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Celebrate New Year's with Toast of the Nation

Ranky Tanky with Lisa Fischer
Courtesy of the artist
Ranky Tanky with Lisa Fischer

We got a globe-trotting party this New Year's! Four worldly bands present grooving sounds from four locations.

We begin with the Grammy-nominated Gullah Geechee musicians from Charleston, S.C.: Ranky Tanky. They are updating some old, foot-stomping rhythms for the modern day with an icon of soul singing, Ms. Lisa Fischer, from the stage of SFJAZZ in San Francisco.

Then, an elder of Cuban piano, Chucho Valdés, presents his self-proclaimed masterpiece, La Creación, at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. It's a three-movement suite that takes listeners on a musical journey through the Caribbean Islands and New Orleans with a detour to an electric isle á la Miles Davis.

In Amsterdam, the singer José James performs a contemplative and life-affirming set at the Paradiso. The time is November 2021 — it was the first concert for the singer in Europe after the great lockdown.

And, trumpeter Ibrahim Maalouf throws a once-in-a-lifetime celebration most musicians can can only dream of — 600 musicians perform for tens of thousands of joyous fans at a sold-out stadium in France.

Some of the finest Gullah Geechee musicians from Charleston, S.C., created a modern band that celebrates their heritage. The Grammy-nominated Ranky Tanky throws a New Year's Eve celebration with vocal icon Ms. Lisa Fischer at SFJAZZ in San Francisco. Many Gullah Geechee have their own New Year's tradition called Freedom's Eve Day.

Set List:

  • "Good Time" (traditional)
  • "Stand By Me" (Ranky Tanky)
  • "Can't Judge A Book" (Willie Dixon)
  • "Come Together" (John Lennon/Paul McCartney)
  • "Sometime"
  • "Beat'em Down" (traditional)
  • "Freedom"
  • "Down In My Heart"
  • "Ranky Tanky"
  • "Auld Lang Syne" (traditional)
  • Musicians: Ranky Tanky: Quiana Parler, lead vocals; Charlton Singleton, trumpet and vocals; Clay Ross, guitar and vocals; Kevin Hamilton, bass; Quentin Baxter, drums. Special guest: Lisa Fischer, vocals.

    Special thanks to SFJAZZ with engineering from Ben Bernstein. Remix: Andie Huether.

    We know and love Chucho Valdés, a living legend of the Cuban piano. Now, get ready to marvel at the creative imagination of this composer who has now created his "masterpiece" (his own words). La Creación is an origin story and sprawling musical suite that features a larger than normal big band. The journey chronicles an array of rhythms through New Orleans and the Caribbean Islands, along with some tinges of Miles Davis's Bitches Brew. This unique and mesmerizing concert was recorded at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Artsin Washington, D.C.

    Set List:

    Chucho Valdés
    Elmer Martinez / AFP/Getty Images
    AFP/Getty Images
    Chucho Valdés

  • "But Not For Me" (George and Ira Gershwin)
  • "Son XXI" (Enrique Ubieta)
  • "La Creación" Three Movements (Chucho Valdés)
  • "Bacalaó Con Pan" (Raul Valdés)
  • Musicians: Chucho Valdés, piano, artistic director, composer; Hilario Durán and John Beasley, piano, music direction and arrangement; Dafnis Prieto, drums; José Gola, double and electric bass; Roberto Vizcaino Jr., percussion; Eric Barberia, Yosvani Gonzales and Felipe Sarria, vocals, batás; Yenisel Valdés Fuentes, vocals; Dwight Adams, Etienne Charles, Joshua Kauffman and Brian Lynch, trumpet; Mike Dease, Dennis Wilson and Ron Kischuck, trombone; Marcus Strickland, alto saxophone, bass clarinet; Russ Miller, alto saxophone; Carlos Fernandez Averhoff Jr. and Chris Collins, tenor saxophone; Mark Berger, baritone saxophone.

    Special thanks to Sean McNally.

    We all had moments during the lockdown. The vocalist José James had one — recorded like a time capsule — at the Paradiso in Amsterdam in November 2021. It was James' first show in Europe after the Great Reopening. The energy in the room was palpable. The musical vibe runs super deep. The musical reunion was felt among band members, which was matched by a jubilant audience ready to rejoice in music again.

    Janette Beckman / Courtesy of the artist
    Courtesy of the artist

    Set List:

  • "Ain't No Sunshine" (Bill Withers)
  • "Park Bench People" (Freestyle Fellowship)
  • "Blackmagic" (José James)
  • "Come to My Door" (Emily King)
  • "Lovely Day" (Bill Withers)
  • Musicians: José James, vocals; BIGYUKI, keys; Diana Dzhabbar, alto saxophone; Yves Fernandez, bass; Richard Spaven, drums; Taali, vocals.

    Special thanks to Kees Heus and Molly Fichter. Assembled by Ron Scalzo. Remixed by Joshua Newell.

    Some parties are large. Others are extra, extra large. This one fits in another category. Imagine one jazz artist able to sell out an entire stadium. The French-Lebanese trumpeter and composer Ibrahim Maalouf is up for the challenge as he brings 600 musicians together in celebration of an earth-rumbling set recorded at a sold-out Accor Arena in Paris, earlier this year. Get ready.

    Ibrahim Maalouf
    Cameron Robert / NPR
    Ibrahim Maalouf

    Set List: (All music written by Ibrahim Maalouf)

  • "S3NS"
  • "Nomade Slang"
  • "Gebrayel"
  • "Maeva in Wonderland"
  • "True Sorry"
  • "Una Rosa Blanca"
  • "The Last Christmas Eve"
  • "Red & Black Light"
  • Musicians: Ibrahim Maalouf, leader, trumpet; François Delporte, guitar; Frank Woeste, keys; Thierry Fanfant, bass; Stéphane Galland, drums; Abraham Mansfarroll, percussions; Alexis Bourguignon, trumpet lead; Renaud Gensane and Yacha Berdah, trumpet; Mathias Mahler and Michael Joussain, trombone; Irving Acao, saxophone; Denys Danielides, sousaphone.

    Special guests: Ronaldo Luna, piano, and Yilian Canizares, violin; 100 children choir; and the Republican Guard Orchestra, part of the French Armed Forces.

    Concert mix: Dom Morley; co-production: Mister Ibé, Electron Libre

    Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit

    For more than 15 years, Simon Rentner has worked as a host, producer, broadcaster, web journalist, and music presenter in New York City. His career gives him the opportunity to cover a wide spectrum of topics including, history, culture, and, most importantly, his true passion of music from faraway places such as Europe, South America, and Africa.