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.

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When he started the Robert Glasper Experiment, the pianist was trying to blend hip-hop, jazz and R-and-B into a new sound.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CHERISH THE DAY")

For some people, gospel music is all about the message — of faith and forbearance, sin and salvation. For the members of the mostly instrumental supergroup known as The Word, gospel is more about a feeling. The group's long-awaited second album, Soul Food, is a rousing, thoroughly modern take on gospel.

Working as a music journalist means that some days you get to tell people, in breathless prose, about an incredible new record you've discovered. On other days, you have to tell people that an artist you've followed and respected for years is no longer living. That part is never any fun. Listening to the hushed, elegantly spare Seth Avett & Jessica Lea Mayfield Sing Elliott Smith, I found myself transported back to the period right after Smith died, of apparently self-inflicted stab wounds, in 2003.

He asks a lot of questions, this José González.

He opened his last album, 2013's band project Junip, with a thought experiment Nietzsche could love: "What would you do if it all came back to you?" The song, "Line Of Fire," dwells in a mood of idle 3 a.m. musing; González tosses out existential/metaphysical conundrums like he's feeding bread to ducks — casually, without worrying much about concrete answers.

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.

This is not Dueling Banjos: The Married Couple Edition. You won't find the careening energy of the mano-a-mano from the Deliverance soundtrack, or of the Flatt and Scruggs classic "Foggy Mountain Breakdown." Outbreaks of dazzling, speed-demon technique are few.

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.

A clue about the scruffy aesthetic of Sukierae arrives at the 2:27 mark of "World Away," one of 20 (!) songs on the first family-band album from Jeff Tweedy of Wilco. Until this point, the tune — a variation on the Bo Diddley beat strummed on acoustic guitar, with Tweedy's sleepy voice distantly implying a blues cadence — has been fairly straightforward.

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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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MELISSA BLOCK, BYLINE: A jazz singer for the hip-hop generation - that's how Jose James was described after he released his first album last year for the famed Blue Note record label. James has now released a follow-up. It's called, While You Were Sleeping. And reviewer Tom Moon says the 35-year-old shows phenomenal growth.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING")

JOSE JAMES: (Singing) Shadows long upon my face. Shadows long upon my face.

TOM MOON, BYLINE: Catch up with Jose James now because he's a rarity - an artist evolving at warp speed.

The creators of pop music are usually able to break down the fundamentals of their craft — that search for the clever rhyme, the killer beat, the singable chorus. They are less articulate, understandably, about the other quest, the one that powers those everyday searches: the pursuit of ecstasy in sound. There's something almost paranormal about that part of the creative process, yet we know those moments, instantly, when we hear them.

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Damon Albarn's first solo album is out today. Albarn was the frontman of the acclaimed British rock band Blur in the '90s, and since 2000, he has spearheaded the multi-platinum group Gorillaz.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE WINDMILL")

GORILLAZ: (Singing) Take it all it on your stride. And it's sticking, falling down. Love forever...

SIEGEL: Reviewer Tom Moon says Albarn's new work seeks out the flipside to the Gorillaz' manic intensity. The new album "Everyday Robots."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "EVERYDAY ROBOTS")

Every language has words and phrases that elude easy translation. In Portuguese, "saudade" (pronounced by Brazilians as "sow-DAH-djee") is one of those. Some musicians equate it with the blues; it's generally associated with melancholy and longing. In its most recent bio, the Washington, D.C., electronic duo Thievery Corporation defines it as "a longing for something or someone that is lost."

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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

Finally this hour, a new perspective on the enduring influence of The Beatles. It comes from another four-piece British rock band called Temples. The group is from the town of Kettering. Critics have been raving about them since last summer. Their debut album, "Sun Structures," has now been released here in the U.S. And hearing it might whisk you away to 1960s Liverpool. Here's our critic, Tom Moon.

TOM MOON, BYLINE: If nothing else, Temples has impeccable timing.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SHELTER SONG")

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