Felix Contreras

Felix Contreras is co-host of Alt.Latino, NPR's web-based program about Latin Alternative music and Latino culture. It features music as well as interviews with many of the most well-known Latino musicians, actors, film makers and writers.

Previously, Contreras was a producer and reporter for NPR's Arts Desk and covered, among other stories and projects: a series reported from Mexico introducing the then-new musical movement called Latin Alternative; a series of stories on the financial challenges facing aging jazz musicians; and helped produce NPR's award winning series 50 Great Voices.

He once stood on the stage of the legendary jazz club The Village Vanguard after interviewing the club's owner and swears he felt the spirits of Coltrane and Monk walking through the room.

Contreras is a recovering television journalist who has worked for both NBC and Univision. He's also a part-time musician who plays Afro-Cuban percussion with various jazz and Latin bands.

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.

You either get The Grateful Dead or you don't, to the point where it's virtually impossible to explain. So why bother?

Singer Jimmy Scott died of natural causes Thursday morning at his home in Las Vegas at age 88, according to his booking agent, Jean-Pierre Leduc.

Scott suffered from Kallmann's syndrome, a lifelong affliction that prevented his body from maturing through puberty. The condition slowed his growth, leaving his stature at 4 feet 11 inches until his late 30s. It also affected his vocal cords, giving him a high voice that was often misidentified as a woman's.

It takes just two words to sum up Salvadora Robot, the new album by the Colombian band Meridian Brothers: "happy weirdness."

Last year's release of the anthology Devocion: (Works 2005-2011) introduced the quirky group to audiences beyond avant-garde circles in Bogota, and Salvadora Robot reiterates that these free thinkers don't merely throw out tradition. They make it sound, well, weird.

The music of Pacifika draws you in almost immediately: The Vancouver trio's musicianship is superb, buoyed by a voice that stopped me in my tracks the first time I heard it. Pacifika's sound has been labeled as world fusion, but that label is more of a restriction than a description. The group's acoustic base and subtle electronic flourishes provided a great way to start its musical journey, but Amor Planeta raises the stakes with an electric-guitar bite that adds a crucial dimension.

Marian McPartland, who gave the world an intimate, insider's perspective on one of the most elusive topics in music — jazz improvisation — died of natural causes Tuesday night at her home in Long Island, N.Y. She was 95.

It's already August 8, which means you've got maybe three or four weeks left to complain about preseason football, inadequately shield yourself from the scorching heat of the sun, and communicate with your kids about something other than why they haven't done their homework. So why not get cracking on a book?

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The soundtrack to the documentary film Hecho En Mexico is ambitious and complicated, but the music more than justifies the journey.

In 2012, writers who tackled musical topics dove deep, got weird, burrowed into a niche; we joyfully followed them to depths we never would have expected when the year began. We devoured works of criticism, history, biography and the Zen of John Cage and Tony Bennett.

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Many musicians say that the second album is harder to write than the first, especially when a debut is successful: There's more pressure, higher stakes, fewer ways to surprise and less time to work. The Colombian band Bomba Estéreo faced down that imposing empty canvas when it entered the studio to record a followup to 2009's hit Blow Up.