Archive for September, 2015

Welcome to the September 2015 Issue

Welcome to the September “Back to School” issue of Black Grooves, sponsored by the Indiana University Archives of African American Music and Culture.

This month we’re featuring the first of the big pre-holiday box sets: the Isley Brothers 25 CD compilation RCA Victor & T-Neck Album Masters (1959-1983). Also highlighted is City of Breath from the flute duo Flutronics and the first CD releases of two large scale projects: Rebirth of a Nation (CD + DVD) —a “re-imagining” of D.W. Griffith’s film by DJ Spooky with the Kronos Quartet—and composer Laura Karpman’s setting of Langston Hughes’ epic poem Ask Your Mama (12 pieces for Jazz).

Jazz releases this month include the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra’s Live in Cuba, Tiffany Austin’s Hoagy Carmichael tribute Nothing But Soul, plus the live albums Sylva (CD + DVD) by Snarky Puppy & Metropole Orkest and Covered by the Robert Glasper Trio. Blues releases include Smokin’ Joe Kubek & Bnois King’s Fat Man’s Shine Parlor, Buddy Guy’s Born to Play Guitar, Henry Townsend’s Original St. Louis Blues Live, and Eddie Taylor Jr.’s Stop Breaking Down.

Under the categories of funk, rock, R&B and gospel is Invite the Light by Dâm-Funk, Carnival of Miracles by the Paula Boggs Band, the Carl Hall compilation You Don’t Know Nothing About Love: The Loma/Atlantic Recordings 1967-1972, the Little Richard 3-CD compilation Directly From My Heart: Best of the Specialty & Vee-Jay Years, and the Swan Silvertones compilation Amen, Amen, Amen.

World music releases include the Venezuelan fusion album De Pelicula! by Los Crema Paraiso, a reissue of Ginger Johnson and His African Messengers’ 1967 album African Party, and the compilation Amara Touré 1973-1980 featuring singles released by the Guinean percussionist and singer. Wrapping up this issue is our list of August 2015 releases of note.



View review September 2nd, 2015

The Isley Brothers – The RCA Victor and T-Neck Album Masters, 1959-1983

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Title: The RCA Victor and T-Neck Album Masters, 1959-1983

Artist: Isley Brothers

Label: Legacy

Format: 23-CD box set

Release date: August 21, 2015


How many artists rate a 23 disc box set? In the case of the Isley Brothers, 23 are more than warranted, especially when most are filled out with rare and unreleased tracks from the Brothers’ prime years.


The original trio of O’Kelly, Rudolph and Ronald Isley scored their first hit with the original version of “Shout!” on RCA-Victor in 1959, but left the label in 1960 after one album and a few singles, all included on the first disc. The fits, starts and frustrations of their subsequent work for Wand and Motown—which produced “Twist and Shout” and “This Old Heart of Mine” but no other major hits—are not part of this set, which jumps to the spring of 1969 on the second disc. Nevertheless, there are a few tantalizing performances issued as singles by other labels in the 1964-65 period when young Jimi Hendrix was the Isleys’ guitarist.

The leap to 1969 makes for a dramatic and jarring transition, and it marks the beginning of one the greatest runs of creativity and success in pop, rock or rhythm & blues. “It’s Our Thing” was the first album released by the Isleys on their T-Neck label, named for their adopted home of Teaneck, New Jersey. The album and hit single “It’s Your Thing,” served notice that the Isleys’ blend of soul, funk and rock would be competing head to head with dominant artists like James Brown and Sly and the Family Stone.

Discs 3, 4 & 5 chronicle an exhilarating period of barely a year in which the Isleys release three albums: “The Brothers: Isley,” the all-star double album “Live at Yankee Stadium” and ”Get Into Something.” The familiar six man line-up of the 1970s and early 1980s crystallized in this period, as younger brothers Ernie, Marvin and brother-in-law Chris Jasper formed the nucleus of the original trio’s backing band.

In 1971, the Isleys released “Givin’ It Up,” a collection of covers by songwriters ranging from Bob Dylan to Bill Withers. The opening track fused Neil Young’s song of the Kent State massacre “Ohio” with Jimi Hendrix’s “Machine Gun” to create a harrowing nine searing and apocalyptic minutes led by Ernie Isley’s scorching guitar lines and feedback. Throughout the decade, the Isleys would remake and rethink many unlikely songs, including Seals and Crofts’ “Summer Breeze” and Todd Rundgren’s “Hello It’s Me.”

The Isleys went from triumph to triumph for the rest of the decade, all ably presented here. An unreleased album of hits recorded live in the studio in 1980 is one of the later highlights of the set, as the Isleys moved into a period in which they were strongly affected by the “Quiet Storm” trend in rhythm & blues, though always with a distinctive Isley’s touch, such as the sizzling guitar lines that animate “Choosy Lover” from the last album in the set, 1983’s heavily sampled Between the Sheets.

Sensitive notes by Lynell George and A. Scott Galloway round out the package and superior mastering of a broad range of analog sources by Mark Wilder does the music proud. Big as it is, this set has been priced to move, and is unlikely to suffer the doorstop fate of many overly ambitious box sets.

Reviewed by Matthew Barton

View review September 2nd, 2015

DJ Spooky and the Kronos Quartet – Rebirth of a Nation

DJ Spooky Rebirth of a Nation

Title: Rebirth of a Nation

Artist: DJ Spooky and the Kronos Quartet

Label: Cantaloupe Music

Formats: CD/DVD; wav and MP3 (audio only)

Release date: August 28, 2015



Rebirth of a Nation was DJ Spooky’s (i.e. Paul D. Miller’s) first large scale multimedia piece, made in collaboration with the Kronos Quartet and premiered in 2004 at the Lincoln Center Festival, Spoleto Festival USA, Weiner Festwochen, and the Festival d’Automne á Paris. It has since been given some fifty times as a live performance, and the studio recording of the soundtrack heard here was made in 2007, but this combined CD/DVD release from Cantaloupe Music marks the first time the full musical score has been available as a separate entity. The film Rebirth of a Nation is a re-imagining, or “remix,” of D.W. Griffith’s notorious 1915 feature The Birth of a Nation, which—with apologies to Al Gore—truly may be the most ‘inconvenient truth’ in the history of cinema. The radical cinematic style, three-hour running time, sense of grandeur and the relentless publicity machine that fueled The Birth of a Nation’s prosperity spelled doom to the lowly Nickelodeon and paved the way for ambitious film epics of all kinds, and American film history cannot dispense with it. But its corrigenda of the Ku Klux Klan as the salvation of the American South in the post-Civil war period, and its vilification of African Americans, helped to revive a sleeping Klan into a new round of vigilantism that flourished into the early 1920s. Although Griffith’s centennial was widely observed and celebrated in 1975, in the years to follow screenings of The Birth of a Nation were picketed and often cancelled, and Griffith’s name was removed from the Director’s Guild of America’s Award in 1999.

Shutting down screenings of The Birth of a Nation doesn’t make the film go away, and suppressing it only prevents younger generations from seeing how prevalent and mainstream white supremacy was a century ago. DJ Spooky feels that some of the complex, painful and malevolent themes in The Birth of Nation still connect with America as it is in the twenty-first century, and utilizes digital editing, graphics, inserts, narration and a hip hop music track to render the hundred-year-old film into a commentary on itself. Collaborating with the Kronos Quartet, DJ Spooky’s work has a strongly post-classical feel and largely avoids nostalgic gestures that would normally play to the subject matter, save samples of wailing harmonica and occasional banjo-like pizzicati from Kronos. The character sketches, such as “Stoneman” and “Cameron,” seem the most successful from a purely musical standpoint, as if the persons connected to these names in the film elicited the most involved responses from the composer. Nevertheless it is difficult to appreciate the music without its visuals; some of the pieces are very restrained, and are understated even for film music, which is normally a little under the action. Rebirth of a Nation, the film (2008), runs about half the length of Griffith’s original and even that is a lot of screen time to cover; given that there is narration, but there’s also no direct dialog from the actors—the soundtrack has to be wall-to-wall. Without the visuals, the score comes across as partly inspired and partly padded.

Rebirth of a Nation is nonetheless an interesting investigation into William S. Burroughs’ idea that by cutting something up, you may be able to reveal the truth in it, neutralize it or at least recast it into another context, and there’s every reason to experience this project in the form that Cantaloupe Music has packaged it in; DVD and music, whereas before there was only a downmarket DVD and the music was only available as excepts.

Listen on Spotify here.

Reviewed by David N. Lewis

View review September 2nd, 2015

Langston Hughes, Laura Karpman – Ask Your Mama

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Title: Ask Your Mama

Artists: Langston Hughes (text), Laura Karpman (music)

Label: Avie

Formats: 2-CD set, MP3

Release date: July 10, 2015


Premiered in 2009 at Carnegie Hall as part of Jessye Norman’s Honor! Festival celebrating the legacy of African American musicians, Laura Karpman’s masterful Ask Your Mama is finally available on CD.

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Karpman’s composition is an original musical setting of Langston Hughes’ epic poem Ask Your Mama: 12 Pieces for Jazz, written in 1960 while he was attending the Newport Jazz Festival and published as a book of poems in 1961. One of the notable features of the book is Hughes’ marginalia describing the musical soundtrack running through his head, which he describes in the “Dedication” (track 1):

“This poem was written in segments beginning at Newport, at the Newport Jazz Festival in fact, two summers ago. And I suppose that is why, as I wrote most of it, I could hear jazz music behind it. And so when I gave the first reading of some segments of this poem, they were read to jazz. However, the poem may be read with or without music, of course. But for the benefit of those who might like to hear the music that I heard in my mind as I wrote ‘Ask Your Mama,’ along the margin of the book there are little musical notations. And the leitmotif of the poem, the Hesitation Blues, the old-traditional blues, and the little break that is used between some of the verses, ‘Shave And A Haircut, Fifteen Cents,’ those are reproduced musically at the front of the book. And then in the back of the book, as if it were a record, I have a series of liner notes for the unhep, that is, for those who may not quite understand what the poem is about.”

Crossing many genres, Hughes’ musical references range from cool jazz and post bop to German lieder, patriotic songs, spirituals, blues and African drumming. Karpman, a notable Hollywood composer, weaves all of these strands together into a compelling new work. Also woven into the mix are many samples drawn from earlier recordings—most notably segments of Hughes’ reading of the poem (presumably from the 1970 Buddah release)—as well as fragments of Louis Armstrong, Leontyne Price, Pigmeat Markham, Cab Calloway and perhaps others (regrettably the liner notes don’t cite specific recordings). This sampling lends a distinctive hip hop influence, juxtaposed with a classical foundation provided by the San Francisco Ballet Orchestra, conducted by George Manahan. Other performers include classical singers Janai Brugger, Angela Brown, and Tesia Kwarteng; jazz vocalists Nnenna Freelon, Monét Owens, Erin McGlover, and Taura Stinson; in addition to Black Thought, The Roots, Medusa, and other instrumentalists.

The tracks follow the original order of the 12 sections of the poem: 1. Dedication; 2. Cultural Exchange; 3. Ride, Red, Ride; 4. Shades of Pigmeat; 5. Ode to Dinah; 6. Blues in Stereo; 7. Horn of Plenty; 8. Gospel Cha-Cha; 9. Is It True?; 10. Ask Your Mama; 11. Bird in Orbit; 12. Jazztet Muted – Show fare, please.

Karpman’s musical setting breathes new life into Langston Hughes’ text, together referencing the entirety of the African American experience through a diverse range of musical genres and vernacular traditions such as children’s rhymes and signifying.

Note: Those interested in a different interpretation of the work might be interested in Dr. Ron McCurdy’s The Langston Hughes Project, which claims to follow Hughes’ own plans for a multimedia project, and the related CD.

Listen on Spotify here.

Reviewed by Brenda Nelson-Strauss

View review September 2nd, 2015

FLūTRοNIX – City of Breath

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Title: City of Breath

Artist: FLūTRοNIX

Label: Flutronix Records

Format: EP CD, MP3

Release date: August 13, 2015



Brooklyn-based urban pop duo, Flutronix, released their third CD, City of Breath, just in time for the National Flute Association convention held this August in Washington, DC. Perhaps it was with this event in mind that inspired Nathalie Joachim and Allison Loggins-Hull to include original compositions and a pivotal 20th century flute work that highlights their classical training. That said, their now signature style that blends classical, hip hop, soul, electronic music, and more is still dominant on each track.

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The first track, “She Is,” begins not with flute but with one haunting but clear, resonant female voice which is later joined by the Melodia Women’s Choir of NYC. It then transitions to the sultry sounds of the alto flute and flute blended with enchanting electronic backing, transporting the listener to another place and time. Their next original composition, “Flocks,” demonstrates their precise and fluid technique with melodic fragments that swoop and climb through the flute’s tessituras with the same ease as the feathered friends this work is intended to emulate. This is an acoustic version of the same work that appeared on their 2.0 CD. The sheet music is now available from Carl Fischer Music and is scored for four flutes and alto flute. Composed in 1982 by Steve Reich, “Vermont Counterpoint” is a minimalist work for a solo flutist (doubling on alto and piccolo) with 10 other flute parts pre-recorded on tape. With their extensive studio experience, Nathalie and Allison navigate the complexities of coordinating the rhythmically complex, repeated melodic fragments with great polish. Moreover, they are able to capture the subtle metric grooves that emerge as each fragment is layered on top of the others, creating a whole that sounds fresh and new in this offering.

The music comes to a repose in the final track, “Like a Storm (a tribute to Carol Wincenc).” Wincenc, in addition to being Natalie’s flute teacher at Julliard and a Grammy award-winning flutist herself, has become a great champion of this duo. Our performers/composers present here nothing bombastic as one might expect from the title, but rather a simple duet comprised of a seamless lyrical melody accompanied by scale patterns reminiscent of etude work they might have done under Wincenc’s tutelage. It is often punctuated by drum and triangle which I feel somewhat detracts from the beauty of the work. The storm fades away with flutes in Copland-esque harmonies.

Once again, these savvy ladies are raising the bar for any instrumentalists willing to push themselves to new possibilities of artistic endeavors. With pen and ink cover art by Natalie Cooperman, this CD is beautifully mastered at Avatar Studios in NYC and is available for download at Amazon and iTunes.

Listen on Spotify here.

Reviewed by Annette Farrington

View review September 2nd, 2015

Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis – Live in Cuba

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Title: Live in Cuba

Artist: Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis

Label: Blue Engine Records

Formats: CD, MP3

Release date: August 21, 2015


It is perhaps Dizzy Gillespie who is most often credited with introducing Cuban influences into the mainstream jazz repertoire, in large part through his signature Afro-Cuban tunes such as “A Night in Tunisia,” “Manteca,” and “Things to Come.”  An energetic version of the last of these is included on Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra’s latest release Live in Cuba, and perhaps best exemplifies the aim of this particular release from the house band at Lincoln Center, an institution that benefited greatly from Gillespie’s involvement at its inception, even naming their signature nightclub “Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola.”  The first release by Blue Engine records, Lincoln Center’s in-house label, the 2-disc set Live in Cuba calls attention to the relationships between jazz and Cuban music and documents an historic set of concerts made possible by President Obama’s easing of travel restrictions between the US and Cuba.

This set contains both new compositions as well as recordings of tunes by household names in jazz, including Gillespie and Duke Ellington.  Several numbers beg listeners’ close attention, including “2/3’s Adventure,” composed and arranged by the orchestra’s bassist Carlos Henriquez and which alternates between Afro-Cuban rhythms and medium-up swing, showcasing the skills of pianist Dan Nimmer, trumpeter Marcus Printup, and Henriquez as they blow at various moments throughout the course of the complex arrangement, which features several shout choruses and abrupt changes in the song’s rhythmic propulsion.  Drummer Ali Jackson’s beautiful arrangement of the Latin standard “Como Fue” is also included, with legendary Cuban pianist and singer Bobby Carcasses leading the band on vocals.  Another highlight of this 2-disc set is “Limbo Jazz,” a medium-tempo number by Duke Ellington, featuring trumpeter Ryan Kisor providing muted trumpet punctuation and a laid-back solo on the Latin-tinged number, and a bebop-inflected solo by baritone saxophonist Joe Temperley.

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Live in Cuba is a compelling document of the loosening of trade restrictions between Cuba and the US, as well as a compelling case study of the continuing vitality of Afro-Cuban jazz.  The wealth and quality of the arrangements on these discs are certainly up to the high standards of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, and this album is a thoroughly enjoyable set by one of the top big bands in the world.

Listen on Spotify here.

Reviewed by Matthew Alley

View review September 2nd, 2015

Tiffany Austin – Nothing But Soul


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Title: Nothing But Soul

Artist: Tiffany Austin

Label: Con Alma Music

Formats: CD, MP3

Release Date: June 2, 2015



Jazz vocalist Tiffany Austin’s debut release Nothing But Soul pays tribute to the music of Hoagy Carmichael.  As Carmichael had a law degree but decided to pursue his career in songwriting, so too is Austin a polymath of sorts. She also holds a law degree–from U.C. Berkeley–and has chosen to pursue a career as a jazz vocalist on her own label.  Austin’s Nothing but Soul is full of interesting arrangements of Carmichael’s American Songbook staples– “Stardust” has been covered hundreds, if not thousands, of times, and Austin applies her own unique treatment, alternating bluesy stride piano with instrumental breaks throughout the song’s verses, employing soulful sax accompaniment and a blues-inflected solo from sideman, arranger, and producer Howard Wiley.

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She treats the standards “Skylark” and “Georgia on My Mind” with a similar spirit of innovation, employing a plodding Latin groove on the former, and a neo-soul flavored take on the latter, latching onto the song’s walk down as a vamp for a formidable tag, flavored with soulfully minimalistic vocal improvisation over the vamp.  The most surprising numbers on this album are perhaps those that Austin chose to borrow from Carmichael’s less auspicious career as a vocalist–the band introduces “I May Be Wrong” with Charlie Parker’s arrangement of “Lullaby in Rhythm” played by Wiley, seamlessly weaving the Parker melody into “I May be Wrong.”  The most interesting tune on the album is arguably Austin’s cover of “I Walk the Line.”  Carmichael recorded this song in a way that resembled a slightly sterilized version of Johnny Cash’s original recording, and Austin reinvents the number as a barrelhouse boogie, showcasing pianist Glen Pearson’s formidable blues chops and allowing her rhythm section to stretch out when drummer Sly Randolph lays into his ride cymbal during the piano solo.

Austin’s debut album puts a fresh face on some of the most well-known numbers from the repertoire of one of the most accomplished composers in popular song.  Nothing but Soul is a fascinating release from an already-accomplished talent with the potential to make waves in the jazz world.

Listen on Spotify here.
Reviewed by Matthew Alley


View review September 2nd, 2015

Snarky Puppy & Metropole Orkest – Sylva

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Title: Sylva

Artist: Snarky Puppy & Metropole Orkest

Label: Impulse!

Formats: CD/DVD, Digital Download, Vinyl

Release date: May 26, 2015



Jazz has developed virtually since its inception through a close but often uneasy relationship between recorded media and live performance; think of the “classic” recordings that are celebrated as paragons of jazz artistry, but also of the common admonishment that any true experience of jazz is a live one, in which musicians and audience members commune with one another in a unique, never-to-be-repeated musical and social event. If recent trends are any indication, however, many jazz musicians do not view these modes of performance as irreconcilable. Two albums released this year—Sylva by Snarky Puppy & Metropole Orkest (Impulse! 2015) and Covered by the Robert Glasper Trio (Blue Note 2015)—are exemplars of the ingenuity with which jazz musicians are testing the boundaries between recorded and live music.

Snarky Puppy, led by bassist and composer Michael League, originated in Denton, TX, comprising students of the renowned jazz program at The University of North Texas and musicians from the nearby Dallas scene. Now based in Brooklyn, they have toured the world extensively, introducing audiences to their exciting genre-b(l)ending style. They have also built a following through their unique recordings. Since 2010’s Tell Your Friends, they have collaborated on each project with director Andy LaViolette, creating a companion film that is released with the audio album. They also invite an audience into the recording session, which sits among the musicians and listens through headphones. In this way, Snarky Puppy cultivates the intimacy and energy of live performance, but also retains the advantages of an outfitted recording studio.

Sylva, the band’s debut for Impulse!, is their most ambitious such project to date. It finds the band in the Netherlands to work with the Metropole Orkest conducted by Jules Buckley. In addition to the CD/DVD combo, the audio album is available as a digital download or on vinyl, while the videos are currently available to stream on the band’s Vevo page. The DVD, which will be the basis for this review, includes some interesting bonus material, including a short “making of” featurette and a commentary track on the recording by League and LaViolette.

The theme of Sylva is the forest. The opener “Sintra” evokes the lushness and mystery of its namesake in Portugal, and the music is enhanced by the beautiful scenery constructed on the soundstage; real olive trees interspersed with metal sculptures of plants and animals create a kind of futuristic woodland, a visual counterpart to the organic–mechanical tension that League plays with in his compositions. “Flight,” referring to a journey from Portugal back to the U.S., features synthesizers, guitars, and flutes flitting over a quirky groove. Tenor saxophonist Chris Bullock takes the first solo of the album, using a digital octave effect that contrasts nicely with the woody warmth of the orchestral instruments. “Atchafalaya” is named for the swampland in Louisiana, and pays it homage with the buoyant rhythms of a New Orleans second line. The trombones are featured, and Metropole member Vincent Veneman takes a lively solo. Here, the advantages of the album film are especially appreciated; viewers watch the Snarky Puppy horn section and Veneman’s colleagues in Metropole responding enthusiastically to his playing, perhaps delighting in the small irony that it is a member of the orchestra and not of Snarky Puppy who is ripping through a great jazz solo.

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The album’s high point is “The Curtain.” League reveals in the commentary that this tune was the most challenging for the band, with sections featuring odd meters, multiple key changes, and forms with an odd number of bars, but also the most familiar, recalling the kind of music they used to play together at UNT. The familiarity shows. Jay Jennings’ flugelhorn solo is outstanding, his lyrical playing bolstered by the tasteful interactivity of the rhythm section and some beautifully building orchestral background figures. A new hip-hop groove introduces League’s similarly impressive bass solo (well-deserved accolades for his roles as leader and composer mean he is sometimes overlooked as a stellar bassist) and a funky, virtuosic organ solo by Cory Henry. The musicians look on wistfully during Bill Laurance’s lovely, Chopin-esque piano cadenza, before joining him for a closing waltz.

League describes the inspiration for the last tune, “The Clearing,” as a forest of his childhood where teenagers hung out and sometimes got up to no good; fittingly, the tune captures a sense of melancholic nostalgia but also playful mischievousness. There is great composing and arranging from League and Buckley, but when the tune settles into a funky groove, Snarky Puppy is really in its wheelhouse. (“Our favorite thing in the world to do is to find a groove and play and not change anything,” League tells us in the commentary.) Strong solos by guitarist Mike Lettieri and trumpeter Mike “Maz” Maher are buttressed by the relentless groove of drummer Robert “Sput” Searight, percussionist Nate Werth, and the Metropole percussionists. Coming at the album’s end, one wishes there had been a few more opportunities to stretch like this one; fortunately, fans can return to their previous work or go and see them in concert.

Listen on Spotify here.

Reviewed by Dean S. Reynolds

View review September 2nd, 2015

Robert Glasper Trio – Covered

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Title: Covered

Artist: Robert Glasper

Label: Blue Note

Formats: CD, Digital Download, Vinyl

Release date: June 16, 2015



The Robert Glasper Trio’s Covered is a less ambitious project than Snarky Puppy’s Sylva, but it too trades on a creative combination of live and recorded modes. There has been a satisfying symmetry to Glasper’s catalog since his debut for Blue Note in 2005; his 2009 Double-Booked—a double album featuring both his acoustic trio and his electric quartet The Experiment—is a fitting pivot point from his first two albums to his groundbreaking Black Radio releases. This sixth album sees him reuniting with his original trio, featuring Vicente Archer on bass and Damion Reid on drums, but the repertoire and approach foreground the style and aesthetic he has cultivated through his more recent work. Covered was recorded in front of a live audience at Capitol Studios in Hollywood. It was released on CD, as a digital download, and on vinyl. Companion videos of each track have also been released, one every two weeks, beginning shortly before the album dropped. Unlike Sylva, the videos do not seem to have been produced as a full-length film; instead, they can be viewed on Glasper’s Vevo page, YouTube, or on Blue Note’s website.

The album is called Covered for a reason. Glasper states in the introductory track that he wanted the trio to interpret “things that are on my iPod,” and an eclectic set features tunes by the likes of Radiohead, Musiq Soulchild, Joni Mitchell, and Kendrick Lamar, as well as a couple of his own compositions, a standard (“Stella by Starlight”), and a spoken-word performance by Harry Belafonte. For fans of contemporary jazz, it is actually a pleasantly predictable collection of material. An affinity for Radiohead and Joni Mitchell among many jazz musicians is well known, as is the relationship between jazz and Philadelphia neo-soul. Glasper himself is probably best known for his new take on the blend of jazz and hip-hop, so the inclusion of the Lamar track as well as a new interpretation of his own “I Don’t Even Care”—which originally featured rapper Jean Grae—are not at all surprising.

This latter tune is a strong start to the album, featuring a compelling solo by Glasper that begins with a leisurely melody and gradually builds into frenetic, two-handed unison lines. Other highlights include “So Beautiful,” which tastefully incorporates a voicemail recording of Musiq Soulchild thanking Glasper for choosing the tune and explaining the message he hoped to convey with it, and Jhené Aiko’s “The Worst,” which works well as a single. (The video for “The Worst” was released first in advance of the album, a savvy move, considering the original song has amassed over 60 million views on YouTube). Glasper sounds at home on the soul tunes “Good Morning” and “Levels,” and knowing that several of these tunes were written by dear friends—Glasper and Bilal began as classmates at The New School—makes listening to them especially affecting. “In Case You Forgot” is a sharp departure from the rest of the album in both length and style. The performance shows off Glasper’s prodigious technique and depthless inspiration, and it provides some great moments of humor (as when he interjects snippets of Cyndi Lauper’s “Time after Time”—yet another pop tune familiar to jazz audiences—and Bonnie Raitt’s “I Can’t Make You Love Me”). It is also welcome as one of the few times that Archer and Reid have opportunities to shine as soloists.

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There are some unusual choices in the mixing of the album, moments where the interplay of the “live” and the “recorded” is a bit more awkward than intriguing. “Reckoner” has an oddly placed fade in the middle of Glasper’s solo, fading back in again after a cut to later on in the tune. Other tracks also end with fades, which elide the presence of the studio audience. Many albums recorded live seek to reproduce the experience of the original performance as faithfully as possible for home listeners, helping them imagine that they were there. This is not one of those albums. Instead, the value of recording live in this case is largely that it helped to cultivate a particular kind of energy in the music, privileging the spontaneous, unpredictable interactions between musicians and audience members, and reveling in the feeling of risk that comes from the knowledge that the first take is probably the take.

Covered may be most memorable, however, for its powerful commentary on and contributions to the current movement against racial injustice. The album is dedicated “to the victims and the families of those who were wrongfully killed by the police,” and its closing two performances insist on the urgency of ending state violence against African-American people and communities. “Got Over,” invoking the gospel classic, features Harry Belafonte reciting a brief version of his life story. Lamar’s “I’m Dying of Thirst” incorporates recordings of children reciting the names of victims of police brutality. The juxtaposition of the voice of an aging Civil Rights icon recounting his perseverance and those of children reading the names of young people whose lives were taken is brilliant and deeply moving.

Snarky Puppy’s Sylva and Glasper’s Covered are bold experiments in the complex relationship between live and recorded music, and both feature strong compositions, exceptional playing, and powerful messages. It is especially exciting that, for both ensembles, the majority of their music has yet to be played.

Listen on Spotify here.

Reviewed by Dean S. Reynolds

View review September 2nd, 2015

Dâm-Funk – Invite the Light

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Title: Invite the Light

Artist: Dâm-Funk

Label: Stones Throw

Format: CD, MP3 Vinyl

Release Date: September 4, 2015



Pasadena, California-based musician and producer Dâm-Funk returns with the announcement of his newest solo project Invite the Light, to be released September 4th on Stones Throw Records. There is no doubt that Dâm-Funk is a powerful asset to the label. His production perfectly fits within the label’s current stable of artists while at the same time extending the broad musical diversity of Stones Throw’s offerings. It is possible to hear the manipulation of textures and beats which Stones Throw artists tend to be fond of on the track “Acting”, which features the cosmic vocals of pop surrealist Ariel Pink. By interspersing old school beats with futuristic sounds, atmospheres, melodies, and harmonies on cuts like “She Lights Me Up,” Dâm-Funk channels many of the artists who have influenced his approach to production.

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After numerous collaborations, Invite the Light is Dâm-Funk’s first solo album in nearly 6 years. The influence of the collaborative processes in which Dâm-Funk has participated during the past several years is apparent through the impressive diversity he offers as the album’s guiding concept: “the awareness of funk.” So, it’s not surprising that funk-master Junie Morrison (perhaps best known from his work with the Ohio Players or his participation with the P-Funk collective in the late 1970s) opens the album with an intriguing introduction on “The Secrets of Funk,” heralding this album as “The spearhead of the revolution and the nearly forgotten school of groove formerly known to us as the funk” which “will cause an evolutionary leap in consciousness and in the message of the funk itself.” And Dâm-Funk definitely knows how to deal with the P-Funk legacy, as is keenly illustrated by HowUGetFu*kAround, what may be heard as the descendent of “Flashlight,” a kind of proto-g-funky-hip-hop. This style has been Dâm-Funk’s bread and butter since Adolescent Funk, the series of demos and home recordings he made between 1988 and 1992. Following George Clinton’s “Atomic Dog,” “The Acceptance” uses a recording trick similar to the one Clinton employed that “intended for the bass and the handclaps to be abnormally loud”[1] in order to produce the danceable beat that drives both tracks.

To further explore the techniques that Dâm-Funk uses when constructing his beats, one may simply look at the “phat bassline” on Just Ease Your Mind, which meshes perfectly with the signature flow of Snoop Dogg, with whom Dâm-Funk previously collaborated on 2013’s 7 Days of Funk. Other tracks are notable not only for their all-star cast of featured artists but also for how they demonstrate Dâm-Funk’s adroit beatmaking skills, as with two versions of “I’m Just Tryna’ Survive,” offering a “party version” as well as the original, with both sporting distinctly different raps by Q-Tip. This type of juxtaposition also occurs again with the modern/retro track “Floating on Air” featuring the surprising duo of Flea and Computer Jay.

In short, Invite the Light represents a convergence of many different sounds and textures, creating a pleasant and even astonishing whole when considered as a full package. What binds all of these disparate influences together? Funk, of course. So, as Clinton would say, sit back, relax and “give up the Funk!”

Reviewed by Guillaume Dupetit

[1] See “Dam Funk Interviews George Clinton: It’s A Beautiful Stink!” by Nathan Morse on L.A. Record website, August 31st, 2014.


View review September 2nd, 2015

Paula Boggs Band – Carnival of Miracles

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Title: Carnival of Miracles                             

Artist: Paula Boggs Band

Label: Boggs Media, LLC

Formats: CD, MP3

Release date: March 17, 2015



Carnival of Miracles (2015) is the latest album from Seattle’s Paula Boggs Band. At its core, the album serves as an emotional outlet for Boggs as she confronts the loss of loved ones and as she experiences the transition from a professional career to a full-time musician—Boggs quit her job as an attorney and as an executive for Starbucks to follow her passion. Carnival of Miracles is introspective and somber in its reflection of the pain. Yet, underlying the pain is an uplifting message of hope and perseverance. At the forefront of these complex emotions are Boggs’s intelligent and poetic lyrics. By featuring the claw-hammer banjo, lap-steel guitar, accordion, and haunting melodies, the album is rooted in an eclectic Americana sound.

Carnival of Miracles opens with “Grateful,” a country-styled song intended as an ode to Boggs’s lover. As the song progresses, the delicate melodies of the banjo and accordion tenderly wrap around each other creating a musical metaphor for the song’s characters. As the words “You have saved me” are repeated in the chorus, it becomes clear that Boggs is not only singing about the joys of love but the pain that love allowed her to leave behind.

The album’s title track is also gentle and introspective. Here, Boggs sings of her own struggles to find happiness in the wake of personal tragedy. Her voice, deep and dark, conveys both the anguish she currently feels and the solace she hopes to find. She sings, “We dance to mask our mourning and lift our souls” before adding the encouraging proclamation that “together we make the most of this great land.” Again, the accordion and the banjo are highlights of the song.

For track five, “Look Straight Ahead,” driving solos on the electric guitar replace the soft melodies of the claw-hammer banjo and accordion found in previous tracks. The change in instrumentation makes this the grittiest, most rock-oriented song on the album. “Look Straight Ahead” is also the most empowering of the album, as Boggs casts off the role of victim and takes up the mantle of the fearless fighter.

“Lenny’s in the House,” the seventh track, is a fun-filled and quick-tempo country song honoring the great songwriter and musician Leonard Cohen. While the song stands in stark-contrast to the somber tone of the album’s earlier tracks, it is no less introspective and personal. Boggs is clearly inspired by Cohen and her debt to him is one she does not take lightly. Although “Lenny’s in the House” fills Boggs’s audience with the desire to dance, it also encourages reflection on and celebration of similarly inspirational people in our own lives.

Carnival of Miracles closes with a cover of Neil Young’s “When You Dance I Can Really Love” from his 1970 album After the Goldrush. Again, it is the banjo, accordion, and lap-steel guitar that are at center of the song. Although Boggs and her band perform this classic rock song as a modern country song, the transition of style feels appropriate. A highlight of the song is the use of a large “choir” at the end of the song. This “choir,” which is formed by layering Boggs’s voice on top of itself, not only increases the emotional impact of the song but shows off Boggs’s talent as a vocalist.

Carnival of Miracles is produced by Grammy award winner Trina Shoemaker and is the follow-up to Paula Boggs Band’s 2010 debut album, A Buddha State of Mind. The Paula Boggs Band is currently on tour across America.

Listen on Spotify here.

Reviewed by Tyler Fritts

View review September 2nd, 2015

Smokin’ Joe Kubek & Bnois King – Fat Man’s Shine Parlor

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Title: Fat Man’s Shine Parlor

Artist: Smokin’ Joe Kubek & Bnois King

Label: Blind Pig

Formats: CD, MP3

Release date: February 3, 2015



When Smokin’ Joe Kubek and Bnois King first teamed up in a Dallas club back in 1989, sparks were practically flying off their electric guitars, and thus was born a duo that’s endured for over two decades. The Texas-born Kubek is renowned for his smokin’ hot technique and blues-rock guitar licks, while Louisiana-born Bnois King brings a softer, jazzier edge with his hollow body Gibson. King also contributes the soul-charged vocals, honed at an early age when attending his grandmother’s sanctified church.

On their latest collaboration, Fat Man’s Shine Parlor, they work to recreate the essence of a Dallas establishment by the same name (discovered by Kubek back in the day), where getting a shoe shine was just one of the many services provided—some legal, some not so much. The twelve original tracks, all co-written by the duo, resurrect the character of the place—from the soul food (“Cornbread”) to the women (“One Girl by My Side”) and the whiskey (“River of Whiskey”). Stand-out tracks include the ‘70s style rock ballad “Diamond Eyes,” the rhythm and blues influenced “Crash and Burn,” the swinging “Lone Star Lap Dance” that showcases the guitarists different styles, and the more traditional “Done Got Caught Blues” where Smokin’ Joe takes the lead and brings it on home. Also contributing to the project are Shiela Klinehefter on bass, Eric Smith on drums, and Kim LeFleur on backing guitar.

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Featuring exceptional musicianship and blues-rock fueled tracks, Fat Man’s Shine Parlor has wide-ranging appeal, with engaging songs rooted in the African American experience.

Listen on Spotify here.

Reviewed by Brenda Nelson-Strauss

View review September 2nd, 2015

Buddy Guy – Born to Play Guitar

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Title: Born to Play Guitar

Artist: Buddy Guy

Label: RCA

Formats: CD, MP3, Vinyl

Release Date: July 31, 2015



B.B King’s death struck me and many other blues lovers like a ton of bricks, particularly as it served as a bitter reminder that many of the legendary blues singers are aging and passing away. Buddy Guy is one of these aging bluesmen who still maintain an active schedule of recording dates and performances, continuing to maintain his legendary status even as a younger generation of musicians takes the genre’s reins.

Guy’s Born to Play Guitar is the guitarist’s 28th studio album, and is arguably one of the best blues albums released in recent memory. Buddy Guy is a well-documented road warrior, who still performs with the energy of a much younger man, at times outperforming musicians many years (or even decades) his junior. This 14 song collection documents the bluesman’s energy and includes several pleasant surprises, including guest appearances from Van Morrison, Joss Stone, Kim Wilson, and ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons.

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The titular “Born to Play Guitar” sets the tone for the album, with Guy reminiscing about some of his earliest experiences as a performer. “Wear You out,” featuring Gibbons, showcases two music industry veterans trading licks back and forth, a fruitful collaboration that this reviewer would like to see more of in the future. Kim Wilson, the lead singer for The Fabulous Thunderbirds, plays harmonica on two cuts. Kim is likely one of the best blues singers or harmonica players in the business. For those not already familiar with Wilson’s group, the Born to Play Guitar cuts “Too Late” and “Kiss Me Quick” will likely inspire further investigation into his own back catalog. Other highlights include “(Baby) You Got What it Takes,” a soulful collaboration between Guy and Joss Stone, and “Flesh & Bones,” a moving song by Tom Hambridge, the drummer and producer of Born to Play Guitar, which is dedicated to B.B. King and features a heartfelt duet by Guy and Van Morrison. It is difficult not to recall instances in which Buddy and B.B. collaborated when listening to this heartfelt tribute. The album ends with a tune about another blues legend, Muddy Waters. In “Come Back Muddy,” Buddy reflects on their time together playing the blues circuit, with the song serving as a poignant reminder of another generation of great bluesmen.

While Born to Play Guitar  decidedly focuses on the past at times, Buddy Guy still has much to say with his music—it is safe to say that blues fans hope to have him around for quite a while longer.

Listen on Spotify here.

Reviewed by Patrick Byrket


View review September 2nd, 2015

Los Crema Paraiso – De Pelicula!

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Title: De Pelicula

Artist: Los Crema Paraiso

Label: Cutupra

Formats: CD, MP3, Vinyl

Release Date: May 5, 2015



Los Crema Paraiso’s De Pelicula is a collection of covers, standards and originals that is united by rhythm for listeners who love music that plays with time. Los Crema Paraiso doesn’t just play in 4/4 or 3/4, but goes with other signatures, including 2/3 and 5/7, so if you are a beat junkie then Los Crema Paraiso has something for you. The covers on this album include surprising selections from a variety of styles of music; however, the album is programmed and arranged in a way that makes the divergent repertoire seem like a comfortable collection.

Songs include a nod to their home country with a folk-style tune by Venezuelan National Composer Juan Batista Plaza, “El Currucha,” a fizzy number about the singer’s love and desire for her black girlfriend, complete with a breath-taking delivery with by Andrea Echeverri. “Varon Domado” features Alberto Ferreras aka Rocco Tarpeyo rapping a queer riff off the title “The Manipulated Man,” likely a tongue-in-cheek reference to Argentinian author Esther Vilar’s controversial book of the same name from the 70s.

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Then, wait a minute, isn’t that the opening drums and bluesy guitar line from Depeche Mode’s “Personal Jesus”? It is, but it quickly blooms into an Afro-Latin dance tune with Neil Ochoa, Jose Luis Pardo and Alvaro Benavides switching time signatures to Carol C.’s compressed smoky vocals, reinventing the original song. The whole album feels like a well-choreographed party with a band who knows how to work the crowd, rocking hard one moment with a track like “Un Disip En Nueava Vol,” bathing a Depeche Mode hit with reverb, then working a psychedelic breakdown into a Venezuelan standard. Los Crema Paraiso switches it up just enough to keep the energy flowing and makes every song on De Pelicula their own.

Listen on Spotify here.

Reviewed by N. A. Cordova

View review September 2nd, 2015

Ginger Johnson and His African Messengers – African Party


Title: African Party

Artist: Ginger Johnson and His African Messengers

Label: Freestyle

Formats: CD, MP3, Vinyl

Release date: June 22, 2015


The reissue of Ginger Johnson and His African Messengers‘ 1967 album, African Party, tells you why Ginger Johnson was a key figure in the foundation of an African-influenced music style, later called Afrobeat. Starting with the opening track “I Jool Omo,” which highlights the combination of multi-layered percussion, jazz horn lines, and lyrics in a Yoruba dialect, this album clearly displays the sounds Ginger adopted during his career in London, such as traditional West African drums and Afro-Cuban style.

Born in Ijebu-Ode, Nigeria in 1916, George Folunsho Johnson (nicknamed “Ginger”) was orphaned and raised by his older sister who reputedly introduced him to classical music as well as traditional African sounds. Joining the Nigerian navy at the age of 18, Ginger soon made his first trip to Britain. After the end of World War II, he settled in London and became an Afro-Cuban percussionist, quickly making a huge impact on the London music scene. From the late-1940s and onward, he performed and recorded with brilliant London-based artists, including British saxophone legend Ronnie Scott and the Edmundo Ross Orchestra. Not only famous as a percussionist of the jazz and Latin bands of the day, Ginger Johnson was also known as a vibrant host of African and Caribbean musicians, young Fela Kuti among them. It was during such a period of the heyday of African music in London that Ginger formed his own band, Ginger Johnson and His African Messengers, and recorded African Party. Following is the album trailer/mini documentary:

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As heard in track 5, “Talking Drum,” each track in the album is prompted by lively rhythmical percussion of West-African and Caribbean origins. Yet, overlaid melodies of saxophones, trumpet, and flute provide the danceable elements of Afro-Cuban jazz.

Besides his role as a musician, Ginger was a music educator, TV personality, and owner of the Iroko Country Club in North London. It is also notable that he performed with renowned rock bands, including Pink Floyd and The Rolling Stones. Now 40 years from his death in 1975, African Party is the first remastered reissue of Ginger’s recordings. This reissue will lead you to Ginger’s vital sound in the 1960s London, which was the precursor to Afrobeat.

Reviewed by Masatomo Yonezu

View review September 2nd, 2015

Amara Touré – Amara Touré 1973-1980


Title: 1973-1980

Artist: Amara Touré

Label: Analog Africa

Format: CD, MP3, Vinyl

Release date: June 23, 2015


In the late 1950s, producer Ibra Kassé started a movement “blending the Cuban styles of son montuno and patchanga with local folk traditions” in Dakar, Senegal. West African and Caribbean music were brought together and musicians from all over came to Kassé’s club to listen and dance to this unique, vibrant combination of sounds. One of these musicians was the Guinean percussionist and singer Amara Touré, who joined the Le Star Band de Dakar in 1958. After ten years with the band, he went to Cameroon and formed the Black and White ensemble, with whom he performed in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. For the first time, the singles recorded during this period are available on CD (and reissued on vinyl) through Analog Africa on the compilation Amara Touré 1973-1980. They display his raw, soaring voice and impeccable drumming skills on tracks such as “N’Nijo” and “Lamento Cubano” that fuse Mandingue roots, traditional Senegalese music, and Cuban sounds.

The last four tracks on Amara Touré 1973-1980 come from Touré’s time with the Orchestre Massako in Gabon in 1980. After this, Touré “virtually disappeared” and was not heard from again. All the tracks have been remastered from the original session tapes and vinyl records, and this album marks the first time Amara Touré’s entire discography has been released. Amara Touré 1973-1980 memorializes one of the most influential Afro-Cuban artists of the 1970s and will be enjoyed by any lover of world music.

Listen on Spotify here.

Reviewed by Anna Polovick

View review September 2nd, 2015

Swan Silvertones – Amen, Amen, Amen: The Essential Collection

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Title: Amen, Amen, Amen: The Essential Collection

Artist: Swan Silvertones

Label: S’more Entertainment/Rockbeat Records

Formats: CD, MP3

Release date: June 23, 2015

Amen, Amen, Amen: The Essential Collection is an inspired re-issue by the Swan Silvertones—once referred to by guitarist Al Kooper as the “Beatles of gospel”—whose voices and arrangements raise this collection to heavenly heights. The recordings on this collection were first issued on Specialty and Vee-Jay Records between 1950 and 1963, and now reissued on S’more Entertainment/Rock Beat Records.

Leading the Swan Silvertones during this period was Claude Jeter, an anointed tenor born in Montgomery, Alabama in 1914. While the group’s line-up changed in 1956 and 1959, Claude Jeter’s leadership remained steadfast during the thirteen years highlighted on Amen, Amen, Amen. Thus, these recordings become a spotlight of Jeter’s artistic contribution to the Swan Silvertones and allow listeners to hear the evolution of his voice, as well as his ensemble.

“The Day Will Surely Come,” the “A side” of the group’s first single on Specialty in 1952, demonstrates Jeter’s smooth lead tenor and songwriting abilities. Jeter’s genius—his sweet vocal falsetto—is heard in the brilliant rendition of “I’m Coming Home,” recorded just a year later. Jeter’s soaring falsetto—as well as the musical excellence of the Swan Silvertones—is perhaps best exemplified through “Mary Don’t You Weep,” released by Vee-Jay in 1959 and selected for induction into the Library of Congress National Recording Registry in 2014. Throughout these recordings, the accompanying singers and instrumentalists in the Swan Silvertones provide a foundation, both swinging and solid, for the lead voices of Jeter, Soloman Womack, Rev. Robert Crenshaw, and Paul Owens, to praise the Lord.

Despite the quality of these recordings, the packaging of Amen, Amen, Amen: The Essential Collection leaves the reader wanting more. A glaring omission is the presence of captions on the included photographs, leaving readers puzzled as to the date of the images and individuals pictured. This is especially puzzling as the album’s producer, Michael Ochs, is a noted photographic archivist specializing in music photography. Strengthening this collection are Mark Humphrey’s liner notes, which provide a focused overview of the Swan Silvertones during the time of these recordings.

Claude Jeter is cited as an influence by a number of iconic American musicians such as Al Green and Paul Simon—the latter of whom credits Jeter with inspiring the Simon and Garfunkel classic, “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” Amen, Amen, Amen: The Essential Collection serves a timely reminder that Claude Jeter’s falsetto, as well as the musicians in the Swan Silvertones, cannot be overlooked in histories of sacred, and secular, American popular music.

Listen on Spotify here.

Reviewed by Douglas Dowling Peach


View review September 2nd, 2015

Little Richard – Directly From My Heart: The Best of the Specialty & Vee-Jay Years


Title: Directly From My Heart: The Best of the Specialty & Vee-Jay Years

Artist: Little Richard

Label: Specialty

Formats: 3-CD box set, MP3

Release date: June 2, 2015


Concord Music Group, which now owns the Specialty and Vee-Jay catalogs, has pulled together 64 of Little Richard’s classic songs from 1956-1965 for this “definitive” (but not complete) box set, Directly From My Heart. Included are all of his major hits from this period—“Lucille,” “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On,” “Tutti Frutti,” and “Good Golly Miss Molly”—as well as some B-sides and rarities. These songs highlight Little Richard’s phenomenal early years, when he “combined the spirit of church music, the barroom-hewn raunch of blues, and the swing of New Orleans jazz and turned it into something altogether new—rock ‘n’ roll.”

This box set is accompanied by a hefty booklet with many rare photos as well as newly penned liner by music historian Billy Vera. Beginning with fifteen-year-old Richard’s first exposure to the great gospel singer Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Vera then details his life on the chitlin’ circuit, his recordings at Cosimo Mattasa’s studio in New Orleans, his later rejection of “the devil’s music,” and his ultimate return to rock ‘n’ roll.

There are, however, a few points I must take issue with. First, the booklet uses a highly stylized all-caps font that renders the liner notes extremely difficult to read. Second, the track lists at the end of the booklet provide record labels and numbers but absolutely no dates. Consequently, unless you’re an expert or consult outside sources, you can’t determine if the songs are arranged in chronological order, nor can you even find the beginning and ending dates of this set (the 1956-1965 span which I referenced above was obtained from the press release). In short, if you’re looking for a new compilation of Little Richard’s early secular recordings and don’t care about discographic details, this will suffice. But if you’re seeking something truly “definitive” in terms of musical selections and historical detail, then you might wish to look elsewhere.

Listen on Spotify here.

Reviewed by Brenda Nelson-Strauss

View review September 2nd, 2015

Carl Hall – You Don’t Know Nothing About Love: The Loma/Atlantic Recordings 1967-1972


Title: You Don’t Know Nothing About Love: The Loma/Atlantic Recordings 1967-1972

Artist: Carl Hall

Label: Omnivore Recordings

Formats: CD

Release date: June 23, 2015


Carl Hall’s “stratospheric four-octave vocal range” earned him a place in the music industry in the 1950s when he began cutting gospel sides for labels like Vee-Jay and Savoy. He later gained fame for his work on Broadway, including The Wiz and the film version of Hair. Lesser known are the soulful sides he recorded during the late 1960s and early 1970s for Loma and Atlantic. Of the 19 tracks on the new release You Don’t Know Nothing About Love: The Loma/Atlantic Recordings 1967-1972, 13 have never been released. These previously unissued tracks include covers such as The Beatles’ “Long and Winding Road,” the Broadway song “What Kind of Fool Am I” (from Stop the World – I Want to Get Off), and “Time Is on My Side,” originally by Ragovoy but made famous by The Rolling Stones. Also included are Hall’s original hits “I Don’t Wanna Be (Your Used to Be)” and “Mean It Baby.” This compilation, with liner notes by Bill Dahl, is a great introduction to the soulful side of singer Carl Hall.

Reviewed by Anna Polovick

View review September 2nd, 2015

Henry Townsend – Original St. Louis Blues Live


Title: Original St. Louis Blues Live

Artist: Henry Townsend

Label: Wolf Records International

Formats: CD, MP3

Release date: May 12, 2015


Hailed as the last living “real” St. Louis blues musician and one of the last surviving pre-war blues artists, Henry “Mule” Townsend was a fixture at local festivals until his death in 2006. Equally skilled on piano and guitar, he performed a distinctive string snapping style that drew heavily upon his Mississippi Delta roots as well as the ragtime and jump blues of his adopted city of St. Louis. Townsend, who began recording in the 1920s, is well documented on record, but this disc captures live performances from an Austrian tour in 1980. Alternating between solo acoustic guitar and piano, he offers up two classics from his early recordings—“Cairo Blues” and “Biddle Street” —as well as his own originals such as “Guitar Talkin’” and “I Cry All Night.”  His wife, Vernell, takes over on vocals for two tracks, “Why We Love Each Other” and “Going Down Slow.”

Previously released in Germany on LP, this reissue includes bonus tracks and liner notes by Matt Black.

Listen on Spotify here.

Reviewed by Brenda Nelson-Strauss

View review September 2nd, 2015

Eddie Taylor, Jr. – Stop Breaking Down

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Title: Stop Breaking Down

Artist: Eddie Taylor Jr.

Label: Wolf Records International

Format: CD, MP3

Release date: August 7, 2015




Writing reviews is a great joy since you often get to hear music before the public does. Liking the majority of the music and the wide variety that I’m given is an added bonus—until now. I’ve been a fan of Chicago electric blues guitarist Eddie Taylor (1923-1985) and his son, Eddie Taylor Jr., for a number of years. Eddie Taylor Jr.’s new release Stop Breaking Down, however, is a bit of a letdown, especially compared to some of his earlier albums such as Worried About My Baby and Mind Game. While his other recordings were lively, intense, and had great guitar playing, his performance on the new release is lackluster at best. Also, the song choices did not come across as strong as some of his earlier material.

The first cut, “I’m a King Bee,” is a good track, but the song is too predictable. While Eddie’s playing is fine, his vocals sound like he’s not into the song, plus it’s way too short. The second track, “Ghetto Woman,” also bothered me a bit. When you hear the opening intro you start to think, “This is the B. B. King tune ‘The Thrill Is Gone’,” and suddenly you get disappointed. It was actually co-written with Riley B. King, but just feels like a rip off of a great song. Since the death this year of Mr. King I am sure it was meant to be a tribute to him. There are also two songs written by the infamous Robert Johnson—“32–20 Blues” and “Stop Breaking Down”—but even these tracks could not get me to like this CD.

Eddie had some great musicians on Stop Breaking Down—Tony Palmer on 2nd guitar, Greg McDaniel on bass, Timothy Taylor on drums, and Harmonica Hinds and Bob Waleso alternating on harmonica—but they could still not raise the quality to what that I expect from Eddie Taylor Jr. If you are a fan you still might want to have this album for your collection, but I bet you will only play it once and put it back on the shelf, never to play it again.

Listen on Spotify here.

Reviewed by Patrick Byrket



View review September 2nd, 2015

August 2015 Releases of Note

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


Blues, Folk, Country

Andy T – Nick Nixon Band: Numbers Man (Blind Pig)
Eugene Hideaway Bridges: Hold on a Little Bit Longer (Armadilo)
Jimmy Burns: It Ain’t Right (Delmark)
Jimmy Reed: Complete Singles As & Bs 1953-61 (Acrobat)
Ruby Amanfu: Standing Still (Rival & Co)
The Robert Cray Band: 4 Nights of 40 Years Live (CD + DVD) (Provogue)
Val Mcknight: Independent Woman (Ecko)
Various: Garden City Blues: Detroit’s Jumping Scene 1948-1960 (JSP)
Zac Harmon: Right Man Right Now (Blind Pig)

Comedy, Spoken Word

Jay Pharoah: Can I Be Me? (Comedy Dynamics)

Funk, Rock, Pop, Electronic

Ethan Tucker: Misunderstood (Stoopid/Controlled Substance/Zojak)
Jimi Hendrix Experience: Freedom – Atlanta Pop Festival (Legacy)
PJ (Pennal Johnson): Sissy Strut (Hitman)

Gospel, Gospel Rap, CCM

Alexis Spight: Dear Diary (eOne)
Flame: Forward (Clear Sight)
Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship Super Mass Choir: Kingdom Sound (Light/eOne)
Geoffrey Golden: Kingdom… Live (RCA Inspiration)
Kim Burrell: From A Different Place (Shanachie)
Leonard Scott: Greatness of Your Love (Tyscot)
Racy Brothers: Heal Our Land (Music Access Inc.)
Tasha Cobbs: One Place (Live) (Motown Gospel)
Violinaires: Groovin’ With Jesus (Safety Zone)
Violinaires: You Can All Join In (Safety Zone)

Denia Ridley & the Marc Trio Devine: Afterglow (Iti)
Abbey Lincoln: Sophisticated Abbey: Live at the Keystone Korner (HighNote)
Arturo O’Farrill & the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra: Cuba – The Conversation Continues (Motema)
Darius Jones Quartet: Le bébé de Brigitte (Lost in Translation) (AUM Fidelity)
Dee Dee Bridgewater: Dee Dee’s Feathers (Sony Masterworks)
Dennis Rollins’ Velocity Trio: Symbiosis (Dogwithabone Music)
Herbie Hancock Septet:  Live at the Boston Jazz Workshop (Hi Hat)
Indra Rios-Moore: Heartland (Verve/Impulse)
Lafayette Harris Jr. Trio: Bend to the Light (Airmen)
Lee Ritenour: A Twist of Rit (Concord)
Liberty Ellman: Radiate (PI Recordings)
Nicolas Cole: Night Sessions (Trippin & Rhythm)
Painting: Gravity EP (Self-Released)
Roscoe Mitchell Quartet: Celebrating Fred Anderson (Nessa)
Terri Lyne Carrington: The Mosaic Project: LOVE and SOUL (Concord)
Whitney Marchelle: Dig Dis (Blujazz)
William Parker: For Those Who Are Still (AUM Fidelity)

R&B, Soul

Isaac Hayes Movement: Disco Connection (Stax)
Amina Buddafly : Mymusic (180 Records)
Andra Day: Cheers to the Fall (Warner Bros.)
Barrence Whitfield & the Savages : Under the Savage Sky (Bloodshot)
Ben E. King: The Complete Atco/Atlantic Singles Vol. 1 – 1960 – 1966 (Real Gone Music)
Connie Constance: In the Grass EP (Black Acre)
Foreign Exchange: Tales From The Land Of Milk And Honey (Foreign Exchange)
Gloria Gaynor: I’ve Got You (expanded ed.) (BBR)
Ike & Tina Turner: Don’t Play Me Cheap (LP reissue) (Rumble)
Johnny Mathis: Johnny Mathis: The Singles (Legacy)
Jordin Sparks: Right Here Right Now (RAL)
Kool & The Gang: In the Heart (expanded ed.) (BBR)
L.J. Reynolds : Get to This (Crystal Rose)
Lee Dorsey: Yes We Can (Expanded Ed.) (Fever Dream)
Percy Sledge: Live In Kentucky (CD + DVD) (Wienerworld)
Persuasions: We Came to Play (Fever Dream)
Rufus & Chaka Khan: Live: Stompin’ at the Savoy (expanded ed.)(BBR)
SiR: Seven Sundays (Fresh Selects)
Syl Johnson: Complete Twinight Records 45s (Numero)
Teddy Pendergrass: Duets – Love and Soul (Cleopatra)
Teedra Moses: Cognac and Conversation (Shanachie)
Various: Unlock The Lock – The Kent Records Story 1958-1962 (Ace)
Various: Going Home – Memphis, Stax and the Awakening of Southern Soul (Jasmine)
Vivian Green: Vivid (Make Noise)
Weeknd: House of Balloons (Republic)
Weeknd: Beauty Behind the Madness (XO/Republic)
Weeknd: Echoes Of Silence (XO/Republic)
Womack & Womack: Love Wars / Radio M.U.S.C. Man (Robinsongs)
Wondaland (Janelle Monae & Jidenna): The Eephus EP  (Wondaland)

Rap, Hip Hop

Age of L.U.N.A.:       Live Under No Authority (mixtape)
Chevy Woods : The 48 Hunnid Project (digital) (Taylor Gang Ent.)
Chinx: Welcome to J.F.K  (eOne Music/Four Kings Management)
Christian Rich: FW14 (Good Luck Chuck)
Curren$y : Cathedral (mixtape)
Dangerdoom: Mouse & the Mask (10th Anniversary Ed.)( Lex)
Da’unda’dogg: The Ghost Of The Hustlers Past (Pushin Dope Productions)
DJ Roc: Practice What U Preach  (Duck ‘N Cover)
Do or Die: Picture This 2  (Rap-A-Lot)
Dr. Dre:  Compton: A Sountrack (Aftermath)
Eligh: 80 HRTZ (Crowsnest)
Erick Sermon: E.S.P. (Def Squad)
Father: Papicodone EP
Finale w/ Oddisee: Odds & Ends (Mello Music Group)
Game: The Documentary 2 (eOne )
Gangrene: You Disgust Me ( Mass Appeal)
Golden Rules: Golden Ticket (Lex Records)
Heresy: Heresy (Polar Ent.)
Infinito 2017: An Enigma The Anti Social Introvert ( Joe Left Hand)
Jay IDK: SubTrap (digital) (HXLY TRiBE)
June Onna Beat: No Favors (Black Market)
kmd: Bl_ck B_st_rds Deluxe (Metal Face)
K-OS: Can’t Fly Without Gravity      (Dine Alone)
Lil C: H-Town Chronic 15 (Oarfin)
Mayday: Future Vintage (Strange Music)
Method Man: The Meth Lab (Tommy Boy)
MF Doom and Danger Doom: Mouse & the Mask (Lex)
Mick Jenkins: Wave[s] (digital) (Cinematic)
Mo Mil: Heart & Soul Trap Raps (Defacto Music Group)
Obie Trice: The Hangover (Black Market Ent.)
Pharcyde : Bizarre Ride II The Pharcyde: The Singles Collection (Bicycle Music Co.)
Rich Boy: Featuring (RBC)
Scoop Deville & Demrick: Loudpack: Extracts (digital) (Stalk Market)
Sean Price: Songs in the Key of Price (Ruck Down_
Solomon Childs: Monsters in My Room (ChamberMusik)
Talib Kweli : F*ck the Money (digital) (Javotti Media)
Tunde Olaniran : Transgressor (Quite Scientific)
Warren G: Regulate… G Funk Era Part II (digital)    (G Funk Music)
Young Dro: Da Reality Show (Ent. One Music)

Reggae, Dancehall

Brother Resistance: Rapso Take Over (Left Ear)
Gussie Clarke: From the Foundation (VP)
Raging Fyah: Judgement Day & Destiny (Soulbeats)
Skatalites: History of Ska, Rocksteady And Reggae (United Sounds)
Various: Rastafari: The Dreads Enter Babylon 1955-83 (Soul Jazz)
Various: Seanizzle Records Music My Way Vol. 1  (Zojak World Wide)

World, Latin

Roger Damawuzan & Les As du Benin: Wait for Me (Hot Casa)

View review September 1st, 2015

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