Buddy Guy and August Greene close out ACL’s season 44 with blues and grooves

photo by Scott Newton

Austin City Limits presents a thrilling hour of blues and hip-hop in a new installment featuring legendary bluesman Buddy Guy and August Greene, the all-star collaboration featuring Grammy-, Emmy- and Oscar-winning Common, and renowned modern jazz greats Robert Glasper and Karriem Riggins.

Blues-great Buddy Guy throws down in an entertaining performance of classics and new songs from his Grammy-nominated album The Blues Is Alive and Well. The living legend has played and sang the blues for over half a century, and he proudly flaunts his fretboard expertise and bottomless catalog during his fifth ACL appearance. Guy and his four-piece Damn Right Blues Band take the stage appropriately with the classic “Damn Right I’ve Got the Blues.” Working without a set list, Guy pays tribute to fellow Chicago bluesmen on the Junior Wells classic “Hoodoo Man Blues” and Sonny Boy Williamson’s “Nine Below Zero” then revisits his Grammy-winning 2015 album Born to Play Guitar for the blistering title track. He thrills the ACL audience with the roof-raising “Slippin’ In,” from his Grammy-winning 1994 album of the same name and takes a string-bending, guitar-solo-ing stroll through the captivated crowd as living proof that the blues is, indeed, alive and well.

The dynamic hip-hop collective known as August Greene take us for a beautiful ride, performing numbers from their acclaimed self-titled debut. This supergroup, featuring veteran rapper Common, four-time Grammy-winning keyboardist/producer Robert Glasper and celebrated jazz drummer/producer Karriem Riggins, lay down a sublime groove overlaid by Common’s socially conscious and empowering narrative. Joined by four backing musicians, the group opens with its hit “Black Kennedy,” a hard look at post-Obama America, deftly adding the chorus of Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ On A Prayer” to this celebration of black excellence. Backing vocalist Samora Pinderhughes delivers a spellbinding hook, joining Common at center stage for the urgent “Let Go,” as the rapper encourages the crowd to release any negative energy. The group segues directly into the buoyant “Geto Heaven,” from Common’s 2000 breakthrough classic Like Water For Chocolate, honoring many of the fallen from the civil rights era along with the black victims of contemporary gun violence. “I feel like you all let go right there,” smiles a beaming Common as he champions the excellence of all the musicians onstage and the set closes with dazzling solos from Riggins and Glasper.

photo by Scott Newton

“Buddy Guy is the last living blues legend, and he shows no sign of slowing down,” says ACL executive producer Terry Lickona. “He’s inspired generations of blues guitarists, and his live shows are always mesmerizing. Austin City Limits has a tradition of pushing the limits to showcase music you’ll probably never see anywhere else on TV. August Greene is an amazing collaboration of jazz, rap and soul that’s pure creative genius.”

Tune in this weekend for this episode, and, as always, check your local PBS listings for the broadcast time in your area. Go to the episode page for more info, and don’t forget to click over to our Facebook, Twitter and newsletter pages for more ACL info. Join us next week for another brand new episode, featuring the Americana Music Festival’s seventeenth annual honors and awards program.

August Greene closes the Season 44 taping season with smart grooves

photo by Scott Newton

On their own, Common, Robert Glasper and Karriem Riggins are powerhouses. But put this top tier rapper, keyboardist/producer extraordinaire and renowned drummer/producer together and you have magic. As August Greene, the trio released a stellar debut LP earlier this year that garnered praise from coast to coast. Now, for the final taping of Season 44, the group hit the ACL stage for a riveting set that crossed genres as easily as it made the audience’s booty move.

“We’re honored to be here,” said Common after ACL executive producer Terry Lickona’s opening introduction. Joined by four backing musicians, the group opened with its memorable radio hit “Black Kennedy,” deftly adding the chorus of Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ On A Prayer” to this celebration of black excellence. Common introduced the next song “Practice,” saying it’s about not knowing all the answers out of the box, and detailed getting through this spiritual practice called life— the powerful track was enhanced by backing singers Samora Pinderhughes and Muhsinah Abdul Karim.  Bassist Burniss Travis signaled the next tune with a beautifully melodic solo, before Pinderhughes joined Common at center stage for “Let Go.” The rapper encouraged the crowd to let go of any of their own negative energy, and they happily obliged. While the beat went on, the group segued directly into “Geto Heaven,” a tune from Common’s breakthrough classic Like Water For Chocolate. The band stayed with Common’s solo career for Be’s infectious “Go,” which earned big cheers. Common talked about working with the late producer J Dilla, leading the audience into his chant from “Thelonius,” another number from Chocolate. He then reached back almost a quarter of a century for “I Used to Love H.E.R.,” from his third solo LP Resurrection, quoting his colleagues, hip-hop all-stars Big Daddy Kane, ODB, Grand Puba, the Pharcyde and Nas along the way.  

We’re always thrilled when an artist presents new music on our stage, and August Greene obliged with “The Rival (She’s Callin),” a soulful new track from the band’s in-progress second LP. Segueing into “Come Close,” Common brought up a thrilled audience member and dazzled with his mic skills, improvising about her, the show and even Austin over the beat. The rhythm turned jazzy, allowing Glasper to show off the piano skills that elevated him to the top of the game in the modern jazz world.  He wasn’t satisfied only displaying his keyboard skills, though – the Grammy-winning jazz and R&B musician challenged the Grammy-laden rapper to a (one-sided) rap battle. That led into a vocal solo from backing vocalist Karim and a drum solo from Riggins. The drummer wasted no time after concluding his improv, driving right into “No Apologies,” a breathless burner from August Greene highlighted by a frisky Glasper solo.

Dissatisfied with the opening take of “Black Kennedy,” Common called for another take. The crowd certainly didn’t mind another “beautiful ride.” Common brought an ecstatic tween onstage for the respect anthem – and final song – “The Light,” before turning the chorus of his Like Water For Chocolate cut over to the crowd. “This has been a blessing tonight,” Common told the audience as the band took bows and exited the stage. It was a great way to end the season, and we can’t wait for you to see it when it broadcasts early next year on your local PBS station.

New tapings: Willie Nelson and August Greene

photo by David McClister

Austin City Limits is proud to announce the final two tapings of Season 44 – one with an old friend and the other featuring some new ones. On November 19, we welcome back an American music icon: Willie Nelson, who anchored the pilot episode of ACL back in 1975, returns for his eighteenth appearance on the program and his first headlining appearance in almost a decade. We’re also thrilled to report that this highly-anticipated homecoming will be live streamed worldwide direct from the ACL stage. On November 26, we open the stage for the first time to supergroup August Greene, the collective of rap superstar Common, jazz keyboardist/producer Robert Glasper and drummer/producer Karriem Riggins.

With a seven-decade career and two hundred-plus albums, Willie Nelson needs no introduction. A bronze statue of Nelson at the entrance to ACL’s studio home on the Austin street that bears his name, honors the Texas native.  He spearheaded the Outlaw country movement in the 1970s, and has since become a musical and cultural treasure whose artistic vision has held steady for over half a century. Inducted into the ACL Hall of Fame’s inaugural class in 2014, the Red Headed Stranger has earned every conceivable award as a musician and amassed reputable credentials as an author, actor, and activist.  With a staggering legacy of classic songs and enduring influence, the 85-year-old continues to tour regularly throughout North America. In recent years, he has delivered more than then twelve new album releases, released a Top 10 New York Times’ bestseller, again headlined Farm Aid (an event he co-founded in 1985), received his 5th degree black belt in Gong Kwon Yu Sul, headlined the last three years of the on-going Luck Reunion food and music festival during SXSW at his ranch in Luck, TX, announced the launch of his cannabis company Willie’s Reserve, and graced the cover of Rolling Stone. In 2015, the Library of Congress honored him with the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song for his contributions to music – the first country artist ever to receive the distinguished award. 2016 brought the releases of the Grammy-winning Summertime: Willie Nelson Sings Gershwin, which debuted at #1 on both the Top Current Jazz chart and the Top Traditional Jazz chart, and For the Good Times: A Tribute to Ray Price, an album of newly recorded interpretations.  Nelson also released Pretty Paper, a novel inspired by his classic holiday song of the same title. In 2017, he released God’s Problem Child, an album with thirteen new songs that debuted at #1 on Billboard’s Country album chart and #10 on the Billboard 200. Nelson continues his restless streak in 2018 releasing two LPs: the all-originals Last Man Standing and My Way, a collection of songs associated with Frank Sinatra. Nelson released a new single, “Vote ‘Em Out,” this October urging citizens across the country to exercise their right to vote in the upcoming midterm elections.  We are honored to welcome Willie Nelson back to “the house that Willie built” to carve his name in the ACL stage once again.

photo by B+

In early 2016, musicians and friends Common, Robert Glasper and Karriem Riggins found themselves in the studio, crafting the soulful backdrop of Common’s eleventh album Black America Again.  “It was such a real form of expression,” says Common. “It felt natural. We all have an affinity for great music.” As the trio created, they began to notice something different taking shape—something rooted in the warm R&B sounds of yesteryear but still very much in the present. It was soul music with a modern bounce, a jazz-rap hybrid in the spirit of A Tribe Called Quest. It fully encapsulated the black experience: the serenity and pain through which we channel gorgeous art, the beauty and struggle of simply trying to exist. Equally peaceful and profound, the music they captured laid the foundation for August Greene. The artists come to this project having reached major respective milestones over the years. Since 1992, the Chicago-born, Grammy-, Emmy- and Oscar-winning Common has uplifted listeners with his emotive blend of hip-hop and soul, releasing some of the genre’s greatest work. The four-time Grammy-winning Glasper, a Houston-born pianist/producer known for his esoteric mix of jazz, rock and soul, has long created music that defies expectation. Riggins, a Detroit native, is a world renowned percussionist and producer whose work can be heard on many modern recordings, including the Emmy-winning “Letter to the Free,” his collaboration with Common and Glasper for Selma director Ava Duvernay’s acclaimed documentary 13th. Featuring the singles “Black Kennedy” and “Optimistic,” which guest-stars R&B great Brandy, August Greene culminates years of mutual respect and friendship, channeling the musicians’ various talents into a cohesive project. The perfect marriage of jazz, hip-hop and soul, it’s music that just is, speaking to those pushing through the dark for brighter days, and a masterpiece from which virtue can shine.

Want to be part of our audience? We will post information on how to get free passes about a week before each taping. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for notice of postings. The broadcast versions will air on PBS in early 2019 as part of our Season 44.