Tom Moon

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released.


Before he began the tour that's documented on the 36-disc set The 1966 Live Recordings, Bob Dylan was on record as being ambivalent about the road.

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.

The first sound Leonard Cohen makes on his new album is a nanosecond's rush of labored air. It's not a wheeze, exactly, or a hiccup. But it's not a singer's note, either. The singing (such as it is) soon follows, and the 82-year-old's somber tone signals that matters of grave import are about to be discussed. He's making an inquiry into the peculiar strain of creeping soul distress, both personal and universal, that he's been diagnosing since at least 1992's The Future.

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There's a panel of volunteer doctors whose decisions affect nearly everyone who has health insurance. They review scientific literature and pass judgment on preventive medical services. The panel is called the Preventive Services Task Force.

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The rock band Drive-By Truckers has been making music for 20 years now, and for most of that time, the group, which is from Athens, Ga., has explored the meaning of Southern identity. That happened on albums like "The Dirty South" and "Southern Rock Opera."

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.

You're rushing to send a text, but the words don't quite fit the message. So you flip over to the emoji menu, and within seconds you find a tiny character that encapsulates your thought. Hitting "send" brings a momentary sense of accomplishment, and perhaps along with it, a twinge of vague disquiet: That shorthand cartoon face was somehow more precise, more communicative, than your words.

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

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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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Sometimes there's beauty in simplicity. That's how music reviewer Tom Moon feels about a new record by a pair of Brazilian music legends. It's titled, in English, "Two Friends, One Century Of Music."

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New York bassist Matt Geraghty and Brazilian saxophonist Ze Luis spent 21 days in Cuba with a mission, to capture an unscripted collaboration with different musicians each day. Here's what happened on day three.

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


Two albums into the most unlikely soul career of the millennium, Charles Bradley has neatly pivoted away from the hard-luck life story told in the documentary Soul of America, and toward a comparatively ordinary task: Creating a book of believable songs that showcase his unique vocal style.

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How long has it been since a snarling singer and a supercharged electric guitar grabbed you by the throat and wouldn't let go?

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Charles Lloyd is a jazz elder with a wide-angle view of the world. The 77-year-old tenor saxophonist begins his new album with a cover of Bob Dylan's "Masters Of War."

(SOUNDBITE OF CHARLES LLOYD AND THE MARVELS SONG, "MASTERS OF WAR")

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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

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


How does a film conjure the unfathomable vastness of nature? How can it make moviegoers feel the harshness of a desolate place?

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Transcript

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Jazz fans received an early present this year - an expanded version of a classic work...

(SOUNDBITE OF JOHN COLTRANE SONG, "PSALM")

SIEGEL: John Coltrane's "A Love Supreme."

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Now a peek into the creative process of one of modern music's most innovative thinkers.

(SOUNDBITE OF BRAD MEHLDAU SONG, "GOD ONLY KNOWS")

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

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


Record-making is typically not a spectator sport.

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

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