Suraya Mohamed

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I first saw Tasha Cobbs Leonard sing live in my church's 4,000-seat sanctuary. Her voice easily powered-over the PA system and I was amazed by how well I could hear its beautiful resonance and clarity. Since my producer hat is always on, I couldn't wait to invite her to perform here at the desk. Months later, sitting just a few feet away, I was captivated by the un-amplified brilliance that filled the room.

He should have been exhausted, but instead played the Tiny Desk with incredible stamina, holding a single trumpet note that lasted longer than most people can hold their breath. In the days just before this performance, Nicholas Payton played at the Joy of Jazz Festival in Johannesburg, South Africa, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, then Santiago, Chile and, finally, New York City. A member of his team drove them the four hours from NYC so he could nap in the car and be ready to play.

Standing behind the Tiny Desk with only pianist Sullivan Fortner by her side, jazz singer Cécile McLorin Salvant remarked that she hadn't been this nervous in a while. But it was hard to tell: She embraced the discomfort with ease, taking command of the space with a calm demeanor and spiritual presence that felt both humble and persuasive.

Logan Richardson's latest project, Blues People, is a condition, a state of being. The album was derived from the early slave calls that inspired the earliest American jazz and blues musical traditions. Here at the Tiny Desk, the saxophonist revisits that history with four remarkable songs from the album, all performed with a hope that our country's future will be less painful than its past.

"This is me coming back full circle in my life," Dee Dee Bridgewater told NPR right before this Tiny Desk performance. Ever since her teenage years, she's wanted to make her latest album, Memphis... Yes, I'm Ready. Now, a gorgeous 67 years young, Bridgewater is connecting openly with her roots, her birthplace and the town she's loved all her life.

Singer, songwriter, poet, educator and community organizer Jamila Woods is also a freedom fighter: a voice that celebrates black ancestry, black feminism and black identity. "Look at what they did to my sisters last century, last week," goes a line from "Blk Girl Soldier," her powerful opening number at the Tiny Desk.

They drove into the NPR garage crammed into an extended cargo van, 9 feet tall, instruments and luggage packed all the way to the ceiling. They didn't use all of that gear, but even on this mainly acoustic, stripped-down set, Lo Moon radiated a signature sound — intimate and demonstrative, haunting yet uplifting, an old-fashioned rock beat under glimmering guitar and keys, overlaid with beautiful, textured vocals.

Singer and songwriter Ledisi is a veteran R&B queen, which she immediately affirmed at the Tiny Desk with her powerful opening tune "Let Love Rule." It's the title song of her latest album, and a dazzling display of vocal range and technique. And yet, it hardly showcases the full scope of her artistic expertise. Classically trained, Ledisi is also celebrated as a jazz artist, which she clearly demonstrated when she broke out into a effortless scat outro on her second song, "I Blame You."

Rhythm is the foundation for many a musical experience. Its driving pulse yields a power that quite often demands movement - a toe to tap, a body to sway. But drummer Nate Smith provides more than just a beat. He intentionally weaves nuanced rhythmic counterpoint in and out of his catchy melodies and dulcet harmonies.

Just try to discern the multiple time signatures in the first tune, "Skip Step" Syncopated yet steady, its rhythmic motifs bolster Jon Cowherd's keyboard riff and the song's melodic statement, played in unison by saxophonist Jaleel Shaw and guitarist Jeremy Most.

Dominated by drive and momentum, heavy on percussion and bass, go-go music is all about the beat. Live, "songs" can continue on for half an hour, as the percussion continues to simmer and punctuate between and across different pieces. "That's why we call it go-go, because it goes on and goes on and goes on," as guitarist Andre Johnson put it in a documentary film.

Yes, Ravi Coltrane is the son of the John Coltrane, one of the most famous and important jazz saxophonists and composers of all time. He's also the son of multi-instrumentalist, composer and spiritual leader Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda. (In fact, all members of the band here are performing artists in their own right and come from artistically rich families; drummer E.J.

When Christopher Gallant was featured in Forbes' 30 Under 30 list, the testimonial came from none other than Elton John, who said, "When I hear his voice, I just lose it." The two even performed Gallant's song "Weight In Gold" together back in September.