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.

Episode 2032        Arlen in Harlem

Working with the forgotten but underestimated lyricist Ted Koehler, Harold Arlen first established himself writing the songs for the Harlem Renaissance revues at the Cotton Club. He and Koehler wrote some of the great songs of the day, including “Stormy Weather,” “I’ve Got a Right To Sings the Blues,” and “Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea.”

Episode 2031  Hart on the Heart

When you write for Broadway, love songs are a necessity. Lorenz Hart was a tortured soul who somehow managed to write about love and romance. It helped that his viewpoint was ambiguous, even bittersweet, and usually laced with a dose of irony. More then any other songwriter, he knew all there was to know about what he once called “the self-deception that believes the lie.”

Episode 2030

7/25      Matchmaker: The Love Songs of Sheldon Harnick Lyricist Sheldon Harnick was never a household name despite his great success on Broadway--Fiddler on the Roof, Fiorello, She Loves Me, and more. Nothing was harder for him to write than love songs even though every musical requires them. He met the challenge in his own way.

Episode 2029

7/18      Business Girl Between the 1870s and the 1920s, when large numbers of young women left home and family for independent lives in the big city, they were daring a great deal--reputation, physical safety, homesickness, and conventional happiness. The composers and lyricists of the time told their stories in song.

Episode 2028  

7/11      How Duke Ellington Wrote No one worked the way Ellington did. Duke Ellington played piano onstage, but not when he was composing. He had a way of writing unlike any other composer. After a night of playing, individual musicians begin to improvise. Ellington listened, selected, and shaped what he heard. Out of the chaos came an intricate unified piece.

Episode #2027

7/4        Sinatra Swings the Slow In the 1950s, Capitol Records took a chance on a washed-up Frank Sinatra. He sang what he called “saloon songs” but he also made a series of recordings that were hipper, more jazz-inflected, but also harder-edged. In their own way, they were as sexually aware as the “saloon songs.”

Episode #2026 (Encore 1941)

The night stretches out but the years whiz by, and life happens to happen--parceled out in a hundred popular songs. Hidden somewhere under all the moonbeams and starlight, its diamond days and ebony nights, popular music sets aside a corner for imperfection, insufficiency, and aging. The songs range from the humorous to ironic to melancholy.

Daily Urbanista

Episode #2025 (Encore 1812)

Songs love to go on about forever and eternity, but anybody with half a brain knows it isn’t necessarily like that. Things are more likely to be momentary, temporary, and occasional—and there are songs about that, too. They’re earthbound love songs that refuse to dwell on the heavens above.


Episode # 2024 (Encore 1745)

Love comes without a guarantee. It’s not something we want to believe, but we learn to endure the worst of times. Separation, divorce, and, with them, the death of assumptions. Songs are good at looking back nostalgically at the past, but remembering offers little consolation--until it does. These songs range over the emotional map, but at their heart lies a sense of regret and even despair.

Episode 2023 (Encore 1702)

Jay Gatsby of West Egg Long Island was known for his extravagant parties. Those who came gossiped and flirted, and the music of the day was an essential part of it all. Fitzgerald punctuates The Great Gatsby with allusions to popular songs and bits and pieces of their lyrics. The songs of the time become a template for characters and what’s going on between them.