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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And now, from sports to music in our series Heavy Rotation. Each month, NPR Music asks public radio personalities at member stations around the country to tell us about a song that they just can't get enough of. We invite one of them to share their pick on MORNING EDITION. And today, a voice already familiar to many NPR listeners.

GWEN THOMPKINS, BYLINE: Gwen Thompkins, NPR News, Mogadishu.

GREENE: NPR's former East Africa correspondent is now back in her hometown of New Orleans at station WWNO.

THOMPKINS: I'm Gwen Thompkins and I host Music Inside Out. It's a weekly, hour-long interview program with tons of music in which we showcase a standard bearer of Louisiana music.

GREENE: Thompkins says her reporting in Africa has informed her current gig.

(LAUGHTER)

THOMPKINS: I may be the only person who can say from experience that the New Orleans music scene is very much organized the way that the Somali clan...

(LAUGHTER)

THOMPKINS: ...culture is organized in East Africa. You know, families and clans kind of have set the tone for music in New Orleans.

GREENE: And that's definitely true for the song Gwen has on Heavy Rotation. It's by a member of the Marsalis family. They're considered the first family of jazz. The song is called "Ballet Class," and it showcases the vibraphone.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BALLET CLASS")

THOMPKINS: Jason Marsalis is the youngest of the six brothers in the Marsalis family, four of whom of course play jazz. And he came up as a drummer and also embraced the vibraphone.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BALLET CLASS")

THOMPKINS: It's a way to embrace rhythm but at the same time, to add a melodic quality to rhythm.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BALLET CLASS")

GREENE: Thompkins says "Ballet Class" keeps listeners on their toes.

THOMPKINS: The song is restless at the same time, you know, because it conveys this sense of movement - and movement that can take so many forms.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BALLET CLASS")

THOMPKINS: And the thing about Jason Marsalis is I think he's in his mid 30s, but he's got three little girls. I don't know if they dance ballet, but I wouldn't be surprised if they did. And I can just see him looking at their toes and coming up with these wonderful vibraphone sounds.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BALLET CLASS")

GREENE: That pick for Heavy Rotation comes to us from Gwen Thompkins. She's the host of Music Inside Out at WWNO in New Orleans.

THOMPKINS: The song I'm listening to over and over and over again is called "Ballet Class" by the Jason Marsalis Vibes Quartet, on the quartet's latest album "In a World of Mallets."

GREENE: And you can hear more from the series at nprmusic.org.

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm David Greene.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BALLET CLASS")

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