Posts filed under 'African American Culture & History'

Welcome to the September 2018 Issue

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This month we’re featuring Product of Our Souls: The Sound and Sway of James Reese Europe’s Society Orchestra—the earliest mainstream recordings of an African American dance band—in an authoritative package from Archeophone Records.  In honor of Gospel Music Heritage Month, there are two new compilations from the Gospel Friend label: the two-CD Soul Don’t Worry! Black Gospel During the Civil Rights Era 1953-1967, and the tribute to Ohio gospel artist and composer Prof. Harold Boggs, Lord Give Me Strength.

New jazz releases include Cécile McLorin Salvant’s forthcoming album The Window, the Snarky Puppy affiliated group Ghost-Note’s Swagism, American steel pan player Jonathan Scales’ Pillar with his group Fourchestra, jazz flutist/composer Nicole Mitchell’s Maroon Cloud, the vocal group Take 6’s Iconic, Marcus Miller’s Laid Black (with a guest appearance by Take 6), and Diana Purim & Eyedentity’s exploration of Brazilian jazz/trip hop, Many Bodies, One Mind.

Rock-oriented releases include Corey Glover’s new supergroup Ultraphonix’s debut Original Human Music, punk legend Jean Beauvoir’s Rock Masterpieces Vol. 1, and Sean Ardoin’s Kreole Rock and Soul. Portland, Oregon’s Ural Thomas & The Pain confirm it is The Right Time for old-school R&B, “Queen of the Blues” Shemekia Copeland offers America’s Child, boogie woogie pianist Errol Dixon releases the 1973 live recording Midnight Train, and Delmark Records marks the label’s 65th anniversary with Tribute.

Wrapping up this issue is the late Australian indigenous musician Gurrumul’s final release and orchestral collaboration Djarimirri: Child of the Rainbow, Ugandan flutist Samite’s music of Resilience, and our list of August 2018 Black Music Releases of Note.

View review September 4th, 2018

August 2018 Black Music Releases of Note

Following are additional albums released during August 2018—some will be reviewed in future issues of Black Grooves.

Blues, Folk, Country
Ameal: Ameal for 2 (Cameron Studios)
Delgres: Mo Jodi (Jazz Village)
Dennis Jones Band: WE3 LIVE (Blue Rock)
Junior Wells: Box of Blues (6 CD set) (Cleopatra)
RB & Company: Hooked, Chained, & Bound (Oracle)
War & Treaty: Healing Tide (Strong World Ent.)

Classical, Broadway
Alexis Ffrench: Evolution (Sony Masterworks)

Funk, Rock, Pop, Electronic
Amos Lee: My New Moon (Dualtone)
Blood Orange: Negro Swan (Domino Recording Co.)
Chuck Brown: By Special Request the Very Best of (Raw Venture)
Fulton Street: Problems & Pain (digital)
Grace Jones: Bloodlight & Bami (DVD) (Kino Lorber)
Kiddy Smile: One Trick Pony (Neverbeener)
Turning Jewels Into Water: Which Way Is Home (FPE)

Gospel, Christian
Demetrius West & Jesus Promoters: Choirology: Study of Choir Music (Black Smoke Music)
FM2 & Intentional: Live From The Choir Stand (Intersound)
Godframe: Hello Jesus (digital)
Tommye Young-West: The Return (digital)
Bryan Andrew Wilson: This Time EP (Bryan’s Songs/CE Music)
Calvin Suggs: Walking By Faith (Alegacy)
James Fortune: The Collection (eOne Music)
Marcel Smith: Everybody Needs Love (digital) (Little Village Foundation)
Pastor Dom & The Dream Team: Worship Exchange (Live) (Nia Music)
Robert Hawkins: Happy (DVD)

Jazz
Bob James Trio: Espresso (Evolution Music Group)
Bunk Johnson: Rare & Unissued Masters Volume Two 1943-1946 (American Music)
Cyrus Chestnut: Kaleidoscope (Highnote)
David P Stevens: Rogue (Sanctifly Music Group)
Eric Darius: Breakin’ Thru (SagiDarius Music)
James Austin Jr.: Songs in the Key of Wonder (JCA)
Jonathan Butler: Close to You (Mack Ave.)
Lori Williams: Out of the Box (digital)
Mako Sica & Hamid Drake: Ronda (Feeding Tube)
Marcus Lewis Big Band: Brass and Boujee (Sharp 11)
Monk Higgins: Extra Soul Perception (reissue) (Real Gone Music)
Nate White: Up Close (Phat Bass Ent)
Sam Rucker: Redemption (Favor Productions)
Scott Petito: Rainbow Gravity (Planet Arts)
Slim Gaillard: Groove Juice: The Norman Granz Recordings (Verve)
The Braxton Brothers: Higher (Braxton Productions)
Tony Kofi / The Organisation: Point Blank (Last Music Company)

R&B, Soul
Ameal: Ameal for 2 (Cameron Studios)
Axl Rich: New Trap Swing (Fifty Deuce Sound Ent)
Barnaba: Gold Never Gets Old (digital) (Slide Visuals)
Bobby Earth: Cloudy McSunshine (digital) (Milky Wayv)
Candi Staton: Unstoppable (Thirty Tigers)
Cornell “CC” Carter: One Love (CDC Productions)
D’Maestro: Got It All (digital)
Dondi: Don’t Call Me Junior (Melldon)
Erica Falls: HomeGrown (Louisiana Red Hot)
Iconya: The Spoon Doon Room (digital) (UpGrade)
Ike & Tina Turner: World of Ike & Tina: Live (Beat Goes On)
Jae Sinnett: Americana Groove Project ( J-Nett Music)
Mary Love: Lay This Burden Down (Ace)
Monique DeBose: The Sovereign One
Peabo Bryson: Stand for Love (Caroline)
Various: Music City Blues & Rhythm (Ace)
Xperience: Piscean (digital)

Rap, Hip Hop
Aminé: Onepointfive (Republic)
B3nchMarQ: We Had Hope (digital) (XLR Media)
Bakka Not Nice: 4Milli (Warner Bros.)
Bas: Milky Way (Dreamville)
Bugzy Malone: Be Inspired (Bsomebody)
Da Buze Bruvaz: Ni&S@Tivity (Grilchy Party)
DāM-FunK: Architecture II EP (Glydezone/SAFT 18)
Damu the Fudgemunk and Flex Mathews: Dreams & Vibrations (Redefinition)
Death Grips: Year of the Snitch (Third Worlds/Harvest)
Fly Anakin and Ohbliv: Backyard Boogie (Mutant Academy)
Fmb Dz & Philthy Rich: Can’T Funk Broke (Empire)
Hyro the Hero: Flagged Channel (Century Media)
Jamall Bufford: Time in Between Thoughts (The Black Opera)
Jay-Boi: Under the Ghetto Bird (Trenchlife)
John Robinson: Rhythms, Jazz and Politics (Beatvizion)
Kev Brown: Homework (Redefinition)
Kliq Fresh: Came in the Game (Fresh Music Group)
Kool G Rap & 38 Spesh: Son Of G Rap (TCF Music Group)
Koran Streets: Late 20s (Steady Leanin)
Lil Wop: Silent Hill EP
Marco McKinnis: Underground (Republic)
Marks: Crush (Coyote)
Nebu Kiniza: From Me 2 You EP (OSHS)
Nef the Pharoah: The Big Chang Theory (Empire)
Nicki Minaj: Queen (digital) (Cash Money)
Nomad Chad: Skinny Hendrix Experience (Monolog)
Odney Smooth: S/T (Odney Smooth)
Pshade & DarkKeys: Love Yourself (DK Worldmusic)
Q Da Fool: 100 Keys (digital) (Roc Nation)
Reese LaFlare: S/T (Empire)
Rossy: Class N Session (Dogsled Music)
Royal: Summer on Main St.
Stefflon Don: Secure (digital)
The Black Sheep: Tortured Soul (X-Ray)
The Deli: Jazz Cat (Cold Busted)
Travis Scott: Astroworld (Epic)
Trippie Redd: Life’s A Trip (digital) (TenThousand Projects)
Ty Dolla Sign & Jeremih: MihTy (Def Jam)
WARHOL.SS: Free Andy EP (EMPIRE)
Wise Intelligent: Ponzie (Intelligent Muzik Group)
YG: Stay Dangerous (Def Jam)
Young Thug: Slime Language (300 Entertainment)
Yungeen Ace: Life of Betrayal (Cinematic)

Reggae
Gemmy: Unruly EP (World Of Wonders)
Mighty Diamonds: Leaders Of Black Countries (reissue) (Kingston Sounds)
Various: Black Man’s Pride 2 (K7)
Various: Yardie (Original Soundtrack) (Island)
Various: Ska Around the World (Putumayo)

View review September 4th, 2018

Welcome to the August 2018 Issue

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This month we’re featuring the release of 4 Banjo Songs, 1891-1897 by Charles A. Ashbury, likely the earliest extant banjo recordings by an African American artist. We’re also reviewing Music for Film by composer Terence Blanchard, known for his collaborations with director Spike Lee including the forthcoming film BlacKkKlansman.

New releases include projects from two Gulf Coast soul/funk bands—Say Yeah!! Live at the Blue Nile from the New Orleans-based Waterseed and Everything Here by Houston’s The Suffers—plus the self-titled debut from the American-Ugandan rap duo Nsimbi, the R&B/House music fusion of Oregon’s Chanti Darling on RNB Vol. 1, and Chicago harmonica player Russ Green’s debut album City Soul.

Other reissue projects include Winston Jarrett and The Righteous Flames’ reggae classic Jonestown, legendary pianist Erroll Garner’s Nightconcert and the compilation of 20th Century Singles (1973- 1979) by Barry White’s Love Unlimited Orchestra.

Wrapping up this issue is our list of July 2018 Black Music Releases of Note.

View review August 2nd, 2018

Love Unlimited Orchestra – 20th Century Singles (1973-1979)

Love Unlimited Orchestra
Title: 20th Century Singles (1973- 1979)

Artist: Love Unlimited Orchestra

Label: Mercury/20th Century

Formats: CD, LP

Release Date: June 15, 2018

 

 

There’s something about luscious string instruments that bring out the best that music has to offer. Know thy history. When the Drifters shifted from Clyde McPhatter to Ben E. King, they ushered in a new sound with string instruments. The Sound of Philadelphia was also string heavy with the help of the Salsoul Orchestra. When Barry White made his debut, some thought, “Who is this Isaac Hayes sound alike?” Ah, not so fast to judge.  Radio jocks used to refer to White as ‘the maestro.’ What’s a maestro? A master in art. A composer, conductor or music teacher.

Barry White was indeed all that and beyond. After he unveiled his female trio, Love Unlimited, he was the brains behind a forty piece orchestra called, what else, the Love Unlimited Orchestra. Besides backing up White and his trio, other famous artists got their breaks from LUO including Kenny G, Lee Ritenour, Wah Wah Watson, and Ray Parker Jr.

Now, 20th Century Records has just released a two disc “best of” compilation from LUO, spanning the years 1973 to 1979.

Disc one opens up with “Love’s Theme.” Why not! It was their biggest hit and put them on the map. Barry White’s fingers are all over just about every single. “Rhapsody in White” starts off like “Love’s Theme” but then fools you—it’s way more upbeat. “Barry’s Theme,” named after guess who, is LUO paying homage to the maestro. White appears vocally on “Baby Blues,” giving us that often imitated delivery.

Disc two gets into disco. “Brazilian Love Song” makes one want to do the hustle. Speaking of Isaac Hayes, LUO also covers the “Theme from Shaft,” but their version is a little more up tempo, and Barry White has no cameo like Hayes on the original.

Love Unlimited Orchestra’s 20th Century Singles (1973 -1979) is for the lover. It’s close your eyes and relax music. However you choose to listen, it’s great to see LUO’s work get more attention.

Reviewed by Eddie Bowman

 

View review August 2nd, 2018

Welcome to the July 2018 Summer Rocks issue

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Welcome to the July 2018 Summer Rocks issue of Black Grooves. This month we’re looking at the many permutations of Black rock, from the psychedelic riffs on Dug Pinnick’s Tribute To Jimi (Often Imitated But Never Duplicated); to the socially conscious songs of Fantastic Negrito on Please Don’t Be Dead and Bettye Lavette’s Bob Dylan tribute Things Have Changed; to the British blues rock collaboration on Buddy Guy’s The Blues Is Alive and Well; to the multi-faceted fusions of the Stanley Clarke Band’s The Message, Shuggie Otis’s Inter-Fusion, and Serpentwithfeet’s Soil; to the folk rock of AHI’s In Our Time and the countrified soul of  Priscilla Renea’s Coloured; to the black metal of Zeal and Ardor’s Stranger Fruit; and last but not least, the foundational rock and roll on The Ballads of  Fats Domino.

Seminal jazz releases this month include Kamasi Washington’s two-disc Heaven and Earth and Dr. Michael White’s Tricentennial Rag honoring New Orlean’s 300th birthday. Yet another tribute album is Lurrie Bell & the Bell Dynasty’s Tribute to Carey Bell, featuring the four accomplished sons of the legendary Chicago blues harpist.

Also featured is gospel singer Javen’s latest album, Grace; the collaboration connecting Sengalese kora master Diali Cissokho and North Carolina band Kaira Ba on Routes; Lamont Dozier’s Reimagination of tracks previously written for other artists; and the Little Freddie King compilation Fried Rice & Chicken featuring his best tracks from the Orlean’s label. Wrapping up this issue is our list of June 2018 Releases of Note in all genres.

View review July 3rd, 2018

Kamasi Washington – Heaven and Earth

Kamasi
Title: Heaven and Earth

Artist: Kamasi Washington

Label: Young Turks

Release Date: June 22, 2018

Formats: CD, LP, Digital

 

While technically his third release as a leader, Kamasi Washington’s newest record, Heaven and Earth, is the second in an extra-long play format. The double album, like 2015’s The Epic, stretches well over 2 ½ hours across two CDs (the LP version is 4 discs with an additional hidden inside the centerfold, giving listeners a compelling version to purchase this one on vinyl). While Washington certainly has much to say, this album doesn’t feel long-winded. His excellent band keeps things interesting for the entire 2 hours and 24 minutes of Heaven and Earth’s sonic exploration.

Washington is a marvelous player, but his talents of composition and orchestration are what lie at the heart of this album—the music is orchestral, improvisational, and undeniably hip all at once.  It’s no wonder that he and the crew of musicians he regularly works with, including his crack rhythm section of the Bruner brothers (bassist Stephen AKA “Thundercat” and drummer Ronald Jr.), are first-call musicians for sessions and production work.

It is possible to say that Washington has grown as a composer while also acknowledging that his previous full-length was released by a fully-formed artist. While The Epic spanned much musical territory, Heaven and Earth demonstrates skillful use of musical contrast within tracks as well as on a tune-to-tune basis. Washington’s music works on many levels—for instance, the album’s foreshadowing opener, “Fists of Fury,” is about righteous indignation. The track’s vintage orchestral sound would easily be at home in the title sequence of a neo-western or kung fu movie, but also features a blazing doubletime piano solo incorporating very hip jazz harmonic and rhythmic vocabulary.

 

“The Invincible Youth” begins with a roiling Ornette Coleman-esque introduction and then evolves into a synth-jazz odyssey, while “Testify” is a poetic slow jam that would not be out of place on a ‘70s Stevie Wonder album. “Street Fighter Mas” is a funky tune on which Washington really stretches out on his sax; “Journey,” on the other hand, is a sparsely arranged jazz hymn.  “The Space Traveler’s Lullaby” perhaps best captures Washington’s maximalism—it’s a fully fleshed-out orchestral work that stretches to 10 minutes in a swirling collection of textures, colors, and harmonies that might make orchestral and cinematic composers jealous.

Even though Heaven and Earth pushes 3 hours, it’s not dull for a single second. The album’s gargantuan musical scope allows it to earn its title, as Washington takes his listeners through its many twists and turns with an unparalleled sense of taste. Certainly worth the celestial journey,  this epic album that features a great deal of greatly complex music.  Like a good book, Heaven and Earth can’t be digested in one sitting, but it is good enough to explore again and again.

Reviewed by Matthew Alley

View review July 3rd, 2018

June 2018 Releases of Note

Following are additional albums released during June 2018—some will be reviewed in future issues of Black Grooves.

Blues, Folk, Country
Angelique Francis: Kissed by the Blues (digital)
Charles Lloyd & The Marvels & Lucinda Williams:  Vanished Gardens (Capitol/Blue Note)
John Brim: Detroit to Chicago – Tough Blues of John Brim 1950-1956 (Jasmine)
Lonnie Johnson: Blues Stay Away From Me: Selected Singles 1947-1953 (Jasmine)
Various: Voices of Mississippi: Artists and Musicians Documented by William Ferris (Dust to Digital)
Various: Tribute – Celebration of Delmark’s 65th Anniversary (Delmark)
Various: Rough Guide to Hokum Blues (World Music Network)

Classical, Broadway
Audra McDonald/NewYork Philharmonic: Sing Happy (Decca Gold)
Gurrumul: Djarimirri (Child of the Rainbow) (Skinnyfish Music)
Kukuruz Quartet: Julius Eastman Piano Interpretations (Intakt)

Comedy, Spoken Word
Michael Brooks: Watch This   (Wasted Robot)

Funk, Rock, Pop, Electronic
Ashtani: Space, Fire, and Someone (Collective Clearing Frequencies)
Benin City: Last Night (Moshi Moshi)
Big Freedia: 3rd Ward Bounce EP (Asylum)
DJ Spooky: Presents Phantom Dancehall (VP)
Emilie Nana: The Reign of Obsolete Technology EP (BBE)
Magic Drum Orchestra: DNA of Rhythm (Tru Thoughts)
Yuno: Moodie (Sub Pop)

Gospel, Christian
Cortney Richardson: DO It Again (digital)
Cory Ard: The Blackout (digital)
Edwin Hawkins Singers: The Buddah Collection (Retroworld)
Fred Hammond: Best of (RCA Inspiration)
God’s Chosen: S/T (digital) (Dream)
Jasmine Murray: Fearless (Fair Trade)
Lecrae & Zaytoven: Let the Trap Say Amen (digital) (Reach)
Lexi: Just Listen (Motown Gospel)
Na-Tree-Sha: One Step Closer (digital) (WePush Worldwide)
Steven Malcolm: Second City Part 2 EP (Word Ent)
Theotis Taylor: Something Within Me (Big Legal Mess)
Wardlaw Brothers: Stand There (New Day Ent.)

International
Abra Cadabra: Feature Boy EP (No Problem)
Dumi RIGHT: Doing It the Right Way (pH Music)
Jupiter & Okwess: Kin Sonic  (Everloving)
Mike Nyoni & Born Free: My Own Thing (Now Again)
Nsimbi: S/T (Imara)
Pierre Sandwidi: Le Troubadour De La Savane, 1978/1982 (Born Bad)
Professor Rhythm: Professor 3 (Awesome Tapes From Africa)
Samba Toure:  Wande (Glitterbeat)
Various: Listen All Around – Golden Age of Central and East African Music (Dust to Digital)
Various: Disques Debs International An Island Story – Biguine, Afro Latin & Musique Antillaise 1960-1972 (Strut)

Jazz
Adam & Kizzie: Book Of Eedo Vol. 3: Threedo (Ropeadope)
Binker & Moses: Alive in the East (Gearbox)
Black Art Jazz Collective: Armor of Pride (Highnote)
Buster Williams: Audacity (Smoke Sessions)
Byron Miller: Gift Psychobass2 (Byron Miller Studio)
Cyrille Aimée: Live (Mack Ave.)
Dayramir Gonzalez: Grand Concourse (Machat)
Eddie Daniels: Heart of Brazil (Resonance)
Emanative: Earth (Jazzman)
Geoffrey Keezer ft. Gillian Margot: On My Way To You (DL Media)
Gregory Generet & Richard Johnson: Two of a Kind (Afar Music)
Hungry March Band: Running Through with the Sadness (Imaginator)
Javier Santiago: Phoenix (Ropeadope)
JD Allen: Love Stone (Savant)
John Coltrane: Both Directions at Once: The Lost Album     (Impulse!)
Justin Brown:  Nyeusi (digital) (Biophilia)
Kobie Watkins Grouptet: Movement (Origin)
Kris Brownlee: Breathe Night Sessions (Megawave)
Marcus Miller: Laid Black (Blue Note)
Mark Kavuma: Kavuna (Ubuntu Music)
Matthew Lux’s Communication Arts Quartet: Contra/Fact (Astral Spirits)
PJ Morgan: Transparency Project (1DMV Music Group)
R+R=NOW: Collagically Speaking (Blue Note)
Robert E. Person: Classic Covers (digital)
Shamie Royston: Beautiful Liar (Sunnyside)
Sullivan Fortner: Moments Preserved (Impulse!)
Tiffany Austin: Unbroken (Con Alma Music)
Tosin Aribisala: Afrika Rising (Ropeadope)
Water Seed: Say Yeah!! Live at the Blue Nile (Water Seed Music)

Latin
Cuban Beats All Stars: Levantate (Timba)
Dos Santos: Logos (International Anthem)
Harold Lopez-Nussa: Un Día Cualquiera (Mack Ave.)

R&B, Soul
Ali Shaheed Muhammad & Adrian Younge: The Midnight Hour (Linear Labs)
Danie Ocean Band: Love Won’t Let Me Fail (Winding Way)
Dee Brown: Remembering You (Innervision)
Jorja Smith: Lost & Found (FAMM)
Kadhja Bonet: Childqueen (Fat Possum)
Kenny Latimore: Never Too Busy: The Anthology (Soulmusic)
Kirkland Project: We Shall Overcome (digital)
Love Unlimited: Singles 1972-75 (Mercury)
Love Unlimited Orchestra: 20th Century Records Singles 1973-79 (Mercury)
Neyo: Good Man (Motown)
Pat Powell: About Time (digital) (Bamboozle Music)
The Beginning of the End: Funky Nassau: Definitive Collection (Strut)
Tower of Power: Soul Side of Town  (Artistry Music)
Vicktor Taiwò: Joy Comes in Spirit (Innovative Leisure)

Rap, Hip Hop
Canibus: Full Spectrum Dominance (ThatsHipHop)
03 Greedo: God Level (Alamo)
Allan Kingdom: Peanut Butter Prince (digital) (First Gen.)
Cool-Aid: BRWN (Akashik )
Black Thought: Streams of Thought, Vol. 1 (digital) (Human Re Sources)
Bump J: I Don’t Feel Rehabilitated (Goon Squad Ent.)
Chief Keef: Ottopsy EP (digital) (RBC)
Dizzy Wright: Don’t Tell Me It Can’t Be Done (digital EP)
DJ Harrison: Stashboxxx (Ropeadope)
Drake: Scorpion (digital) (Republic)
E-40: Gift of Gab (digital)
Eligh: Last House on the Block (Empire)
Freddie Gibbs: Freddie (digital) (Empire)
Freeway: Think Free (digital) (Roc Nation)
Gorillaz: The Now Now (Parlophone)
Gunplay: Active (digital)(Empire)
IAMDDB: Flight Mode Vol. 4 (digital) (Union IV)
Stalin: Tears of Joy 2 (Livewire)
Jacquees: 4275 (digital) (Cash Money)
Jay Rock: Redemption (Top Dawg/Interscope)
Jedi Mind Tricks: The Bridge & the Abyss (Enemy Soil)
Kanye West: Ye (digital) (Def Jam)
Kanye West & Kid Cudi: Kids See Ghosts (digital)  (Def Jam)
Lil Scrappy: Confident (X-Ray)
Locksmith & Apollo Brown:  No Question (Mello Music Group)
Michael Christmas: Role Model (Fool’s Gold)
Migos & DJ Smoke: Migology (Wagram)
Mo Cash: Closest Man 2 God (digital)
Nas: Nasir (digital)
nobigdyl: Solar (Capital Christian)
Phresher: PH (digital) (Empire)
Ras Kass: Van Gogh (digital)
Rico Nasty: Nasty (digital)(Atlantic)
Slum Village: Lost Scrolls 2 (Ne’Astra Music Group)
The Carters: Everything Is Love (digital) (Tidal)
Trae That Truth: 48 Hours Later (ABN)
Various: Superfly (Soundtrack) (Epic)
Various: Uncle Drew (Soundtrack) (RCA)
Various: Boombox 3: Early Independent Hip Hop, Electro & Disco Rap (Soul jazz)
Various: Don’t Get Caught (Soundtrack)(Shot)
Various: Jermaine Dupri Presents So So Def 25 (Sony)
Waka Flocka Flame: Salute Me Or Shoot Me 4 (Bricksquad)
Youngboy Never Broke Again: Until Death Call My Name: Reloaded (digital)

Reggae
Alborosie: Unbreakable: Alborosie Meets The Wailers United (VP)
Culture: Remembering Joseph Hill (VPAL Music)
Jah9: Field Trip (digital) (VP)
Rebelution: Free Rein (Easy Star)

View review July 3rd, 2018

Welcome to the June 2018 African American Music Appreciation Month Issue

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Welcome to the June 2018 issue of Black Grooves, sponsored by the Indiana University Archives of African American Music and Culture.

What better way to open our African American Music Appreciate Month edition than new releases from two legendary groups. On their first album in 20 years, The Last Poets’ continue their tradition of setting politically charged poetry to music on Understand What Black Is. For funk fans,  Medicaid Fraud Dogg is the first new release in 38 years from George Clinton’s Parliament, reinvigorated through a line-up of young musicians.

Featured jazz releases include the programmatic suite Pictures at an African Exhibition from Darryl Yokley ‘s Sound Reformation, and the self-titled debut album from the UK genre-blending group Orcastratum.

Sacred and classical offerings include Keith “Wonderboy” Johnson’s 13th album Keep Pushin’, young South Carolina native Kelontae Gavin’s debut album The Higher Experience, the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir’s live recording I Am Reminded, the choral group Gloriae Dei Cantores’ recording of God’s Trombones based on the poems of James Weldon Johnson, and the debut album Inspiration from Royal Wedding cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason.

Other featured releases include Ayibobo from Haitian musician Paul Beaubrun, the EP One Time from the swing-inspired electronic music duo Ginkgoa, Book of Ryan from rapper Royce da 5’9”, Love in Wartime from Americana duo Birds of Chicago, Wishes & Wants from soul singer Shirley Davis & The Silverbacks, and the latest Ben Harper & Charlie Musselwhite collab, No Mercy In This Land.

Wrapping up this issue is our list of May 2018 Releases of Note.

View review June 1st, 2018

The Last Poets – Understand What Black Is

last poets
Title: Understand What Black Is

Artist: The Last Poets

Label: StudioRockers

Formats: CD, Digital

Release Date: May 19, 2018

 

 

Before Sugar Hill Gang released “Rappers Delight” in 1979, marking the first hip hop record in history, there was The Last Poets. The Harlem-based group performed politically charged poetry over a musical backing of bebop, funk, and demonstrative solo percussion. Along with other famous poets such as Gil Scott-Heron, The Last Poets laid the “ground work” of the hip hop genre. They branded their art as “Jazzoerty,” a combination of music and spoken word that worked together simultaneously.

The Last Poets were and are a highly politically engaged group. “The Original Last Poets” were formed May 19, 1968 in Harlem’s Marcus Garvey Park. They chose May 19th as a way to commemorate the assassination of Malcolm X, three years prior. Because their personal ideology was more in line with Malcolm X’s approach to civil rights, May 19 would became both their founding date and a political statement that continues to drive their music and spoken word art.

Understand What Black Is marks the 50th anniversary of The Last Poets and is the first project they have released in 20 years. The reggae driven album, courtesy of Brit producers Nostalgia 77 and Prince Fatty and percussionist Baba Donn Babatunde, is fused with messages that pertain to the state of black people in America, both in the past and as it relates to the present. Group members Abiodun Oyewole and Umar Bin Hassan celebrate blackness while also providing political, philosophical, and religious perspectives on issues with being black in America and within the diaspora. “Understand What Black is….the breath you breathe….the sweat from your brow…Black is love…Black is humanity…the source from which all things come.” These are words from the title track, setting the tone for what is to come.

“Rain of Terror” is one of the most politically charged poems on the album, where Abiodun Oyewole accuses America of being a terrorist—“being mean and nasty to those who treated him kind.” He goes on to talk about the violent nature of America and its treatment of black people and the outside world. “Though shall not kill…that’s not a part of the American dream, because to kill is a thrill they love to show on the TV screen.” This line in the poem harkens to the ways in which black people have been abused on live television during the evening news almost as if it were a normal and acceptable mode of television performance. It is not unlike America to use the death of black bodies as entertainment. This was a form of entertainment in communities in the rural South during the early 1900’s, where white Americans would bring their families to picnic like settings to watch the hanging and public shaming of Negro bodies. Oyewole’s critique on America is that at its root, the country is violent. During a time when fingers are often being pointed toward Islamic countries as being politically, economically and socially corrupt, The Last Poets beg the question, “Is America not guilty of being these things for the last 400 years until the present day?”

“How many Bullets” is a poem that speaks to the ways in which black people have endured despite the violence they have encountered in America and within the diaspora. “Took my drum, broke my hands, yanked my roots up right out of the land and rattled my soul with Jesus.” This track represents the resilience of black people in the face of trauma. Despite being stripped of their religion, their home land, their drums, and their ancestral tongue, black people both retained self and created new identity. Oyewole speaks to both the idea of retention and creation through his discussion about death, viewed through an African rooted lense, where life and death are fluid and not separated. “They shot Malcolm and all they did was multiply his power…they show King and black folks got stronger by the hour.” He also questions the use of religion, particularly Christianity, viewing it as a tool to keep black people in line both during and post- slavery.

“Is there anything not sacred anymore…freedom, justice, honesty…All being devoured by Western imitations of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is drowning out the tears of deception.” On “We Must Be Sacred,” Umar Bin Hassan speaks to the ways in which our world is shifting and changing into an evil place where love and tenderness are becoming taboo topics instead of practice. He claims that we love the product but we don’t care about the person who has created the work, nor do we listen and/or interrogate the things they say. He questions if we are too far gone to be able to elicit real change. He does not, however, claim defeat. “The phoenix will come from the flames this time, there will be no ashes to ashes. Love must be there when the Dust clears.” People must try to begin to love one another again and practice tenderness. However time is not a power so tender that “we could wipe this savage onslaught from our minds.”

The Last Poets conclude their album with the “The Music.” Oyewole celebrates the black creators of music with the line, “I am the music, the sound of life all round.” He furthers his Afro-centric ideology with the line, “I gave the world song,” which connects all things in life, including music, to Africa’s historical past. “I come from mother Africa where music is how we speak… the drum is my heart beat.” He then goes on to praise African American musical influences, which permeate around the globe. However, as Hassan asks in “We Must Be Sacred,” are people engaging the music and the culture or just buying into the product at face value, not caring about the creators?

Reviewed by Bobbie E. Davis Jr.

View review June 1st, 2018

May 2018 Releases of Note

Following are additional albums released during May 2018—some will be reviewed in future issues of Black Grooves.

Blues, Folk, Country
Charles A. Asbury: 4 Banjo Songs, 1891-1897 (Archeophone)
Larry Garner: Live At The Tivoli (Weinerworld)
Lurrie Bell & the Bell Dynasty: Tribute To Carey Bell (Delmark)
Memphis Minnie: Killer Diller Blues (Wolf)
Odetta: The Albums Collection 1954-62 (Acrobat)

Funk, Rock, Pop, Electronic
Ben LaMar Gay: Downtown Castles Can Never Block the Sun
Big Sam’s Funky Nation: Songs in the Key of Funk
Brownout: Fear of a Brown Planet (Fat Beats)
Dug Pinnick: Tribute To Jimi (Rat Pak)
Emily Johnson: Open Your Heart EP (Tarpan)
Free Radicals: No State Solution
Joan Armatrading: Not Too Far Away (BMG)
Mndsgn: Wanna Be Your Man (Stones Throw)
Nuex: Affextus EP (digital)
Sudan Archives: Sink (Stones Throw)
Welshly Arms: No Place Is Home (Republic)

Gospel
C-Micah: Reverence (4 Streams Media)
Dee Black: Flight Club (HISstory Music Group)
Jabari Johnson: Day of Redemption (Light)
Jackie Hill Perry: Crescendo (Fair Trade/Columbia)
Jason Nelson: The Answer (RCA)
Morgan Minsk: Praise
Phil Thompson: My Worship (digital)

International
3MA: Anarouz (Six Degrees)
Fatoumata Diawara: Fenfo (Something To Say) (Shanachie)
Molly Tigre: S/T
Ntoni Denti d’Oro: Cape Verde (Ocaora Radio France)

Jazz
Alex Conde: Originas (Ropeadope/Uprising)
Allen Harris: The Genius of Eddie Jefferson (Resilience Music)
Cameron Graves: Planetary Prince: Eternal Survival EP (Mack Ave)
Christian Sands: Reach Further EP (digital) (Mack Ave)
Curtis Haywood: Summer Breeze (Smooth Sounds Ent.)
Dana Murray & Manifesto: Negro Manifesto (Ropeadope)
Dave McMurray: Music is Life (Blue Note)
Diana Purim & Eyedentity: Many Bodies, One Mind
Eddie Harris: Listen Here: Very Best of  (Varese Sarabande)
Eddie Henderson: Be Cool (Smoke Sessions)
Fred Hersch Trio: Live in Europe (Pametto)
Freelance: Yes Today (Revive Music Group)
Gerald Albright: 30 (Bright Music)
Grant Green: Slick! – Live at Oil Can Harry’s (Resonance)
Grant Green: Funk In France: Paris to Antibes (Resonance)
Henry Threadgill: Double Up, Plays Double Up Plus (Pi)
Henry Threadgill: Dirt. And More Dirt (Pi)
Hugh Masekela: 66-’76 (3 CDs) (Wrasse)
Jeff Denson: Outside My Window (Ridgeway)
Joey Alexander: Eclipse
Jonathan Barber: Vision Ahead
Joshua Redman: Still Dreaming (Nonesuch)
Jowee Omicil: Love Matters! (Jazz Village)
Kamaal Williams: Return (Black Focus)
Kenny Barron Quintet: Concentric Circles (Blue Note)
McClenty Hunter Jr.: Groove Hunter (Strikezone)
Shirley Horn: With Friends (Verve)
Thomas Bramerie Trio: Side Stories (Jazz Eleven)
Tia Fuller: Diamond Cut (Mack Ave.)
Tim Warfield: Jazzland (Criss Cross)
Ghost-Note: Swagism (Ropeadope)

R&B, Soul
Abiah: Abiah Sings Nina (Madoh Music Group)
Billy Preston: Live in Central Park New York 1973 (Mega Dodo)
Bobbye Doll Johnson: When a Woman’s Had Enough (Aviara Music)
Cecily: Songs of Love and Freedom (Harmonious Grits, LLC)
Charles Bradley: Living on Soul (DVD) (The Orchard)
Corneille: Love & Soul (Wagram Music)
Fats Domino: The Ballads Of Fats Domino (Bear Family)
Jeffrey Osborne: Worth It All (Mack Ave.)
K. Avett: Lioness
KaraJishi: Realm EP
Lamont Dozier: Reimagination (Goldenlane)
Leon Bridges: Good Thing (Columbia)
N’Dambi and All Cows Eat Grass: Air Castle EP (Alpha Pup)
Nicola Conte & Spiritual Galaxy: Let Your Light Shine On (MPS)
Otis Redding: Dock of the Bay Sessions (Atlantic)
Screamin’ Jay Hawkins: Are You One Of Jay’s Kids? (Manifesto)
Shirley Ellis: Three Six Nine! – Best Of (Ace)
Sonta: In My Feelings (Machine Ent. Group)
Temptations: All the Time (Ume)

Rap, Hip Hop
A$AP Rocky: Testing (RCA)
Aaron Cole: Virginia Boy (Gotee)
Ace Hood: Trust the Process II: Undefeated (digital) (Empire)
Bali Baby: Baylor Swift (digital) (Twin)
Big Scoob: Duality (digital) (Strange Music)
Camp Lo: Candy Land Xpress – The Mixtape (Cleopatra)
City Girls: Period (digital)
Dynospectrum: S/T (20th anniv. Vinyl ed.) (Rhymesayers)
Guru: Jazzmatazz Vol. 1 (25th Anniv. Ed.) (Ume Urban Legends)
Joey Cool: S/T (Strange Music)
Junglepussy: JP3 (digital)
Kyle: Light of Mine (Atlantic)
Lil Baby: Harder Than Ever (digital) (Quality Control Music)
Mars Jackson: Good Days Never Last Forever (Misra)
Meyhem Lauren: Glass (SRFSCHL)
Nav: Reckless (XO/Republic)
Nick Grant: Dreamin’ Out Loud (digital) (Epic)
Pawz One & Robin Da Landlord: Sell Me A Dream (Below System)
Philthy Rich: N.E.R.N.L. 4 (Empire)
Planet Asia: Mansa Musa (X-Ray)
Playboi Carti: Die Lit (digital) (Interscope)
Pusha T: Daytona (digital) (Def Jam)
Rae Sremmurd: SR3MM (digital) (Interscope)
Saweetie: High Maintenance (Warner Bros.)
Stalley: Tell the Truth Shame the Devil, Vol. 3 (digital)
Styles P (The LOX): G-Host (The Phantom Ent.)
Suspect: Still Loading (digital) (Rinse)
Tee Grizzley: Activated (digital) (300 Ent.)
Tobe Nwigwe: The Originals (digital)
YFN Lucci: Ray Ray from Summerhill (Think It’s A Game)
Zaytoven: Trapholizay (digital) (UMG)

Reggae
Kabaka Pyramid: Kontraband (Bebble Rock)
Kingly T: Got It All (digital)
Linval Thompson: Dub Landing Vols. 1 & 2 (Greensleeves)
Mad Professor: Electro Dubclubbing (Ariwa Sounds)
U-Roy: Talking Roots (Ariwa Sounds)
Ziggy Marley: Rebellion Rises (Tuff Gong)

View review June 1st, 2018

Welcome to the May 2018 Issue

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Welcome to the May 2018 issue of Black Grooves, sponsored by the Indiana University Archives of African American Music and Culture.

This month’s releases are related to concepts associated with spring—invigoration and innovation—bringing to light new voices and collaborations that foster hope and discovery.

 

Four featured debut albums are grounded within soul, rock and reggae. The newly formed Zig Zag Power Trio (Vernon Reid, Will Calhoun & Melvin Gibbs) presents the rock fusion project Woodstock Sessions Vol. 9.  Deva Mahal—the talented daughter of jazz icon Taj Mahal—shows her individuality on Run Deep.  Starchild & The New Romantic’s Language features the artistry of Bryndon Cook, and Fort Lauderdale’s Army Gideon offers reggae rock fusion on Forsake Not.

Jazz releases are bountiful. Words to Love by Houston drummer and composer Reggie Quinerly is a vocal jazz album featuring Melanie Charles and Milton Suggs; Don Braden’s Earth Wind and Wonder is a jazz saxophonist’s exploration of the Earth, Wind & Fire and Stevie Wonder songbooks; Miles Davis & John Coltrane: Final Tour is a 4-CD set featuring their final performances together during a 1960 European tour; and Idris Ackamoor & The Pyramids’ An Angel Fell is a spiritual jazz album exploring global themes such as catastrophic climate change and racism.

International offerings root themselves in novel collaborations. Playing for Change: Listen to the Music brings together 210 musicians from 25 different countries for the goal of unifying today’s oft-divided societies, and the seven-piece South African afropsychedelic band BCUC (Bantu Continua Uhuru Consciousness) blends indigenous musical traditions with social commentary on modern Africa on its album Emakhosini.

This month’s featured rap and soul artists include Los Angeles-based rapper Murs, who bares his soul on A Strange Journey Into the Unimaginable, and the veteran Chicago soul band Bumpus, offering Way Down Deep, their first release in over a decade.  Gospel and R&B sow the seeds for this month’s reissues. Sister Sledge: An Introduction is a new “best-of” compilation featuring the four iconic sisters from Philadelphia, and Gotta Serve Somebody – The Gospel Songs of Bob Dylan is a DVD reissue documenting the making of the Grammy nominated album of the same name.

Wrapping up this issue is our compilation of April Releases of Note.

View review May 1st, 2018

March 2018 Releases of Note

Following are additional albums released during March 2018—some will be reviewed in future issues of Black Grooves.

Blues, Folk, Country
Ben Harper & Charlie Musselwhite: No Mercy In This Land (Anti/Epitaph)
Cary Bell: Harpslinger: The 1988 Album Remastered (JSP)
Coffey Anderson: Cowboy Style (digital)
Leadbelly: Masterworks Volumes 1 & 2 (Sunset Blvd.)
Little Freddie King: Fried Rice & Chicken (Orleans)
Muddy Waters: Live At Rockpalast (Made in Germany)
Roosevelt Collie: Exit 16 (GroundUp)

Funk, Rock, Pop, Electronic
Detroit Rising: A Cosmic Jazz Funk Adventure (Downjazz)
Elaquent: Celebrate Life!
Lexsoul Dancemachine: Sunny Holiday In Lexico (Funk Embassy)
Matt Palmer: Get Lost (digital)
NoMBe: They Might’ve Even Loved Me (TH3RD BRAIN)
Oceans of Slumber: The Banished Heart (Century Media)
On High: Never Die
Young Fathers: Cocoa Sugar (Ninja Tune)
Zig Zag Power Trio: Woodstock Sessions Volume 9 (Woodstock Sessions)

Gospel, Christian Rap, CCM
Brian Courtney Wilson: A Great Work (Motown Gospel)
Jonathan McReynolds: Make Room (eOne)
Snoop Dog: Presents Bible of Love (RCA Inspiration)
Tamesha Pruett-Ray: Beautiful Savior (TPR Music Group)

Jazz
Adam Hawley: Double Vision (Kalimba Music)
Blue Lab Beats: Xover (All Points)
David Garfield: Jazz outside the Box (Creatchy)
David Liebman & John Stowell: Petite Fleur: The Music Of Sidney Bechet (Origin)
Greg Spero+Spirit Fingers: Spirit Fingers (Shanachie)
Hank Jones: in Copenhagen – Live at Jazzhaus Slukefter 1983 (Storyville)
Ivo Perelman & Matthew Shipp: Oneness (Leo)
Kurt Elling: The Questions (Okeh)
Lao Tizer Band: Songs from the Swinghouse (Lao Tizer Music)
Miles Davis & John Coltrane: The Final Tour: The Bootleg Series, Vol. 6 (Columbia)
Pendletons: Funk Forever (Bastard Jazz)
Salim Washington: Dogon Revisited (Passin’ Thru)
Spirit Fingers: S/T (Shanachie)
Sun Ra: Of Abstract Dreams (Strut)
Terry Pollard: A Detroit Jazz Legend (Fresh Sound)
Victor Gould: Earthlings (Criss Cross)

R&B, Soul
Adrian Daniel: Flawd (digital)
Ady Suleiman: Memories (Pemba)
Alexandra Burke: Truth Is (Decca)
August Greene (Common​, Robert Glasper, Karriem Riggins): S/T (digital)
Barrence Whitfield & The Savages: Dig Everything! – The Early Rounder Albums (Ace)
Barrence Whitfield & the Savages: Soul Flowers of Titan (Bloodshot)
Best of the Charles Wright & The Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band (Varese Sarabande)
Bettye LaVette: Things Have Changed (Verve)
Bobby V: Electrik (Independent Label Services)
Deva Mahal: Run Deep (Motema)
En Vogue: Electric Café (eOne)
Gizelle Smith: Ruthless Day (Jalapeno)
Jayme Shaye: Detoxic
Larry Crockett & The Funky Cherokees: Drum Love (Chaos)
Leon’s Creation: This Is the Beginning (reissue) (Acid Jazz)
Phyllis Dillon: One Life to Live (Real Gone Music)
PJ Morton: Gumbo Unplugged (Live)
R.LUM.R: Alterimage (PRMD)
Robert Lee Coleman: What’s Left (Music Makers)
Ronnie Wright: a.k.a. Bespeak (digital)
Ruben Studdard: Ruben Sings Luther (Seg Music)
Sister Sledge: An Introduction (Atlantic)
The Vogs: A Change Is Coming (Qsounds Recording)
Various: Eccentric Soul: The Saru Label (Numero Group)
Wilson Meadows: The Facts of Life
Xscape: Here For It (RedZone Ent.)
Z. Hill: That’s It! – The Complete Kent Recordings 1964-1968 (Kent)

Rap, Hip Hop
Apollo Brown & Ghostface Killah: The Brown Tape (Mello Music)
Awate: Happiness (Quite Defiant)
Ball Greezy: Bae Day 2 (digital)
Bishop Nehru: Elevators: Act I & II (digital)
Black Milk: Fever (Mass Appeal)
Brian Fresco: Love Scars (Empire)
Camp Lo: On The Way Uptown & The Get Down Brothers (Vodka & Milk)
Chuck Strangers: Consumers Park (Nature Sounds)
Creek Boyz: 1-11 Mixtape
Don Trip: Christopher (digital)
First Degree The D. E.: Black Bane II, Underestimated Villain (Fahrenheit)
Flipp Dinero: GuaLa See GuaLa (digital)
Fredro Starr: Firestarr 2 (Mad Money)
Herbaliser: Bring Out the Sound (BBE)
Stalin: Avatar (Livewire)
Larry June: You’re Doing Good (digital) (Warner Bros.)
Lil Yachty: Lil Boat 2 (digital)
Lojii: Lofeye (Youngbloods)
Luniz: No Pressure (X-Ray)
Mozzy: Spiritual Conversations – EP (digital) (Empire)
Murs: A Strange Journey Into The Unimaginable (Strange Music)
Nessly: Wildflower (digital) (Republic)
Nym Lo: The Big Horse (digital)
Phonte: No New Is Good News (digital)
Prhyme (Royce 5 9+DJ Premier): PRhyme2 (digital)
Rich Homie Quan: Rich As In Spirit (digital) (Motown)
Rich the Kid: The World is Yours (digital) (Interscope)
Robb Bank$: Molly World (digital) (Empire)
Saint Jhn: Collection 1
Saweetie: High Maintenance (digital) (Warner Bros.)
Showbiz: A-Room Therapy (Ditc)
Sob X Rbe: Gangin (digital)
Sts & Khari Mateen: Better on a Sunday (Steel Wool /Obe)
Tech N9ne: Planet (Strange Music)
Thundercat: Drank (Brainfeeder)
Tory Lanez: Memories Don’t Die (Interscope)
Tra the Truth: Hometown Hero
Tyga: Kyoto (Last Kings Music)
U-God: Venom (Babygrande)
Various: Death Row Chronicles OST (Death Row)
Wale: It’s Complicated EP (MMG/Every Blue Moon)
Wiley: Godfather II
Wu-Lu: N.A.I.S. (Not As It Seems) (digital)
XXXTentacion: ? (Bad Vibes Forever)
YFN Lucci: Ray Ray from Summerhill (Warner Bros.)
Young Hu$tle: Bag Talk (X-Ray)
Yung Bans: Vol. 4 (digital)

Reggae
Army Gideon: Forsake Not (Uhuru Boys)
Etana: Reggae Forever (Tad’s Record Inc.)
I-Octane: Love & Life (Conquer the Globe)
Romain Virgo: Lovesick (VP)

World, Latin
Baloji: 137 Avenue Kaniama (Bella Union)
Busy Twist: Sunny Side EP (Busy Life)
Hailu Mergia: Lala Belu (Awesome Tapes From Africa)
Seun Kuti & Egypt 80: Black Times (Strut)
Sidi Toure: Toubalbero (Thrill Jockey)
Tanga: Reencarnacion (TrebleFive)
Various: Gumba Fire: Bubblegum Soul & Synth-Boogie in 1980s South Africa (Soundway)
Various: Death In Haiti: Funeral Brass Bands & Sounds from Port Au Prince (Discrepant)

View review April 2nd, 2018

Welcome to the March 2018 issue of Black Grooves

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Welcome to the March 2018 issue of Black Grooves, sponsored by the Indiana University Archives of African American Music and Culture.

In honor of our upcoming program Funkology: A Conversation with Bootsy Collins and Dr. Scot Brown, we’re featuring recent funk releases pertaining to our honored guest in addition to compilations from notable legends and the latest in contemporary jazz, spoken word, rock, soul and world music.
Leading our funk selections is the latest release from Bootsy Collins himself, World Wide Funk.  Meshell Ndegeocello’s Ventriloquism pays homage to many artists, including George Clinton and Bootsy Collins, while Los Angeles-based funk group Orgōne provides covers of classic P-funk songs such as “The Breakdown” and “Cosmic Slop” on Undercover Mixtape. The three disc Life on Planet Groove Revisited is a 25th anniversary expanded reissue of Maceo Parker’s  funk classic, and the U.K.’s  affinity for funk is represented through Crowd Company’s Stone & Sky.

New compilations from iconic artists include Jimi Hendrix’s Both Sides of the Sky, the Rolling Stones’ On Air featuring early blues covers recorded by the BBC, Nina Simone’s The Colpix Singles, and the Dionne Warwick collection Odds & Ends: Scepter Records Rarities. Featured jazz group Robert Glasper Experiment gives a front row seat through their DVD Live, and Kalamazoo by Delfeayo Marsalis also showcases live performances.

Wrapping up this issue is Los Rumberos De La Bahia’s Afro-Cuban stylings on Mabagwe, the spoken word poet Jerry Quickley’s collaboration with Busdriver on (american) Fool, New Orleans’ artist Lilli Lewis’s The Henderson Sessions, a reissue of a rare soundtrack from the musical Two Sisters From Bagdad by Detroit’s LaVice & Company, and our compilation of February Releases of Note.

View review March 2nd, 2018

Welcome to the January 2018 issue of Black Grooves

January 2018_small
Welcome to the January 2018 issue of Black Grooves, sponsored by the Indiana University Archives of African American Music and Culture.

This month we’re opening with Black Manhattan Vol. 3 by The Paragon Ragtime Orchestra, performing works by African American composers affiliated with New York’s black music and theatre communities from the 1890s to 1920s. Also featured are three tribute projects: Hendrix in the Spirit of Jazz, a collection of songs performed by artists from Germany’s ACT label to commemorate the 75th birthday of Jimi Hendrix; The World of Captain Beefheart, a collaboration by the artistic duo of Nona Hendryx and Gary Lucas; and Texas-born arranger Sly5thAve’s The Invisible Man: An Orchestral Tribute to Dr. Dre.

For our annual “winter blues” observance we’re highlighting four recent releases: Blues With Horns Vol. 1 by Chris Daniels & The Kings with Freddy Gowdy; the Mighty Mo Rodgers & Baba Sissoko collaboration Griot Blues; and from the Catfood label, James Armstrong’s Blues Been Good to Me and Johnny Rawls’ Waiting for the Train.

Continuing our focus on Indianapolis label Tyscot Records, we featuring two more recent gospel releases that are climbing the charts: Ruth La‘Ontra’s sophomore album I Got You, and the debut album Hide and Seek by 20-year-old singer-guitarist C West. R&B releases include Tribute to My Soul Sisters by Martha High, longtime backup singer for James Brown; and from another JB affiliate, the Bobby Byrd compilation Help For My Brother: The Pre-Funk Singles, 1963-1968.

Wrapping up this issue is the new jazz release The Music in the Night from IU alum Rahsaan Barber; the collaboration between artists from Cuba and Jamaica, Havana Meets Kingston; and our compilation of December 2017 Releases of Note.

 

View review January 4th, 2018

Welcome to the December 2017 issue of Black Grooves

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Welcome to the December 2017 holiday issue of Black Grooves, sponsored by the Indiana University Archives of African American Music and Culture.

This month we’re highlighting box and multi-disc sets including Isaac Hayes Spirit of Memphis 1962-76, John Lee Hooker King of the Boogie, the 68-CD Johnny Mathis compilation Voice of Romance: Columbia Original Album Collection, the 2-CD compilation Jesus Rocked the Jukebox, and the calendar/CD set 24 Classic Blues Songs from the 1920’s, Vol. 15. More Box Sets features brief descriptions of Wilson Pickett and Dinah Washington album compilations, plus a new Blue Note deluxe box set subscription series.

Our Holiday Music selections include Fantasia’s Christmas After Midnight, Chanté Moore’s Christmas Back to You, Patti LaBelle & Friends’ Home for the Holidays, Smokey Robinson’s Everyday is Christmas and Bigg Robb’s Christmas Party.

Other new releases include gospel artist Cheryl Fortune’s Simply Cheryl, Dee Dee Bridgewater’s Memphis …Yes, I’m Ready, the 60th anniversary expanded edition of Here’s Little Richard, the 25th anniversary expanded edition of Whitney Houston’s Bodyguard soundtrack album I Wish You Love: More From The Bodyguard, and former Shalamar guitarist Micki Free’s Tattoo Burn-Redux.

Our selection of books for holiday giving begins with Florida Soul: From Ray Charles to KC and the Sunshine Band by John Capouya. Other staff picks described in brief in the post New Books About Black Recording Artists include biographies of Otis Redding, Al Green, and Sarah Vaughan; Gucci Mane’s autobiography; two books about Prince—one featuring photographs and another his early studio sessions; Chuck D’s chronology This Day in Rap and Hip-Hop History and an oral history of Bob Marley by reggae archivist Roger Steffans.

Wrapping up this issue is our list of November 2017 Releases of Note.

Happy Holidays to All!

View review December 1st, 2017

2017 Holiday Music Overview

Fantasia
Title: Christmas After Midnight

Artist: Fantasia

Label: Concord

Formats: CD, LP, MP3

Release Date: October 6, 2017

 

 

North Carolina native, Fantasia has come a very long way since her humble beginnings prior to winning the popular talent show American Idol in 2004. Now, with help from the veteran producer Ron Fair, she has released her very first holiday album, Christmas After Midnight. Recorded live at Capitol studios in L.A. as well as Blackbird studios in Nashville, the album features Fantasia’s unique interpretations of jazz and R&B holiday classics including “Santa Clause Goes Straight to the Ghetto,” “The Christmas Song,”  and “Baby It’s Cold Outside” featuring CeeLo Green.

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Fantasia’s goal with this album is to pay homage not only to the jazz and R&B greats that came before her—like Ray Charles, Ella Fitzgerald, and Donnie Hathaway—but also her grandmother, who was born on Christmas Day. This is a very wholesome and soulful album, just what people want to hear as they relax with the ones they love this holiday season.

Chante Moore
Title: Christmas Back To You

Artist: Chanté Moore

Label: CM7 Records

Formats: CD, MP3

Release Date: November 3, 2017

 

 

Over the past few years 1990’s R&B chanteuse Chanté Moore has been making a bit of a comeback. She continues this trajectory with her second album release in 2017, and her very first holiday album, Christmas Back to You. Released on her own label, CM7 records, this CD includes some interesting and modern takes on Christmas classics like “The Christmas Song,” “Silent Night,” and especially “Merry Christmas Baby.” Also included are several original songs performed with Moore’s trademark style, including the soulful “Please Come Home For Christmas” and the more contemporary “Cover Me in Snow.”

Patti LaBelle
Title: Home for the Holidays With Friends

Artist: Patti LaBelle

Label: GPE Records

Formats: CD, MP3

Release Date: November 24, 2017

 

 

Patti LaBelle is joined by several top artists on her new holiday release Home for the Holidays With Friends. Opening with an arrangement of “My Favorite Things” featuring Vivian Green and jazz piano virtuoso Jamar Jones, the track creates a soft mood that’s maintained throughout the 14 selections of classic and original songs. Patti is featured on half of the tracks, but her best efforts are the inspiring “Don’t Save It All For Christmas Day” and her collaboration with gospel artist Tamela Mann on “Jesus King!” Reuben Stoddard is featured on “Presence With Me” and a fun big band arrangement of “Let It Snow.”  Other highlights include the jazz instrumentals “O What A Night” and uptempo “Brazilian Sleigh Bells” featuring Jamar Jones, plus Vivian Green’s solo tracks “Maybe Next Year” and her R&B rendition of “The Christmas Song.” Backing musicians include students and faculty at The University of Texas at Arlington, where album producer Jamar Jones is a lecturer. Though not all tracks are equally successful, LaBelle presents a great mixture of jazz, gospel and R&B renditions and some truly inspiring arrangements to brighten your holidays.

Bigg Robb
Title: Bigg Robb’s Christmas Party

Artist: Big Robb

Label: Over25sound

Format: MP3

Release Date: November 10, 2017

 

 

Cincinnati, Ohio native Robert ‘Bigg Robb’ Smith got his start in the music industry as a radio DJ at the very young age of 12. Since then he has had the opportunity to work with R&B greats like Roger Troutman and his band, Zapp. Now, Big Robb absolutely astounds with his first holiday album, Bigg Robb’s Christmas Party, which includes 12 original tracks like “Eggnog and Chitlins,”  “I Want a Big Woman for Christmas,” and the soon to be Christmas classic, “Santa Clause Wants Some Lovin’.” His lyrical mastery and funky production is absolutely unmatched. All jokes aside, one track that truly stands out is Bigg Robb’s fresh and groovy take on the R&B holiday classic, “This Christmas.” Bigg Robb’s Christmas Party is hilarious and just the thing to liven up that ugly Christmas sweater party this year.

 

Smokey Robinson
Title: Christmas Everyday

Artist: Smokey Robinson

Label: Smokey Robinson

Formats: CD, Digital Streaming Services

Release Date: November 10, 2017

 

 

Legendary singer and songwriter Smokey Robinson reminds us just how spectacular he is, partnering with Amazon on the release of his first solo holiday album, Christmas Everyday. The Motown legend gives us three original holiday tunes including “The Night That Baby Was Born,” “You’re My Present,” and the title track, “Christmas Everyday” featuring The Dap Kings. Robinson also gifts us with his spin on seven holiday favorites, opening with a NOLA style jazz arrangement of “Santa Clause is Coming to Town” featuring Trombone Shorty and ending beautifully with an acapella arrangement of “O Holy Night” featuring the magnificent Take 6. Christmas Everyday is an album that will surely stand the test of time, just like Smokey Robinson.

Reviewed by Jared Griffin and Brenda Nelson-Strauss

 

 

View review December 1st, 2017

Welcome to the November 2017 Issue

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Welcome to the November 2017 issue of Black Grooves, sponsored by the Indiana University Archives of African American Music and Culture.

This month we’re featuring projects celebrating the anniversaries of two outstanding record labels. First, Indianapolis-based Tyscot Records recently commemorated its 40th anniversary with the compilation  Feel Good: 40 Years of Life Changing Music, and second, Basin Street Records’ is celebrating its 20th anniversary as well as New Orleans 300th anniversary with A Beautiful World by Kermit Ruffins & Irvin Mayfield. Other jazz projects include Gregory Porter’s Nat “King” Cole & Me and Courtney Pine’s Black Notes From the Deep.

As protests continue around the country, artists are weighing in with socially conscious music. This month’s selection includes Mavis Staples’ If All I Was Was Black, Talib Kweli’s Radio Silence, and Christian rapper KB’s Today We Rebel.

World music projects include Chicago Afrobeat Project’s What Goes Up, Ghana-born drummer Paa Kow’s Cookpot, reggae artist Jesse Royal’s debut album Lily of Da Valley, and Antibalas’ Where the Gods Are in Peace.

Wrapping up this issue is the Gospelaires of Dayton, Ohio compilation Moving Up – The Early Years 1956-1965, Austin band Trouble In The Streets’ Electro Tribe, the legendary Lloyd Price’s latest release This is Rock and Roll, and our list of October 2017 Black Music Releases of Note.

View review November 2nd, 2017

Welcome to the October 2017 Issue

October 2017 Black Grooves_Halloween version
Welcome to the October 2017 issue of Black Grooves, sponsored by the Indiana University Archives of African American Music and Culture.

With Halloween/Day of the Dead approaching, our featured albums include Bone Reader by the DC-based Chopteeth Afrofunk Big Band, Dark Days + Canapés by the British artist Ghostpoet, Hotel Voodoo from New Orleans blues guitarist Chris Thomas King, and the new Michael Jackson compilation Scream.

Jazz and blues albums include Dreams and Daggers from vocalist Cécile McLorin Salvant, Bringing It from the Christian McBride Big Band, Handful of Keys from the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis, and Walter Trout’s We’re All In This Together featuring a bevy of top blues guitarists.

Our featured classical music album is Portraits by the McGill/McHale Trio, and our folk music pick is the self-titled Ranky Tanky from a South Carolina group rooted in Gullah folk music and Afro-diasporic traditions.

Additional releases include the Johnny Cash tribute album Soul of Cash from Brian Owens, Jetlagger from soul singer Bette Smith, Songs in the Key of Grease by Soul Understated, the self-titled protest album Prophets of Rage from the rap-rock supergroup, the long-awaited Carnival III: The Fall and Rise of a Refugee by Wyclef Jean, The Semantics of Mr. Porter from rap artist Denzel Porter, Rookie from Florida-based indie band Black Kids, and the compilation Afrobeats Hot Hits: New Urban Dance Grooves from Africa.

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

View review October 2nd, 2017

September 2017 Releases of Note

Following are additional albums released during September 2017—some will be reviewed in future issues of Black Grooves.

Blues, Folk, Country
Anthony Paule/Wee Willie Walker: After a While  (Blue Dot)
Arthur Adams: Look What the Blues Has Done for Me (Cleopatra)
Benny Turner: My Brothers Blues (Nola Blue)
Big Jay McNeely: Honkin’ & Jivin’ at the Palomino Live (Cleopatra)
Lucky Peterson: Singin this Song 4 U (Jazz Village)
Lucky Peterson: Tribute to Jimmy Smith (Jazz Village)
Paula Boggs Band: Elixir—Soulgrass Sessions (Boggs Media LLC)
Sweet Pea Atkinson: Get What You Deserve (Blue Note)

Classical, Broadway, Soundtracks
Kathleen Battle: Best of Kathleen Battle (Deutsche Grammophon)
Various: Greenleaf Soundtrack: Volume 2 (RCA Inspiration)
Various: Marshall OST  (Warner Bros.)

Funk, Rock, Pop, Electronic
Antibalas: Where the Gods Are in Peace (Daptone)
Kennedy Administration: S/T (Leopard Label)
Laraaji: Bring on the Sun + Sun Gong (All Saints)
Lloyd Price: This Is Rock and Roll (Conqueroo)
M.A.G.S.:  S/T (Admirable Traits)
Numa Edema: The Hourglass (Wildflower)
Sheila E.: Iconic Message 4 America (Stiletto Flats Music)
Tricky: ununiform (False Idols)

Gospel, Gospel Rap, CCM
Canton Jones: Greatness  (Cajo)
Chad Brawley: The WeWorship Project! (digital) (CKBMusik)
Charles Butler & Trinity: The Blood Experience (eOne Music)
Clark Sisters:  You Brought the Sunshine: Sound of Gospel 1976-81 (Westbound)
Danny Walker & Fantastic Violinaires: Fresh Wind (Danwes Music)
DW Page: God Made (Confident Mind Media/PyoorMuzik)
G.I.: Winning (Shanachie)
Jamie Grace: 91 (digital) (Good Eye )
Lecrae: All Things Work Together (Reach/Columbia)
McCrary Sisters: Live (Soundly Music)
Marvin Sapp: Close (RCA Inspiration)
Ricky Dillard & New G: Ten (eOne)
Ruth La’Ontra: I Got You (Tyscot)
Ted Winn: Stand in Awe (Shanachie)
Todd Galberth:  Decrease (digital) (Redemption Worship)
Various: Jesus Rocked the Jukebox: Small Group Black Gospel (1951-1965) (Craft)
Various: God Cares for U—Bless the Little Children (Tyscot)

Jazz
Bennie Green: Complete Albums Collection 1958-64
Blue Note All Stars: Our Point of View (Blue Note)
Danny Grissett: Remembrance (Savant)
Ella Fitzgerald & London SO: Someone To Watch Over Me (Verve)
Gabriel Alegria Afro-Peruvian Sextet: Diablo en Brooklyn (Saponegro)
Gary Peacock Trio: Tangents (ECM)
John Beasley: MONK’estra, Vol. 2 (Mack Avenue)
Kamasi Washington: Harmony of Difference (Young Turks)
Keyon Harrold: The Mugician (Legacy/Mass Appeal)
Kirk Andres Wilson: My Love (Illustra Dist.)
Lizz Wright: Grace (Concord)
Lyambiko: Love Letters
Marcus Pope: This Is How I Feel (digital)
Mark Whitfield: Live & Uncut (Chesky )
Mike Stern: Trip (Head’s Up)
Nicole Mitchell/Haki Madhubuti: Liberation Narratives (Third World)
Rosco Mitchell: Discussions Orchestra (Wide Hive)
Tim Bowman: Into the Blue  (I.M. Records)
Urban Renewal Project: 21st Century Ghost (Resonance/Fastrac)
Wadada Leo Smith: Aspiration (Libra)
Wooten/Chambers/Franceschini: Trypnotyx (Vix)

R&B, Soul
Bobby Byrd: Help For My Brother—Pre-Funk Singles 1963-68 (Ace)
Calvin Richardson: All Or Nothing (Shanachie)
Chanté Moore: Rise of the Phoenix (CM7)
Chuck Jackson: Big New York Soul—Wand Records 1961-66 (Ace)
Cold Specks: Fool’s Paradise (Arts & Crafts)
Coriology: Feelings (digital)
Dee Dee Bridgewater: Memphis …Yes, I’m Ready (Sony)
Detroit Emeralds: I Think Of You—Westbound Singles 1969-75  (Ace)
Eamon: Golden Rail Motel (Huey Ave. Music)
Fabriccio: Jungle (Indigo Music )
Isaac Hayes: Spirit of Memphis (1962-1976) (Craft/Stax)
Johnny Rawls: Waiting For the Train (Catfood)
Kashif: Help Yourself To My Love—Arista Anthology (SoulMusic)
Kennedy Administration: S/T (Leopard)
Ledisi: Let Love Rule (Verve)
Lil’ Bob & the Lollipops: Sweet Soul Swinger & Jin Singles (Jin)
Mista Roe: RnB King of Shreveport (Illustra Dist.)
Moses Sumney: Aromanticism  (Jagjaguwar)
Musiq Soulchild: Feel the Real (eOne)
Rayana Jay: Morning After (Empire)
Son Little: Blue Magic (Anti/Epitaph)
Space Captain: Sycamore (Tru Thoughts)
Sugaray Rayford: World That We Live In (Blind Faith)
Tamar Braxton: Bluebird of Happiness (LoganLand)
Tangina Stone: Elevate (digital) (IMG)
Tatum Jackson: Soul of a Man (Stage Left Ent.)
Tina Campbell: It’s  Still Personal (Gee Tree Creative)
Toulouse: Extended Plea EP (Terrible)
Undisputed Truth: Nothing But the Truth (2-CD) (Ace)
Various: Soulsville U.S.A.: Celebration of Stax (3-CD) (Concord/Rhino)
Will Downing: Soul Survivor (Shanachie)

Rap, Hip Hop
$hreddAintShxt: Kill ’em Wit da Delivery (digital) (TopOff Ent.)
A Boogie Wit da Hoodie: The Bigger Artist (digital) (Highbridge)
Audio Push: Last Lights Left (Good Vibe Tribe)
Chief Keef: The W (RBC)
Cool Kids: Special Ed. Grandmaster Deluxe (Propelr Music)
D.J. Jazzy Jeff & Fresh Prince: He’s the DJ, I’m the Rapper (Expanded)(Real Gone)
Dälek: Endangered Philosophies (Ipecac)
Danny Watts:  Black Boy Meets World (digital) (Bandcamp)
Derek Minor:  Your Soul Must Fly EP (Empire)
Dillon & Diamond D: Black Tie Affair (Full Plate)
DJ Kay Slay: Big Brother (Streetsweepers Ent)
Earthgang: Rags EP (Spillage Village)
G Herbo: Humble Beast (Machine Ent. Group)
Gorilla Zoe: Gorilla Warfare (Real Talk Ent.)
Gucci Mane: Mr. Davis (Atlantic)
Gunplay:  Harem (Real Talk Ent.)
Hustle Gang: We Want Smoke (Hustle Gang)
Intel: That Was Then, This Is Now (Goon MuSick)
Jermin Costor: F*ck Y’all: The Movie Album (Billionz Ent.)
Kevin Gates: By Any Means 2 (Atlantic)
KR: Intermission (digital) (Empire)
Lando Chill: Boy Who Spoke To The Wind (Mello Music)
Leikeli: Wash and Set (digital) (RCA)
Mayday: Search Party (Strange Music)
Mike Floss: Tennessee Daydreams (Iconic Group)
Mr. Brady: Speechless (Urbnet)
Nolan the Ninja: Yen (Fat Beats)
Noni Blanco: Pretty Militant (Black Marketing)
Open Mike Eagle: Brick Body Kids Still Daydream (Mello Music)
PMD (Parish Smith): Busine$$ Mentality ( RBC)
Project Pat: M.O.D.
Rapsody: Laila’s Wisdom (Jamla/Roc Nation)
Sammie: Coming of Age (Empire)
TiDUS: Soon You’ll Understand (Vinyl Digital)
Troy Ave.:  Album of the Summer (BSB)

Reggae, Dancehall
Mad Professor & Jah9: In The Midst of the Storm (VP)
Various: Doing Our Thing: More Soul From Jamdown 1970-82 (Cree)
Various: Studio One Supreme: Maximum 70s & 80s Early Dancehall (Soul Jazz)

World, Latin
Amadou & Mariam: La Confusion (Because Music)
Antibalas: Where the Gods Are in Peace (Daptone)
David Virelles: Gnosis (ECM)
Juan Hoerni: Love on High (Cha Cha Project)
Msafiri Zawose: Uhamiaji (Soundways)
Pierre Kwenders: Makanda at the End of Space, Beginning of Time (Bonsound)
Rayce: African Juice (Shanachie)
Sandra Nkaké: Tangerine Moon Wishes (Jazz Village)
Trio Da Kali & Kronos Quartet: Ladilikan (World Circuit)

View review October 2nd, 2017

Welcome to the September 2017 Issue

September 2017 Black Grooves small
Welcome to the September 2017 issue of Black Grooves, sponsored by the Indiana University Archives of African American Music and Culture.

In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, we’re featuring Afro-Latin music including Arturo O’Farrill & Chucho Valdés collaboration on Familia Tribute to Bebo & Chico, Aruan Ortiz’s solo piano album Cub(an)ism, Chicago band Esso! Afrojam Funkbeat’s sophomore release Juntos, the Afro-Venezuelan group Betsayda Machado & La Parranda El Clavo’s debut Loé Loá: Rural Recordings Under the Mango Tree, and the new anthology I Try devoted to Angela Bofill, a Cuban American-Puerto Rican singer who successfully crossed over into R&B.

Jazz and fusion releases include the Liberation Music Collective’s Rebel Portraiture, Ahmad Jamal’s Marseille, a 1982 concert led by Jaco Pastorius on Truth, Liberty & Soul, The Three Sounds’ Groovin’ Hard: Live at the Penthouse from a 1960’s concert, Minneapolis band Nooky Jones’s self-titled debut, and Mindi Abair & the Boneshakers’ first studio recording The Eastwest Sessions.

Funk, rock, rap and soul releases include Starchild Jr.’s (aka Garret Shider) P-funk tribute to his father on Hand Me Down Diapers, Living Colour’s Shade, Big Boi’s Boomiverse, and Goapele’s EP Dreamseeker.

Wrapping up this issue is our listing of August 2017 Releases of Note.

View review September 1st, 2017

¡ESSO! Afrojam Funkbeat – Juntos

Esso
Title: Juntos

Artist: ¡ESSO! Afrojam Funkbeat

Label: Sonic Octopus/Dist. via Bandcamp

Formats: Digital (MP3, FLAC, etc.)

Release date: September 8, 2017

 

Garnering the titles “Best New Band” and “Best International/World Music Act” in last year’s poll by the Chicago Reader, ESSO Afrojam Funkbeat is capitalizing on their local popularity with their new full-length sophomore release. Juntos, which means “together” in Spanish, is indicative of the multi-cultural ensemble that’s comprised of Mexican, Puerto Rican, Irish, Italian, Jewish, Colombian, and African American musicians. Band members include Armando Perez (guitar/vocals), Kevin Miller (saxophone), Dan Lieber (drums/percussion), Ezra Lange (bass), Diana Mosquera (vocals), Puerko Pitzotl (percussion), Jess Anzaldua (percussion), Matt Davis (trombone), and Luis Tubens (vocals).

The album’s title also reflects the socially conscious nature of the project as well as band’s aspirations to unite their city. As stated by Perez, “We believe, especially growing up and witnessing the social divisions and violence in Chicago, that we can only move forward as a people, united with tolerance and understanding. Divisions are a social construct and we believe music is one of those special things that brings people together.”

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ESSO performs an infectious fusion of tropical funk and cumbiation—a blending of cumbia with reggaetón. Opening with sensuous rhythms, “Baila” is an excellent example of the band’s synthesis of more traditional Latin music interspersed with raps and electronic effects. Following is the harder, funk-driven Afrobeat song “La Calle,” about the challenges of growing up on the streets of Chicago, particularly among first generation immigrant families. Vocalist Diana Mosquera is featured prominently on her self-penned “Mariposa Negra,” while traditional Yoruban chants over several layers of percussion form the basis of “Homenaje.” Cuban-born DJ AfroQbano, now based in Chicago, programmed the beats on “Piramides,” “Meet Me Out,” and “Stone Eagle”—the latter two the only songs in English. Tracks such as “Somos Hermanos” and “Mi Gente” perhaps best articulate the group’s socio-political message of coming together as brothers and sisters and communities to strive for a better future.

On Juntos, ESSO Afrojam Funkbeats combine tight horns with an array of percussion to create infectious dance beats all while espousing the necessity of solidarity and embracing the multicultural nature of communities. This is world music fusion at its finest!

Reviewed by Brenda Nelson-Strauss

View review September 1st, 2017

Two Live Releases from Resonance Records – The Three Sounds & Jaco Pastorius

The Three Sounds

 

Title: Groovin’ Hard – Live at the Penthouse 1964-1968

Artist: The Three Sounds

Label: Resonance 

Formats: CD, LP, digital

Release date: January 13, 2017

 

Truth Liberty and Soul

Title: Truth, Liberty & Soul – Live In NYC

Artist: Jaco Pastorius

Label: Resonance

Formats: CD, LP, digital

Release date: May 26, 2017

 

 

Resonance Records’ George Klabin and Zev Feldman continue mining the world’s vaults and closets and unearthing excellent-quality jazz recordings previously unissued as commercial albums.  Among their releases this year are albums by Gene Harris’s  piano trio The Three Sounds recorded in Seattle in the 1960’s, and a gala 1982 big-band fusion concert led by the late great bassist Jaco Pastorius and recorded by National Public Radio at New York’s Avery Fisher Hall. The albums offer entertaining and excellent-sounding windows into two very distinct styles of jazz.

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The piano trio (piano, bass and drums) was a stable of urban jazz bars in the post-WWII era, popularity peaking in the late 1950’s through the 1960’s. Famous piano trios were led by Erroll Garner, Ramsey Lewis, Oscar Peterson, among others. And there was also The Three Sounds, fronted by keyboard ace Gene Harris. Resonance’s producers located and secured rights to a series of Three Sounds performances at The Penthouse club in Seattle, which were originally tape-recorded and broadcast over local radio. The performances feature Harris and bassist Andy Simpkins with different drummers present for each of the three different recording dates (1964, 1966 and 1968).

Musically, The Three Sounds hew more toward the jazz side of soul-jazz, as compared to Ramsey Lewis for instance, with the emphasis on a swinging groove. Harris was a skilled pianist, but he emphasized musicality over technical chops. He and his band mates were in sync and projected a logical and well-thought concept of how to play their way around their set lists. Album highlights include the Harris originals “Blue Genes,” “Rat Down Front” and “The Boogaloo,” plus covers of Neil Hefti’s “Girl Talk” and Johnny Mandel’s “The Shadow of Your Smile” that avoid stereotypical schmaltz traps and groove along nicely.

Jaco Pastorius was a self-taught and revolutionary bassist (for more on that, check out the documentary film “Jaco”). He gained fame as part of fusion-jazz mega-stars Weather Report, but left the band in 1981 and formed an ensemble he called the Word of Mouth Band. An expanded version of that group performed at Manhattan’s Avery Fisher Hall on June 27, 1982 as part of the Kool Jazz Festival, and the performance was recorded by National Public Radio’s “Jazz Alive!” program. The Resonance 2-CD release includes 40 minutes of music not included in the original broadcast.

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For this performance, the Word of Mouth Band included members of the A-list of New York studio musicians, some of whom were familiar names as part of that era’s “Saturday Night Live” band. Fans of the “Blues Brothers” movies will recognize names like “Blue” Lou Marini on tenor sax and Alan Rubin on trumpet. Plus, legendary harmonica player Toots Thielemans joined the band for seven numbers.

The big band that Pastorius brought on stage was very much of fusion jazz and of the early 1980s. It included Pastorius’s electric bass (with heavy amplification and effects), steel drums played by Othello Molineaux, tuba player David Bargeron, percussionist Don Alias, plus six sax-men, six trumpets, three trombones and two French horns. In the drum seat was Pastorius’s former Weather Report bandmate, Peter Erskine.

One of the reasons Pastorius left Weather Report was an on-going disagreement with band founder Joe Zawinul about how far the band should move toward electronic effects and synthesizers. Although much younger than Zawinul, Pastorius favored an approach closer to jazz’s acoustic traditions. His vision, as presented with the Word of Mouth Band, is modern and somewhat electrified, but firmly rooted in traditional large-ensemble jazz. It’s no accident, for instance, that the band presents a very recognizable cover of Duke Ellington’s “Sophisticated Lady.” As far as fusion-jazz style, this band favors Latin and funky flavors as opposed to the slicker and somewhat disco-esque music of later-era Weather Report.

Even though the ensemble is large and some of the arrangements are dense, the playing is flawless. Engineer Paul Blakemore, who made the original recording for NPR, returned to his multi-track tapes and remixed the concert, the result being superb, punchy and detailed sound.

Both of these albums are the latest examples of Resonance’s emphasis on quality music above all else, followed closely by quality recordings. As is always the case with Resonance releases, both albums feature hefty booklets full of details about the musicians, performances’ times and places and producer Feldman’s always entertaining tales of scouring the vaults and closets to find the hidden jazz gems.

It’s interesting listening to these albums back-to-back, noting the different times and places, and the very different styles of music included in the big tent of jazz. In a modern context, the Pastorius concert is an afternoon on the deck with friends, beer, chips and salsa – fun, bright and energetic. The Three Sounds club dates go well with an adult beverage, low light and a comfortable chair – engaging and relaxed but never dull.

Reviewed by Tom Fine

 

 

View review September 1st, 2017

Welcome to the August 2017 Issue

August 2017 Black Grooves small
Welcome to the August 2017 issue of Black Grooves, sponsored by the Indiana University Archives of African American Music and Culture.

As a tie-in to the annual AfroPunk Festival, we’re featuring rock-oriented releases including emerging Seattle artist Ayron Jones’s Audio Paint Job, Benjamin Booker’s socially conscious Witness, The Isley Brothers and Santana collaboration Power of Peace, the EP Over the Covers from Austin Latin funk band Brownout, and Bloodlust from Ice T’s heavy metal band Bodycount.

New jazz and R&B projects include Ronald Bruner Jr.’s Triumph (featuring his brothers Thundercat and Jameel Bruner), Splendid Things Gone Awry from the experimental jazz/hip hop/soul duo  Summer of ’96 (Antman and Lonnee Stevens), Phil Perry’s Breathless, and Billy Ocean’s Here You Are, The Music of My Life.

This month’s blues feature is the Sherman Holmes Project’s The Richmond Sessions, the gospel feature is Sure. Focused. Centered from NextGeneration Choir (St. Louis Shalom Church City of Peace), and the rap feature is Chris Rivers’ DeLorean.

World music releases include Transmisión en la Eritá Metathe story of Afro-Cuban religious drums from ethnomusicologist Amanda Villepastour and Cuban producer Luis Bran, and the compilation Sly & Robbie present Taxi Gang in Disco Mix Style 1978-87.

Wrapping up this issue is our list of July 2017 Releases of Note.

View review August 1st, 2017

Welcome to the July 2017 Issue

July 2017 Black Grooves small
Welcome to the July 2017 issue of Black Grooves, sponsored by the Indiana University Archives of African American Music and Culture.

This month’s issue kicks off with an overview of releases from the recent PBS series American Epic and American Epic Sessions, plus new releases from pioneers of rap and rock: Jay-Z’s 4:44 and the late Chuck Berry’s final album, Chuck.

 

In honor of Leontyne Price’s 90th birthday, we’re featuring Decca’s new deluxe edition of her 1961 recording of Verdi’s Aida. Also under classical music is string trio Hear in Now’s new project Not Living In Fear.

Jazz, R&B and funk releases include Bokanté’s world music influenced Strange Circles, New Jersey neo-soul artist SZA’s debut studio album CTRL, Philly smooth jazz duo Pieces of a Dream’s Just Funkin’ Around, a Stax 60th anniversary vinyl reissue of the soundtrack to Melvin Van Peeble’s landmark film Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song, and the compilation More From the Other Side of the Trax: Volt 45rpm Rarities 1960-1968.

Gospel releases include Anita Wilson’s Sunday Song, the Como Mamas sophomore album Move Upstairs, Acrobat’s The Alberta Hunter Collection 1921-1940, and Steven Malcolm’s self-titled Christian rap debut.

Wrapping up this issue is Guy Davis & Fabrizio Poggi’s Piedmont blues tribute album Sonny & Brownie’s Last Train, and our listing of June 2017 Releases of Note.

View review July 7th, 2017

June 2017 Releases of Note

Following are additional albums released during June 2017—some will be reviewed in future issues of Black Grooves.

Blues, Folk, Country
Big Joe Williams: Southside Blues (Rockbeat)
Blind Willie Johnson:  American Epic – Best of Blind Willie Johnson (Third Man)
Cash Box Kings: Royal Mint (Alligator)
Jimmy Witherspoon: Live at the Renaissance & Monterey (Soul Jam)
Lead Belly: American Epic – Best of Lead Belly (Third Man)
Little Willie Farmer: I’m Coming Back Home (Wolf)
Memphis Jug Band: American Epic – Best of Memphis Jug Band (Third Man)
Mississippi John Hurt: American Epic – Best of Mississippi John Hurt (Third Man)
Skip James: Special Rider Blues, Early Recordings, 1931(Soul Jam)
Son House: Special Rider Blues, 1930-42 Mississippi & Wisconsin (Soul Jam)
Various: American Epic – Best of Blues (Third Man)
Willie Clayton: Crossroads of the Blues (Endzone Ent)

Funk, Rock, Pop, Electronic
Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup: Rocks (Bear Family)
Benjamin Booker: Witness (ATO)
Chuck Berry: Chuck (Dualtone)
Denai Moore: We Used To Bloom (Because Music)
Junie Morrison: Junie – Complete Westbound Recordings 1975-76 (Westbound)
Merry Clayton: Gimme Shelter (reissue) (Real Gone Music)
Moniquea: Blackwavefunk (Fat Beats)
P.O.D.: Satellite (Atlantic)
Prince: Purple Rain (3 CD+DVD expanded ed.)(Warner Bros.)
Tackhead: Lost Tapes Vol. 1 (Echo Beach)
Terrence Parker: God Loves Detroit (Planet E Communications)
Valenti Funk: Valenti (Clear Zebra)

Gospel, Contemporary Christian
B.B. King: Sings Spirituals (Soul Jam)
Earnest Pugh: Fully Persuaded (P-Man Group)
James Fortune & FIYA: Dear Future Me (eOne Music Nashville)
Patrick Hollis & United: Back Again (Ecko)
Preashea Hilliard: The Glory Experience (New Day Ent.)

Jazz
Ambrose Akinmusire: A Rift In Decorum Live (Blue Note)
Amina Baraka & The Red Microphone: S/T (Forced Exposure)
Art Pepper Presents “West Coast Sessions!” Vol. 4 (Omnivore)
Barbara Morrison: I Wanna to be Loved (Savant)
Bert Myrick: Live ‘n Well (reissue )(BBE)
Binker and Moses: Journey to the Mountain of Forever (Gearbox)
Braxton Cook: Somewhere in Between (Fresh Selects)
Charles Mingus: Complete Birdland 1961-1962 Broadcasts (Solar)
Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah: Centennial Trilogy 2 – Diaspora (Ropeadope)
Denys Baptiste: The Late Trane (Edition)
Adam Roger’s Dice: S/T (Adraj)
Dwight Trible with Matthew Halsall: Inspirations (Gondwana)
Irvin Mayfield & New Orleans Jazz Orchestra: Live at Newport (Basin Street )
J.J. Johnson: Columbia Albums Collection: 1956-1961 (4 CDs)(Enlightenment)
Jackiem Joyner: Main Street Beat (Artistry Music )
James Brandson Lewis Trio: No Filter (BNS Sessions)
Jimmy Smith Trio: Complete 1957-1959 Sessions (Phono)
Jowee Omicil: Let’s BasH! (Jazz Village)
Julian Vaughn: Bona Fide (Trippin N’ Rhythm)
Kris Funn: Cornerstore (digital) (Kristopher Funn Music)
Latimore: A Taste of Me: Great American Songs (Essential Media Group)
Naturally 7: Both Sides Now (Warner)
Nina Simone:  Complete 1959-61 Live Recordings (Essential Jazz Classics)
Quincy Jones:  20 Classic Albums (10 CD set) (Real Gone Jazz)
Roscoe Mitchell: Bells for the South Side (ECM)
Summer of ’96: Splendid Things Gone Awry (RED)
Thelonious Monk & John Coltrane: Complete 1957 Riverside Recordings (100th Anniversary vinyl box set) (Craft)
Wynton Marsalis & Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra: Handful of Keys (Blue Engine)
Zem Audu: Spirits (Origin)

R&B, Soul
Angela Bofill: I Try – Anthology 1978-1993 (Soul Music)
Beatles: Early Beatles Repertoire 1960-61 (Rhythm & Blues)
Brooks Long & The Mad Dog No Good: Mannish Boys (Morphius)
Cody ChesnuTT: My Love Divine Degree (Handwritten)
Coolee Bravo: 20 Minutes in Chicago EP (digital)
Eruption: Best of Eruption (expanded ed.) (BBR)
Felicia Temple: Balancing Act
Fred Wesley & the Generations: S/T  (Minor Music)
H.E.R.: H.E.R. Vol. 2 (RCA)
Ideeyah: Brave (EVRY Music)
India.Arie: SongVersation: Medicine EP (digital)
Jay King: Helen’s Son (Expansion)
LaBelle: The Anthology (SoulMusic)
M.T.B.: It’s Meant to Be (eOne)
Mali Music: The Transition of Mali (ByStorm Ent./RCA )
Mike City: Presents the Feel Good Agenda Vol. 1 (BBE)
Ms. Irene Renee: Ubiquitous Soul (D.A.P.)
Ricky Latt: Welcome to Soulville (W.A.G.E. Ent)
Ronald Bruner, Jr.: Triumph (vinyl) (World Galaxy; Alpha Pup)
Rudy Ray Moore: Sensuous Black Man (1st CD reissue) (Dolemite)
Sly5thAve: Composite EP (digital) (Tru Thoughts)
Soul Understated: Songs in the Key of Grease (Shanachie)
TLC: TLC (852 MUSIQ)
Various: Nothing But a Houseparty – Birth of Philly Sound 1967-71 (Kent)
Various: Inner Peace: Rare Spiritual Funk & Jazz Gems (WeWantSounds)

Rap, Hip Hop
Mozzy & Gunplay: Dreadlocks & Headshots (Real Talk Ent)
13 Boy’z: Last of a Dying Breed (East Town)
2 Chainz: Pretty Girls Like Trap Music (Def Jam)
Abra: Princess EP (True Panther Sounds)
Aha Gazelle: Trilliam 2 (mix tape)(Reach)
Berner & Styles P: Vibes (Bern One Ent.)
Big Boi: Boomiverse (Epic)
Blacastan & Stu Bangas: Uncanny Adventures of Watson & Holmes (Brick)
Bleezo & Sav Sicc: Twin Evil 2 (Cway Muziccore)
Bone Thugs: New Wave (eOne)
Bryson Tiller: True to Self (RCA)
Chief Keef: Thot Breaker (RBC)
Da Buze Bruvaz: Adebisi Hat (Grilchy Party)
Dane Uno: Everything in the Dark Comes to the Light (Junkadelic Music)
DJ Khaled: Grateful (Epic)
Game Theory: 2 Steps From the Middle Ages (Omnivore)
Gensu Dean & Wise Intelligent: Game of Death (Mello Music)
Gunplay: The Plug (Real Talk Ent.)
Ice Cube: Death Certificate (25th anniversary ed.)(Cubevision)
Jarren Benton: The Mink Coat Killa (Benton Enterprise)
JL: Tech N9ne Present’s JL DIBKIS (Strange Music)
Joyner Lucas:  508-507-2209  (Atlantic)
Kero One & Azure: Kero & Azure (Plug)
Kool G Rap: Return of the Don (Clockwork Music)
Krayzie Bone: Eternal Legend (Real Talk Ent.)
Krayzie Bone & Young Noble: Thug Brothers 2 (Real Talk Ent.)
Mack Bone: What Y’all Want Me 2 Do? (Soundblanket)
Mazon: S/T (digital) (Mazon Music)
MC Eiht: Which Way Iz West (Year Round)
Monty: Monty Zoo II (RGF Productions)
Mr Capone-E: California Love – All Eyez on Me (Hi Power Ent.)
Propaganda: Crooked (Fair Trade)
Public Enemy: Nothing Is Quick in the Desert (free download)
Sadat X: Sum of a Man (vinyl) ( Dymond Mine)
Showbiz & A.G.: Take It Back (D.I.T.C.)
Stevie Stone: Level Up (Strange Music)
Stormzy: Gang Signs & Prayer (#Merky)
Twista: Crook County (GMG Ent.)
Various: Boombox 2: Early Independent Hip Hop, Electro & Disco Rap 1979-83 (Soul Jazz)
Vince Staples: Big Fish Theory (Def Jam)
Z-Ro: No Love Boulevard (1 Deep Ent.)

Reggae, Dancehall
Ambassa: Ride the Samples (Wakeditown)
Ammoye: The Light (eOne Music Canada)
Bob Marley & Wailers: Lively Up Yourself: Roots of a Revolution 1967-71 (Wewantsounds)

World
“Om” Alec Khaoli: Say You Love Me (Awesome Tapes From Africa)
Kondi Band: Salone (Strut)
Oté Maloya: Birth of Electric Maloya on Réunion Island 1975-86 (Strut)
Songhoy Blues: Resistance (Fat Possum)
Sonia Aimy: Nigerian Spirit (Saimy’s Art)
Supercombo: Explorations (Z Production)
Tanzania Albinism Collective: White African Power (Six Degrees)
Various: Beating Heart – South Africa Vol. 1 (Beating Heart)
Various: John Armstrong presents Afrobeat Brasil (BBE)
Various: Pop Makossa: Invasive Dance Beat of Cameroon 1976 -84 (Analog Africa)

View review July 5th, 2017

Welcome to the June African American Music Appreciation Month issue

Welcome to the June 2017 African American Music Appreciation Month edition of Black Grooves, sponsored by the Indiana University Archives of African American Music and Culture.

As one might expect, many of this month’s new releases come with a heavy dose of socio-political themes. These include our three featured jazz releases: vocalist Jazzmeia Horn’s debut album A Social Call, Brian McCarthy’s Civil War inspired project The Better Angels of Our Nature which drops a week before Juneteenth, and B3 virtuoso Gregory Lewis’ Organ Monk, The Breathe Suite which pays tribute to Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, and Aiyana Jones.  Other jazz releases include the Preservation Hall Jazz Band’s contemporary project So It Is, Terence Blanchard’s soundtrack album from The Comedian, and the new Wes Montgomery release from Resonance, Smokin’ in Seattle.

Two releases are devoted to African American composers: Zenobia Powell Perry Piano Works performed by Josephine Gandolfi, Deanne Tucker, and LaDoris Hazzard Cordell, and Richard Dowling’s new 3-CD box set The Complete Piano Works of Scott Joplin, released on the 100th anniversary of Joplin’s death. New R&B/soul releases include the CD/DVD Mavis Staples I’ll Take You There: An All-star Concert Celebration recorded in 2014, Mint Condition member Stokley Williams’ solo debut Introducing Stokley, and a preview of forthcoming reissues from Concord in celebration of Stax Records 60th Anniversary

Our politically conscious rap picks are Joey Badass’ All-Amerikkkan Bada$$ and Oddisee’s The Iceberg, while rock and funk-oriented releases include The New Respects’ Here Comes Trouble, Barbados-born singer-instrumentalist Bobby Saint’s Unholy EP, veteran Garland Jeffreys’ 14 Steps to Harlem, blues-rocker Selwyn Birchwood’s Pick Your Poison, and a compilation devoted to P-Funk’s Fuzzy Haskins I Got My Thang Together: The Westbound Years

Wrapping up this issue is Kenyan-born vocalist Naomi Wachira’s sophomore album Song of Lament; the compilation Zaire74: The African Artists featuring previously unreleased performances from the music festival surrounding the infamous “Rumble in the Jungle” boxing match; and our May 2017 Releases of Note.

View review June 2nd, 2017

Gregory Lewis – Organ Monk, The Breathe Suite

gregorylewis
Title: Organ Monk, The Breathe Suite

Artist: Gregory Lewis

Label: Self released

Formats: CD, MP3

Release date: May 5, 2017

 

A virtuoso on the Hammond B3, Gregory Lewis (aka Organ Monk) wowed the Chamber Music America conference last year when his group performed Thelonious Monk and a few of Lewis’s own chamber jazz compositions in their signature funky, Monk-inspired contrapuntally intricate style. One of those original works, The Breathe Suite, is featured on this newly released album, performed by Lewis with members of his regular quintet: tenor saxophonist Reggie Woods, trumpeter Riley Mullins, guitarist Ron Jackson, and drummer Jeremy “Bean” Clemons. Supplementing this line-up is drummer Nasheet Waits and guitarist Mark Ribot, who replace Clemons and Jackson on the first and third movements.

Four of the five movements of The Breathe Suite are dedicated to an African American killed during confrontations with police officers or vigilantes. With this project Lewis joins the ever growing rank of composers and musicians who write and perform as a personal form of protest: “I can’t protest, because if I protest I go to jail. And if I go to jail I can’t feed my five kids. So what I can do is what I do – I write music . . . Even if it brings joy for just a minute to these families, that’s what I can do.”

The first movement and by far the largest portion of the suite is “Chronicles of Michael Brown.” Clocking in at nearly 19 minutes, the track begins in an instrumental fog of distortion, over which the organ sounds an elegy. As the work progresses, one can’t help but reflect on the events of August 9, 2014, in Ferguson, Missouri, where Brown’s body lay on the pavement for hours on end. Likewise, the music seems to portray an alternate reality, where straight ahead solos are sharply punctuated at odd moments by organ or guitar, oftentimes shifting between free jazz and funk rock like a collision of cultures. As the movement builds to a climax, it becomes more atonal, gradually fading out on a cymbal roll like a spirit rising up to heaven.

The second movement, “Trayvon,” is of course dedicated to young Trayvon Martin, who was shot and killed on February 26, 2012 in Sanford, Florida. Scored for organ, guitar and drums, this track is more of a fast paced interlude, with Lewis freely riffing on the B3 and Jackson taking a brief guitar solo near the end. The trio continues in similar style on “Aiyana’s Jones Song,” referencing the seven-year-old girl shot and killed in 2010 during a Detroit Police raid. As the movement concludes, the instruments fall into a repetitive pattern, suggesting a never ending cycle.

“Eric Garner” is eulogized in the fourth movement by the full quintet. On this slow, haunting track, Lewis provides sustained chords on the B3 while the other instruments improvise, with special effects creating a discordant soundscape that has us floating through time and space. The suite concludes with “Ausar and the Race Soldiers” (reprised in the 6th track), a more straight ahead movement that still offers ample room for free improvisation and solos.

Gregory Lewis Quintet’s stated mission is “to expand upon the interpretation of jazz and create a catalogue of 21st century American originals.” In this they have surely succeeded, creating a highly original, socially conscious work inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement and the cycle of violence and deadly oppression which led to its creation.

Reviewed by Brenda Nelson-Strauss

 

View review June 2nd, 2017

Stax 60th Anniversary Releases

Stax

Just in time for Black Music Month, Concord Music Group announces its Stax Records 60th Anniversary celebration.  The year long celebration will include new hits compiliations as well as remastered vinyl offerings and brand new box sets with rare deep cuts from the Stax catalog.  Great tracks from artists like Isaac Hayes, Johnnie Taylor, The Staple Singer, Sam & Dave, Booker T. & The MGs and of course Otis Redding will be revisited during the year.

For those of us who are well steeped in the most popular output of the record label, Stax 60th also promises some surprises: a re-release of the soundtrack to Melvin Van Peebles’ Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song which features music by Earth, Wind & Fire in their pre-That’s The Way Of the World orientation; a box set spanning Isaac Hayes’ catalog from 1962-1976; and a new fourth volume of their acclaimed Complete Stax Singles box sets. This new box set will include lots of music from Stax’s subsidiary labels like Volt, Enterprise, Hip, Chalice and others.  While much of this music is being kept alive and well in Memphis at the Stax Museum of American Soul Music and Stax Music Academy, it’s a great time to make sure the whole world remembers what made the music from Stax Records so special. We’ll be reviewing these new releases in the near future.

Levon Williams

View review June 2nd, 2017

Mavis Staples I’ll Take You There – An All-Star Concert Celebration

Mavis
Title: Mavis Staples I’ll Take You There: An All-Star Concert Celebration

Artist: Various

Label: Blackbird Presents

Formats: CD, MP3, DVD

Release date: June 2, 2017

 

 

This exciting release is a star-studded celebration of Mavis Staples, honoring her 75th birthday and the soul music that shaped her career. Presented on both video and audio formats, this concert performance was recorded live at the Auditorium Theatre in Chicago on November 19, 2014. Each song features a line-up of special guest musicians performing with Mavis and her All-Star Band directed by Grammy Award-winner Don Was. Accomplished country, soul, and R&B musicians such as the late Gregg Allman, Bonnie Raitt, Keb’ Mo, Emmylou Harris, and Aaron Neville take the stage alongside up-and-coming generations of rock, folk, and soul musicians like Jeff and Spencer Tweedy, Grace Potter, and Glen Hansard.

YouTube Preview Image

The live concert exhibits high energy in every song and is certainly worth viewing for an all-consuming soulful experience. The show opens as Joan Osborne steps out on stage performing “You’re Driving Me (To The Arms of a Stranger)” followed by Keb’ Mo’ on “Heavy Makes You Happy.” A camera occasionally sets its focus off-stage on Mavis Staples’ joyful smile as she sings and dances along with the music.

From Buddy Miller’s “Woke Up This Morning (With My Mind On Jesus)” to Taj Mahal’s “Wade In The Water,” each performance adopts Christian themes and engages with gospel influences. Many of the songs featured in this concert, such as Michael McDonald’s “Freedom Highway” and Eric Church’s “Eyes On The Prize,” reflect Mavis’s dedication to the Civil Rights Movement when she sang with the Staple Singers. Aaron Neville’s gentle voice sweetly complements while sharply contrasts Mavis’ unrivaled iconic vocals on “Respect Yourself.”

Between songs on the DVD release, the guest artists share their appreciation for Mavis Staples and her creative contributions to soul and R&B music. Her commitment to quality and giving her best with every performance can be seen in her energy on stage and engagement with the audience, especially on her solo song, “I’ll Take You There.” The full ensemble on “The Weight” combines the spirit of the night in one final and satisfying crowd-pleaser. This explosive collection of renowned musicians sharing the stage to honor Mavis Staples feels like the greatest birthday party you would not want to miss. Luckily, you can catch the concert when it will be aired on the cable network AXS TV on June 4th.

Reviewed by Jennie Williams

View review June 2nd, 2017

Stokley – Introducing Stokley

Stokley
Title: Introducing Stokley

Artist: Stokley

Label: Concord

Formats: CD, MP3

Release date: June 23, 2017

 

 

Introducing Stokley by Stokley Williams is an interesting record, and I mean that in most complimentary way possible.  Williams, well known to R&B fans for the past twenty plus years as the lead singer of the band Mint Condition, steps out on Introducing Stokley to chart his own course. It would have been very easy for Williams to tread the tried and true path of Mint Condition (who are one of the best bands to come out of the 1990s along with Tony! Toni! Toné!), but instead Williams brings forth an offering which is simultaneously approachable and eclectic.

The album’s opener and lead single “Level” finds Williams embracing a modern R&B feel with hip-hop leanings.  The track is rhythmic and bangs with hard 808 drums that compliment Williams’ always excellent singing surprisingly well.

On “Think of U” Stokley’s voice, which sounds somewhat reminiscent of Stevie Wonder, is on full display. Williams has always been a strong vocalist and he doesn’t hold back on his solo debut. “Art In Motion” serves as kind of a bridge between electronic and acoustic music, with an appearance by Robert Glasper on keyboards.  The song’s breakdown is especially interesting as all the elements mix together.

“Victoria” is probably the most “experimental” track on the album, playing into Williams’ flair for drama as a man pleading for a woman’s presence.  The musical backing for the song includes elements of jazz, R&B and African influences, all held together by Stokley’s vocals which he enjoys playing around with throughout the track. “U&I” is a duet with Estelle which works very well as a modern adaptation of the great male/female duos like Donny Hathaway & Roberta Flack or Jerry Butler & Thelma Houston.  “Forecast” sees Williams’ incorporating an ever so slight hard rock element as he laments the difficult outlook on a not-so-good relationship.  The album’s closer, “Wheels Up,” is an uplifting (pun intended) track about not letting others rain on your parade.  Williams, who is also a talented percussionist, lends some steel drum to this track.

With Introducing Stokley, the artist achieves the difficult task of engaging fans of his work with Mint Condition while making this solo effort truly his own.

Reviewed by Levon Williams

 

View review June 2nd, 2017

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