Welcome to the August 2019 Issue

Welcome to the August 2019 issue of Black Grooves, sponsored by the Indiana University Archives of African American Music and Culture.

Our featured projects this month include The Americus Brass Band’s Tribute to James Reese Europe’s Harlem Hell Fighters’ Band on the 100th Anniversary of the Pathé Recordings in which they recreate the music performed during the 1919 recording sessions, and Florence Beatrice Price’s Symphonies No. 1 and No. 4 performed by the Fort Smith Symphony under the direction of John Jeter.

Jazz releases include bassist Avery Sharpe’s 400: An African American Musical Portrait, bassist Charnett Moffett’s Bright New Day, the New Orleans-based Soul Brass Band’s Levels, and Damon Locks Black Monument Ensemble’s Where Future Unfolds. Other cross-genre projects include Chicago poet-musician Avery R. Young’s Tubman and Ranky Tanky’s exploration of Gullah heritage on their sophomore album Good Time.  Blues releases include Zac Harmon’s Mississippi BarBQ and Mary Lane’s Travelin’ Woman.

Wrapping up this issue is Missing Chapters from the Atlanta-based Cameroonian-born artist Moken, and our list of July Black Music Releases of Note.

Americus Brass Band’s Tribute to James Reese Europe

 

Title: Tribute to James Reese Europe’s Harlem Hell Fighters’ Band
Artist: Americus Brass Band
Label: Cambria Master Recordings/Naxos
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date: July 19, 2019

 

The full title of this fantastic project is self-explanatory: The Americus Brass Band Pays Tribute to James Reese Europe’s Harlem Hell Fighters’ Band on the 100th Anniversary of the Pathé Recordings. At the dawn of the 20th century, Jim Europe was making a name for himself on the musical stages of New York as a talented pianist, composer and conductor, later leading the famed Clef Club Symphony Orchestra as well as his own group, James Reese Europe’s Society Orchestra. In mid-1916, Europe’s life changed course when he was asked to lead an all-black regiment band on the eve of WWI. After sailing to France in January 1918, Europe’s group quickly became the most acclaimed band in the army. Renaming themselves the “Hell Fighters” (after the Black soldiers of the 369th Regiment), they toured France, thrilling both American and French audiences with their performances of the syncopated music newly designated as “jazz.” At the close of WWI in February1919, Europe’s Hell Fighter’s Band returned to a hero’s welcome in New York and one month later entered the recording studio. Continue reading

Fort Smith Symphony – Florence Beatrice Price Symphonies Nos. 1 and 4

 

Title: Florence Beatrice Price Symphonies Nos. 1 and 4
Artist: Fort Smith Symphony
Label: Naxos American Classics
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date: January 11, 2019

 

Born in segregated Little Rock, Arkansas in 1887, Florence Price attended the New England Conservatory when local schools refused to admit her, studying composition with George Whitefield Chadwick. Although she returned to Arkansas for a time, she and her daughters moved to Chicago in 1927 due to increased racial violence in Little Rock. There, she met prominent members of the Chicago’s African American arts scene such as Estelle Bonds, whose daughter, Margaret Bonds, became one of Price’s students. Though primarily known today as a composer of songs, notably “My Soul’s Been Anchored in the Lord” and “Songs to the Dark Virgin” popularized by Marian Anderson, Price was also the first African American woman to have a symphony performed by a major orchestra (the Chicago Symphony Orchestra performed her Symphony No. 1 at the World’s Fair in 1933). Unfortunately, many of her works were largely forgotten after her death, with major conductors like Serge Koussevitzky declining to program her symphonies. In fact, several of her works, including the Fourth Symphony recorded here, were thought to be lost until the manuscripts were rediscovered in a house in St. Anne, Illinois. This symphony was never performed during Price’s lifetime, and is instead receiving its premiere on this CD. Continue reading

Avery R. Young – Tubman

 

Title: Tubman
Artist: Avery R. Young
Label: FPE
Formats: CD, LP, Digital
Release date: July 19, 2019

 

Chicago poet and musician Avery R. Young’s new release, Tubman, is promoted as a soundtrack to his first volume of poetry, neckbone: visual verses (Northwestern University Press, June 2019), and serves as a platform for extending and exploring the book’s many interwoven themes through music. Accompanied by his group, De Deacon Board, Young’s brilliant cross-genre album dedicated to Harriet Tubman certainly stands on its own merits. The provocative tracks frequently delve into socio-political commentary, while Young’s musical palette is deeply rooted in the Delta—“the blues, the gospel, that swamp type of rock ‘n’ roll.” As one might expect from this poet, other influences include The Last Poets and Gil Scott-Heron, as well as ‘70s soul musicians such as Curtis Mayfield and Otis Redding, the Black church, and the Black Arts Movement. Plus funk, lots of funk! Continue reading

Avery Sharpe – 400: An African American Musical Portrait

 

Title: 400: An African American Musical Portrait
Artist: Avery Sharpe
Label: JKNM Records
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date: May 1st, 2019

 

From the arrival of the first slave ships in Jamestown, VA in 1619 to the present, Africans in the diaspora have retained the common African belief that life, religion and music are one. Jazz bassist Avery Sharpe’s new project, 400: An African American Musical Portrait, embodies the very essence of this concept. Sharpe pays homage to the continent of Africa and to African diasporic ancestors as he commemorates the 400 years since Africans were brought to America. Continue reading

Damon Locks Black Monument Ensemble – Where Future Unfolds

 

Title: Where Future Unfolds
Artist: Damon Locks Black Monument Ensemble
Label: IARC
Formats: CD, LP, Digital
Release date: June 14, 2019

 

Recorded live last November at the Red Bull Music Festival in Chicago, Damon Locks’ new release with his 15-piece Black Monument Ensemble may quite literally capture Where Future Unfolds. This forward looking project began as a sound collage piece incorporating samples from Civil Rights era speeches and grew into an epic, avant-garde oratorio. While the album can’t capture the full spectacle of the live performance with dancers from Move Me Soul, the recording still conveys the powerful message of Locks’ music. Likely influenced by the theatricality of Sun Ra and the aesthetics of The Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, Locks’ magnum opus also bears some resemblance to albums released during the Black Power and Black Arts Movement eras. This is clear from the opening “Statement of Intent/Black Monument Theme,” which is primarily a spoken word piece over the African-rooted percussion of Arif Smith and Dana Hall. The dense lyrics conclude with the call to action: “So we choose our next move / The time is now, it has always been / Respond anew / Pass the guard and get through, because some things never change.” Continue reading

Charnett Moffett – Bright New Day

 

Title: Bright New Day
Artist: Charnett Moffett
Label: Motéma Music
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date: June 21, 2019

 

Bright New Day is the newest album by bass player extraordinaire, Charnett Moffett. Released just two years after his Music From Our Soul (2017), Bright New Day is his seventh album with Motéma Music and sixteenth album as front man and bandleader. Moffett’s remarkable resume includes performances and recordings with jazz luminaries such as Ornette Coleman, Tony Williams, Mulgrew Miller, Wallace Roney, Brandford and Wynton Marsalis, and Stanley Jordan, among others. His album features a great supporting cast which includes guitarist and founder of Motéma Music Jana Herzen, drummer Mark Whitfield Jr., keyboardist Brian Jackson, and violinist Scott Tixier. Continue reading

Soul Brass Band – Levels

 

Title: Levels
Artist: Soul Brass Band
Label: Independent
Formats: CD, LP, Digital
Release date: July 19, 2019

 

The Soul Brass Band, under the leadership of front man Derrick Freeman, just released their newest album Levels. Before founding this New Orleans-based brass band, Freeman—a virtuoso percussionist, vocalist, and pianist—performed with Kermit Ruffins as well as other notable bands like Mass Hysteria and Coolbone. Levels mixes the sounds of the brass band with soul, R&B, and hip hop, and includes lyrics that uplift and encourage people to ‘keep on pushin’ and enduring through the different spheres of life. The title track, “Levels,” as well as “How Far We Come” and “Ease on Down The Road” all articulate this positive mentality that stimulate and elevate one’s consciousness. Musically speaking, the album maintains a consistent level of high spirited energy throughout. From the lush and crisp harmonies in the horns to dynamic head-bopping grooves in the rhythm section, Levels certainly creates the perfect party atmosphere for all listeners. Continue reading

Zac Harmon – Mississippi BarBQ

 

Title: Mississippi BarBQ
Artist: Zac Harmon
Label: Catfood
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date: July 19, 2019

 

A native of Jackson, Mississippi, Zac Harmon knows barbecue like he knows the blues: intimately! No wonder the award-winning blues singer and guitarist has chosen to celebrate grill season in the South on his latest album, Mississippi BarBQ. Like many young folk, Harmon was beckoned by the bright lights of Tinseltown and spent many years in L.A. as a studio musician, songwriter and producer—including a stint at Michael Jackson’s publishing company, ATV Music. After writing songs for R&B artists such as The Whispers, The O’Jays, and Karyn White, Harmon decided to return to his roots and released his first blues album in 2003. What is immediately apparent on his latest effort are the dual strands of his musical influences, or in more colloquial terms, the soul seeps into his blues like barbecue sauce into pork. Continue reading

Ranky Tanky – Good Time

 

Title: Good Time
Artist: Ranky Tanky
Label: Resilience Music
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date: July 12, 2019

 

Ranky Tanky‘s Good Time is a beautiful project that honors the Gullah culture while also celebrating African and African American culture and music. Their music represents the African concept of music, life and religion as a unified entity. Because of this “oneness,” many of Ranky Tanky’s songs such as “Freedom” and “Stand By Me” are intertwined with social and political messages, conveying issues in contemporary Black life while also using religious overtones. These sacred overtones are heard throughout the song “Good Time,” which “takes you straight to church” as they say in the vernacular. Ranky Tanky also revisit the storytelling folk tradition of their Gullah heritage to convey the messages found in each song. Continue reading

Mary Lane – Travelin’ Woman

 

Title: Travelin’ Woman
Artist: Mary Lane
Label: Women of the Blues
Formats: CD, Digital
Release Date: March 8, 2019

 

At 83 years of age, legendary blues singer Mary Lane is proving that she’s still got it. Two decades after the release of her first full-length CD, Lane has made a notable comeback with Travelin’ Woman, appropriately released on Women of the Blues Records. Continue reading

Moken – Missing Chapters

 

Title: Missing Chapters
Artist: Moken
Label: MoodSwing Records
Format: CD, Digital
Release Date: August 9, 2019

 

When Cameroonian-born artist Moken released his debut album, Chapters of My Life (2016), he sought to capture the tumultuous experience of moving to the U.S. in the jazzy, rhythmic style of Cameroonian makossa music. Three years later Moken, who is now based in Atlanta, has compiled both new and reworked songs he felt were missing from his first album in the aptly titled Missing Chapters. Drawing upon a close circle of Atlanta musicians and other friends, including drummer Raphael Periera and violinist/flutist Marla Feeney, Moken offers what he calls “a feelings album,” as in “whatever felt right, we kept it.” Continue reading