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.

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")

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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.

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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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.


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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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.

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.


Deep into Gazing With Tranquility, tucked between smart and sometimes overly reverent reinterpretations of Donovan's hits, there's a small performance that illustrates the value of the tribute record.

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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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.

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.

Among the delights of Lianne La Havas' 2012 debut Is Your Love Big Enough? was its sense of scale. Here was a songwriter of considerable lyric skill and pop ambition who didn't always follow the prevailing verse/chorus/hook code — particularly the expectation that fireworks need to arrive within the first 90 seconds, and repeat on cue 60-90 seconds later.

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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")

A few songs into the latest set of ready-to-wear rants from Neil Young, there's a moment when the rock star shares a bit of the advice he gets as he goes about his daily life — from fans, possibly, or a manager, or maybe the barista in his coffee shop.

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Richard Thompson's 16th solo album Still closes with an unusual homage to his longstanding sources of inspiration. It's called "Guitar Heroes," and though it's predominantly a standard jump blues, it's laced with extended interludes in which Thompson — arguably the most under-appreciated guitar hero currently recording — tips his hat to Django Reinhardt, Les Paul and other titans.

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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.

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He was one of the most influential guitarists of all time.

(SOUNDBITE OF WES MONTGOMERY SONG, "AIREGIN")

The young man sounds a bit shaken. His lover, perhaps the love of his life, has departed. He's surveying his options, talking to her even though she's not there, the way the jilted sometimes do. "I could wring out each memory until I get every drop."

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).

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.

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Really, how much hoodoo can there be out in the desert?

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.

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