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Tom Moon

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify or Apple Music playlist at the bottom of the page.


Kadhja Bonet's Childqueen opens with words that could have come from a lotus-positioned guru at a wellness retreat: "Every morning brings a chance to renew, a chance to renew." This she sings calmly, in carefully braided, elaborately evolving vocal harmony.

When Johann Sebastian Bach compiled the first book of the Well-Tempered Clavier in 1722, he wrote that the 24 preludes and fugues were "for the profit and use of musical youth desirous of learning, and especially for the pastime of those already skilled in this study."

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify or Apple Music playlist at the bottom of the page.

In 1959, the peak of his playing years, Thelonious Monk did something he'd never done before: record music for a film. Released in the U.S. as Dangerous Liaisons, the French film Les Liaisons Dangereuses featured nearly 30 minutes of Monk's music, none of which ever made it to a record. But the master tapes resurfaced last year, and were first released as a vinyl exclusive on Record Store Day this April.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify or Apple Music playlist at the bottom of the page.


Chuck Berry's legacy didn't need another record, or any kind of postscript for that matter.

When he died this March, the obits hailed him as the chief architect and driving force behind rock and roll. He was described as the catalyst of a cultural revolution, a titan whose crisp songs and ringing guitar blazed a superhighway-sized trail for future generations.

In 1963, Duke Ellington and his orchestra participated in a State Department "jazz diplomacy" tour of the Middle East. Inspired by the experience, Ellington and composer Billy Strayhorn wrote a collection of songs called The Far East Suite.

Lots of magazines do big lists, but few rely on them as heavily as Rolling Stone does. The magazine cranks out a list for just about every aspect of popular music. All promise authoritative, canonical overviews of various elements of the art; at their best, these offer context and critical insight, helping readers fill gaps in their knowledge.

For the last two years, pianist Ethan Iverson has been at the center of what looks, in hindsight, like a serious creative whirlwind. He re-conceptualized Stravinsky's ballet The Rite Of Spring in its entirety (!) for his trio The Bad Plus, and then, for good measure, recorded an album of all-original Bad Plus music (Inevitable Western).

There's usually reason to be apprehensive when an artist spends years in the workshop on a single set of songs. The results can seem joyless; think Chinese Democracy, which took Guns N' Roses 14 tortured years to finish. D'Angelo spent nearly as much time crafting his new record. He took his time and loaded up some of the tracks with everything from the audio candy store. Incredibly, the music rarely sounds cluttered or overwrought.

In the last 20 years, Prince has gotten more attention for his acrimonious spat with Warner Brothers — and the shenanigans surrounding his name — than for the music he's continued to make. And yet, as a performer, Prince is still undeniable, one of the living best.

Melissa Aldana, who became the first female instrumentalist and first South American musician to win the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Saxophone Competition last fall, is not the average talent-contest winner.

Blue Note Records has been many things over the course of its 75 years: a label responsible for blinding jazz innovations, a home for the titans of hard bop and soul jazz, a place for smart, sly, jazz-inflected pop creations.

One constant running throughout its history is improvisation. Its records have showcased jazz soloing in every possible mood and temperament. Its artists, both the jazz legends and those journeymen who are little regarded today, have helped shape the ever-evolving notion of what a solo is and what it can be.

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