Piotr Orlov

The Return, keyboardist and producer Kamaal Williams' debut full-length as a bandleader, presents ideas about London's renewed flirtation with jazz and improvisation that are both illuminating and misleading. Yet this collection of instrumental miniatures also underlines what continues to make the city's music exciting, presenting another chapter in its decades-long rhythm-culture continuum, an inter-generational mix that pushes things forward.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify or Apple Music 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 or Apple Music playlist at the bottom of the page.

There is a wonderful irony in a career retrospective of a living artist that becomes so popular it outlives its subject. In 2010 — long before David Bowie Is travelled to ten other locations around the world, before it landed in Brooklyn earlier this month — London's Victoria & Albert Museum was approached by the rock icon's management to create an exhibit out of the singer's archives. At the time, the idea that such a show would be taken seriously, much less prove to be a success, were hardly foregone conclusions.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify or Apple Music playlist at the bottom of the page.

File this one under: "when genre walls collapse, the fusions are wonderful." Among the sidenotes to dance-music archivists' interest in the minimalist sounds of New York's 1970s and '80s downtown cult figures such as Arthur Russell and Julius Eastman, is how it's brought the work of their colleagues, contemporaries and collaborators to light.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify or Apple Music playlist at the bottom of the page.


Well, who saw this coming?

Few careers in contemporary music had the arc and the diversity that South Africa-born trumpeter/singer/composer Hugh Masekela did, before he succumbed to prostate cancer on Tuesday at the age of 79.

Regardless of how much we acknowledge that group-movement to a centralized rhythm is medicine for the soul, some emotional climates simply aren't conducive to reaching a singular moment of exultation and release on the dance floor. Across much of the world, 2017 sure as heck didn't feel like the right year for the ecstatic. So then, the question is: what to do? One answer arrived at in our listening was to get planning.

There are times one can sense deep changes before you can see them. When, in a July interview, the synthesizer player and composer Gavin Russom revealed that she was transitioning from life as a man to one as a woman, Gavin Rayna, she says it did not come as a total shock to the people who knew Gavin Russom well.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify or Apple Music 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 or Apple Music playlist at the bottom of the page.

Dego & Kaidi have one of those long-running, non-exclusive musical relationships the quality of which is impossible to deny and hard to explain if the context — London's multi-cultural club-life — is unfamiliar. Theirs is a classic example of how, given enough time, underground harmony solidifies into cultural bedrock.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify or Apple Music 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 Apple Music playlist at the bottom of the page.

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