SIR ELTON JOHN AND LEON RUSSELL RECENTLY convened in a Los Angeles recording studio with producer T-Bone Burnett, a select group of studio musicians, and a pair of Yamaha grand pianos. The result: an unprecedented collaboration between two musical giants. The album, titled The Union, features all-new material co-written by Elton, Leon, and Elton's longtime lyricist, Bernie Taupin.

SOME FANS WERE SURPRISED WHEN The Roots accepted the gig as the house band for NBC's Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, but it's proved to be a perfect fit. The Roots have long been hip-hop's leading exponents of real-time playing. Years of relentless touring and recording make them singularly qualified for the superhuman musical task of preparing new music for every episode, hundreds of night per year. Drummer Ahmir Thompson, better known as ?uestlove or Questlove, is the show's music director. We spoke to him during a typically hectic production day as he scurried between rehearsals for sketches and music cues.

FOR SIXTEEN YEARS SCOTT HEALY HAS EXCELLED at one of the most challenging gigs in music: As keyboardist for Conan on Late Night, The Tonight Show, and now in the "Legally Prohibited" band, Healy has mastered literally thousands of tunes with minimal rehearsal, then performed them perfectly for an audience of millions.

ON DECEMBER 4, 1956, FOUR YOUNG MUSICIANS convened at Sun Studios in Memphis, TN for a photo op and impromptu jam. The recordings would languish unreleased for decades, but the one-time collaboration between Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Carl Perkins-dubbed "The Million Dollar Quartet"-turned into a rock and roll legend.

"I GOT GOOD ADVICE EARLY ON from Joe Viola, my saxophone teacher," says Mindi Abair. "He said, 'Look, there's already a David Sanborn. There's already a Wayne Shorter. There's already a Cannonball Adderley. Your only chance for success is being you.'"

MIKE STERN IS ONE OF THE MOST important figures in modern jazz guitar. After erupting onto the scene as the fiery young soloist in several of Miles Davis's 1980s bands, he issued a string of thrilling solo albums, culminating in the recent GRAMMY®-nominated Big Neighborhood. Over the years Stern has perfected a distinctive solo style that melds fluid bebop lines with funky inflections steeped in blues and rock. Stern recently spoke to us from his home in New York City, where he was enjoying a brief stopover between a European tour and a series of Japanese concerts.

PEDJA MUZIJEVIC IS ONE OF TODAY'S most adventurous classical performers. The Sarajevo-born, New York City-based pianist has won praise and prizes for his solo recitals, orchestral and chamber performances, and collaborations with such leading dance troupes as Mikhail Baryshnikov's White Oak Dance Project and the Trisha Brown Dance Company.

Diane Birch doesn't complain when listeners hear echoes of the great 1970s singer/songwriters on her debut album, Bible Belt. "I love being compared to that stuff, because it's some of the best music out there," she says. "I consider myself lucky if my music reminds people of that era."

IF HISTORY HAD GONE A BIT DIFFERENTLY, WE MIGHT have had one more rodeo champ, but one less groundbreaking musician.