WRTI Picks from NPR Music

We've picked the best classical and jazz posts from NPR Music!

2016 has been a time of great loss for music: Prince, David Bowie, Leonard Cohen and Sharon Jones all passed away this year, just to name a few. The jazz world was no exception.

Christmas is coming, and soon TV screens everywhere will light up with that 1946 holiday classic, It's a Wonderful Life. But the same story is coming a little early to the stage of the Houston Grand Opera. That's right: An operatic version of George Bailey's struggle with life and death opens this Friday.

Librettist Gene Scheer admits that adapting such a beloved movie has sometimes felt like a fool's errand. "It's almost secular scripture, this piece," he says. "Everyone knows all the lines."

Joyce DiDonato is one of the most acclaimed opera singers of her generation; this year, she won the Grammy for Best Classical Vocal Solo. Her latest album, In War and Peace: Harmony Through Music, is a collection of baroque arias from the 17th and 18th centuries divided into two sections — one addressing war, the other, peace.

Patrick Jarenwattananon has been the backbone of our jazz coverage almost since NPR Music started in 2007. Patrick came to us as a 22-year-old intern and shortly after began covering legendary and rising jazz luminaries like a veteran journalist. His writing for A Blog Supreme captured the spirit of the jazz community and was a rich resource for thoughtful coverage on this living American musical culture.

Jazz great Wynton Marsalis, a virtuoso trumpet player and Pulitzer Prize-winning composer, has written — wait for it — a violin concerto.

As the daughter of the late virtuoso violinist Roman Totenberg, I was intrigued and wanted to know more. So I spent an hour with Marsalis — and the violinist he wrote his concerto with and for. (More on that later.)

Do you believe in ghosts? The age-old question pops up this time of year when Halloween looms — the answer for opera composers seems to be a resounding "yes." Many of them, from Mozart to Corigliano, have given ghosts a few choice moments on stage. Operatic apparitions arrive suddenly in the middle of the night, crash dinner parties or do their ghostly duty simply by playing tricks on the minds of the living.

After forays into pop and folk, Norah Jones has returned to jazz and the piano for her latest album, Day Breaks. Jones has a long history with the genre –- she says she became "mildly obsessed with it" as a teenager in Dallas, and she signed with the legendary Blue Note Records at just 21. For her latest project, Jones also connected with some true jazz giants, including saxophonist Wayne Shorter.

In 1963, Duke Ellington and his orchestra participated in a State Department "jazz diplomacy" tour of the Middle East. Inspired by the experience, Ellington and composer Billy Strayhorn wrote a collection of songs called The Far East Suite.

Bob Dylan has won the 2016 Nobel Prize in literature. The prolific musician is the first Nobel winner to have forged a career primarily as a singer-songwriter. What's more, he's also the first American to have won the prize in more than two decades. Not since novelist Toni Morrison won in 1993 has an American claimed the prize.

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