Tom Moon

For decades, most of what jazz scholars have known about the late, Philadelphia-based pianist and composer Hasaan Ibn Ali came from a single 1965 album – The Max Roach Trio Featuring the Legendary Hasaan.

You can find all of NPR Music's favorites from 2020 here.

Brief summary of the year in reissues and vault rediscoveries: There was an avalanche of them, across all genres and all eras. Each promises edification, offering dives into the rich contexts of historically significant records while also being flat-out thrilling listening.

Baron Wolman, the photographer whose images of Jimi Hendrix, Grace Slick and others captured the immediacy of rock culture and translated it to silent paper, died Monday following a battle with ALS. The news was confirmed to NPR by his longtime assistant, Dianne Duenzl. He was 83.

Shocker: Bob Dylan's new song "False Prophet" is not, entirely, a new song.

Roger and Brian Eno's album Mixing Colours offers something unusual in these high-anxiety news days: The spacious, inviting, uncomplicated sound of tranquility.

The brothers are both keyboardists and composers with an interest in musical technology, but Mixing Colours is their first release as a duo. Starting in 2005, they began a low-key and private collaboration via email: Roger sent files of his tunes to Brian, who would then add atmospheres. Eventually, they decided to share some of those songs as Mixing Colours.

Kassa Overall thinks about sound the way hip-hop producers do: Anything can be transformed into a beat. With a background in jazz — he's played with Christian McBride, Ravi Coltrane and the late pianist Geri Allen — the songs on his new album, I Think I'm Good, also have moments that sound electric and improvisational.

That liquid, crystalline tone; those airborne, searching melodies. They've been part of the jazz conversation for decades — ever since Pat Metheny's debut appeared back in 1976, when he was just 22-years-old. He's 65 now, an established star and the only recording artist in history to win a Grammy award in 10 different categories. On his latest album, From This Place, Metheny is pushing forward, still seeking breathtakingly new vistas.

On "One More Year," the opening track of his fourth record as Tame Impala, multi-instrumentalist mastermind Kevin Parker cues up a memory from a year ago, Facebook-style. He sounds wistful as he recalls a distinct moment in a love affair: "If there was trouble in the world, we didn't know. If we had a care, it didn't show."

Sooner or later, every child prodigy hits a fork in the road: Keep doing the crowd-pleasing, trained-seal tricks that brought fame? Or set out to develop a more individual sound?

From the moment 11-year-old Indonesian pianist Joey Alexander gained international attention in 2015, it was clear that he wasn't your average young phenom. He had seemingly limitless technique and a deep understanding of tunes written decades before he was born. Already a fixture in the jazz world with five albums under his belt at only the age of 16, Alexander is clearly charting his own path.

And now, a moment of appreciation for the under-assistant recording engineers and studio gofers who toiled in anonymity in the dimly lit studios of the past. They didn't just get coffee — they were on site, taking notes about who played what instrument on which track, writing down the dates of sessions, and making sure that those dates were clearly marked on the tape boxes. They did this for albums that became classics. And singles that never left the garage.

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