the Maccabean Revolt. It is not some kind of Jewish Christmas.

Singer-songwriter Kevin Gordon stopped by Folk Alley recently for a session taping at Beehive Productions. Joined by Steph Graham on bass, Gordon performed material from his latest album, Long Gone Time. About this song, "Following A Sign," he told us:

Smoke Fairies Know The True Meaning Of Christmas

Dec 1, 2015

Holiday songs aren't all jingling sleigh bells and glistening snowflakes. Elvis is having a blue Christmas without you. Bing Crosby won't make it home for the holiday after all. Grandma met her unfortunate end under the hooves of a reindeer.

"When I see Police I'm Amadou Diallo/ Haunted by the bodies Sahara swallowed/ Did I flee Lampedusa to die over you? " asks the Togolese MC, MuRli on "Heathrow,' by the Limerick, Ireland-based trio, Rusangano Family. The song is a mix of immigrant emotions from a first-person perspective that's as personal as it political.

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