Welcome to the September 2019 Issue

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

Our featured projects this month are Black Swans, a compilation featuring some of the rarest recordings of African American concert artists from the early 20th century, and My Mind Set Me Free: The House Guests Meet the Complete Strangers featuring early 1970s recordings by Bootsy and  Phelps “Catfish” Collins along with other members of the rhythm section that famously backed James Brown (The J.B.’s), George Clinton (Funkadelic), and Bootsy Collins (Bootsy’s Rubber Band).

Featured jazz releases include Jazzmeia Horn’s sophomore album Love and Liberation, Wynton Marsalis’s Swing Symphony performed by Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, the James Carter Organ Trio’s Live From Newport Jazz, pianist Jon Batiste’s Anatomy of Angels: Live at the Village Vanguard, and the new Louis Armstrong compilation Live in Europe.  

Other new releases include slam poet/rapper Saul Williams’ Encrypted and Vulnerable, Raphael Saadiq’s poignant Jimmy Lee, and Battle of the Blues: Chicago vs Oakland, Twist Turner’s tribute to underappreciated blues men and women from both cities. Wrapping up this issue is our list of August Black Music Releases of Note.

Black Swans – First Recordings of Black Classical Artists

 

Title: Black Swans
Artist: Various
Label: Parnassus
Format: CD
Release date: August 23, 2019

 

As many readers are no doubt aware, Black Swan was the first major record label in the country to be owned and run by African Americans for the exclusive promotion of Black artists. Founded in 1921 during the Harlem Renaissance by publisher Harry Pace, the company also involved other luminaries: a young Fletcher Henderson served as recording director and de facto accompanist, William Grant Still was hired as composer/arranger, and W.E.B. DuBois was an early investor. At a time when white-owned labels were developing “race” series and limiting Black artists to recording blues, jazz, and gospel music, Black Swan expanded its catalog to include classical singers and instrumentalists, documenting the performance practices of a phenomenal group of concert artists. Now, almost 100 years later, Black Swan classical 78s are very rare and most have never been reissued! This groundbreaking new compilation, Black Swans, includes the first recordings of black classical artists from the label’s short-lived 7100 operatic series, in addition to other rarities. Continue reading

The House Guests – My Mind Set Me Free

 

Title: My Mind Set Me Free
Artist: The House Guests
Label: Shake It
Formats: LP, Digital
Release date: August 23, 2019

 

The new compilation from Cincinnati’s Shake It Records, My Mind Set Me Free: The House Guests Meet the Complete Strangers & Bootsy, Phelps & Gary, features nine tracks from a collective of rhythm section instrumentalists and artists who briefly performed together as the House Guests in 1971, but are best known by other names. Initially formed as the Cincinnati-based R&B band, the Pacemakers, when performing with James Brown they became the Original JB’s. After they left Brown, the group toured as the House Guests until they were persuaded by George Clinton to form the new rhythm section for Funkadelic in 1972. Under Clinton, they helped lay the foundation for P-funk, fusing the music with “dimensions from cosmic jazz, fusion [and] acid rock.” Another side project included the group Complete Strangers, and a few years later, Bootsy’s Rubber Band. Collectively, the House Guests/Complete Strangers are considered some of pioneers and progenitors of the airtight polyrhythmic sound that is funk. Continue reading

Wynton Marsalis’s Swing Symphony

Title: Wynton Marsalis’s Swing Symphony
Artist: Wynton Marsalis, Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, David Robertson, St. Louis Symphony Orchestra
Label: Blue Engine
Formats: Digital (Spotify, Apple Music, Deezer, Amazon, Tidal, and from jazz.org)
Release date: July 1, 2019

 

Trumpeter, bandleader, educator, Pulitzer Prize winner, symphonist—Wynton Marsalis has run the gamut of musical accomplishments, both as a musician and as a composer. This release, one of four albums appearing this year, is the premiere recording of Marsalis’s Swing Symphony (Symphony No. 3), first written in 2010. The work “traces the evolution of the swing rhythm from ragtime to this very moment in order to unite diverse instrumental techniques, musical personalities, song forms, dance grooves, and historic eras.” Drawing inspiration and musical material from the past, Marsalis has telescoped over a century of jazz into an hour, deftly performed here by the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra and the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra under the baton of David Robertson. Continue reading

Jazzmeia Horn – Love and Liberation

 

Title: Love and Liberation
Artist: Jazzmeia Horn
Label: Concord Jazz
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date: August 23, 2019

 

On her stunning 2017 debut, A Social Call, singer-songwriter and bandleader Jazzmeia Horn demonstrated a maturity that belied her age, deftly fusing jazz vocal techniques of the ‘50s and ‘60s with R&B and gospel music while also issuing a call for social responsibility and change.  Horn’s sophomore album, Love and Liberation, continues in a similar vein, featuring eight original songs that reflect her personal mantra: An act of love is an act of liberation, and choosing to liberate—oneself or another—is an act of love.”  Joining her on the album are drummer/vocalist Jamison Ross who, like Horn, is a past winner of the Thelonious Monk Institute International Jazz Competition, as well as special guest pianist Sullivan Fortner. All three were raised within the Southern Baptist church, allowing their shared lived experiences and gospel roots to permeate the tracks. Other backing musicians include pianist Victor Gould (Horn’s regular accompanist), tenor saxophonist Stacey Dillard, trumpeter Josh Evans, and bassist Ben Williams. Continue reading

James Carter Organ Trio – Live From Newport Jazz

 

Title:  Live From Newport Jazz
Artist: James Carter Organ Trio
Label: Blue Note
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date: August 30, 2019

 

Saxophone virtuoso and Detroit native James Carter just released his Blue Note label debut, James Carter Organ Trio: Live From Newport Jazz. This album arrives nine years after the last album with his organ trio, At the Crossroads (2011), and his acclaimed orchestral collaboration with composer Roberto Sierra on Caribbean Rhapsody (2011). Carter’s recording of his live performance at the 2018 Newport Jazz festival explores the music of gypsy jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt from the perspective of Carter’s soul jazz, funk and R&B organ trio. Joined by longtime band members, Hammond B-3 organist Gerard Gibbs and drummer Alexander White, Carter takes us through an “exercise in musical transformation,” or as he says, “a willful attempt to urbanize Gypsy jazz, if you will.” Continue reading

Jon Batiste – Anatomy of Angels

 

Title: Anatomy of Angels
Artist: Jon Batiste
Label: Verve
Formats: CD, MP3, LP
Release date: August 2, 2019

 

Louisiana-born pianist and composer Jon Batiste returns with his newest release, Anatomy of Angels. The album includes song selections from his six-night residency at the Village Vanguard in New York City in the fall of 2018, and features a talented supporting group of musicians: saxophonists Tivon Pennicott and Patrick Bartley, trumpeters Giveton Gelin and Jon Lampley, percussionist and drummer Louis Cato, percussionist Nêgah Santos, drummer Joe Saylor, and guest vocalist Rachael Price. The five-track album demonstrates Batiste’s extensive knowledge of jazz performance aesthetics and pianistic capabilities, all while capturing the spontaneity of jazz musicians improvising in the moment. Continue reading

Saul Williams – Encrypted and Vulnerable

 

Title: Encrypted and Vulnerable
Artist: Saul Williams
Label: Pirates Blend
Release Date: July 18, 2019
Formats: Streaming, Vinyl

 

Consider hacking into a deeper examination of the senses—visuality, audiology, tactility. Consider hacking into an observation of the world around us—geographically, temporally, contextually. Consider hacking into a scrutinization of socio-political issues—technology, leakology, trackology.

Consider hacking.

With his most current album, Saul Williams encourages us to do just that.  Self-produced Encrypted and Vulnerable is the second in a three-part series, preceded by 2016’s MartyrLoserKing, but more importantly, Williams’ work is one more piece in a much larger metaphysical puzzle. The MartyrLoserKing project —a 3-part multi-media compilation of albums, a musical film and an upcoming graphic novel focuses on governmental surveilling and silencing of global activists through the medium of Afrofuturistic performance. Of his current self-titled spoken word release, Williams describes it as “simultaneously a personal and intimately optimistic takedown on struggle, defiance, awareness, aloneness, and a takedown of heteronormative capitalistic patriarchal authoritarian politics in topics ranging from love, technology, religion, war, to migration.” Continue reading

Raphael Saadiq – Jimmy Lee

 

Title: Jimmy Lee
Artist: Raphael Saadiq
Label: Columbia
Formats: CD, LP, Digital
Release date: August 23, 2019

 

Raphael Saadiq, the extraordinarily talented singer-songwriter, instrumentalist and producer, is known for his genre-spanning solo albums as well as his collaborations with the likes of Solange, Mick Jagger, D’Angelo and the band Lucy Pearl. Before becoming a solo artist, Saadiq was a member of Sheila E.’s band, playing the bass at the age of 18 on Prince’s Parade Tour. He would later join the dynamic R&B band Tony! Toni! Toné! as the primary lead singer, bassist and producer. On Jimmy Lee, Saadiq’s fifth studio album, he has created a deeply personal and passionate project. Named after his oldest brother who died from a drug overdose, Jimmy Lee is also dedicated to Saadiq’s three other siblings who tragically passed away due to murder, drug addiction and suicide. While the album may be full of lament, it is also full of life, love and celebration. Continue reading

Louis Armstrong – Live in Europe

 

Title: Live in Europe
Artist: Louis Armstrong
Label: Dot Time (DT8015)
Formats: CD, LP
Release date: September 27, 2019

 

Louis Armstrong created magic throughout his career. One of many remarkable phases occurred when he began touring and recording with the All Stars, featuring Jack Teagarden and Earl Hines, in 1947.  The recordings on Live in Europe include performances from two European tours made by Louis Armstrong in 1948 and 1952, a period where he was associated with Decca Records. By 1952, Teagarden and Hines were no longer performing with this group, so the personnel changed. Continue reading