A Day in the Life: Impressions of Pepper

 

Title: A Day in the Life: Impressions of Pepper
Artist: Various
Label: Verve/Impulse!
Formats: CD, LP, Vinyl
Release date: November 30, 2018

 

The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, released in the summer of 1967, was an experimental concept album that fused elements of psychedelia, vaudeville, avant-garde, and Western and Indian classical music into an art rock masterpiece.  Verve’s new compilation, A Day in the Life: Impressions of Pepper, calls upon some of today’s hottest young jazz musicians to reinterpret all 13 tracks of the groundbreaking album. Continue reading

Bob Baldwin Presents Abbey Road and the Beatles

 

Title: Bob Baldwin Presents Abbey Road and the Beatles
Artist: Bob Baldwin
Label: Red River Entertainment
Formats: CD, Digital
Release: November 30, 2018

 

For his 25th album, jazz pianist-keyboardist Bob Baldwin turned to the iconic songbook of the Beatles. Bob Baldwin Presents Abbey Road and the Beatles is an album that celebrates the legendary group while highlighting Baldwin’s quintessential urban-jazz sound. Inspired by his childhood spent listening to the Beatles on pop radio, Baldwin said, “I wanted to interject my own reharmonized view of the Beatles’ music while keeping the original melodies pure.” Continue reading

Eme Alfonso – Voy

 

Title: Voy
Artist: Eme Alfonso
Label: Self-released
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date: March 22, 2019 (U.S.)

 

Rising Cuban star Eme Alfonso grew up performing keys and vocals in her parent’s Latin GRAMMY nominated fusion band, Sintesis. In 2008, Afonso embarked on a solo career while also serving as artistic director of the Havana World Music Festival. She has since released three albums, acclaimed for their unique blend of Afro-Cuban jazz, funk, and Latin soul. Alfonso’s latest album, Voy, continues to defy genre boundaries while also expanding her presence on the world stage, including a recent showcase at SXSW. Continue reading

Ron Jackson – Standards and Other Songs

 

Title: Standards and Other Songs
Artist: Ron Jackson
Label: Roni Music/Dist. CD Baby
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date: March 8, 2019

 

Ron Jackson, an alum of the Berklee School of Music, is a master of the six, seven, and twelve string guitars. After living as an expat musician in Paris in the 1980s, Jackson returned to New York where he is very active on the local jazz scene. In addition to teaching guitar at Jazz at Lincoln Center and The New School, he has also performed in the pit orchestra for Broadway shows such as Shuffle Along, and Bring In `Da Noise, Bring In `Da Funk. Jackson cites a wide range of musical influences, ranging from rock guitarist Jimmy Page to jazz guitarists George Benson and Pat Metheny, and both of those sides and more are represented on Jackson’s latest project, Standards and Other Songs. Performing with Jackson are the two other members of his trio, bassist Nathan Brown and drummer Darrell Green. Continue reading

The Lightmen Plus One – Energy Control Center

 

Title: Energy Control Center
Artist: The Lightmen Plus One
Label: Now-Again
Formats: CD, LP, Digital
Release date: April 18, 2018

 

Thanks to Now-Again Records, producer Eothem Alapatt, and author Lance Scott Walker, the story and recordings of drummer Bubbha Thomas and his spiritual jazz group, The Lightmen Plus One, are receiving new interest. A native of Houston’s Fourth Ward during the era of segregation, Thomas decided to hit the road in the early ‘60s and tour with an R&B backing band. Upon his return to Houston, his interests shifted to jazz as well as community activism, education and journalism. Thomas developed a powerful voice as editor-in-chief of the grassroots newspaper Voice of HOPE, and founded Houston’s Summer Jazz Workshop which continues to this day. In 1970, his newly-christened The Lightmen Plus One ensemble released their debut album, Free As You Wanna Be, on George Nelson’s Judnell label. Energy Control Center, released in 1972 on Thomas’s short-lived label, Bubbha’s Lightnin’ Records, is considered the group’s masterpiece. Continue reading

Basin Street Records – Live at Little Gem Saloon

 

Title: Live at Little Gem Saloon
Artist: Various
Label: Basin Street Records
Formats: CD, Digital
Release Date: November 23, 2018

 

Started in 1998, New Orleans-based record label Basin Street Records has released Live at Little Gem Saloon to celebrate their 20th anniversary. Recorded at the historic French Quarter saloon on May 5, 2017, the nine-track album includes performances from an all-star lineup of local artists. Featured performers include vibraphone master Jason Marsalis who offers two originals, “Bourbon Street Ain’t Mardi Gras” and “At the House, In Da Pocket.” Clarinetist and jazz historian Dr. Michael White improvises on a swinging rendition of “Summertime” and his original “Give It Up (Gypsy Second Line),” trumpeters Kermit Ruffins and Irvin Mayfield join forces on a couple of standards, and pianist/vocalist Davell Crawford brings the project to a rousing close with a bluesy rendition of Luther Dixon’s “Big Boss Man” and his original medley “Don’t Ever Be Blue/Ode to Louisiana.”  Live at Little Gem Saloon captures an evening of new music and standards by jazz musicians in honor of Basin Street Records’ two decade long commitment to representing New Orleans-based jazz, blues, funk, and R&B artists. Continue reading

Leo Bud Welch – The Angels in Heaven Done Signed My Name

 

Title: The Angels in Heaven Done Signed My Name
Artist: Leo Bud Welch
Label: Easy Eye Sound
Formats: CD, LP, Digital
Release date: March 8, 2019

 

Mississippi bluesman Leo “Bud” Welch’s musical talents were recognized at a very young age when he first learned to play blues guitar. By the time he was a teenager, Welch could be also be found at the local Baptist church performing gospel music. His dedication to both sacred and secular music remained strong throughout his life. He played at local juke joints, opening for the likes of B.B. King, Howlin’ Wolf, and John Lee Hooker, and also appeared on the regional television show Black Gospel Express. But the life of a professional musician eluded Welch, who was a lumberjack by trade in the northern Mississippi hill country. That all changed when his debut gospel album, Sabougla Voices, was released in 2014 when Welch was 82, followed a year later by the secular album, I Don’t Prefer No Blues. Welch’s discovery as an octogenarian steeped in traditional blues and gospel music propelled him to a world stage where he came to the attention of Dan Auerbach, who produced this project. Continue reading

Johnny Shines – The Blues Came Falling Down

 

Title: The Blues Came Falling Down
Artist: Johnny Shines
Label: Omnivore Recordings
Formats: CD, Digital
Release Date: May 3, 2019

 

Blues singer and slide guitarist Johnny Shines had quite the career; his accomplishments include touring with Robert Johnson, recording for Columbia, Vanguard, and Chess Records, as well as playing with blues legends like Little Walter and Willie Dixon. Following his success in the 1930s and ‘40s, however, Shines experienced a series of commercial failures before stepping away from music. A few years later, at a show in Chicago, he was “rediscovered” and began actively touring and recording music again. It was at the peak of Shines rediscovery that The Blues Came Falling Down – Live 1973 was captured. Continue reading

Welcome to the March 2019 Issue

Welcome to the March 2019 issue of Black Grooves, sponsored by the Indiana University Archives of African American Music and Culture. In honor of Women’s History Month, we’re highlighting new releases from female artists across multiple genres and countries.

Two notable debut projects include mezzo-soprano Marietta Simpson’s first solo release, Crooked Stick: Songs in a Strange Land, featuring acoustic arrangements of Negro spirituals, and Songs of Our Native Daughters from folk music supergroup Our Native Daughters.

Jazz releases this month include Catherine Russell’s Alone Together; the late Betty Carter’s The Music Never Stops featuring a previously unreleased live recording; UK saxophonist Camilla George’s The People Could Fly; Alicia Olatuja’s Songs from the Minds of Women; Vanessa Rubin’s exploration of the Tadd Dameron songbook on The Dream Is You;  Ulysses Owens Jr.’s Songs of Freedom celebrating Nina Simone, Abbey Lincoln, and Joni Mitchell; the 12-piece UK collective Nubiyan Twist’s Jungle Run; and Jeanne Lee & Ran Blake’s The Newest Sound You Never Heard featuring previously unreleased recordings from the 1960s.

Also featured is Damien Sneed’s We Shall Overcome—a multi-genre celebration of the 35th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day; rising gospel star Casey J’s The Gathering; funk and soul diva Chaka Khan’s Hello Happiness; South African rapper Yugen Blakrok’s Anima Mysterium; Afro-Swedish singer Beldina’s Black & Blond; and reggae musician Rocky Dawuni’s Beats of Zion. Wrapping up this issue is our list of February 2019 Black Music Releases of Note.