The 'All Things Considered' Theme, NOLA Style

Saxophonist Donald Harrison in the studio.

Saxophonist Donald Harrison in the studio. Photos by Andrea Hsu, NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Photos by Andrea Hsu, NPR
Donald Harrison, Michael Randolph, Conun Pappas and Jamal Batiste add a clapping track to the music. i i

From left, Harrison, Michael Randolph, Conun Pappas and Jamal Batiste add a clapping track to the music. hide caption

itoggle caption
Donald Harrison, Michael Randolph, Conun Pappas and Jamal Batiste add a clapping track to the music.

From left, Harrison, Michael Randolph, Conun Pappas and Jamal Batiste add a clapping track to the music.

Conun Pappas on the piano. i i

Conun Pappas, 16, on the piano. He attends the MAX School and the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts. hide caption

itoggle caption
Conun Pappas on the piano.

Conun Pappas, 16, on the piano. He attends the MAX School and the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts.

As we were planning to come here, we floated the idea of having local musicians perform versions of the All Things Considered "trixie," or theme song.

I'd been talking to alto saxophonist Donald Harrison about the Mardi Gras Indians. I'd learned that he mentors young musicians, fostering their careers in music, so I asked him if he might be able to gather a few together to knock out a version of our theme. He graciously agreed — and said he'd play for us too.

And that's how we found ourselves at Piety Street Recording in New Orleans, witnessing musical brilliance unfold.

First to show up was Conun Pappas, who at 16 has tight curls on his head, braces on his teeth, and extraordinary talent at the piano. Pappas attends the MAX Catholic School as well as the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts.

Next to arrive was Harrison himself in a button-down short-sleeve shirt with a saxophone print. And rounding out the group were Jamal Batiste, 23, on drums and Michael Randolph, 20, on bass guitar. Both have been playing music with Harrison for some time, their careers already in full swing.

The four quickly got down to business. Harrison hammered out the trixie melody on the piano, and then one by one, figured out the other instrumentation. It was all coming together with astonishing speed.

"Focus young men, there's no excuse!" Harrison chided at one point. And focus they did. We could hear it taking shape, but could also see it, in the way Harrison — his back to us — began bouncing and swaying to the beat as he directed his improvised composition.

Once the drums, base and piano tracks were recorded, Harrison added the melody on his alto saxophone — a rich, velvety sound.

The four musicians came into the control room to listen to the mix. A few bars in, Harrison started clapping to the music, and the boys immediately followed. Soon, we were all clapping and bouncing and laughing, euphoric over what they had created. I thought we were just having fun, but as soon as the music ended, Donald yelled out: "Let's do it!"

In a flash, all four were back in the studio, headphones on, laying down a clapping track. And that became one of the jazzy themes you're hearing this week.

Our deepest thanks to the musicians for so graciously volunteering their time and their talents. Thanks also to the very skillful Wesley Fontenot at Piety Street Recording, who engineered this beautiful recording.

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