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Ashley Kahn

Ashley Kahn is an American music historian, journalist, and producer, as well as a regular commentator on Morning Edition.

Kahn has had different jobs related to music in his career: from deejay to video producer and freelance writer, from road manager to concert producer and TV music editor for VH1. As a road manager, he has toured with jazz musicians including Henry Threadgill, Cassandra Wilson, and Greg Osby; with African artists including Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Hugh Masekela, and Lucky Dube; with rock artists including Paul Simon and Peter Gabriel; and with pop stars including Britney Spears.

His most critically acclaimed books have been on two major jazz albums, Kind of Blue from Miles Davis and A Love Supreme from John Coltrane. Apart from his books, his contributions as a journalist have appeared in the New York Times, Downbeat, Jazz Times and Rolling Stone in the USA; Mojo and New Statesman in the UK; GQ in Japan, and many others.

  • A new book chronicles the history of Malaco Records, one of the oldest continuously run independent record labels in America and one of the biggest gospel labels in the world.
  • Among music composers, there's always been a desire to hear their works performed exactly as conceived. One distinguished jazz guitarist acted on that impulse: He built his own collection of computer-controlled acoustic instruments.
  • When it's inducted on Saturday, RUN DMC will not be the first rap group to make it into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame — that was Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five. But RUN DMC did achieve a number of historic firsts during its heyday in the 1980s.
  • The passion that Andy Bey's singular, silken baritone instills will not be denied. He is a true original — a master of volume, rhythm, and shade. These recordings capture Bey at three momentous points along his musical journey.
  • Bey sings some of the slowest tempos today: Listening to him is like looking over a master artist's shoulder as he applies paint to a canvas. Calling him simply a jazz singer misses the point. There's the passion of gospel in his baritone, plus an operatic sense of drama.
  • The star has just released The Very Best of Mick Jagger, the first overview of his many solo projects since 1970. He recently discussed the CD, the current state of the music scene and what’s different about working without the Stones.
  • One of the most widely imitated saxophonists of the past four decades, Michael Brecker won widespread praise for his awe-inspiring technique and smooth tone. He also earned and maintained the respect of the jazz world while working successfully in the world of popular music.
  • The Staples Singers used to perform at Civil Rights rallies, but never recorded those songs. Mavis Staples has finally put much of that music on her new album, We'll Never Turn Back.
  • Songwriting genius Billy Strayhorn is the subject of a new documentary, as well as a fine companion CD. Both are titled Lush Life, after Strayhorn's enduring composition.
  • Few American composers were on a par with William Thomas Strayhorn. His ability to weave the intricate and sophisticated harmonies of classical music into the richness and swing of big-band jazz was unparalleled. For those looking to hear his music, these titles represent a good start.