Classical 91.5

Fascinatin' Rhythm with Michael Lasser

Saturdays at 11:00am-12:00pm on WXXI-FM 91.5, WXXI-FM/HD 91.5-1 and online at wxxi

WXXI's Fascinatin' Rhythm presents of popular American music from Stephen Foster to Stephen Sondheim, in the context of their relationship to American history. Every week, host Michael Lasser offers a rich mix of singers, songwriters and songs to explore the history and themes of American popular music.  LISTEN to this past week's show below.

Playlists for Fascinatin' Rhythm are located here.

Jimmy McHugh Music

Episode 1912

3/23      Music by Jimmy McHugh 2. The second of two programs devoted to composer Jimmy McHugh, who wrote the iconic theme music for 20th Century Fox studios, and went on to write hit after hit—for the Cotton Club in Harlem and then on to the movies.

Episode 1911

3/16      Music by Jimmy McHugh 1.  Among the best second tier popular composers was Jimmy McHugh, a Boston Irishman who pounded the piano at opera rehearsals and plugged songs for Irving Berlin before he started to write the memorable songs we still remember. Along the way, mainly in his younger years, he worked with such lyricists as Ted Koehler, Al Dubin, and Frank Loesser.


Fascinatin' Rhythm host Michael Lasser, soprano Cindy Miller and baritone & pianist Alan Jones present and afternoon of songs, stories and commentary in the Glazer Music Performance Center at Nazareth College, Sunday, May 5th, 2:00-4:00pm.


Episode 1910

3/9       Crossword Puzzles. Crossword puzzles became all the rage in the 1920s, along with all sorts of games and puzzles.Who’d have thought they’d have sat still long enough to figure them out. Are there enough songs to fill an hour? I take some liberty with anything that smacks of black and white.

American Public Media

Episode 1909

3/2   Dreaming Through the Forties. It’s hard to imagine popular music without references to dreaming. It’s an essential part of how love songs look at the world (and sometimes try to escape from it). It was especially an essential part of how we managed to get through on the home front during World War II.

Harlem World Magazine

Episode 1908

2/23      Stomping at the Savoy. The Savoy Ballroom was the one place where blacks and whites could mingle—could gather to dance. It opened on Lenox Avenue in Harlem in 1926, in the middle of the Harlem Renaissance. The dance floor was ten thousand square feet, and the best bands in the land competed in cutting sessions against Chick Webb, the King of the Savoy. Here’s the Savoy in story and song and unequalled musicianship.


Episode 1907

2/16      Phrasing. A moment of acceleration or hesitation, or perhaps the bending of a note. Phrasing is the way singers express what’s inside a song without losing the song in the process. It enhances and even deepens the song in the hands of a great singer. Ultimately, through phrasing, the singer serves the song.

Sheet Music Warehouse

Episode 1906

2/9        The Alleyman. These are professional songwriters who kept Americans singing through the first thirty years of the twentieth century. They wrote every kind of song their audiences were interested in, from waltzes to ragtime songs, ballads to dance tunes. They worked, more or less anonymously in Tin Pan Alley, so even though we didn’t know their names, we could (and did) sing their songs.

Library of Congress

Episode 1905  

2/2        My Syncopated Melody Man. Take away the syncopation and there’s not left. It’s at the heart of what makes American popular song both distinctive and American. It came to us from the music of African Americans—jazz and ragtime, in particular—and then the songwriters of Tin Pan Alley translated it into a new language: universal American.


Episode 1904

1/26      Amblin’ Along There’s an old American tradition to leaving town for the open road—to settle the West, to give in to wanderlust and see what’s beyond the horizon, to redefine yourself where nobody knows your name. Words like “wandering,” “ambling,” “rambling,” and “meandering.” Wanderers find their purpose as they keep moving along—or so the old American idea says. So strong an idea it even figures in popular songs.