"Thelonious Monk is the most important musician, period," Jason Moran says. He laughs out loud. "In all the world. Period!"

Moran is in a dressing room deep within the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., where he's the artistic director for jazz. He's not really wearing that hat at the moment, though. He's talking as a musician himself — and very personally, at that.

Joe Lovano And Dave Holland On Piano Jazz

Oct 2, 2015

Saxophonist Joe Lovano and bassist Dave Holland first recorded together in 1992 on the album From The Soul. Lovano toured with the Woody Herman Thundering Herd in the 1970s and went on to join the John Scofield Quartet.

Even in the world of outré electronics, the experimental-music swings of Chicagoan Jamal Moss are radical. If you have the hips, stomach and brain for a steady stream of sonic surprises, he's your man in lo-fi techno. Among the many technologically astute and historically Afrocentric monikers Moss hides behind, Hieroglyphic Being has come to be his best known­ — if only because the labels through which Moss releases HB records (beside his self-run Mathematics Recordings) have the widest distribution.

There's no one person responsible for creating music festivals — or for making them such a huge part of how we witness live performances today. But starting in 1954, one person developed a recipe for their secret sauce.

George Wein still goes to his signature event every year, checking out performances and greeting the artists. These days, he does it on a golf cart which drives him between stages — he's about to turn 90, after all — but he says he takes his job as producer very seriously.

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.

Alto saxophonist Phil Woods, a leading jazz performer since the 1950s, died Tuesday afternoon. The cause was related to emphysema, his longtime agent, Joel Chriss, confirmed. Woods was 83.

Jay Leonhart On Song Travels

Sep 25, 2015

Bassist Jay Leonhart is a highly sought-after session musician, a trio leader and a one-man act. He got his start as a kid playing banjo and guitar with his brother in the '40s and '50s, and was inspired to take up the bass after hearing Ray Brown and the Oscar Peterson Trio.

Ray Brown On Piano Jazz

Sep 25, 2015

Bass player Ray Brown (1926–2002) moved to New York in 1945 and immediately became part of the jazz scene. He worked extensively with the Oscar Peterson Trio, Jimmy Rowles and Ella Fitzgerald (to whom he was married). Brown was one of the leading bassists in the bop style and was known for his precise playing and the beauty of his tone.

Over the past five years, the groups Natural Information Society and Bitchin Bajas have become staples of Chicago underground music, but from opposite ends. NIS leader Joshua Abrams has one foot in the city's improvisational jazz scene, a communal tradition that extends back 50 years to the heyday of the AACM (Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians).

Master bass player Thundercat is a core part of the LA music scene — from his collaborations with Flying Lotus, Kamasi Washington and Kendrick Lamar to his own solo work. His new EP features his best track yet, "Them Changes," performed here with keyboardist Dennis Hamm and drummer Justin Brown.

Set List