Tom Moon

Tom Moon has been writing about pop, rock, jazz, blues, hip-hop and the music of the world since 1983.

He is the author of the New York Times bestseller 1000 Recordings To Hear Before You Die (Workman Publishing), and a contributor to other books including The Final Four of Everything.

A saxophonist whose professional credits include stints on cruise ships and several tours with the Maynard Ferguson orchestra, Moon served as music critic at the Philadelphia Inquirer from 1988 until 2004. His work has appeared in Rolling Stone, GQ, Blender, Spin, Vibe, Harp and other publications, and has won several awards, including two ASCAP-Deems Taylor Music Journalism awards. He has contributed to NPR's All Things Considered since 1996.

An anthology devoted to early Nat King Cole recordings was recently released, and it offers a new window into his artistic development. The collection is called Hittin' the Ramp: The Early Years (1936-1943), and this massive 7-CD, 10-LP package is clearly aimed at obsessives. It's a deep dive that traces Nat King Cole's evolution — from smooth, unflappable piano player into a singing star with an endearingly smooth style all his own.

Updated at 10:42 a.m. ET

There are lots of firsts and superlatives in the career of Ginger Baker, the drummer and bandleader who died Sunday morning at age 80. His death was announced by his family on social media; they had said on Sept. 25 that he was "critically ill," without giving details.

The wild-eyed son of a South London bricklayer, Baker was the engine room of rock's first and still most revered power trio, Cream. He played a similarly key role in shaping the more finessed work of one of rock's first supergroups, Blind Faith.

The official history of rock and roll in the late 1960s is usually written festival-to-festival, Fillmore lineup to Fillmore lineup. Here are the reputation-making gigs, here are the moments when youngsters became rising stars.

In his vast catalog of music, Radiohead's Thom Yorke has trembled like a broken man on his knees. He has screamed in tormented six-part harmony; he has manic-whispered diaries worth of existential fear. Still, he just can't shake the techno-dread. Most recently, that dread has manifested in Yorke's third solo project, ANIMA, released on June 27.

Since releasing You're Dead! in 2014, Flying Lotus, the L.A. producer conceptual artist, rapper and label head, has collaborated with the likes of Kendrick Lamar, Thundercat, Herbie Hancock and more. On May 24, he finally dropped his own highly anticipated fifth album, Flamagra. Step right up and prepare to be astonished by the strange, blink-and-you-miss-them concatenations of sound beamed directly from the mind of FlyLo.

This past May, New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival celebrated its 50th anniversary, attracting an estimated 475,000 people to its annual celebration of Louisiana music and culture. To mark this milestone, Smithsonian Folkways has released its Jazz Fest: The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival box set that includes rare live recordings and photographs of the momentous gathering.

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Sometimes a recording artist seems to disappear from the public eye. Often they will come back transformed with a whole different sound and outlook. And then there's Dido.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HURRICANES")

Just when it seems the shadow of The Beatles can't get any longer and everything in rock has been done before, along come Sean Lennon and Les Claypool, asking the musical question: What if, instead of ducking The Beatles, you embraced the band's tricks — the galumphing marches, the sun-dazed harmonies — and then made them a little weird?

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More than two years after Prince's death, his fans got their first album-length glimpse into the famed vault. Piano & a Microphone 1983 features nine songs Prince recorded solo on cassette in his home studio, spilling fascinating secrets about his approach to songwriting.

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(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "PROCESSION")

KADHJA BONET: (Singing) Oh, every morning brings a chance to renew, chance to renew. Oh...

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(SOUNDBITE OF THE BAD PLUS' "LAYIN' A STRIP FOR THE HIGHER-SELF STATE LINE")

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Stephen Bruner is a bass player, singer and songwriter who's as well known for his own music as for his collaborations. But when he released his latest solo single as Thundercat few weeks ago, those who know his work with Kendrick Lamar were scratching their heads. Here was a fiery visionary collaborating with two icons of easygoing '70s pop: Kenny Loggins and Michael McDonald.

Over the years, music fans have slowly filled in details about a hard-working, mostly anonymous collective of Detroit studio musicians known as The Funk Brothers, who were the backing band for many of Motown's hit songs. Less documented is what these musicians did when they were not in the studio.

Every so often, you run across a collection that opens up an entirely new way to think about an artist. Jack White's new, 26-track retrospective, which focuses on his unplugged, less raucous songs, does just that. The unreleased songs, album tracks and B-sides that make up Jack White Acoustic Recordings, 1998-2016 offer a fresh window onto the work of the creative, prolific rock musician.

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Gregory Porter is a jazz singer who is pushing the boundaries of jazz singing. In the last few years, he's recorded with bluesman Buddy Guy, classic singer Renee Fleming and, most recently, with the U.K. electronic duo Disclosure.

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Son Little's music can be a little tricky to classify. One writer called him Sam Cook in outer space.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "YOUR LOVE WILL BLOW ME AWAY")

SON LITTLE: (Singing) Runaway, this afghan kush we're bubbling won't burn away.

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This is what made Ludovic Navarre famous 15 years ago.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ROSE ROUGE")

MARLENA SHAW: (Singing) I want you to get together. I want you to get together.

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Craig Finn is part of a quickly growing demographic group - aging indie rockers. He led the band Lifter Puller in the '90s and is still the front man of The Hold Steady. His breathless songs look at the indie rock scene with a romantic eye.

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The Milk Carton Kids want to be a part of your road journeys this summer. They're an indie-folk duo with a new album full of songs about being on the move. It's called "Monterey," and Tom Moon has our review.

Brittany Howard sure can raise the roof. The singer possesses a furious streak, with startling rawness in her delivery. When I first caught Alabama Shakes live, the focus was all on her. The thing was, the band behind her sounded oddly flat: The musicians had clearly done their homework on Memphis soul, but they didn't take the music anyplace interesting. What a difference a couple years on the road can make.

Dylan The Crooner

Feb 3, 2015

Bard. Voice of a generation. Bob Dylan has been called many things over the years. With his new album, Shadows in the Night, the 73-year-old aims for another title: crooner.

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Saxophonist Bobby Keys was still a teenager when he started playing with his fellow Texan Buddy Holly and pop star Bobby Vee. Later, he joined up with the Rolling Stones. And for more than 40 years, Bobby Keys' powerful sax was a key part of their sound.

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.

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Joe Beck was a hard-working musician who played guitar in recording sessions with James Brown, Miles Davis and Paul Simon.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "YOU'RE KIND")

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.

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