Archive for May, 2015

Welcome to the May 2015 Issue

Welcome to the May 2015 edition of Black Grooves, sponsored by the Indiana University Archives of African American Music and Culture.

This month we’re featuring a collection of previously unreleased performances by legendary Indianapolis jazz guitarist Wes Montgomery titled In the Beginning. We’re also featuring new releases from two guitarists who were inspired by Wes—Tony MacAlpine’s Concrete Gardens and Nathan East’s self-titled solo debut—as well as bassist Marcus Miller’s world music-jazz fusion album Afrodeezia.

Other new releases include the first CD reissue of Cannonball Adderley’s musical soundtrack Big Man: Legend of John Henry, Cleveland Orchestra violist Eliesha Nelson’s Permutations, and the latest album from the a capella vocal group Naturally 7. Recent R&B releases include One Special Night at the Kimmel Center by trombonist Jeff Bradshaw and friends, Bobby Patterson’s I Got More Soul!, and the compilation East L.A. Soul: Rampart Records 1963-71.

World music releases include Akory by Madagascan singer/activist Razia and the self-titled album by the multinational group Ajoyo. New gospel releases include Let’s Go by the McCrary Sisters, Still Rockin’ My Soul by The Fairfield Four, and the gospel rap album Tomorrow We Live by KB.

Other releases include the sophomore album Here Come the Girls by the New York pop/rock duo London Souls, Mississippi blues artist Leo “Bud” Welch’s I Don’t Prefer No Blues, and the NOLA/jazz combination of Kermit Ruffins & the Barbecue Swingers on #imsoneworleans .

Wrapping up this issue is our list of April 2015 black music releases of note.

View review May 1st, 2015

Wes Montgomery – In the Beginning


Title: In the Beginning

Artist: Wes Montgomery

Label: Resonance Records

Formats: 2-CD set, 3-LP (180-gram vinyl), MP3

Release date: May 12, 2015


What a treasure. Following its earlier release, Echoes of Indiana Avenue, Resonance Records now offers an even more amazing collection of early (1949-1958), (mostly) previously undocumented performances by Wes Montgomery, the vast majority from private recordings preserved by Buddy Montgomery. This issue is produced with loving care, extending from notes and photos through the important music and also reflected in the quality of the audio mastering. In short, this is an album I plan to purchase for my own collection. Why? Because the recordings capture much of Wes’s evolution that led to his notable LP on Riverside, The Incredible Guitar of Wes Montgomery, recorded just thirteen months after some of these performances. The majority of the tunes on this album show a very talented guitarist, but the later ones document the emergence of Wes’s immediately identifiable approach to playing in octaves that caused other guitarists to flock to his performances as they tried to discover how he accomplished his unique delivery.

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Wes first performed as a member of Lionel Hampton’s rhythm section and is included in a number of that band’s studio recordings and airchecks captured between 1948 and 1950. This CD also reissues three of the four tunes recorded by the Gene Morris band in Los Angeles in 1949 during the Hampton years, first released on the rare Spire label. Chronologically these tunes are followed by the first issue of the complete session that Wes recorded for Epic Records in June 1955, organized by Quincy Jones. Only one tune was previously issued by Columbia on a single-LP anthology titled Instrumentalists Almost Forgotten. This session is followed two months later by a live recording from two nights at the Turf Club in Indianapolis. As in the Columbia session, Wes performed with Pookie Johnson (tenor sax) and his brothers Buddy (piano) and Monk (bass), with drummer Sonny Johnson. With personnel changes, Pookie and Wes are next captured in an informal rehearsal performance at a private home followed by recordings from later appearances at the Turf Club.

The Spire sides are historical artifacts, worthy of inclusion. The live sets capture Wes as a proficient artist, often performing rapidly executed single note solos and supporting the group with strong rhythmic backgrounds, much in the spirit of pioneer jazz guitarist Charlie Christian. But where this CD release becomes truly magical is with subsequent performances that capture Wes just a year before his discovery by Julian Cannonball Adderley. This led to his contract with Riverside Records (Cannonball’s label at the time) and shortly afterwards, the momentous Riverside LP recording on January 26, 1960 that brought Wes to the forefront of the world’s most admired jazz guitarists. His Riverside recordings continued to showcase his unique skills, although he adopted a less adventuresome approach in his recordings when he moved to Verve Records and later, A&M.

Overall the first CD in this set presents the appetizers. The performances are in line with small group performances by highly talented musicians, but while they are very enjoyable, they are not particularly distinctive. The second CD presents the main course, where Wes has ARRIVED. He has become an innovator on his instrument.

For example, “After You’ve Gone” on the first CD is played up tempo. Everyone solos in turn, with Wes entering with a single note solo followed by Pookie, Buddy and Monk and the full ensemble for closing. “Fascinating Rhythm” is also played up tempo with an interesting guitar-with-sax opening, followed by Monk, Wes, and Pookie flowing into a nicely harmonized ensemble to close. Wes is featured on “Brazil” where he plays both a single note solo and extended rhythmic chording that provides the first hint of his later chorded style. Later, “My Heart Stood Still” provides even clearer hints of Wes’s unique approach to come. “How High the Moon” is played at an easy, swinging tempo, but Wes commands the audience’s attention with his double-timed entry. The contrast between “Caravan” (fast) and “Six Bridges to Cross” (relaxed) is very effective. Listening to these two tracks back-to-back provides convincing evidence that Wes is indeed an emerging star.

The second CD provides a sharp contrast between the performances of “Soft Winds,” “Robbins’ Nest,” “A Night in Tunisia” and “All the Things You Are” and the remaining tracks that feature the group’s first studio session for Columbia and the earlier recording session from Los Angeles. “Soft Winds” showcases Wes’s first dominant use of octaves in an extended solo and rotating four bar exchanges toward the end with other members of the group. His approach deepens the texture of the performance. “Robbins’ Nest” and “A Night in Tunisia” follow a similar pattern, with Wes using both rapid single notes and chorded elements in his solo and final exchanges. The impact of his performance is even more evident in “All the Things You Are.” Here, the audience erupts with applause following Wes’s solo, recognizing his unique artistry and the energy he conveyed. This tune was recorded during the group’s club appearance in Chicago. I get the sense that listeners are aware that they are present at the birth of a major star. This performance and the three opening tracks absolutely justify the purchase of this recording. These four tunes were likely recorded less than a year before Cannonball heard Wes perform at the same club in Indianapolis that was the location for the recordings on the first CD in this collection.

Truly, this album allows us to appreciate the evolution of a skilled artist into a truly unique performer. It is an absolute treat to hear his unique talent develop while we listen.

Among the writers and photographers contributing to the extensive documentation accompanying the CDs is Duncan Schiedt. Duncan passed away not long after completing the interview recounted in the booklet, and it is fitting that he recalled his own memories of these historical club performances in Indianapolis. Duncan was a musician, an historian, and a photographer, and I feel it important to recognize his contribution to this remarkable release.

One final note, for archival recordings, the sound is much more than adequate, again reflecting the tender care evident in the preparation of this entire production. This reflects the high standards routinely used by Mosaic Records, for those who are familiar with that label’s releases. The extensive album notes also include unique observations contributed by Quincy Jones, Buddy Montgomery, Larry Ridley, Pete Townshend, and others. Also included are reproductions of over a dozen contemporary photographs to enrich our understanding of the performances.

Don’t wait. Get your copy soon. What a unique treat. While I have emphasized Wes’s role in these recordings, do not overlook the cohesiveness of the group on view throughout these performance. Wes Montgomery’s life was far too short, born in 1938 and died in 1993. Captured herein is a slice of his life from the years 1949 through1958.

Reviewed by Thomas P. Hustad
Author of Born to Play: The Ruby Braff Discography and Directory of Performances

View review May 1st, 2015

Marcus Miller – Afrodeezia


Title: Afrodeezia

Artist: Marcus Miller

Label: Blue Note

Formats: CD, MP3

Release date: March 17, 2015


Marcus Miller’s Afrodeezia, which debuted at #1 on both the iTunes jazz and contemporary jazz charts, is proof that the veteran bassist is still a force to be reckoned with in the contemporary jazz scene.  As its title would indicate, Afrodeezia is heavily laden with musical influences from Africa and the African Diaspora. Miller writes in his promotional blog that much of this album is inspired by his visits to the continent and experiences playing with African musicians. He incorporates elements of African, Caribbean, and other diasporic musical styles, meshing them with contemporary jazz and crafting a compelling worldbeat sound throughout the course of this album.  This world music-driven approach is evident on “Hylife,” Miller’s approximation of West African highlife music as fashioned by King Sunny Ade, on “B’s River,” a track featuring a gimbiri (an African relative of the bass guitar), and on “Water Dancer,” which incorporates elements of African music and zydeco into Miller’s signature jazz idiom.

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Miller takes perseverance as his theme for this record, citing the historical struggles that black people have experienced as the impetus for a number of the Diaspora-oriented tunes on this album. He further connects this theme to more contemporary subjects, with the album’s final track, “I Can’t Breathe,” serving as Miller’s contribution to the evolving national discussion of police violence against African Americans. This track has an electro-funk groove with Public Enemy’s Chuck D rapping that it is “never good when you’re breathing in fear.” Miller incorporates traditional African instruments and American instruments against a techno background, consciously evoking Pan-Diasporic musical conventions in order to capture the universal nature of the struggle for social justice.

This album also takes a number of personal turns. “Preacher’s Kid (Song for William H)” is an organ-infused number that Miller dedicates to his aging father, a pastor, who is struggling with Alzheimer’s disease. “We Were There” is a Brazilian-flavored tribute to Miller’s late friends, George Duke and Joe Sample, and “Son of Macbeth” (which features a searing steel pan solo by Robert Greenridge) is in honor of Ralph McDonald, a key figure in Miller’s own entry in the music business.

Afrodeezia is one of Miller’s most conceptually heavy albums to date. Even when he brings the funk on The Temptations’ “Papa Was a Rolling Stone,” Miller carefully connects this to a broader diasporic musical sensibility.  However, Miller’s extramusical associations and intellectual bent never seem labored; rather, the listener gains a broader sense of context through Miller’s sonic explorations and thoughtful writing about this music.  Afrodeezia is a deeply personal, at times cerebral, album from one of the foremost bass guitarists working in the contemporary jazz scene.

Reviewed by Matt Alley

View review May 1st, 2015

Tony MacAlpine – Concrete Gardens


Title: Concrete Gardens

Artist: Tony MacAlpine

Label: Sun Dog

Formats: CD, Special Ed. CD + DVD, digital (MP3, AAC, Apple Lossless, FLAC)

Release date: April 24, 2015


Guitar shredder extraordinaire Tony MacAlpine is back with his twelfth solo studio project, Concrete Gardens, and it’s everything we’ve come to expect from this classically trained, heavy metal-leaning musician.  Equally at home on piano, he covers both instruments plus bass on the album, in addition to composing all of the music. Like his previous solo outings, this is an instrumental rock opus, supported by Brazilian drummer Aquiles Priester, with assistance from bass players Pete Griffin, Sean Delson, and Lucky Islam, plus a guest appearance from guitarist Jeff Loomis.

Two years in the making, the album doesn’t disappoint. MacAlpine, known for his use of 7 and 8-string guitars and impeccable technique, cites a variety of influences, including the great Wes Montgomery (he even portrayed Wes in the 2008 movie Crazy).  His technique is on full display in the aptly-titled opening track “Exhibitionist Blvd.”, with its blazing arpeggios and flange effects, and continues at warp speed through “The King’s Rhapsody” and “Man in a Metal Cage.” MacAlpine finally allows us to come up for air in “Poison Cookies,” a more melodic, mid-tempo progressive rock instrumental that’s somewhat cinematic in character but no less virtuosic. Returning to heavy metal overtones on “Epic,” Priester is given free rein on the drums, with MacAlpine turning up the heat for a blazing race to the finish.

MacAlpine switches over to piano for the intro to “Sierra Morena,” but this is only the quiet before the storm, as the remainder of the song is an even more densely layered, crazily complex cacophony of guitar tracks. On “Square Circles,” MacAlpine and Loomis battle for supremacy on one of the album’s stand-out tracks. Another highlight is “Red Giant,” which interjects Middle Eastern overtones in a manner that’s meditative yet displays a definite thirst for power. On the title track, “Concrete Gardens,” the shredding returns, interspersed with more melodic interludes:

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Fans of MacAlpine know he has a predilection for including at least one classical piano solo on his albums, and such is the case with the closing track, Franz Liszt’s “Maiden’s Wish” (after Chopin, Op. 71/1).  In a performance that’s beyond admirable, MacAlpine shows himself to be a true Renaissance man, and perhaps the only guitar shredder in the universe who can also rock a Steinway.

The special edition (limited to 2000 copies) includes a DVD with a live performance of the album filmed by EMG TV, using a slightly different line-up that includes guitarist Nili Brosh. MacAlpine will be touring the U.S. throughout May and June in support of the album before heading to Europe. Catch him while you can—it will definitely be worth your while.

Reviewed by Brenda Nelson-Strauss

View review May 1st, 2015

Nathan East – Nathan East


Title: Nathan East

Artist: Nathan East

Label: Yamaha Entertainment

Formats: CD, MP3

Release date: March 25, 2014


Though one of the most recorded and revered bass players of all time with industry creds stretching over four  decades,  Nathan East is still not a household name. With any luck that will change with his self-titled solo debut album, which received a Grammy nomination for Best Contemporary Instrumental Album, and the related documentary Nathan East: For the Record (2014), both produced by Yamaha Entertainment .

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East’s primary early  influences were jazz musicians, including Wes Montgomery, Quincy Jones, Herbie Hancock, Canonball Adderley, and George Benson—while favorite bassists include funk musicians James Jamerson, Larry Graham, and Verdine White. As a result, he’s comfortable performing and writing in many genres. For example, East is perhaps best known to contemporary audiences for his work with Eric Clapton and as one of the founding members of the quartet Fourplay. On his debut album, co-produced with Chris Gero, East calls upon all of these influences as well as his many collaborators over the years, making for an all-star cast. He also displays his formidable vocal chops, honed in the many bands he’s graced with his presence.

Over the course of 13 tracks featuring a mix of instrumental and vocal compositions, East covers a lot of territory. The album opens with an original jazz composition “Eastbound,” penned by East with his talented nephew, Marcel East.  Next up is a smooth jazz version of Stevie Wonder’s “Sir Duke,” with East covering the melody on guitar backed by a top flight horn section featuring Tom Scott (sax), Chuck Findley (trumpet), Andy Martin (trombone), and Joel Peskin (tenor & bari sax). Van Morrison’s “Moondance” features Michael McDonald (Steely Dan) on vocals with the great Greg Phillinganes laying down the keyboards, in a big band arrangement by Tom Scott. Another stand-out track is “Daft Funk” (ft. Mr. Talkbox), a  jazz-funk arrangement  referencing East’s recent contribution to Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories. Eric Clapton sits in on Steve Winwood’s “Can’t Find My Way Home,” sung by East in an impressive falsetto range.  The interplay between Clapton and East reflects the comfortable nature of two musicians who have been performing together for years.  Bob James performs piano on his composition “Moodswing,” with East playing upright bass in a wonderful counterpoint augmented by strings. Another highlight is Stevie Wonder’s “Overjoyed,” featuring the composer himself on harmonica.  In Lennon & McCartney’s “Yesterday,” East again returns to upright bass in a duet with his teenage son on piano. The album concludes with a solo bass performance of “America the Beautiful,” backed by the Nashville Recording Orchestra in cinematic splendor.  East keeps his performance elegantly simple, with some tasty runs but no overt displays of virtuosity, allowing the orchestra and chorus to lend the requisite grandeur.

Reviewed by Brenda Nelson-Strauss

View review May 1st, 2015

Cannonball Adderley – Big Man: The Legend of John Henry


Title: Big Man: The Legend of John Henry

Artist: Cannonball Adderley

Label: Real Gone Music

Format: CD

Release date: April 7, 2015


Even if they don’t realize it, most people have probably encountered the legend of John Henry, the “steel driving man,” at some point in their lives, whether it is in the form of a folktale, a Johnny Cash song, or the Disney animated version featuring James Earl Jones. One of the lesser known versions is the score for a musical about John Henry composed by the great jazz saxophonist Julian “Cannonball” Adderley during the last years of his life (he died on August 8, 1975).

Cannonball Adderley is most well-known for his 1966 single “Mercy Mercy Mercy,” as well as his work with Miles Davis. Big Man: The Legend of John Henry shows that Adderley’s talent ranged far beyond jazz, encompassing many other genres: soul, funk, blues, folk, gospel, and Afro-Caribbean music. Originally released as a two-LP set in 1975, Big Man featured music from many other artists, including his brother Nat Adderley, George Duke, Roy McCurdy, Airto Moreira, and Carol Kaye. Real Gone Music’s reissue marks the first time the album has appeared on CD, and features extensive liner notes by Bill Kopp.

The album includes both musical numbers and separate dialogue, with characters voiced by Joe Williams (John Henry), Randy Crawford, and Robert Guillaume. On “Gonna Give Lovin’ a Try”—one of the six full musical pieces that are presented as standalone tracks—Randy Crawford sings her heart out, her smooth voice backed by a large string section. Big Man was her professional recording debut, recorded when she was only twenty-one. “Next Year in Jerusalem” has more of a funky sound and is sung by Joe Williams. His scratchy voice drives this upbeat song and adds some deep soul.

In a message from Nat Adderley included in the liner notes, he says that “Cannon considered Big Man one of the most important projects of his whole career.” Composing the score for a full-scale musical certainly was a challenge to take on, but Cannonball had every reason to be proud. Forty years later it still is a masterful “folk musical” featuring beautiful songs and a powerful storyline about the interplay of class and power.

Reviewed by Anna Polovick

View review May 1st, 2015

Eliesha Nelson – Permutations


Title: Permutations

Artist: Eliesha Nelson

Label: Sono Luminus

Formats: 2-disc set (CD + Blu-ray), digital (MP3, FLAC, WAV)

Release date: February 2015


Cleveland Orchestra violist Eliesha Nelson has established herself as a formidable interpreter of American music and champion of her instrument. She is also proof that a child raised in remote North Pole, Alaska can achieve her dreams through hard work and dedication. At the age of twelve she was sent to the Indiana University String Academy, and later was accepted into the Cleveland Orchestra Youth Orchestra. After matriculating from the Cleveland Institute of Music, she received an artist diploma from the Royal Academy of Music in London and was offered the position of acting principal viola with the Florida Philharmonic. But the girl from Alaska, unaccustomed to Florida’s heat and humidity, gladly returned to northern Ohio in 2000 when offered a position with the Cleveland Orchestra.

Nelson’s first album, Quincy Porter: The Complete Viola Works, received four Grammy nominations and won a Grammy for Best Engineered Album, Classical in 2010. Her new CD, also released by Sono Luminus, is just as likely to garner awards, for both Nelson’s performance and the sonic excellence of the recording.

Permutations features five virtuosic viola pieces from five different composers: Nikolai Kapustin, Ross Lee Finney (b.1906-1997), and notable African American composers John McLaughlin Williams, Jeffrey Mumford, and George Walker. Though each work is “of strikingly disparate character,” the unifying element is the focus on different aspects of American music. Oberlin Conservatory professor James Howsman is the featured pianist on all five works.

Nelson opens with the “Sonata for Viola and Piano, Op. 69” by Russian composer Nikolai Kapustin (b. 1937). Selected for its incorporation of jazz elements, the sonata is reminiscent of early 20th century compositions by Gershwin, though only occasionally offers short passages that really swing—primarily in the third movement. “Two Pieces for Solo Viola” by Washington, D.C.-based composer John McLaughlin Williams, is a showpiece in the style Fritz Kreisler. Like Kriesler, Williams is also a gifted concert violinist, and on this work sought to “bring out the burnished tone of the viola.” The introspective Sarabande leads into a Toccata, performed at breakneck speed by Nelson, but with great sensitivity.

Permutations takes its title from the second movement of Ross Lee Finney’s “Second Sonata for Viola and Piano” (1953; rev. 1955). Though based on a 12-tone scale, the sonata doesn’t strictly adhere to serialism, and in fact is extremely melodic. In a similar vein, Mumford’s “Wending,” employs harmonic material based on letters of Wendy Richman’s name, for whom the work was written.  This solo viola work is rhapsodic in nature, with somewhat improvisatory sections gradually fading into the ether.

The album concludes with the two movement “Sonata for Viola and Piano” (1989) by composer and concert pianist George Walker. After a lyrical but highly chromatic first movement, the work leads Nelson through a series of difficult triple stops in the middle section, then closes softly with a coda that quotes the French Renaissance song, “L’Homme Arme.”

Nelson proves she is more than capable of flawlessly executing these technically challenging works, while bringing to light many gems that expand the viola repertoire.

Audiophiles will appreciate the 2-disc set, which includes a Pure Audio Blu-ray disc with high resolution surround sound and stereo versions of the tracks, as well as a standard CD. If your Blu-ray player is connected to your computer, you can also use the mShuttle application allowing access to MP3, FLAC and WAV files.

Reviewed by Brenda Nelson-Strauss

View review May 1st, 2015

Naturally 7 – Hidden In Plain Sight: Vox Maximus, Vol. 1


Title: Hidden In Plain Sight: Vox Maximus, Vol. 1.

Artist: Naturally 7

Label: Hidden Beach

Formats: CD, MP3

Release date: February 10, 2015


Hidden In Plain Sight: Vox Maximus Vol. 1. is the U.S. debut album for a cappella all-star group, Naturally 7. Musical director and group member Roger Thomas formed Naturally 7 in 1999 in New York City with his brother and a few other singers they met performing around the area. The group, who coined a term for their approach to a cappella singing called “vocal play,” is a seven-man team of vocalists representing a variety of instruments—guitar, turntables, bass, drums, harmonica and brass—using only the most powerful natural instrument, the voice. This dynamic group has garnered international success—their album Ready II Fly (2006) charted in Australia and France—and has begun to make their mark on the U.S., most notably through a breakout performance on The Ellen Show in 2008, opening for Michael Bublé on his last two international tours, and appearing in two Cheerios commercials at the end of 2014. While they’ve released six studio albums and two Christmas albums, Hidden in Plain Sight is their first U.S. release. As in their live shows, the album showcases Naturally 7’s harmonic prowess as well as their artful arrangements and compositions.

Hidden in Plain Sight is a compilation of covers, samples, musical mixes that Roger Thomas calls “hybrids,” and original songs. The lead single and one of the most thrilling tracks on the album is “Fix You,” a cover of Coldplay’s 2005 release from their album X&Y.  A staple of Naturally 7’s live performances, the song offers a unique harmonic presentation along with the group’s vocal instrumental interpretations.

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On “Mahalia,” Naturally 7 includes a sample of Mahalia Jackson’s “Trouble of the World,” adding their own spin on this tribute to the gospel singer. Most notable, however, is their sample of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” (from A Night at the Opera, 1975) on the track “Galileo,” making them the first to successfully sample Queen. “Hybrids” are songs that take previously recorded songs by other artists and either use the music or sonic ideas as the basis for a new Naturally 7 song. These include the lush “Moments (I’ve Been Loved)” based on Art of Noise’s “Moments in Love” (1983) and “Life Goes On” based on Wham’s “Everything She Wants” (1984).

Hidden in Plain Sight begins and ends with two compositions “Tempus Fugit (Motus I),” Latin for “time flies,” and “Eppur Si Mouve (Motus V),” Italian for “And yet it moves.” These operatic themes envelope the rich material of the album, and the operatic characteristics are sprinkled throughout the other songs on the album. Among the original compositions, highlights include one of the album’s most popular songs, “Keep the Customer Satisfied,” an energetic tune that has all of the rhythmic and harmonic R&B elements to make for a thrilling performance. Another notable original, “Rhapsody of the Queen,” layers semi-operatic singing with pulsating rhythms. Also particularly appealing is the dance track “Need You With Me,” as well as “Run Away,” a ballad that is placed brilliantly towards the end of the album.

Hidden in Plain Sight is a breath of fresh air. Naturally 7’s brand of “vocal play” truly highlights the versatility of the human voice and the melodies will stay with you long after the music has stopped.

Reviewed by Christina Harrison

View review May 1st, 2015

Kermit Ruffins & the Barbecue Swingers – #imsoneworleans


Title: #imsoneworleans

Artist: Kermit Ruffins & the Barbecue Swingers

Label: Basin Street Records

Formats: CD, MP3

Release date: April 21, 2015


Legendary New Orleans trumpeter, singer, and composer Kermit Ruffins has returned with a new album instilled with pride and love for his hometown. The Barbecue Swingers, Ruffins’ regular backing band, join him in the studio for the first time in over a decade on #imsoneworleans. The album features nine tracks, a combination of both covers and original songs that convey a sense of liveliness and unrestricted fun.

The first song and title track, “I’m So New Orleans,” has a carefree feel and is filled with numerous references to NOLA musicians and places. He embeds a bit of humor into the lyrics as well, singing “I’m so New Orleans I love Professor Longhair / For hip-hop stuff  I really don’t care.” As the album shows time and time again, Ruffins isn’t afraid to take his time on each piece. The five and a half minute song effortlessly drifts into an instrumental section and features a trumpet solo by Ruffins before the vocals pick up again at the end.

Ruffins’ mastery of the trumpet is shown off again in “Tipitina,” a song originally performed by Professor Longhair. Smooth jazz piano and percussion contrast with Ruffins’ growly voice and bright trumpet solo. Another inspired cover is the New Orleans classic, “Jock-a-Mo (Iko Iko).” It is one of the most fun songs on the album, with Latin-inspired beats and a quick tempo.

“Put Your Right Foot Forward” is an original by Ruffins that has a unique country twang, showing the musical diversity he both encounters and plays around New Orleans. Talking about the New Orleans party scene, Ruffins taps into his youthful side with the chorus, “We turnin’ up this party.” The song ends with an instrumental section that showcases impressive musical talent, featuring a rocking keyboard solo and Ruffins’ soaring trumpet.

Aside from bringing New Orleans legends and parties to life, Ruffins also features some special guests whom are very close to him. Phoenix-based singer Nayo Jones has often joined Ruffins in concert and is featured in his cover of Etta James’ “At Last.” This six minute version of the classic song includes a piano solo by Yushitaka Tsuji.

One of Ruffins’ five children, Kaylin Orleans Ruffins, is featured in a duet with her father on “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” Though she is only in third grade, this “Pint Size Songstress” fearlessly belts out the high notes, while Kermit only sings a short verse, letting Kaylin take the lead on the rest.

The closing track, “I’m So New Orleans, Part 2” is a six minute spoken word piece accompanied by slow and sultry jazz. Ruffins recounts parts of his life and his connection to New Orleans, but near the end he also thanks everyone who participated in the album, including the listeners. This really encapsulates what #imsoneworleans is all about: Ruffins embodying his connections to New Orleans in a manner that goes beyond mere city or place to encompass both a lifestyle and a community.

Reviewed by Anna Polovick

View review May 1st, 2015

Jeff Bradshaw & Friends – Home: One Special Night at the Kimmel Center


Title: Home: One Special Night at the Kimmel Center

Artist: Jeff Bradshaw & Friends

Label: Shanachie

Formats: CD, MP3

Release date: March 31, 2015


With a goal to recreate the types of live performances that were offered nightly at the Apollo Theater back in the day, Philly neo-soul artist and trombonist Jeff Bradshaw organized an all-star concert at the  Kimmel Center on May 28, 2014. Now, thanks to Shanachie Entertainment, we can all experience this marvelous event, at least the audio portion.

Bradshaw assembled “a magnificent 20-piece band complete with backing singers and horn section,” and worked with Robert Glasper on the arrangements. Guest artists include everyone from Marsha Ambrosius, Kim Burrell, Kenny Latimore, Will Downing, Eric Roberson, Take 6, Najee and Bilal to Tweet, Trombone Shorty, and Black Thought.  One of the stand-out tracks is the album’s first single, a studio version of “All Time Love,” featuring a collab between Bradshaw and Glasper, with Roberson and Tweet on vocals:

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Other highlights include “Where Do We Go From Here” with Bilal, and the duet between Bradshaw and Trombone Shorty, “N.O. Groove”—a soulful fusion of R&B and contemporary New Orleans jazz.  In the album’s only hip hop track, Black Thought joins the group to perform the Roots’ “Break You Off.”  The acapella vocal quartet Take 6 is featured on two tracks: the E. Debarge song “All This Love” punctuated by Bradshaw on trombone, and the delectable love song “Beyond the Stars.”  Concluding the live concert, “The World is a Ghetto” brings together all of the guests in a rousing performance that leaves the audience clamoring for more.

Reviewed by Brenda Nelson-Strauss


View review May 1st, 2015

London Souls – Here Come the Girls


Title: Here Come the Girls

Artist: London Souls

Label: Feel Music

Formats: CD, Limited Ed. LP, Digital (MP3, FLAC, etc.)

Release date: April 7, 2015


Harnessing the sounds of the British Invasion and the Summer of Love, the New York City duo London Souls is bringing back “psychedelic-kissed rock and roll” in all its glory. On their sophomore album, Here Come the Girls, singer/guitarist Tash Neal and drummer/singer/instrumentalist Chris St. Hilaire pay homage to their favorite bands—Cream, Led Zeppelin, the Beatles, the Hollies, and My Morning Jacket—but using their own original songs.

The album opens with the Beatlesque “Here Come the Girls,” a catchy pop song with a rousing chorus:

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Throughout the course of the thirteen tracks, the band flirts with the blues on “Honey,” offers folksy and intimate acoustic treatments on “Hercules” and “Isabel,” revs up the fuzz pedal on “All Tied Down,” sings an ode to the Mississippi on the fast and furiously rocking “River,” and even brings out the ukulele on the pleading love song “How Can I Get Through.” The album concludes with another acoustic song, “Run Zombie Run,” which begins as a folksy ballad with country twangs, jazzy clarinet and a dash of honky tonk piano, before exploding into a fast paced chorus.

Produced by industry veteran and guitarist Eric Krasno, who plays bass on three tracks and assisted with the recording and mixing, the album also features assisting instrumentalists on various tracks including organist Neal Evans, clarinetist Dennis Litchman, trombonist Matt Musselman, and Andrew Hall on upright bass.

Here Come the Girls is a compelling album, offering a wide variety of styles from riveting rock anthems to fun and sometimes quirky songs that are highly original.

Reviewed by Brenda Nelson-Strauss

View review May 1st, 2015

Ajoyo – Ajoyo


Title: Ajoyo

Artist: Ajoyo

Label: Ropeadope

Formats: CD, MP3

Release date: April 21, 2015


Truly representing world music, the members of Ajoyo herald from across the globe: Tunisia, France, Germany, and Israel. Originally the idea of French Tunisian saxophone player Yacine Boularès, the band’s debut album Ajoyo was funded through Indiegogo and is now available through Ropeadope. Boularès, though born in Tunisia, grew up in Paris and has composed and arranged music for musicians as diverse as Fela Kuti, drummer Jojo Kuo, Tabou Cambo, and Placido Domingo. Ajoyo reflects Boularès’ desire to mix the styles and instruments of Africa with those of the West. The result is an album that transcends the talented musicians and their technical skills to emulate pure joy and passion.

The first track, “Jekoro,” is full of energy, mixing African-influenced percussion and background vocals with horns and the smooth and powerful vocals of Sarah Elizabeth Charles. Singing “Nobody cares about tomorrow, no more fears or sorrow,” the lyrics implore you to be free and live life to the fullest. A short keyboard solo adds another dimension to the song, as it sounds more like an electronic synthesizer and further adds to the uniqueness of Ajoyo.

The song “Chocot’” is another lively track that exemplifies Boularès’ aim for the album: “play for dancers, put the groove first, connect with the heart.” This instrumental jam starts with the rocking guitar and keyboard of German pianist Can Olgun. It is certainly a song that inspires dancing, as seen in the live performance below. Showcasing the polished jazz skills of Ajoyo, it features solos by Boularès on soprano saxophone and New Orleans trumpet player Linton Smith.

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“Idanwo” is a slower track that starts simply with vocals by Charles and guitar picking by Isreali musician Alon Albagli. Albagli shines on this song, with an extended soft rock solo, which adds a bit of an edge to the previously chill song. The shifting of tempos and moods is effortless and beautiful. Charles adds to this with her passionate vocal runs near the end, as do the vivacious horns (Smith on trumpet and Boularès on baritone sax) that end the track.

Ajoyo proves that beyond their high energy and talent, they can (and do) create moving music. “Benskin” is particularly powerful. Based on a Cameroonian dance rhythm, the lyrics address social injustice: “I long for the day / my color, my kind / my gender, my race / won’t trouble your mind.” The way the song ebbs and flows emphasizes these words, and though accompanied by full instrumentation, it concludes with just the bongos and Charles repeating those lyrics.

Ajoyo takes musicians and influences from across the globe and creates a jazz fusion album that leaves behind technical worries and embraces life and love fully. This is not to say that musicianship is thrown aside—in fact, these musicians prove themselves to be the best track after track. Ajoyo’s debut is full of energy and promise, and will hopefully allow them to make music for years to come.

Reviewed by Anna Polovick

View review May 1st, 2015

Razia – Akory


Title: Akory

Artist: Razia

Label: Cumbancha

Formats: CD, MP3

Release date: January 21, 2015


Razia Said is a singer, songwriter, and environmental activist from Madagascar. She spent many years living abroad, but when she returned to Madagascar in 2007 she saw destruction, death, and the outcome of climate change. This moved her to write her first album, Zebu Nation, released in 2010. Now, Razia has followed up with a second album , Akory (Malagasy for “What now?”), about both the environmental and political struggles of her home country.

Razia’s passion for the environment of Madagascar and its connection to her family history is shown in “Akory Tsikaby,” which tells the story of her grandmother’s struggle to survive a cyclone and protect her children. Razia sings in Malagasy on this song and demonstrates her vocal storytelling ability. The harmonized chorus is beautiful without losing the song’s sense of urgency. The video also paints an intense picture of the lyrics that listeners from the entire world can understand:

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“Baraingo,” or “Chasing Our Tails,” has a more upbeat feel. Like most of the songs on the album, Razia uses traditional instruments, including marovany, which is a type of zither from Madagascar, and accordion. Though some of the album was recorded in New York and Paris, Razia made sure to record most the songs in Antananarivo, Madagascar with as many Malagasy musicians as possible. Though “Baraingo” has a quick tempo reminiscent of much Latin music, its lyrics do not let up on the serious message of the album, as Razia sings “Our leaders seem lost and out of touch. They cannot choose which direction to go.”

One of the slowest songs on Akory is “Ela Izy,” a ballad that the liner notes declare is about the “duality of beauty and sadness in the natural world.” Razia’s French influences are evident in this song, as the accordion sounds like something one would hear during a romantic boat ride on the Seine or outside a French café. Razia’s gentle vocals are smooth and compliment the bittersweet feeling of the song, gliding effortlessly over the guitar picking and occasional water sounds.

The album ends on a positive note, and does not forget that there is hope amid the struggles. The final track, “Nifankahita (It Was Meant to Be)” is a song about love that was “written in the stars long ago,” according to the liner notes. It features a horn section, accordion, and marovany. The rhythm section contributes an energetic beat that sounds similar to merengue. In this song, Razia shows her fun and light-hearted side, even including a few hollers here and there.

Akory shows that Razia’s passion for Madagascar and its struggles, both environmental and political, is stronger than ever. Despite her many travels and time spent living all over the world, Akory makes it clear that Madagascar is, and always will be, her true home.

Reviewed by Anna Polovick

View review May 1st, 2015

KB – Tomorrow We Live


Title: Tomorrow We Live

Artist: KB

Label: Reach Records

Format: CD, MP3

Release date: April 21, 2015


Reach Records has been churning out music nonstop this past year, from Lecrae’s chart breaking Anomaly to Trip Lee’s impressive album Rise. They seem determined to prove themselves more than just a Christian rap label, pushing the boundaries of holy hip-hop with strong beats and unashamed lyrics. The latest album from Reach, KB’s Tomorrow We Live, is no different. While simultaneously celebrating life and grappling with issues as dark as suicide, KB claims his place as another rapper to watch out for.

One of the most surprising treats from the album is KB’s singing, which has a smooth R&B tone. This is shown on the first track, “Rich Forever,” which KB said in a rundown of the album is about his realization that it’s “contentment, not excess, that makes a man happy.” The track is centered around a simple piano part that connects the melodic chorus and rapped verses, before cutting out to emphasize a few heavy bass drops. It is a strong start to the album, and showcases all of KB’s vocal talents, from his distinctive rapping to R&B and even some falsetto.

The first single from the album, “Sideways,” features Grammy-award winning artist Lecrae. Propelled by a heavy beat, it talks about turning people’s pre-conceived ideas upside down, or in this case, sideways. KB raps, “They don’t know what to do with us / Degree in theology raps for a livin’ / Black man in first class that is reading the scriptures.” KB and Lecrae are certainly not holding back, and even used a rotating set to create the video for the track:

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KB takes another risk when he mixes African drums and a USA sports chant in “I Believe,” that actually works together quite well. Using the catchy cheer “I believe that we will win” with immaculately produced beats by Supe and Joseph Prielozny, the song is about hope despite physical and emotional injury. The African drums were inspired by a recent trip KB took to South Africa that resulted in a sound he refers to as “World Trap.”

The brief interlude “9 (AM)” shows KB’s comradery and his love for his family. Featuring a Lecrae song playing in the background while KB speaks to his wife and one-year-old son, the track morphs into “Fall In Love With You,” a song that KB said is dedicated to his son. Along with the following track “Always & Forever,” which is a tribute to his wife and their marriage, these two songs show the soft, intimate side of KB. They are also more upbeat, with a pop feel similar to Jason Mraz or tobyMac.

“Calling You” is by far the darkest and deepest song on Tomorrow We Live, recounting the story of visiting a friend who has recently returned from serving in the Middle East, only to find that the friend is getting ready to commit suicide. The track does not hold back on dramatics and dialogue, combining rapping and singing. These theatrical elements do not make the song feel phony, but rather increase the emotional impact. Based on a real life situation for KB (though names have been are changed), the song displays his attempts to deal with and understand those events. This marks a very clear shift in the album from praise and hope to what it feels like to be in the midst of a deep, personal struggle.

Though “Save Me” and “Drowning” continue to address dark problems people may have, the album turns back to its message of undying hope with “Lights Go Out” and “Crowns & Thorns.” “Lights Go Out” features a chorus sung by Justin Ebach and Blanca, whose vocals are reminiscent of Maroon 5. “Crowns & Thorns” samples the popular contemporary Christian song “Oceans” by Hillsong United in a creative remix that discusses sacrifice.

Tomorrow We Live is KB’s second studio album, and it certainly shows maturation of both his music and his personal life, through his recent transition to fatherhood. Featuring heavy hip-hop as well as tracks with a pop feel, the album is diverse and shows there are any number of possibilities as to where KB will go next.

Reviewed by Anna Polovick

View review May 1st, 2015

McCrary Sisters – Let’s Go


Title: Let’s Go

Artist: McCrary Sisters

Label: MCC Records

Format: CD

Release date: March 10, 2015


The McCrary Sisters (Ann, Deborah, Regina and Alfreda) are the daughters of the late Rev. Samuel McCrary, one of the founding members of The Fairfield Four, the famed and fabulous quartet dedicated exclusively to the performance of traditional gospel. Their talent is grounded in the musical grooming they received in their family. Mike Tash, writing about the four sisters, indicates that for them, “music is a birthright, a lifelong love affair, a sometimes career, an indescribable joy, and occasionally, a cross to bear.” While their musical virtuosity initially led them individually to work with different artists, they eventually came together as the “McCrary Sisters” in 2011, each bringing “a unique energy and virtuosity to the group [as well as] varied experiences within the worlds of pop, rock, R&B and gospel music,” as Amy Sciarretto indicates.

Their new album, Let’s Go, which blends traditional and contemporary gospel music, was produced by Nashville-based singer/songwriter and musician Buddy Miller, who is featured prominently on guitar, along with other Nashville session musicians. Andy Argyrakis notes: “while there are contemporary aspects within this set of rootsy gospel romps… these four daughters of Fairfield Four tenor Rev. Samuel McCrary also cling tightly to tradition, especially when it comes to lyrics that edify and uplift.”  Regina narrates the story in an interview with Chuck Dauphin: “When Buddy Miller agreed to produce the CD for the McCrary Sisters, we were overwhelmed with joy. Buddy is family to us. The first thing that Buddy did was give us 50 songs and asked us to pick 20, then from those, we narrowed it down to the 10 on the CD.”

Let’s Go eventually grew to include 16 solid gospel tracks with varying mood and aesthetics. Opening with the brief, a capella intro “Let’s Go,” the McCrary’s move on to the energetic drum, organ and guitar accompanied track “That’s Enough.”  Shifting to a contemplative mood on the third track, “By the Mark,” one gets a feel of traditional gospel accompanied by a sole guitar. The fourth track, an energetic arrangement of the spiritual “I John,” is also sparsely accompanied by guitar and percussion—including drum and tambourine—while the following track, “Dr. Watts,” has every feature of a lined out hymn.

Fire” is a veritably fiery track with its hot drum rhythm and theme of Holy Spirit’s fire. Next is a wonderful arrangement of Rev. James Cleveland’s “Use Me Lord” with a triple meter, something that Horace Boyer would describe as a gospel waltz. “Don’t Let Nobody Turn You ‘Round,” a famous Civil Rights song originally released by and featuring the Fairfield Four, was probably included as an important way of underscoring the connection between the quartet and the McCrary Sisters, given that their father was instrumental to the revival of the Fairfield Four after a 30 years hiatus. “I Am Free” can best be described as a celebration of the freedom of the Christian in dance, what with its upbeat melodic and percussive rhythm!
In the tenth track, “Hold On,” the listener is treated to a very brief quasi-esoteric a capella interlude with the important admonition to patience since “everything will be alright.” The uncanny air thus unleashed is carried over to “Driving Your Mama Crazy,” which ends with a bright and brisk movement and the plea “Help me, Lord, help me!” The meditative mood returns with “I’d Rather Have Jesus” which opens with a solo voice. A sense of mystery ensues in the musical narration of the miraculous sourcing of water in the desert by Moses in “He Split the Rock,” appropriately accompanied by relentlessly pounding rhythms and rock guitars. This is followed by the short a capella track “Old Shoes,” a rather asymmetrical interpolation in the flow of gospel message and sound based on a traditional song popularized by the Fairfield Four.  The penultimate track, “Hold the Wind,” begins with a rather cathedral-like organ intro before the McCrarys enter in a sustained 4-part harmony, while an unidentified male soloist takes over the lead. The album wraps up with an a capella arrangement of the traditional song “Walk In the Light,” which summarizes the entire spiritual message of the album.

The McCrarys are obviously are proud of their roots and heritage. During an interview with Chuck Dauphin, Regina stated: “The greatest blessing is that we get to sing about who and what we believe in—our God. And we get to give honor to our father, the late Rev. Samuel H. McCrary, who was the glue that kept the Fairfield Four together until he passed away.” And Alfreda added, “It is an honor to be able to sing the music that we were raised on—the old landmark music—with my sisters. This music is giving honor and thanks to some that made the way for us.”

Reviewed by Jude Orakwe

View review May 1st, 2015

The Fairfield Four – Still Rockin’ My Soul


Title: Still Rockin’ My Soul  

Artist: The Fairfield Four

Label: The Fairfield Four Inc.

Formats: CD, MP3

Release date: March 10, 2015


The Fairfield Four, a vocal quartet that has existed for almost a century, presently includes Levert Allison (tenor), Larrice Byrd, Sr. (baritone), Bobbye Sherrell (tenor) and Joe Thompson (bass). The quartet has been dedicated to performing traditional gospel music in the traditional “a cappella” manner since its founding in 1921. Jerry Zolten, who penned the liner notes, characterizes the a cappella singing style of the Fairfield Four as “intertwined voices rhythmically pulsating in harmony, anchored by a deep bass, lead vocal over the top” and “rooted in that hazy past before the era of recorded sound.” This history is recounted in the PledgeMusic video promo for the album:

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The traditional bent of the Fairfield Four is easily understandable when one recalls that the ensemble originated within Nashville’s Fairfield Baptist Church. Their prominence was heightened by the role played by their songs. For example, Zolten explicitly indicates that their “voices were heard on the soundtrack that inspired and propelled the Civil Rights Movement,” including the song “Don’t Let Nobody Turn You Around” (track 9).  The Fairfield Four therefore see themselves as bearers and custodians of a tradition. Larrice Byrd, Sr. comments, “We all grew up listening to this style of music and we understand it. We want to keep the tradition alive forever.”

The Fairfield Four’s new album, Still Rockin’ My Soul, is their first release in almost 20 years. Concerning the musical selections, Zolten affirms that “the songs collected here are all part and parcel of the traditional Fairfield Four canon.” The opening track, “Rock My Soul,” is accompanied only by hand clapping and foot tapping, while on the spiritual “Children Go Where I Send Thee” country music singer Lee Ann Womack joins Joe Thompson on lead vocals. In “I Love the Lord (He Heard My Cry)” and the reprise which closes the album, one hears the organ accompanying a melodic chanting characteristic of the African American devotional line-out hymn. Additional tracks include “Come on in this House,” “Baptism of Jesus,” “Jesus Gave Me Water” (by Lucie E. Campbell), “My Rock,” “I Got Jesus and That’s Enough” (by Dorothy Love Coates), “Don’t Let Nobody Turn You Around,” and “Highway to Heaven” (by Thomas A. Dorsey).

In sum, if one accepts the fact – and this, with good reason – that the human voice is the best of musical instruments, then the Fairfield Four exemplifies this in a most convincing way on Still Rockin’ My Soul. Gospel music historian Bil Carpenter has mentioned the instrument-like timbre of the Fairfield Four quartet, noting that “when the Fairfield Four sang, they utilized the full extent of their voices, moving easily from deep, rolling basslines to the staccato upper peaks of the tenor range, all executed with precise, intricate harmonies and ever-shifting leads.” Call it instrumental vocality, or vocal instrumentality, if you like!

Reviewed by Jude Orakwe

View review May 1st, 2015

Leo Bud Welch – I Don’t Prefer No Blues


Title: I Don’t Prefer No Blues

Artist: Leo Bud Welch

Label: Big Legal Mess

Formats: CD, MP3

Release date: March 24, 2015


In January 2014, 81-year-old Mississippi native  Leo “Bud” Welch released his debut album, the gospel oriented Sabougla Voices. Bud began playing his older cousin’s guitar at the age of thirteen, sneaking the instrument while his cousin was working. By the age of fifteen he was performing the blues publically and continued to do so until the age of 43, when he began playing mostly gospel music with his sister and sister-in-law, known as the Sabougla Voices. His new album, I Don’t Prefer No Blues, is a follow-up to the earlier release and fulfills his deal with label owner, Bruce Watson, to release a gospel and then blues album. Highlights include the traditional “Poor Boy,” “Girl in the Holler” with its driving rhythm and whining guitar, “Goin’ Down Slow,” and “So Many Turnrows” which tells of his childhood on a farm. I Don’t Prefer No Blues firmly situates this octogenarian into his rightful place as recording artist and blues musician.

Reviewed by Christina Harrison

View review May 1st, 2015

Bobby Patterson – I Got More Soul!


Title: I Got More Soul!

Artist: Bobby Patterson

Label: Omnivore Recordings

Formats: CD, MP3

Release date: July 22, 2014


Dallas, Texas bred producer, writer and soul artist Bobby Patterson has had a long and exhilarating career. From playing in his band the Royal Rockers in his early teens, to recording for Abnak Records in 1962, to scoring regional hits with Jetstar Records, to producing for Fontella Bass and Little Johnny Taylor, and penning songs recorded by the likes of Albert King and the Fabulous Thunderbirds, Patterson has firmly established himself in many facets of the music industry. In his most recent release, I Got More Soul!, these multiple talents come together. This album, recorded in Austin, Texas, holds eight originals including the dynamic opener and the album’s namesake, “I Got More Soul!” Patterson also brings his soulful interpretation to Sly & the Family Stone’s “Poet” (1971) and Detroit rock band The Dirtbombs’ “Your Love Belongs Under a Rock” (2001). With this album, Patterson reminds listeners about the skills that have him such a staple in the industry.

Reviewed by Christina Harrison

View review May 1st, 2015

East L.A. Soul – Rampart Records 1963-71


Title: East L.A. Soul: Rampart Records 1963-71

Artist: Various

Label: Outta Sight

Format: CD

Release date: November 10, 2014


Eddie Davis, former child actor and entrepreneur, started Rampart Records in 1958 as an outlet for music of a new Latino community in East L.A. This led to the famous Eastside Sound and hits by bands such as the Blendells, the Salas Brothers, El Chicano, and Cannibal & the Headhunters. Rampart Records also introduced the world to a young Barry White.

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Outta Sight Records released East L.A. Soul as the musical representation of Rampart Records’ story from 1963 to 1971, including many of the label’s most famous hits. The compilation includes songs such as “Come Swim with Me” by Little Ray, “Tracy” by Barry White & The Atlantics, “One Like Mine” by the Salas Brothers, and the legendary “Land of 1000 Dances” by Cannibal & the Headhunters. East L.A. Soul also includes detailed liner notes that supplement the music with various historical facts, accounts, and pictures of early Rampart Records operations and artists.

Reviewed by Anna Polovick

View review May 1st, 2015

April Releases of Note

Following are additional albums released during April 2015—some will be reviewed in future issues of Black Grooves.

Blues, Folk, Country
Captain Luke & Cool John Ferguson: Live at the Hamilton (Music Maker)
Cash Box Kings: Holding Court (Blind Pig)
Chastity Brown: Long Way (Creative And Dreams Music Network)
Gaye Adegbalola & Wild Rutz: Is It Still Good To Ya? (Hot Toddy)
Guitar Slim Green: Stone Down Blues (BGP)
Hans Theessink & Terry Evans: True & Blue: (Blue Groove)
J.B. Hutto & his Hawks with Sunnyland Slim: Hawk Squat (Delmark)
J.B. Smith: No More Good Time in the World for Me (Dust to Digital)
Ms. Jody: Talkin’ Bout My Good Thang (Ecko)
Papa Charlie Jackson: Why Do You Moan When You Can Shake That Thing (JSP)
Sherwood Fleming: Blues Blues Blues (1201 Music)
Various: Beale Street Saturday Night (Omnivore)

Funk, Rock, Pop, Electronic
Alabama Shakes: Sound & Color (ATO)
Alan Hewitt & One Nation: Evolution (Red River)
ConFunkShun: More Than Love (Shanachie)
Danko Jones: Fire Music (MRI)
Death: N.E.W. (Drag City)
Doug Locke: Blue Heart EP (digital)
Kelela: Cut 4 Me (Fade to Mind)
Orgone: Beyond the Sun (Shanachie)
Precious: Wilson & Eruption: Greatest Hits (Sony Special Products)
Push Up: The Day After (Jazz Village)
Van Hunt: Fun Rises, the Fun Sets (Godless Hotspot)
Young Fathers: White Men Are Black Men Too (Big Dada)

Gospel, Gospel Rap, CCM
Casey J: The Truth (Tyscott)
Puntin: Bananas 4 (Red Dist.)
Rev. James Cleveland: Inspirational Gospel Legends, Vol. 1 (Independent Label Services)
Rev. Milton Brunson: Inspirational Gospel Legends, Vol. 2 (Independent Label Services)
The Showers Family Group: The Showers Family Group (Habakkuk Music)

Alex Puddu (ft. Joe Bataan): Soultiger (Schema)
Steve Wilson & Wilsonian’s Grain: Live In New York: The Vanguard Sessions (Random Act)
Andrew Bishop: De Profundis (Envoi)
Annabel (lee) & Richard E: By the Sea & Other Solitary Places (Ninja Tune)
Ben Williams: Coming of Age (Concord)
Big Mike: Young Man Old Soul (Black Market Blue)
Cassandra Wilson: Coming Forth By Day (Legacy)
Charles Lloyd: Wild Man Dance (Blue Note)
City Boy Allstars: Personal Things (City Boys Mike Production)
Cyrus Chestnut: A Million Colors in Your Mind (Highnote)
Dayme Arocena: Havana Cultura Sessions EP (Brownswood Recordings)
Harold Mabern: Afro Blue (Smoke Sessions)
Herbie Hancock: Omaha Civic Auditorium 17th November 1975 (Hi Hat)
Irvin Mayfield: New Orleans Jazz Playhouse (Basin Street)
Jazz in the New Harmonic: Primal Scream (Chesky)
Joyce Elaine Yuille: Welcome To My World (Schema)
Julian Vaughn: Limitless (TRIPPIN & RHYTHM)
Matthew Shipp-Mat Walerian Duo: The Uppercut: Live At Okuden (Forced Exposure)
Sax Pack: Power of 3 (Shanachie)
Sir Roland Hanna: This Must Be Love (Progressive)
Wes Montgomery & Wynton Kelly Trio: Unissued 1965 Half Note Broadcasts (Jazz on Jazz)

R&B, Soul
Adrian Younge: Something About April (Linear Labs)
Bluey: Life Between the Notes (Shanachie)
Bobbye Doll Johnson: True to You (Music Access Inc.)
Dells: The Complete Early Singles Collection (Hallmark)
Donn T: Flight of the Donn T (D Tone Victorious)
Eddie Bo: Baby I’m Wise: Complete Ric Singles 1959-62 (Ace)
Fame Gang: Grits & Gravy: Best of the Fame Gang (BGP)
Garnett Mimms: Looking for You: Complete United Artist & Veep Singles (Ace)
Jackie Wilson: NYC 1961-63 (Ace)
Jerry Lawson: Just a Mortal Man (Red Beet )
Kenny Lattimore: Anatomy of a Love Song (Sincere Soul Records/eOne Music)
Mavis Staples: Your Good Fortune EP (Anti)
Muscle Shoals Horns: Born to Get Down (Funky Town Grooves)
Muscle Shoals Horns: Doin’ It to the Bone (Funky Town Grooves)
Muscle Shoals Horns: Shine On (Funky Town Grooves)
Redland: An Enlightened Contagion (Redland Ent)
Reggie P.: Why Me? (Music Access Inc.)
Slow Knights: Living in a Dark World ( Red Dist.)
Trouble Funk: Trouble Funk Live: Ultimate Crank (TWF)
Various: The Super Rare Doo Wop Box (Rockbeat)

Rap, Hip Hop
Aceyalone: Action (Bionik Music)
Alchemist & Oh No: Welcome to Los Santos (Mass Appeal)
Alex Faith & Dre Murray: Southern Lights: Overexposed (Empire Dist.)
Black Rob: Genuine Article (Slim Style)
B-Legit: What We Been Doin (Empire Dist.)
Blueprint: King No Crown (Weightless)
Chief Keef: Feed the Streets (Black Market)
City Fidelia: A Pisces World (Nothing’s Really New)
Clear Soul Forces: Fab Five (Fat Beats)
Drake: If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late (Republic)
Earl Sweatshirt: I Don’t Like Shit: I Don’t Go Outside (Columbia)
Jus: Obsession EP (Zenith Point)
KMD: Bl_ck B_st_rds: Traffic (The Orchard)
L’Orange & Jeremiah Jae: The Night Took Us In Like Family (Mello Music Group)
La Chat: Murder She Spoke II (Phixieous Ent.)
Mac Mall: Legal Business (Thizzlamic)
Project Pat: Mista Don’t Play 2: Everythangs Money (eOne)
Raekwon: Fly International Luxurious Art (Universal)
Toro Y Moi: What For? (Carpark)
Tyler the Creator: Cherry Bomb (Columbia)
Wordsmith: Apt. 507 EP (Plus 180)
Worlds Freshest & J-Stalin: The Real World Part 4 (Empire Dist).

Reggae, Dancehall, Calypso
Alborosie & King Jammy: Dub of Thrones (VP)
Bob Marley: So Much Things to Say: Interviews (Tuff Gong)
Doctor Dread: Theremin in Dub (Tafari)
Peter Tosh & Friends: An Upsetters Showcase (Cleopatra)
Sizzla: 876 (868 Music)
Taj Weekes: Love, Herb & Reggae (Jatta)

World, Latin
Amanaz: Africa (reissue) (Now Again)
Ayub Ogada, Trevor Warren  Kodhi: Trevor Warren’s Adventures With Ayub Ogada (Longtale)
Estacada: Caribbean Steelband (Air Mail Music)
Gino Sitson: VoiStrings ( Buda Musique)
Mola Sylla: Count Till Zen (Winter & Winter)
Rudy Twoleft Smith: What Pan Did For Me (Caprice)
Tal National: Zoy Zoy (Fat Cat)

Spoken Word, Comedy
Rain Pryor: Black & White (Uproar)

View review May 1st, 2015

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