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.

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.

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.

An anthology devoted to early Nat King Cole recordings was recently released, and it offers a new window into his artistic development. The collection is called Hittin' the Ramp: The Early Years (1936-1943), and this massive 7-CD, 10-LP package is clearly aimed at obsessives. It's a deep dive that traces Nat King Cole's evolution — from smooth, unflappable piano player into a singing star with an endearingly smooth style all his own.

This past May, New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival celebrated its 50th anniversary, attracting an estimated 475,000 people to its annual celebration of Louisiana music and culture. To mark this milestone, Smithsonian Folkways has released its Jazz Fest: The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival box set that includes rare live recordings and photographs of the momentous gathering.

When Johann Sebastian Bach compiled the first book of the Well-Tempered Clavier in 1722, he wrote that the 24 preludes and fugues were "for the profit and use of musical youth desirous of learning, and especially for the pastime of those already skilled in this study."

Since its premiere in 1918, Gustav Holst's symphonic cycle The Planets has effectively defined the informal genre of "music about space." But more recently, four prominent artists from different musical realms collaborated on a cosmic exploration of their own. It culminated in Planetarium, which was released earlier this month.

In 1959, the peak of his playing years, Thelonious Monk did something he'd never done before: record music for a film. Released in the U.S. as Dangerous Liaisons, the French film Les Liaisons Dangereuses featured nearly 30 minutes of Monk's music, none of which ever made it to a record. But the master tapes resurfaced last year, and were first released as a vinyl exclusive on Record Store Day this April.

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