Archive for October, 2013

September 2013 Releases of Note

Following are additional albums released during September 2013 that are on our hot list — some will be reviewed in future issues of Black Grooves.

 Rap/Hip Hop:
2 Chainz: Based on a T.R.U. Story 2 (Def Jam)
3sixdy: Rise of the Street Scientist (360 Sound & Vision)
14KT: Nickel & Dimed (Mello Music Group)
Andre Nickatina: Andre Nickatina (Empire Distribution)
B.L.A.C.C.: Heart Lost Tapes (360 Sound & Vision)
Celly Cel: Morphine (Empire Distribution)
CharlieRed: Muse (Tristate Inventory)
Clear Soul Forces: Gold PP7′s (Fat Beat)
Denzel Curry: Nostalgic 64 (L&E x C9)
Dizzee Rascal: The Fifth (Island UK)
DJ Khaled: Suffering From Success (Cash Money)
Drake: Nothing Was the Same (Cash Money)
El-P & Killer Mike: Run the Jewels EP (Fool’s Gold)
Exile: Zip Disks & Floppies (Dirty Science)
Foreign Exchange: Love in Flying Colors (FE Music/Hard Boiled)
Georgia Ann Muldrow: Jyoti: Denderah (Someothaship Connect)
Ghost Poet: Some Say I (Play It Again Sam)
Lil Keke: Awready (Oarfin Records)
Lil Wayne: Dedication 5 (Mixtape)
Live Percenters: The Corners Involved (HiPNOTT)
Meek Mill: Dreamchasers 3 (MMG)
Nelly: M.O. (Republic)
Planet Asia: High End Cloths (Empire Distribution)
Procussions: Procussions (self-release)
Prozak: We All Fall Down (Strange Music)
Radical Something: Ride It Out (Radical Something)
Rizzle Kicks: Roaring 20s (Island UK)
Sean Brown: Whole Foods 2 (Tha Alumni)
Sean Kingston: Back to Life (Epic)
Slim Thug & Z-Ro: A King & A Boss (Venom Entertainment)
Tanya Morgan: Rubber Souls (ImprintOne80)
Trae: Deep in the Heart of Texas (Oarfin Records)
Wordsmith: Blue Collar Recital (NU Revolution)

Gospel:
Andrae Crouch: Live in Los Angeles (Riverphlo)
Cepeda Mckay & No Limits: As One (self-release)
Kevin Lemons & Higher Calling: Declaration (Capitol Christian Music Group)
Deitrick Haddon: R.E.D. (RCA Inspiration)
Donald Lawrence: Best for Last (E1)
Earnest Pugh: The W.I.N. Experience (PMan/Central South)
Lamar Campbell & Spirit of Praise: Open the Sky (Soulstride/Universal)
Newsboys: Restart (Sparrow (Universal)
Sheri Jones-Moffett: Power & Authority (Motown Gospel)
Sorrow Come Pass Me Around: A Survey of Rural Black Religious Music (Dust to Digital)

R&B/Soul/Funk:
Allen Toussaint: Songbook (Rounder)
Berry Gordy: It Moves Me: The Songs of Berry Gordy (remastered) (Soul Jam)
Billy Preston: 16-Yr. Old Soul (Real Gone)
Blackbyrds: Walking in Rhythm Essential Selection 1973-1980 (Soul Temple)
Booker T & the MGs: Soul Party (reissue) (Wounded Bird)
Bradd Marquis: Thank You (Nia)
Claudia Lennear: Phew! (1973 album reissue) (Real Gone)
Darrow Fletcher: The Pain Gets A Little Deeper, The Complete Early Years (Kent)
Eccentric Soul the Forte Label (Numero)
Frank Bey with the Anthony Paule Band: Soul for Your Blues (Blue Dot)
Garland Jeffries: Truth Serum (Luna Park)
Glenn Lewis: Moment Of Truth (Ruffhouse)
Jaheim: Appreciation Day (Atlantic)
Janelle Monáe: The Electric Lady (Atlantic)
Jason Derulo: Tattoos (Warner Bros / Wea)
Jermaine Jackson: Dynamite (Expanded Ed.)(Funky Town Grooves)
John Legend: Love in the Future (Columbia)
K-Ci & Jojo: My Brothers Keeper (FE Music/Hard Boiled)
Little Axe: Return (Echo Beach)
Mack Wild: New York: A Love Story (Re Mi Fa/Louder Than Life)
Mario: Restoration (RCA)
Musiq Soulchild & Syleena Johnson: 9ine (Shanachie)
Mutiny: Funk Road (Catbone Music)
The Newcomers: Mannish Boys Stax & Volt Recordings 1969-74 (Stax UK)
Pleasure: Glide, Essential Selections 1975–1982 (Soul Temple)
Raheem Devaughn: A Place Called Loveland (Mass Appeal)
Ray Charles: Ray Charles Forever (Concord)
Ray Parker & Raydio: Two Places at the Same Time (Expanded Ed.) (Real Gone)
Sandra St. Victor: Oya’s Daughter (Shanachie)
Tamar Braxton: Love and War (Epic)
Trombone Shorty: Say That to Say This (Verve)
The Weeknd: Kiss Land (Universal Republic)

Blues/Folk/Rock:
Blind Blake: Rough Guide to Blind Blake (World Music Network)
Bumble Bee Slim: Back in Town! (reissue) (Cleopatra)
Chuck Berry: San Francisco Dues (1st CD reissue) ( Get On Down)
Cyrille Neville: Magic Honey (Ruf Records)
Dave Riley & Bob Corritore: Hush Your Fuss! (SWMAF/VizzTone)
The Dirtbombs: Ooey Gooey Chewy Ka-Blooey! (In The Red)
Elvis Costello & The Roots: Wise Up Ghost (Blue Note)
Eric Gales Trio: Ghost Notes (Tone Center)
Guy Davis: Juba Dance (M.C. Records)
Jimi Hendrix: Jimi Hendrix- The Guitar Hero (Universal UK)
Lenny Kravitz: Are You Gonna Go My Way (20th Anniversary Ed.) (Virgin/Universal)
Little Joe Washington: Texas Fire Line (Dialtone)
Lonnie Holley: Keeping a Record of It (Dust to Digital)
Love: Da Capo (Mobile Fidelity Koch)
Muscle Shoals Soundtrack (Republic)
Natalia Kills: Trouble (Interscope)
North Mississippi Allstars: World Boogie Is Coming (Songs of the South)
Rise of Black Music in Britain: Calypsos Boogies Rockers Ballads & Bluebeat (AIS)
Smokin’ Joe Kubek & Bnois King: Road Dog’s Life (Delta Groove)
Sugaray Rayford: Dangerous (Delta Groove)
Shawn Holt & The Teardrops: Daddy Told Me (Blind Pig)
Willis Earl Beal: Nobody Knows (Hot Charity/XL)

Jazz:
Calvin Keys: Electric Keys (Wide Hive Records)
Dayna Stephens: I’ll Take My Chances (Criss Cross)
Dee Daniels: State of the Art (Criss Cross)
Empirical: Tabula Rosa (Naim)
Geri Allen: Grand River Crossings: Motown and Motor City Inspirations (Motema)
Greg Porter: Liquid Spirit (Blue Note)
Gregory Privat: Tales of Cyparis (Plus Loin Music)
Jeri Brown: Echoes- Live at Catalina Jazz Club (Jongleur)
Kenny Garrett: Pushing the World Away (Mack Avenue)
Lin Rountree: Serendipitous (Cutmore Records)
M1, Brian Jackson & New Midnight Band: Evolutionary Minded (Motema)
Mack Avenue Superband: Live From the Detroit Jazz Festival (Mack Avenue)
Magic Malik: Tranz Denied (Bee Jazz)
Matana Roberts: Coin Coin Chapter Two- Mississippi Moonchile (Constellation)
Modern Jazz Quartet: Lost Tapes- Germany 1956-1958 (Jazzhaus)
Rebellum: The Darknuss  (Buddha Bug Records)

Reggae:
10 Ft. Ganja Plant: Skycatcher (Roir)
Bitty Mclean/Sly & Robbie: Taxi Sessions (Silent River)
Brinsley Forde: Urban Jungle (Heartbeat)
Joe Higgs: Unity is Power (reissue) (Pressure Sounds)
Unit 3: In the Fields (Born Free)

World:
Afrobeat Airways 2: Return Flight to Ghana (Analog Africa)
Donso: Denfila (Proper Music)
Joan Soriano: Vocales de Amor (Horizon Line)
John Wizards: John Wizards (Planet Mu)
Lala Njava: Malagasy Blues Song (Riverboat)
Mulatu Astatqe: Sketches of Ethiopia (Jazz Village)
Rough Guide to Voodoo (World Music Network)
Sidi Toure: Alafia (Thrill Jockey)

Holiday:
Wow Gospel Christmas (EMI Gospel)
Jonathan Butler: Merry Christmas to You (Artistry Music)


 

 

View review October 1st, 2013

Music from Mali: The Desert Blues (Part 2)

rokia-traore-beautiful-africa

Title: Beautiful Africa

Artist: Rokia Traoré

Format: CD, MP3

Label: Nonesuch Records

Release date: September 24, 2013

 

 

Malian singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist Rokia Traoré is based in Bamako, but fled to Paris during the height of the conflict, and in the autumn of 2012 joined Damon Albarn’s UK train tour Africa Express to promote the music of the continent. Her latest album, Beautiful Africa, draws upon both African and Western influences, and is somewhat more pop-oriented than our other featured projects.  Primarily singing in her native languages of French and Bambara, Traoré is backed by Mamah Diabaté on ngoni, Fatim Kouyaté and Bintou Soumbounou on back-up vocals, Nicolaï Munch-Hansen on bass and doublebass, producer John Parish and Stefano Pilia on guitars, Sebastian Rochford on drums, with Jason Singh as the human beatbox. Here’s a live performance of the title track:

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Other highlights include the lament “Mélancolie,” the duet with Singh “Ka Moun Ké,” and the opening track “Lalla.”

 

ballake_sissoko_at_peace_cover

Title: At Peace

Artist: Ballaké Sissoko

Format: CD, MP3

Label: Six Degrees Records

Release date: February 5, 2013

 

 

Following up on their award winning 2009 album Chamber Music, Malian kora player Ballaké Sissoko and French cellist Vincent Ségal are continuing their cross-cultural collaboration with At Peace. Recorded in France during the summer of 2012, shortly after the Mali coup d’etat, the title expresses a hope for harmony and healthy community life. Backing up Sissoko and Ségal  are Aboubacar “Badian” Diabaté on 12-string guitar, Moussa Diabaté on 6-string guitar, and Fasséry Diabaté on balafon.  Sissoko is provided with plenty of opportunities to showcase his mastery of the kora on the solo tracks “Maimouna,” “Nalésonko” and “Kalanso.” Other highlights include the kora-guitar duets “Boubalaka” and “N’tomikorobougou” (the latter recorded in Bamako), as well as the kora-cello duet “Kabou” and a delightful cover of  Luiz Gonzaga’s Brazilian classic “Asa Branca” performed as a kora-guitar-cello trio.

 

Jama-Ko-cover

Title: Jama Ko

Artist: Bassekou Kouyaté & Ngoni Ba

Format: CD, LP, MP3

Label: Out Here Records

Release Date: April, 2 2013

 

 

I had the pleasure of experiencing a live performance by the legendary Malian ngoni player Bassekou Kouyate and his eight-piece ensemble Ngoni Ba at the 2013 Lotus World Music Festival, which for me was the highlight of the weekend.  Kouyaté knows how to excite a Western audience, ratcheting up the volume and distortion on the electrified ngonis in the tradition of the best rock bands. His latest album, Jama Ko, is somewhat more subdued but no less enticing. Recorded in March 2012 in Bamako in the midst of the military coup that shook the capital city, the political situation changed the focus of his album to a call for peace, tolerance and unity, starting with the title track “Jama ko” (literally, a big gathering of people):

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Other highlights include Kasse Mady Diabaté on the Latin-flavored “Sinaly,” Bassekou’s wife Any Sacko and Khaira Arby on the duet “Kele Magni” which is a call for peace, and “Poye 2,” a fantastic duo between Bassekou and Taj Mahal.

 

khaira

Title: Timbuktu Tarab

Artist: Khaira Arby

Format: CD, MP3

Label: Clermont Music

Release Date: September 17, 2013

 

 

Mali’s queen of desert blues, Khaira Arby, leads her own band, singing about work, love, family, women and the toll of war. Timbuktu Tarab, originally released in 2010, marks the first worldwide distribution of her music.  Backed by two electric guitars and bass, plus drumkit, calabash, njarka and ngoni, Arby deftly maneuvers between styles. Though her vocals are grounded in traditional song, the accompaniment is a fusion of desert blues, contemporary rock, and the musics of Northern Mali. In “Sourgou” Arby sings about the Tamasheks’ struggle against colonial domination, captured here in a live performance at KEXP during her 2010 U.S. tour:

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Reviewed by Brenda Nelson-Strauss

View review October 1st, 2013

Music from Mali: The Desert Blues (Part 1)

In 2012 after armed rebellion broke out in northern Mali, Sharia law was imposed, including a ban on all secular music. Islamic fundamentalists were seeking out musicians, burning their instruments in the streets, and, in some cases, even cutting off their hands, according to reports from guitarist Mamadou Kelly. Two months later soldiers overthrew the Mali government, creating turmoil thoughout the country as well as  power outages, fuel shortages, and daily curfews in the capital city of Bamako. Many musicians fled to refugee camps in neighboring countries where some remain in exile. Yet in spite of all that has transpired in Mali, the music has not been silenced. Over the past year, new releases have been piling up in our office, the bulk coming from ethnic Tuareg musicians in the north. Hence the title for this article, which refers both to the troubled times as well as the proliferation of the music from northern Mali known internationally as the “desert blues.” Following is a brief description of these nine albums (see Part 1 and Part 2).

 

Cover-Festival-au-Desert-Live-in-Timbuktu

Title: Live From Festival Au Desert, Timbuktu

Artists: Various

Formats: CD, MP3

Label: Clermont Music

Release date: April 30, 2013

 

 

Since 2001, the annual celebration of Saharan music known as Festival in the Desert has been held near Timbuktu in northern Mali, its mission to bring cross cultural exchange and economic stability. The festival of 2012 occurred just two days before the rebellion broke out, and the participating musicians used their influence to call for nonviolent reconciliation. This historic compilation captures a selection of those performances, recorded directly from the house sound board, which was then mixed and mastered in the U.S. by Clermont Music.  The 18 tracks include many of the artists featured in this issue of Black Grooves—Imharhan, Khaira Arby, Bassekou Kouyaté, and Mamadou Kelly with the Ali Farka Touré Allstars—as well as Afropop legend Habib Koite, the traditional Tamasheq group Tamnana (“Odwa”), the popular band Amanar, female vocalist Noura Mint Seymali, guitarist Samba Touré, singer Baba Djire, Kiran Alhuwala & Tinariwen, the Orchestre du Takamba, guitarist Oumar Konate with Leila Gobi, and the late guitarist Koudede, among others.   Proceeds from the sale of this album go directly to the artists and the festival organization. Though this year’s festival was cancelled, happily the 14th festival has been announced for January 2014 and the freedom of musical expression will continue.

tartit

Title: Live From the Sahara

Artist: Tartit with Imharhan

Formats: CD, MP3

Label: Clermont Music

Release date: November 12, 2013

 

 

In a country where the social order has changed dramatically over the past 50 years, musicians are no longer drawn exclusively from the caste of craftsmen and griots.  Such is the case with Tartit, a group formed in 1992 in a refugee camp in Mauritania that’s comprised of members from all levels of Tuareg society. In fact, the group’s name means “union,” not only of castes, but of male and female musicians performing together on instruments that were previously ensemble and gender specific. The popular group has released several albums, but during the conflict of 2012 members fled to various neighboring countries. As a result, Mohamed Issa ag Ourmar formed an offshoot group, Imharhan, that uses a more modern, electric sound. The groups came together again in 2012 at the Festival of the Desert in Timbuktu, where Live From the Sahara was recorded. Tracks 1-6 features Tartit performing traditional-styled songs accompanied by tehardent (4-string lute), tinde (hand drum) and imzad (violin), while tracks 7-9 incorporate Imharhan and the electric guitar for a more modern version of desert blues.

JeConte_Mali_Allstars-Mali_Blues

Title: Mali Blues

Artist: Jeconte & The Mali Allstars

Formats: CD, MP3

Label: Soul Now Records

Release date: July 30, 2013

 

 

During the 2010 Festival of the Desert, a rapport formed between American blues-rock singer-harmonica player JeConte and two Malian musicians: Boubacar Sidibé, a singer-songwriter-harmonica player, and Adama Dramé, an electric guitarist. The trio began to create a blues fusion that combined traditions from northern Africa and North America. The result is Mali Blues, recorded in Bamako during the 2012 coup d’etat.  Guest artists include songstress Khaira Arby, master percussionist Adama Dramé, ngoni virtuoso Bassekou Kouyate, and guitarist Vieux Farka Touré.  Of the albums featured here, Mali Blues will likely be the most accessible to international audiences, with its fusion of blues, rock and Afropop propelled by West African rhythms and talking drum. The featured track, “Le Monde pour le Paix,” calls for peace and unity for all the tribes of Mali:

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A percentage of the album’s proceeds go to JeConte’s non-profit organization soulnow.org, that works with cultures to help preserve their musical heritage.

mamadou

Title: Adibar

Artist: Mamadou Kelly

Format: CD, MP3

Label: Clermont Music

Release Date: September 17, 2013

 

 

From the heart of Mali’s Niger Delta, desert blues guitarist/vocalist Mamadou Kelly and his group Bankaina carry on the traditions of the late virtuoso Ali Farka Touré, with whom they performed and recorded for many years.  Adibar is Kelly’s debut album under his own name, and features Alpha Ousmane “Hama” Sankare on calabash and percussion, Brehima “Youro” Cisse on njarka (monochord fiddle) and djourkel (a mandolin-style instrument), with Baba Traoré on bass. In conjunction with his new album, Kelly recently participated in the Caravan for Peace tour with stops in the U.S. and Canada.  Following is a live performance of the opening track “Sehenon Men,” about Fulani women who judge men by the health of their herds:

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terakraft

Title: Kel Tamasheq

Artist: Terakaft

Formats: CD, MP3

Label: Harmonia Mundi

Release date: October 9, 2012

 

 

Fans of the band Tinariwen may wish to check out Terakaft, another proponent of the “modern desert blues” popularized in the Western Sahara and Mali over the past 20 years. Co-founder Kedou Ah Ossad and guitarist Diara (a.k.a. Liya Ag Ablil, the “Tuareg Keith Richards”) are both former members of Tinariwen, but for the most part have chosen to eschew the cross-cultural international collaborations that have been Tinariwen’s trademark on recent releases. However, the band did choose to work with Tinariwen’s producer, Justin Adams, for their new album Kel Tamasheq, which refers to the Tamashek-speaking Tuareg of northern Mali. The band members performing on this album include Liya Ag Ablil on vocals/guitar, Sanou Ag Ahmed and Abdallah Ag Ahmed on vocals, guitars and bass, Mathias Vaguenez on percussion, plus various guests including Adams who joins the band on guitar. Following is the video for track 6, “Imad Halan”:

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Overall, the album is not quite as varied in style or tempo as other modern desert blues bands such Tinariwen, but the music is by no means less significant. Regardless of the language barrier, Terakaft delivers a strong personal statement on the current struggles of the Tamashek people and efforts to maintain their culture in the face of political and religious adversity. Kel Tamasheq has already shot to the top of the world music charts in Europe, and the band will be touring the U.S. throughout October and early November in support of the album.

Reviewed by Brenda Nelson-Strauss

View review October 1st, 2013

Solomon Burke – Live at Montreux 2006

live at montreux 2006

Title: Live at Montreux 2006

Artist: Solomon Burke

Label: Eagle Rock Entertainment

Formats: CD, DVD

Release date: July 9, 2013

 

 

Solomon Burke, well-known for his masterful blend of R&B, gospel and blues, was a dynamic performer and pioneer in soul music. In the 2000s, he appeared live at Montreux Jazz Festival several times and this DVD documents his 2006 performance. From the thrilling Solomon Burke in his sparkling suit offering roses to audience members, to the parade of horns throughout the crowd, and Claude Nobs’—founder of the Montreux Jazz Festival—harmonica solo, there’s much to be entertained by as the “King of Rock ‘n’ Soul” belts out a mix of soul, blues, and gospel songs.

To call this performance energetic would be an understatement. While seated on his throne—he fully embraced the King of Rock ‘n’ Soul title donning a crown, scepter and cape earlier in his career—he gives more energy than most could do standing up, and he commands the same from his band members. Between songs, he engages with the audience, encouraging them to sing and dance along, often singling out individuals and talking to them directly. It’s clear he is enjoying himself as he dances while seated upon his throne.

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Among his own hits—including a medley of “Just Out of Reach,” “He’ll Have to Go,” “I Almost Lost My Mind,” and “It’s Just A Matter of Time” among others—are a few covers. One special moment during his performance is a tribute to the short-lived super-group, The Soul Clan, in which he weaves anecdotes of his personal experiences with Otis Redding, Ben. E. King, and Wilson Pickett among covers of their songs “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay,” “Stand By Me,” and “In the Midnight Hour.”

While both the DVD and CD allow us the opportunity to experience the late Solomon Burke’s soul stirring vocals once again, unfortunately the CD condenses the performance to 17 tracks that do not include the full medleys. The DVD includes 20 tracks, and is highly recommended.

Reviewed by Christina Harrison

View review October 2nd, 2013

Public Enemy – The Evil Empire of Everything

The+Evil+Empire+of+Everything+evil+empire

Title: The Evil Empire Of Everything

Artist: Public Enemy

Label: Eastlink / Enemy Records Earth

Formats: CD, LP, MP3

Release date: November 6, 2012

 

 

Following the summer 2012 debut of Most of My Heroes Still Don’t Appear On No Stamp, immortal rap act Public Enemy released their 12th studio album entitled The Evil Empire of Everything. Self-dubbed by Chuck D as the fraternal twin brother to Most of My Heroes, the two albums would likely have wound up as a double-LP concept album back in the day, since each part represents a different side of the same coin.

Rather than continuing the rolling boom-bap from Most of My Heroes, part two begins with a somber turn in the form of an epitaph to Trayvon Martin on the opening track “The Evil Empire Of…”, which remixes the initial report from George Zimmerman while Chuck D delivers a sermon-like homage to the young man. Right off the bat, it’s clear that Public Enemy stands firmly behind Martin and has dutifully spread their respect throughout the album to ensure his memory lives on.  While tastefully expressing their concerns with the racial implications behind the case, Chuck D and Flavor Flav are supported by an army of featured artists including NME Sun, Ziggy Marley, Tom Morello, Davy DMX, and Rampage.

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Don’t assume for one second that because of the delicate subject matter, this album doesn’t bring the same PE thump you’ve come to expect. Like all Public Enemy albums to date, the issues are preached in a lively call to arms by Chuck D, who ferociously brings the noise from start to finish. The beat makers behind The Evil Empire of Everything also seem to be heavily influenced by the tried-and-true beat formula of the original masterminds behind early Public Enemy, enabling a retro-inspired feel behind the instrumentals.

Some individual track highlights include “31 Flavors” where acclaimed hype-man Flavor Flav is given plenty of room to show the world he can still bring the house down as he injects pure energy in his still lightning-quick verses, giving the album an uplifting bump midway through. 2 (resPEct) also brings back the  scratching and high-caliber production you’ve been craving courtesy of Davy DMX in one of the album’s most banging tracks. On “Beyond Trayvon” NME Sun joins in to throw the facts of Travyon/Zimmerman back in your face in a smooth and rhetorically playful proclamation that race-based violence and prejudice cannot continue beyond Trayvon and that as human beings we need to stand together against injustice. But as long as this tragic injustice exists, Public Enemy is given more ammunition to fight for their causes. The Evil Empire of Everything does as such, and the powerful messages PE delivers here are definitely not lessons to miss.

Reviewed by Patrick Brown

View review October 2nd, 2013

Real Gone Music: 3 Funk Classics Reissued

Real Gone Music has earned the gratitude of funkateers everywhere with the reissue of three semi-precious gems from late 1970s: two by P-Funk mastermind George Clinton’s “other” female band, Parlet, with the third being former R & B shouter Larry Williams’ comeback effort, That Larry Willliams.

pleasure

Title: Pleasure Principle

Artist: Parlet

Label: Real Gone Music

Format: CD

Release date: July 30, 2013

 

 

Parlet was part of Clinton’s strategy to capitalize on the music industry’s (and general public’s) seemingly insatiable desire for all things Parliament/Funkadelic-related.  This included forming two bands with female vocal leads, the trio Parlet, featured here, and the better-known duo The Brides of Funkenstein.  Although Pleasure Principle, Parlet’s 1978 debut, actually preceded the Brides’ debut by over six months, Clinton by this time had spread himself too thin, and he didn’t devote much energy into either the concept or promotion of Parlet.  As a result, much of their output across these first two discs, originally released on Casablanca Records, sounds like what it was: leftover backing tracks from Clinton’s considerable menagerie of funk musicians, fronted by a rotating cast of accomplished yet ultimately rather faceless former Parliament/Funkadelic backup singers.

Pleasure Principle opens with two rather non-descript funk jams, enlivened somewhat by Bernie Worrell’s keyboard squiggles and bloops and, on “Love Amnesia” especially, by the Horny Horns’ stuttering brass charts.  ”Cookie Jar,” “Misunderstanding,” and “Mr. Melody Man” slow down the groove, and the first two tracks are probably the strongest ones on the disc.  They simmer along nicely as the ladies coo, the bass pops, and Bernie shows that he can play acoustic piano as well as he can play any electric keyboard.  ”Mr. Melody Man,” as suggested by the title, is a pretty soul/funk ballad that never really manages to catch fire.

booty

Title: Invasion of the Booty Snatchers

Artist: Parlet

Label: Real Gone Music

Format: CD

Release date: July 30, 2013

 

 

Parlet’s second disc, 1979′s Invasion of the Booty Snatchers, is more like it.  Once again the opening track is generic and forgettable, but “No Rump To Bump” lives up to its P-Funk pedigree, with a relentlessly horn-driven, ass-shaking groove and some head-scratching lyrics (“unfunky computer ain’t got no rump to bump”). “Don’t Ever Stop” is another ballad in an almost “quiet storm” vein, to which Bootsy adds his distinctive rubbery bass.  “You’re Leaving” is a break-up number with tight harmonies from the Parlet women in a give-and-take with Gary “Mudbone” Cooper assuming the male point-of-view, and it’s telling that Cooper’s lead is the most distinctive voice on the disc.  The final track, “Huff-N-Puff” is a retelling of the Little Red Riding Hood tale from a distinctly Funkadelic point-of-view, and it closes out the disc with thumping conviction.  After a couple of stressful tours and one more album (1980’s Play Me Or Trade Me), the Parlet experiment fizzled.  Clinton himself began to lose his Midas touch as the music world began turning away from funk toward newer styles such as disco and, later, rap, with the last of the original Parliament/Funkadelic releases appearing in 1981.

that larry

Title: That Larry Williams

Artist: Larry Williams

Label: Real Gone Music

Format: CD

Release date: April 30, 2013

 

 

Larry Williams’ career stretches back long before Parlet was even a gleam in George Clinton’s eye.  Williams got his start in the 1950s as a session R&B pianist, then cut several sides for Specialty as a raucous R&B singer.  Though he made only a modest mark on the Billboard charts stateside, he drew more notice in England, enough, at least, so that The Beatles, The Who, and The Rolling Stones all covered his songs.  In the 1960s, Williams toured and recorded with Johnny “Guitar” Watson and, after spending a decade trying his hand at acting, eventually released That Larry Williams, his final album, in 1978 on Fantasy Records.

The opener, an unconvincing remake of “Bony Moronie” (and a modest hit from his R&B past), uneasily straddles the line between funk and disco.  But elsewhere Williams and band The ATS Express confidently strut their stuff, benefiting from the presence of ringers (and former JBers and Horny Horns) Fred Wesley, Maceo Parker, and Rick Gardner on brass.  Much of That Larry Williams shares the goofiness that characterizes Guitar Watson’s own funk of this period, as well as reflecting significant influences from younger acts such as Bootsy Collins, but the music retains some of the edginess and menace that Williams demonstrated in his R&B days.  “The Resurrection of Funk (Funk Comes Alive)” sports an almost psychedelic groove (posing the ultimate existential question, “Do you believe in funk after death?”), and even “How Can I Believe (What You Say)?,” the album’s sole ballad, unfolds over a slinky, hypnotic pulse as Williams first needs to roll himself one and mellow out before getting down to the business of interrogating his wayward woman.

None of these three releases are lost masterpieces—sometimes albums don’t rise to the top of the hit parade for legitimate reasons—but each has its moments and should appeal to listeners interested exploring funk beyond the A-list stars.  Three and a half decades after their original appearances, all three of these discs can be enjoyed without the pressures of unmet expectations for what they are: well-made if not quite superlative slices of late-’70s funk.  The booklet notes that accompany the CDs are also refreshingly even-handed, not over-hyping the music but unafraid to point out the genuine pleasures found therein.  Here’s hoping Parlet’s final disc, Play Me Or Trade Me, is on Real Gone’s radar for reissue as well.

Reviewed by Terry Simpkins

View review October 2nd, 2013

Global Noize – Sly Reimagined

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Title:  Sly Reimagined

Artist: Global Noize

Label: Zoho Roots

Formats: CD, MP3

Release date:  June 11, 2013

 

 

First things first: if you think this is just another new-agey, smooth jazz project, let me to disabuse you of that notion right now. Producer/keyboardist Jason Miles and turntablist DJ Logic (a.k.a. Global Noize) have gathered an all-star cast including Nona Hendryx, Roberta Flack, and Greg Errico (Sly’s original drummer) to assist in this reimagining of Sly & the Family Stone’s classic hits for the 21st century. The arrangements are off-the-charts, but the message of the music is still loud and clear, still very essential, from “different strokes for different folks” to “it’s a family affair” to “stand for the things you know are right.”

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The album opens with “In Time” (from Fresh), led by Nona Hendryx with Malika Zarra adding a “world” vocal vibe. While the original is a funk masterpiece of interlocking riffs, the new arrangement is denser, more keyboard heavy with vocal overlays and scatting from Zarra.  Next up is the “groove vibe version” of “It’s a Family Affair,” this time led by Roberta Flack and James “D-Train” Williams, with Ingrid Jenson punching in the trumpet licks.  “Fun” (from Life), sung by Maya Azucena, drives the funk into the ground, with Ron Halloway taking an extended tenor sax solo.  More liberties are taken on “The Same Thing” (from the 1979 album Back on the Right Track), again led by Hendryx, but with some scratching from DJ Logic woven into the mix.  “You Can Make It If You Try” is a group effort, with Azucena, Williams, and Mudbone Cooper leading the vocals, and a no holds barred approach to the rhythm section, led by Errico (whose original drum patterns for the song have been sampled countless times).  Azucena also gives an inspired rendition of “Stand” while Nona Hendryx delivers the “67 Mulholland Drive Mix” of “The Same Thing.”  The Indian Jaipur singer Falu is featured on “Thank You for Talking to Me Africa,” “Dreams,” and joins Flack in the “Mumbai mix” of “It’s a Family Affair,” weaving in modal melodies from her “Indie-Hindi” tool kit on one of the most creative interpretations of the set.

Reviewed by Brenda Nelson-Strauss

View review October 2nd, 2013

Earth, Wind & Fire – Now, Then and Forever

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Title: Now, Then and Forever

Artist: Earth, Wind & Fire

Label: Sony Legacy

Formats: CD (Dlx. Ed.), LP, MP3

Release date: September 10, 2013

 

 

Earth, Wind & Fire is back with their first new studio album in eight years. Now, Then & Forever is at the core a solid EW&F effort, complete with atmospheric vocals, distinct harmonic prowess and an overall groove that will pull you in almost immediately. And their fans were obviously eagerly waiting the new album since it debuted at #11 on the Billboard 200 chart.

The album begins with that EW&F sound we all know and love in the conscious uplifting “Sign On” featuring Daniel McClain, who contributes background vocals to each track on the album. The first single “My Promise,” which they performed on the finale of America’s Got Talent, retains those same elements along with the songs “Guiding Lights” and “Love is Law.”  Also featured are two instrumental tracks, “Belo Horizonte” and “Splashes.”

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Overall, as an EW&F fan, the album does not disappoint. It’s great to see the three remaining founding members—Verdine White, Philip Bailey, and Ralph Johnson—recording new music.

Reviewed by Christina Harrison

View review October 2nd, 2013

Hezekiah Walker – Azusa: the Next Generation

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Title: Azusa: The Next Generation

Artist: Hezekiah Walker

Label: RCA Inspiration

Formats: CD, MP3

Release date: June 11, 2013

 

 

After a 5 year recording hiatus, gospel choir veteran Bishop Hezekiah Walker returns with his latest choral project, Azusa the Next Generation. This album is an outgrowth of an annual revival and celebration organized by Walker in recognition of the important role that Azusa Street in Los Angeles, California has played in contemporary Christian history.* Following the example set by the highly successful former Church of God in Christ pastor Carlton Pearson, who also recorded Azusa inspired albums** , Walker collaborates with several gospel artists on this studio recorded project such as John P. Kee, Donnie McClurkin, and Deitrick Haddon as he works to highlight the continuing legacy of Azusa.

With this project, Walker works to bring together historical elements of African American worship music alongside contemporary sounds in a way that instills “traditional” worship with new meaning for younger audiences. For instance, the song “I Feel Your Spirit” is a “new” traditional praise song reminiscent of congregational singing popularized in African American churches. It begins with the recorded voice of the late Bishop Kenneth Moales—a major figure in gospel music who popularized the “War Cry,” an interactive song that encouraged participants to praise God through dance. In this way “I Feel Your Spirit” pays homage not only to Moales, but also to the importance of dance as a major tenant of many Pentecostal denominations.

Azusa’s hit single “Every Praise” (see video below) is definitive of the big choral sound for which Walker is known. With simple melodies and text in a call and response format, this song is easily translatable to any church worship setting.  Similarly, the song “Break Every Chain” has already been welcomed into churches of varying denominations across the nation because of its powerful message presented with straight-forward repetitive lyrics. While the song was originally recorded by the Jesus Culture Band, Azusa includes a choral treatment of the piece featuring the raw energy of Deitrick Haddon’s tenor voice. New harmonies, a quicker tempo and more prominent bass line add a gospel-inspired sound to this inspirational song.

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Produced by gospel choir icon Donald Lawrence, Azusa showcases the versatility of the gospel choir within the present religious music setting. However, the music is written and performed in a manner that will easily allow choirs across the nation and even the world to perform these songs. While conferences and recordings may highlight the significance of Azusa Street, the spirit of Azusa will always thrive in the local churches and choirs who continue to offer praises to God as they sing their past, present, and future.

* In the early 1900s Azusa was home to a three year Christian revival (featuring glossolalia and dancing in the spirit) that drew thousands to the area and sparked the formation of several major Pentecostal denominations such as the Church of God and the Church of God in Christ (C.O.G.I.C.). [Note: Azusa the Next Generation was not recorded at Azusa]

**Throughout the 1990s the noted C.O.G.I.C. preacher Carlton Pearson held several well attended conferences where he also made recordings that took place “Live at Azusa” and featured major gospel artists like Fred Hammond and Donnie McClurkin.

Reviewed by Raynetta Wiggins

View review October 2nd, 2013

Valerie June – Pushin’ Against a Stone

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Title: Pushin’ Against A Stone

Artist: Valerie June

Label: Concord

Formats: CD, MP3

Release date: August 13, 2013

 

 

With Pushin’ Against a Stone, Valerie June enters that pantheon of singers with truly distinctive, instantly recognizable voices (not to mention her distinctive free-form locks).   And people are, indeed, taking notice. Her countrified Tennessee twang is the perfect foil for banjo, guitar, and ukulele, all of which she’s mastered over the course of her 31 years. And with influences ranging from Bessie Smith, Elizabeth Cotton, and the Carter Family to Whitney Houston, Tracy Chapman, and Latasha Diggs, you can expect distinctive songwriting as well.

In order to understand June’s unique style of roots music—drawn from Southern soul and spirituals, traditional folk, rural country, and Delta blues—one need look no further than her hometown of Jackson, Tennessee.  Situated about equal distance from Nashville, Memphis, and Muscle Shoals, it should be no surprise that Jackson was the birthplace of blues musician Sonny Boy Williamson and soul singer Luther Ingram, as well as the home of rockabilly legend Carl Perkins and several country singers.  The cross-pollination between African American musicians and those of European descent is a long-established tradition in this region, leading to frequent borrowings across genres. June has tapped all of these roots and branches while deftly avoiding the music industry’s tendency to market singers in genre specific (not to mention race specific) packages.  Not that it was easy—her 10-year struggle is reflected in the title Pushin’ Against a Stone.

June wrote about half the songs with Dan Auerbach (The Black Keys), who also served as one of the producers and guitarists on the album, which opens with “Workin’ Woman Blues,” an acoustic folk-rock song that concludes in a flurry of jazzy trumpet riffs.  On the winsome “Somebody To Love,” June’s voice drifts over fiddles and ukulele in a slow waltz, growing more emphatic midway with the support of a harmonizing chorus over the organ of Booker T. Jones.  “Wanna Be On Your Mind” employs subtle vocal inflections and echoing overlays, while “Tennessee Time” is a slow, deliberate string band waltz punctuated by the twang of steel guitar. Another highlight is “Shotgun,” which draws from murder ballads of yore and is sung in a compelling, improvisatory manner accompanied only by June’s chugging bottleneck guitar.

The stellar title track is pushed to the middle of the album, where the reverb heavy vocals and trippy psychedelic guitar provide a refreshing change of pace. In sharp contrast is “Trials, Troubles, Tribulations,” a simple folk-spiritual sung as a duet between June and Auerbach, which segues into another album highlight, the rocking “You Can’t Be Told”:

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Pushin’ Against a Stone is expertly sung, arranged, produced and sequenced, with a refreshing variety of styles that coalesce around Valerie June’s compelling vocal timbres. Highly recommended.

Reviewed by Brenda Nelson-Strauss

View review October 2nd, 2013

Dumpstaphunk – Dirty Word

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Title: Dirty Word

Artist: Dumpstaphunk

Label: Louisiana Red Hot/dist. E1

Formats: CD, MP3

Release date: July 30, 2013

 

 

Get ready for a full frontal funk attack, New Orleans style, with Dumpstaphunk’s latest album Dirty Word.  Led by a second generation of Nevilles, the band features Ivan (son of Aaron) on vocals and keyboards, his cousin Ian (son of Art) on guitar, plus the double trouble bass/vocal talents of Tony Hall and Nick Daniels III, with Nikki Glaspie laying down the groove on drums.  But there’s a lot more groove in this gumbo that’s also spiced with guest appearances by Art “Papa Funk” Neville, Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrew, and the Rebirth Brass Band.  The best of the NOLA funksters are in the house!

According to Ivan, “we can funk it out with the best of them, but we also like to showcase how all sorts of music can come together and push the boundaries of what funk music is.” Reimagining the genre, they keep it all fresh by incorporating elements of blues, gospel, second-line, R&B and some good old rock ‘n’ roll. The opening track “Dancin’ to the Truth” pays direct homage to the vintage funk of Sly & the Family Stone, while “I Wish You Would” adds the contemporary horn and sax licks of Trombone Shorty and Skerit.  The title track is given over to Ani DiFranco, whose layered vocals enhance what’s primarily an instrumental workout for the basses and B3.  “I Know You Know” features the whole crew taking turns at the mic, and they combine with the Grooveline Horns for tight harmonies in the chorus.

One of the real surprises is the inclusion of the Betty Mabry [Davis] penned song “If I’m in Luck (I Might Get Picked Up)” featuring Flea on bass, and for a jaw-dropping moment I thought they’d actually brought the funk diva out of seclusion (it’s actually Nikki Glaspie doing a damn good Davis imitation).  The raucous closer “Raise the House” will certainly raise the roof with the combined power of Art Neville, Trombone Shorty, and the Rebirth Brass Band on an all-out jam that careens between deep funk, NOLA second-line, and Basin Street jazz.  The band is currently finishing up an extended tour and, after listening to Dirty Word, you won’t want to miss an opportunity to experience the live show, especially if the venue has a large dance floor.

Reviewed by Brenda Nelson-Strauss

View review October 2nd, 2013

Black Violin – Classically Trained

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Title: Classically Trained

Artist: Black Violin

Label: Di-Versatile Music Group

Formats: CD, MP3

Release date: October 30, 2012

 

 

Grab your headphones—Black Violin’s creative vibes are coming through, where vibrant strings will undoubtedly electrify your senses.  With Kev Marcus carving up the violin and Wil B. jamming on the viola, the duo can’t help but captivate listeners with their ultramodern style.  Black Violin takes classical instruments and after a few tweaks and twists in the composition, an array of aural flavors including hip-hop, R&B, rock, bluegrass and jazz erupt from the strings.

Black Violin’s latest album, Classically Trained (2012), immediately bathes the listener in the sea of classical sounds found in “Overture” only to be broken by the intense hip hop rhythms in “Opus.”  The duo interrupts the barriers between genres, shooting pleasant varieties of sound through the speakers.  From the head bobbing vibe of “A-Flat” to the body knocking rhythm of “Rock Anthem,” they fearlessly tackle musical challenges that compel audiences to get on their feet.

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Black Violin’s music throws listeners from a world of closed doors into a universe of unbound opportunities.  As Kev and Wil intricately work their traditional instruments to give modern genres a lively new sound, their prolific style inspires the young audiences of today to pursue their passions regardless of the boundaries that encompass them.  Black Violin’s Classically Trained prescribes listeners with doses of creativity, confidence, liberty, and purpose in the form of vivacious tunes.

Reviewed by Cara M. Morgan Rogers

View review October 2nd, 2013

Ensemble Paladino – Bach (Re)inventions vol. 1

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Title: Bach (Re)inventions vol. 1

Artist: Ensemble Paladino

Label: Paladino

Format: CD

Release date: May 28, 2013

 

 

Ensemble Paladino is a collective of European musicians based at the ORF RadioKulturhaus in Vienna, whose mission is “to present uncompromising, diverse and fearless chamber music on the highest level.” Two founding members are represented on this recording: flutist Eric Lamb and cellist Martin Rummel.

By way of introduction, Eric Lamb (b.1978) is a native of Detroit who studied at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, then departed for Europe for further studies at the Hochschule für Musik Frankfurt am Main and the Sculoa di Musica di Fiesole, Italy.  A specialist in 21st century music, Lamb has performed as a member of the New York/Chicago based International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) since 2008 (learn more about ICE and Lamb in this interview by Flutronix). Austrian cellist Martin Rummel (b.1974) has gained international recognition for his performances of Bach’s solo suites, as well as his recordings of all the major cello etudes and the world premiere recordings of the cello concertos of Andrea Zani (1696-1757), to name just a few of his notable projects. Rummel is also the owner of the record label/publishing wing of Paladino, the president of the Vienna Music Group, and in his spare time hosts a monthly radio show and writes crime novels.

Bach (Re)inventions vol. 1 is cited as the ensemble’s “first collaborative adaptation project of musical examples from Bach’s keyboard works, in this case his two part counterpoint arranged for flute and cello.” Included in this exploration are the 15 inventions (BWV 772-786), in additional to movements from a partita and the English and French suites, as well as excerpts from the Notenbüchen für Magdalena Bach and Well-Tempered Clavier (all well-documented in the liner notes). Of course this idea is not novel,—Bach’s Inventions have been arranged for any combination of instruments—but Lamb and Rummel have now extended the flute and cello repertoire on these 31 tracks, while taking care to “(re)organize” their sequence “from a less logical [i.e., key/BMV ordered approach] to a more emotional order of short musical works.”

For this project it was necessary for Lamb to step aside from contemporary music, though these Bach (re)inventions must appeal to his entrepreneurial spirit.  He has certainly performed his share of the standard repertoire, and handles the Baroque stylings with ease, achieving a warm, round tone on his flute (Lamb is an advocate of wooden flutes and uses head joints crafted by S. Kotel). Rummel, as one might expect, is truly in his element here, providing a solid, melodious foundation.  Overall, the performance is fairly restrained and straight forward, with a well-matched articulation and timbre from Lamb and Rummel.

Reviewed by Brenda Nelson-Strauss

View review October 2nd, 2013

Lawrence Brownlee, Iain Burnside – This Heart That Flutters

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Title: This Heart That Flutters

Artists: Lawrence Brownlee, tenor; Iain Burnside, piano

Label: Opus Arte

Formats: CD, MP3

Release date: May 28, 2013

 

Lawrence Brownlee’s newest collection of songs and arias provides a portrait of this excellent tenor, proving he is an insightful and evolving artist skilled on both the opera and recital stages. His latest release—his first on the Opus Arte label—includes a wonderfully varied collection of infrequently heard songs as well as signature opera arias. Brownlee and his accompanist Iain Burnside recorded in London in three locations: live at Saint John’s Smith Square in May 2010 (Liszt and Donizetti) and Wigmore Hall in September 2012 (Rossini), and in studio at All Saints’ Church, East Finchley in September 2012 (all other selections).

It is certainly a treat to hear the Liszt Petrarch settings sung by a tenor, as they were originally intended, and sung so well as they are here (even though the applause at the end could have been edited out). Brownlee is in his element and has the opportunity to show off his remarkable ability to seamlessly blend head and chest voice, especially in the cycle’s incredibly demanding operatic passages. Liszt demands equally of the accompanist and Burnside formidably meets the challenge. The Duparc songs and Ginastera’s Cinco canciones populares argentinas were an unexpected surprise, and it is enviable how Brownlee can negotiate the phrase “Du souffle de la bien aimée (“By the breath of the beloved”) in “Extase” and later toss off the rapid-fire text in “Gato” with such confidence.

In elevating “Deep River” and “Sometimes I feel like a motherless child” to art-song status, unfortunately Burleigh’s arrangements—and Brownlee’s interpretations—sacrifice some of the spirituals’ original charm and poignancy. The other selections in English, Ben Moore’s settings of texts by James Joyce and W.B. Yeats, fare much better, as both Brownlee and Burnside throw themselves unapologetically into the songs’ sentimental melodies.

The inclusion of the two opera arias (as well as the applause at the end of each) was a bit perplexing in the midst of the various collections of songs. Of course, Brownlee’s authority of bel canto is unquestionable and the selections allowed him to show off his command of fantastically executed coloratura and solid high notes (all nine high Cs in the Donizetti and a high D in the Rossini). Both arias seemed a tiny bit rushed at times, but perhaps that was due to the excitement of a live performance.

Following is a video of Lawrence Brownlee and Iain Burnside performing “Ah mes amis!” from Donizetti’s La fille du régiment on May 25, 2010, at Saint John’s Smith Square in London:

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Georg Hall’s succinct liner notes were useful, but a description of the insight behind the programming would have been informative.

Reviewed by Frank Villella

View review October 2nd, 2013

Angela Brown, Hila Plitmann, Nashville Symphony Orchestra – Richard Danielpour – A Woman’s Life

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Title: Richard Danielpour – A Woman’s Life

Artists: Angela Brown, Hila Plitmann, sopranos; Nashville Symphony Orchestra

Label: Naxos American Classics

Formats: CD, MP3

Release date: September 24, 2013

 

Award-winning American composer Richard Danielpour is celebrated in this new CD from Naxos, issued as part of their American Classics series.  The album captures the Nashville Symphony Orchestra in live performances of three of Danielpour’s works:  Darkness in the Ancient Valley featuring soprano Hila Plitmann, described as a symphony in five movements inspired by recent events in Iran that utilizes a wide range of Persian folk-melodies and Sufi rhythms (recorded November 17-19, 2011); the orchestral work Lacrimae Beati or “Tears of the Blessed One,” referring to Mozart and the first eight bars of his Lacrimosa which served as Danielpour’s inspiration (recorded November 4-6, 2010); and A Woman’s Life, composed in the summer of 2007 for Angela Brown using texts by Maya Angelou (recorded September 20-22, 2012). All three performances, conducted by Giancarlo Guerrero, offer excellent interpretations of Danielpour’s compositions; however the remainder of this review will focus exclusively on A Woman’s Life.

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Angela Brown,* an American soprano from Indianapolis, studied at the IU Jacobs School of Music under Virginia Zeani and won the prestigious Metropolitan Opera competition in 1997.  She was catapulted to fame in 2004 after landing the starring role in Aida at the Met, and has since performed that role around the world. Her association with Danielpour began the following year when she was chosen to premier the role of Cilla in his opera Margaret Garner. According to the liner notes by Danielpour, Brown approached him about writing a song cycle expressly for her, and he in turn approached his friend Maya Angelou.  The result of this collaboration is A Woman’s Life, based on a cycle of seven poems by Angelou “which charts a moving trajectory from childhood to old age.” Brown premiered the work with the Pittsburgh Symphony in October 2009, with Leonard Slatkin conducting.

Brown is a diva in the best sense of the word, with an effervescent personality that allows her to deftly inhabit her roles. This ability serves her well in A Woman’s Life as she moves from childish innocence singing about Daddy and dollies in “Little Girl Speakings,” to the forced courage of adolescence in “Life Doesn’t Frighten Me.” Out in the real world she seeks love, acceptance and romance, first unsuccessfully in the poignant “They Went Home,” then more provocatively in the jaded “Come. And Be My Baby.” One of the highlights is “My Life Has Turned to Blue,” featuring wonderfully evocative writing for vibes and harp in the intro. Brown handles this idiom with ease, darkening her timbre in the lower register and adding bluesy inflections. The closing “Many and More” is beautifully sung, the legato phrasing enhancing the contemplative text and blending with the lush strings of the orchestration.

A Woman’s Life is a wonderful vehicle for Brown, showing off a different side of the acclaimed Verdi soprano, as documented in this fine performance with the Nashville symphony.

*The Angela Brown Collection is housed at the Archives of African American Music and Culture at Indiana University.

Reviewed by Brenda Nelson-Strauss

View review October 2nd, 2013

Welcome to the October 2013 Issue

Welcome to the October 2013 issue of Black Grooves, sponsored by the Archives of African American Music and Culture.

This month we’re featuring classical music including new releases from two celebrated opera singers—Angela Brown performing Richard Danielpour’s A Woman’s Life, and Lawrence Brownlee’s album This Heart That Flutters—in addition to Ensemble Paladino’s (flutist Eric Lamb and cellist Martin Rummel) Bach (Re)inventions vol. 1, and the duo Black Violin’s classical-meets-hip-hop album Classically Trained.

Our special two-part feature Music from Mali: The Desert Blues covers nine albums released over the past year—before, during, and after the Tuareg rebellion and coup d’etat—including Live From Festival Au Desert, Timbuktu; the bands Tartit and Imharhan on Live From the Sahara; Jeconte & The Mali Allstars’s Mali Blues; Mamadou Kelly’s debut album Adibar; the modern desert blues band Terakaft’s latest project Kel Tamasheq; internationally renowned songstress Rokia Traoré’s Beautiful Africa; Malian kora player Ballaké Sissoko with French cellist Vincent Ségal on the cross-cultural collaboration At Peace; the legendary Malian ngoni player Bassekou Kouyate and his ensemble Ngoni Ba on Jama Ko; and Mali’s queen of desert blues Khaira Arby’s first worldwide release Timbuktu Tarab.

There’s also plenty of funk and soul, including Dumpstaphunk’s Dirty Word; Global Noize’s Sly Reimagined; Earth, Wind & Fire’s new album Now, Then & Forever; Real Gone Music’s first CD reissues of classic P-funk albums by Parlet (Pleasure Principle and Invasion of the Booty Snatchers) and Larry Williams’ That Larry Williams; and the DVD Solomon Burke: Live at Montreux 2006.

Wrapping up this issue is Valerie June’s “organic moonshine roots music” major label debut Pushin’ Against a Stone; Hezekiah Walker’s latest gospel album Azusa the Next Generation; and Public Enemy’s The Evil Empire of Everything.

View review October 2nd, 2013

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