Welcome to the October 2019 Issue

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

Our featured project this month is the new three disc compilation, Protobilly: Minstrel & Tin Pan Alley DNA of Country Music 1892-2017, produced and/or annotated by Dom Flemons, Dick Spottswood, Henry Sapoznik, and David Giovannoni.

Also highlighted are two classical recordings: Richard Thompson’s The Mask in the Mirror – A Chamber Opera and Jamaican-born composer Eleanor Alberga’s String Quartets Nos. 1-3, performed by Ensemble Arcadiana.

This month’s jazz selections include Ramsey Lewis & the Urban Knights seventh album VII, the Chick Corea Trio’s Trilogy 2, and the Louisiana-based Lilli Lewis Project’s multi-genre album We Belong. Gospel releases include John P. Kee’s I Made It Out and a new compilation, Jewell Gospel Trio: Many Little Angels in the Band, featuring a 1950s gospel girl group that included a teenage Candi Staton.

Other new releases include rising Chicago blues musician Toronzo Cannon’s The Preacher, The Politician or The Pimp, spoken word artist/poet Tenesha The Wordsmith’s Peacocks & Other Savage Beasts, the Brooklyn Funk Essentials’s Stay Good, and Vaneese Thomas’s Down Yonder. Wrapping up this issue is our list of September Black Music Releases of Note.

Protobilly: The Minstrel & Tin Pan Alley DNA of Country Music

Title: Protobilly: The Minstrel & Tin Pan Alley DNA of Country Music
Artist: Various
Label: JSP
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date: October 25, 2019

 

 

Those who watched Ken Burns Country Music documentary on PBS and want to dig a little deeper into the roots of the genre should find this new box set quite fascinating. Protobilly: The Minstrel & Tin Pan Alley DNA of Country Music 1892-2017, as the title suggests, “documents old country songs with origins in minstrelsy, vaudeville, Tin Pan Alley, ballads, ancient hymnals, deep-south blues, and other venerable popular music genres.” The anthology was meticulously produced by three highly regarded sound recording historians—the vernacular music specialists and radio producers Dick Spottswood and Henry Sapoznik, who also wrote the liner notes, and David Giovannoni, who contributed many rare cylinders and discs from his own collection. Additionally, Grammy Award winning musician Dom Flemons, aka “The American Songster” and former member of the Carolina Chocolate Drops, also contributed to the notes.  Continue reading

Richard Thompson – The Mask in the Mirror: A Chamber Opera

 

Title: The Mask in the Mirror: A Chamber Opera
Artist: Richard Thompson (comp.)
Label: Navona
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date: February 8, 2019

 

The Mask in the Mirror, a three-act chamber opera from composer and pianist Richard Thompson, portrays turmoil and tragedy in this dramatization of the courtship and marriage of renowned African-American poet Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906) and author Alice Ruth Moore (1875-1935). Conducted by Stephen Tucker, The Sanaa Opera Project released a recording of The Mask in the Mirror earlier this year. Featuring tenor Cameo Humes in the role of Paul and soprano Angela Owens as Alice, with mezzo-soprano Lindsay Patterson Abdou in several supporting familial roles, The Mask in the Mirror balances man against woman, jazz against classical composition, and society against self in a rise of tension that resolves only with end of their relationship and Paul’s subsequent surrender to tuberculosis. Continue reading

Ensemble Arcadiana – Eleanor Alberga, String Quartets 1, 2 & 3

 

Title: Eleanor Alberga: String Quartets 1, 2 & 3
Artist: Ensemble Arcadiana
Label: Navona
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date: June 14, 2019

 

Jamaican-born British composer Eleanor Alberga has received more attention in the past few years since her piece, Arise, Athena!, opened the final concert of the BBC Proms in 2015. This recording of her string quartets highlights some earlier compositions, in which her modernist sensibilities are at the fore. Alberga utilizes many compositional tools in her vast toolbox to bring drama to three very different works, all composed within an eight-year period from 1993-2001. Working in a combination of modernist and postmodern idioms, Alberga has not forgotten harmonic tension and release and plenty of repetition; this is not to say that her music is conservative, but that it is refreshingly expressive and has an engaging sense of narrative and rhythmic drive, honed from her training as a composer for modern dance.  Continue reading

Ramsey Lewis & Urban Knights – VII

 

Title: VII
Artist: Ramsey Lewis & Urban Knights
Label: Ropeadope
Formats: CD, LP, Digital
Release date: September 27, 2019

 

Music industry iconic figure, legendary jazz pianist, and Chicago native Ramsey Lewis has released what is possibly his final album with the Urban Knights, VII, before embarking on his journey into retirement. Since his debut album, Ramsey Lewis and his Gentle-men of Swing (1956), Lewis has been a thriving force in the music industry as a successful artist and radio personality, producing countless record albums, and hosting his Legends of Jazz radio and television series. Along the way he has received three Grammy Awards and five gold records, not to mention recordings and collaborations with major music figures such as Nancy Wilson, Maurice White, Freddie Hubbard, Grover Washington Jr., Oliver Nelson, Benny Golson, Dr. Lonnie Smith, and Tony Bennett, among many others. Continue reading

Chick Corea Trio – Trilogy 2

 

Title: Trilogy 2
Artist: Chick Corea Trio
Label: Concord Jazz
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date: October 4, 2019

 

 

Musician extraordinaire and jazz luminary Chick Corea returns to the stage with jazz giants Christian McBride and Brian Blade on his newest two-disc live recording, Trilogy 2. Released five years after his Trilogy (2014), which won two Grammy Awards for Best Jazz Instrumental Album and Best Improvised Jazz Solo for “Fingerprints,” Trilogy 2 comes as a welcome sequel and features Corea’s originals as well as jazz classics and standards from the American Songbook.  Continue reading

Toronzo Cannon – The Preacher, The Politician or The Pimp

 

Title: The Preacher, The Politician or The Pimp
Artist: Toronzo Cannon
Label: Alligator
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date: September 20, 2019

 

To the uninitiated, Toronzo Cannon might seem to be a relatively new arrival to the blues scene, but he has been paying his dues for years. A Chicago native who did not begin playing guitar until he was 22, Cannon started out as a sideman for local musicians such as Tommy McCracken and Wayne Baker Brooks, but he has been fronting his own bands since 2003. Cannon’s new release, The Preacher, The Politician or The Pimp, is his second album for Alligator Records and follows on the heels of The Chicago Way, voted the best blues album of 2016 by readers of Living Blues magazine. On his newest outing, Cannon is joined by veteran keyboardist Roosevelt Purifoy, who has performed with Chicago artists such as Buddy Guy and recorded with countless others. Rounding out his rhythm section are Melvin “Pooky Styx” Carlisle on drums and Marvin Little on bass. Continue reading

Lilli Lewis Project – We Belong

 

Title: We Belong
Artist: Lilli Lewis Project
Label: Louisiana Red Hot
Formats: CD, LP, Digital
Release date: September 6, 2019

 

On the Lilli Lewis Project’s newest release, We Belong, the Louisiana-based quintet offers their commentary on the importance of being connected to others, whether that connection is within a community, family or intimate relationship. Led by Lilli Lewis on piano and vocals, the multi-genre jazz, folk, funk and soul band also features Smokey Brown (guitar), Wade Hymel (drums), Ryan Murry (percussion), Ole Oddlokken (sax), Dr. Jimbo Walsh (bass), plus a few special guests. Continue reading

Tenesha The Wordsmith – Peacocks & Other Savage Beasts

 

Title: Peacocks & Other Savage Beasts
Artist: Tenesha The Wordsmith
Label: On the Corner
Formats: CD, LP, and Digital
Release date: August 30, 2019

 

 

First coming on to the scene as a guest on the title track of DJ Khalad’s 2018 On The Corner release, Black Noise 2084, Tenesha The Wordsmith has delivered a timely yet timeless solo album with Peacocks & Other Savage Beasts. Blending and bending genres, Tenesha holds true to her name, wordsmithing to weave narratives together, painting a new reality in the process. This album withholds nothing, deftly balancing social commentary, and critiques, with narrative. There is also a clear through-line of hope. Though many of the narratives included within this album are considered personal, they are framed such that they transcend the individual to become the collective, as exemplified in the track, ‘The Collection.” The pieces that bookend the album, “Dangerous Women” and “I Dream So Loud,” are poetry as prayer; they are invocation, they are inspiration, they are aspiration.  Continue reading

The Jewell Gospel Trio: Many Little Angels in the Band

Title: The Jewell Gospel Trio: Many Little Angels in the Band
Artist: Jewell Gospel Trio
Label: Gospel Friend
Format: CD
Release date: October 18, 2019

 

 

Before Candi Staton hit it big as a soul singer in the 1970s, she was a member of an extremely talented group of young singers known variously as the Jewell Gospel Trio, Jewel Gospel-Aires, and Jewel Gospel Singers. Based in Nashville, the core group included Canzetta Staton*, as she was then known, her sister Maggie Staton, and the late Naomi Harrison. This new compilation, The Jewell Gospel Trio: Many Little Angels in the Band, tells the story of the group as well as the Staton sisters through the liner notes by Opal Louis Nations and archival photos supplied by Maggie.  Continue reading

John P. Kee – I Made It Out

 

Title: I Made It Out
Artist: John P. Kee
Label: eOne
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date: September 13, 2019

 

Pastor John P. Kee releases yet another spirit filled, “fire baptized,” sanctified and funk-tified album. I Made It Out, Kee’s debut on the eOne Music label, is actually his 26th album release. Building upon the legacy of Kee’s rich musical career that began with his 1987 debut, Yes Lord, his new project features popular gospel artists such as Zachardi Cortez on the hit single “I Made It Out” and Micah Stampley on “Created to Worship.” The album also features the Instagram singing sensations and industry up and comers, Samoht and Ashley Jayy. Continue reading

Brooklyn Funk Essentials – Stay Good

 

Title: Stay Good
Artist: Brooklyn Funk Essentials
Label: Dorado
Formats: CD, LP, Digital
Release date: September 20, 2019

 

Brooklyn Funk Essentials may not be based in Brooklyn anymore, but they sure haven’t given up on the funk. Founded over twenty years ago by Lars “Lati” Kronlund, BFE and its lineup have gone through many shifts over the years. Just before forming the band, Lati released the club anthem “Where Love Lives” with Alison Limerick. Now, for the band’s latest album, the creative relationship between Lati and Alison has been rekindled—with the addition of four other musicians—and BFE has given new life to the projects the duo was working on in the 90s. Continue reading

Vaneese Thomas – Down Yonder

 

Title: Down Yonder
Artist: Vaneese Thomas
Label: Segue
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date: August 23, 2019

 

The long spanning, successful career of Vaneese Thomas is no surprise given her background—the daughter of legendary R&B musician and entertainer Rufus Thomas and the sister of “Memphis Queen” Carla Thomas and keyboardist Marvell Thomas, Vaneese has certainly carried on her family’s musical legacy. In her own style, Vaneese has captured the rich heritage of Memphis soul and R&B while infusing it with gospel, blues, and jazz influences from her lived experiences. In her latest project, Down Yonder, Thomas returns to her southern roots for a soul-stirring album that is at times both heart wrenching and joyous. Continue reading

September 2019 Black Music Releases of Note

Following are additional albums released during September 2019 across multiple genres—some will be reviewed in future issues of Black Grooves.  Continue reading