Posts filed under 'African American Culture & History'

Welcome to the June Black Music Month issue

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

This month we’re traveling back in time to celebrate three of the most important African American composers of the early 20th century. First, Noble Sissle and Eubie Blake perform original songs from their groundbreaking 1921 Broadway musical on Sissle & Blake Sing Shuffle Along. The works of R. Nathaniel Dett are featured on two recent projects: My Cup Runneth Over: The Complete Piano Works of R. Nathaniel Dett performed by Clipper Erickson, and the oratorio The Ordering of Moses in a live performance by the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and May Festival Chorus under James Conlon.

Our featured DVD this month, Stretch & Bobbito: Radio That Changed Lives, highlights one of the greatest hip hop radio shows of all time. Also under the hip hop category is the genre-bending album Gone With the Trends by the St. Louis-based act illPHONiCS.

Under jazz, we’re featuring Robert Glasper’s Miles Davis tribute Everything’s Beautiful, Marcus Strickland’s Nihil Novi, and Bill Evans’s Some Other Time: the Lost Session from the Black Forest.

Folk and gospel music releases include the Walker Family Singers’ Panola County Spirit, Leyla McCalla’s A Day for the Hunter, A Day for the Prey, and the reissue of two early Staple Singers’ albums Amen! and Why.

Wrapping up this issue is our list of May 2016 Releases of Note.

View review June 1st, 2016

Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra & May Festival Chorus; James Conlon, conductor – R. Nathaniel Dett: The Ordering of Moses — Live From Carnegie Hall

the ordering of moses

Title: The Ordering of Moses – Live From Carnegie Hall

Composer: R. Nathaniel Dett

Artists: Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra & May Festival Chorus; James Conlon, conductor

Label:  Bridge

Formats: CD

Release date: May 10, 2016


R. Nathaniel Dett (1882-1943) was one of the most important and highly regarded Black composers of the early twentieth century. Educated at Ohio’s Oberlin Conservatory (B. Mus, 1908), he began his career as a composer and pianist, but also regularly served as a choral conductor—first, at his local church, later as director of the choirs at the Hampton Institute in Virginia and Bennett College in Greensboro, NC.

In 1932 Dett composed his first large choral work, The Ordering of Moses (subtitled Biblical Folk Scene for Soli, Chorus and Orchestra), as his master’s thesis for the Eastman School of Music, but it wasn’t published until 1937. That same year it was premiered at the Cincinnati May Festival under Eugene Goossens. Begun in 1873 and initially directed by Theodore Thomas (who later led the New York Philharmonic and Chicago Symphony Orchestra), the May Festival is one of the oldest and most prestigious choral festivals in the U.S., with a long history of championing and premiering new works. The programming of Dett’s oratorio was a major coup for the composer, especially since it was broadcast live nationwide over NBC radio (apparently three-quarters of the concert still exists on lacquer disc airchecks).[i] The work was subsequently performed in other major cities and revived by the May Festival in 1956 with Leontyne Price as a featured soloist, but has seldom been heard since.

Nearly 80 years later, James Conlon and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra decided to premiere The Ordering of Moses in New York at Carnegie Hall as part of their Spring For Music initiative, reflecting concerted efforts to bring the community together through diversified programming. The concert captured in this recording was performed live on May 9, 2014 and features the May Festival Chorus led by Robert Porco (who taught choral conducting for 20 years at the IU Jacobs School of Music). The soloists, who all give exceptional performances, include soprano Latonia Moore as Miriam, tenor Rodrick Dixon as Moses, mezzo-soprano Ronnita Nicole Miller as the voice of Israel, and baritone Donnie Ray Albert as the voice of God/the Word.

The oratorio uses “text based on scripture and folklore” and draws from the books of Exodus and Lamentations, but also weaves in the words of spirituals, with strains of “Go Down Moses” serving as a leitmotif throughout. It’s apparent from the introduction that this is a monumental work of the highest order, shedding new light on Dett’s ability to write for a full orchestra. On the opening choruses, string and harp solos combine with the rattling of chains to depict the lament of “All Israel’s Children” and “O Lord, Behold My Affliction.” The track “Who Hath Made a Man Dumb” concludes with a full chorus arrangement of “Go Down Moses” which segues into an orchestral interlude. Other highlights include the operatic “When Moses Smote the Water” followed by the thrilling and very cinematic interlude “The Egyptians Pursue.” The oratorio concludes on a hopeful note with the chorus “He Is the King of Kings” as the freed Israelites rejoice.

The Ordering of Moses stands the test of time, as relevant today as in 1937, and in no way feels dated or self-conscious. Thanks to the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra we now have an excellent modern recording of Dett’s oratorio, performed to very high standards, that truly honors the genius of R. Nathaniel Dett.

Reviewed by Brenda Nelson-Strauss

[i]The world premiere performance from 1937 was released on LP in 1972 by Unique Opera Records (UORC 113); a performance recorded by the Mobile Symphony Orchestra at the Centennial Arts Festival at Talladega College was released on LP in 1968 by Silver Crest (TAL 42868 S.).

View review June 1st, 2016

illPHONiCS – Gone with the Trends

illphonics gone with the trends

Title: “Gone with the Trends”

Artist: illPHONiCS

Label: The Record Machine

Formats: CD, MP3

Release date: April 1, 2016



St. Louis-based hip hop act illPHONiCS draws from a variety of musical influences, including rock, funk, and soul in its genre-bending blend of rap music with a live backing band.  In the vein of fellow musical polymaths The Roots, it might be possible to describe the group’s effective musical fusion in the words of Fallout Morris, the group’s MC: “musicality bliss from beginning to finish.” In my opinion, live bands may provide some of the most fertile territory for the ever-diversifying future of rap music, as many top name acts such as Kendrick Lamar are blending a live approach with electronic sounds and sampling. illPHONiCS are certainly on the cutting edge of this movement.

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illPHONiCS’s core group looks (and often sounds) more like a rock band than a rap group.  Morris is joined by Keith Moore a.k.a. William Gray on keyboards, Kevin Koehler on guitar, Simon “Spank” Chervitz on bass, and Chaz “CB” Brew on drums, organ, and vocals.  illPHONiCS is a group full of musical shapeshifters who play the funky “Liquid Spaceships” as convincingly as they play the ’90s alt-rock tinged (think Radiohead’s heavier moments) “Sweet Missouri (’miz(a)rē).”

The band’s music is propelled by Morris’s lyrics. The group’s MC eschews commercial rap cliches in favor of nuanced storytelling that smacks of rap’s poetic underground, as in “96 to 99,” a love letter to the classic rap groups that ruled the airwaves during that era.  ilPHONiCS also jump on current events (a trend that has been popular with artists in 2015 and 2016) on “The Brown Frequency,” a cut about Michael Brown’s death at the hands of police and the protests in Ferguson, Missouri that followed.  Unlike many other artists who treat this subject from a distance, alluding to social unrest indirectly or expressing some kind of vague solidarity, illPHONiCS speak to the subject with a more authoritative voice.  Not only is the group from the St. Louis area, but the lyrics to “The Brown Frequency” demonstrate specificity both of cause and of remedy that are unfortunately lacking from many other so-called “protest” records in 2016. The group takes a more introspective turn on “Gone with the Trends,” an anthem about personal authenticity.  However, illPHONiCS aren’t above including more standard fare such as “Love’s Not Far,” a number about unrequited love, and the smooth-funk party anthem, “Everything (Jammin For You).”

The diversity on Gone with the Trends” is matched only by the band’s tight musicianship and Fallout Morris’s silky-smooth rhymes.  Alternative hip hop fans will definitely want to give this release a few spins.

Reviewed by Matthew Alley

View review June 1st, 2016

Marcus Strickland’s Twi-Life – Nihil Novi

marcus strickland_nihil Novi

Title: Nihil Novi

Artist: Marcus Strickland’s Twi-Life

Label: Blue Note

Formats: CD, MP3

Release Date: April 15,2016



Jazz is the DNA of Marcus Strickland’s Twi-Life’s album Nihil Novi, produced by well-known avant-garde soul singer and bassist, Meshell Ndegeocello. This release is a collection of experimental expressionist jazz, playing upon the listener’s expectations as a strategy to arouse an emotional response. Expressionism is an undercurrent in many of the most recent contemporary jazz releases, such as Kamasi Washington’s The Epic and Terrace Martin’s Velvet Portraits. Perhaps this wave of expressionistic jazz is brought to us by hip hop culture or African American social and political dissent, channeling the emotional component of critique and protest. Might it be part of a larger wave or even school of jazz that the history books might look back on as characteristic of the 2010s? What we know is that Nihil Novi is an album of incredible compositions that are some of the best produced in contemporary jazz. Its songs give a listener some sort of triumphant feeling of melancholy, or what writer Albert Murray would describe as a feeling that can “stomp the blues.”

Every musician delivers on Nihil Novi. Twi-Life is made up of trumpeter Keyon Harrold, bassist Kyle Miles, drummer Charles Haynes, organist Mitch Henry, and keyboardist Masayuki Hirano. Singer Jean Baylor, bassists Pino Palladino and Meshell Ndegeocello, keyboardist James Francies, drummer Chris Dave, guitarist Chris Bruce, and pianist Robert Glasper also contribute. The end product is an album of poignant nuance, thrilling through its multitude of precise sounds and gorgeous songs. If the pieces on Nihil Novi were paintings, they would all be colored in dark hues. All of its songs were expressly composed for this album and fulfill the ambition that much American music has to take a look at the underbelly of things, even though this desire seems to be less present in contemporary jazz than other genres. The record’s songs are poignant, often sounding as if they were deliberately produced to leave us feeling unhinged.

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“Talking Loud” features an excellent blend of saxophone, organ, singing and drumming. While the track’s subdued vocals (sung by Jean Baylor) take on a kind of emotionally numbing effect, the band’s playing is this cut’s most engaging feature. Baylor is also featured on “Alive,” which sounds like an R&B song accompanied by a jazz combo. On these two tracks, the vocalist takes turns with Marcus Strickland at being the center of attention, but ultimately the band’s leader delivers a more impressive performance.  “Sissoko’s Voyage” might be one of this year’s best jazz songs—its melody and rhythm exuding a spiritual, infectious optimism. “Cherish Family,” “Celestelude,” “Drive,” and “Mantra” are all expertly composed and played, while “Inevitable” smacks of soul jazz and is perhaps the one song in which Baylor’s vocals shine brightest. “Cycle” may be one of the very best compositions of the year. It speaks to eros and ethos: the pursuit of both laughter and seriousness through balanced living. This is jazz that plays to our notions of play and of contemplation, creating emotional balance through musical proportions. Some will also be reminded of Miles Davis’s experiments in jazz fusion in the later part of his career.

Nihil Novi is one of the best jazz releases so far this year, and is also one of the strongest efforts by a group in any genre. Each and every song is surprising, all the while being deeply rooted in the “stomping the blues” tradition that informs most excellent African American music, and informed by its own moment in American cultural history.


Reviewed by Adolf Alzuphar

View review June 1st, 2016

May 2016 Releases of Note

Following are additional albums released during May 2016—some will be reviewed in future issues of Black Grooves.

Blues, Folk, Country
Eric Bibb: Happiest Man In The World (Stony Plain)

Pumeza Matshikiza: Arias (Decca)

Gospel, Gospel Rap
Mighty Clouds of Joy: Millennium Collection – 20th Century Masters Vol. 2 (MCA)
Tim Bowman Jr.: Listen (Lifestyle Music Group LLC)
Puntin: Gold (Puntanious Ent.)
Reverend C. Coleman: Rock Gospel Time (reissue)
LIVRE: Jericho: Tribe Of Joshua (Bellamy)
Blind Boys of Alabama: Spirit Of The Century (expanded ed.) (Omnivore)
Echoaires: Stronger Than Ever (Ecko)
Micah Stampley: To The King…Vertical Worship (eOne)
Latice Crawford: Diary of a Church Girl (ECHO PARK JDI)

Gregory Porter: Take Me To The Alley (Blue Note)
Black Milk and Not Turner: The Rebellion Sessions (Computer Ugly Records)
Miles Davis: Chicago Jazz Festival 1990: The Classic Broadcast (Go Faster)
Chrisette Michele: Milestone 1 – Minimalism (Universal)
Lafayette Harris Jr. : Hangin’ With The Big Boys (Airmen Records)
Phyllis Blanford: Edgewalker
Cannonball Adderley Quintet: The Price You Got to Pay to Be Free (Real Gone)
Cannonball Adderley Quintet: Music, You All (Real Gone)
Noah Preminger: Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground (
Jack DeJohnette/Ravi Coltrane/Matthew Garrison: In Movement (ECM)
Davell Crawford : Piano in the Vaults, No. 1 (Basin Street)
Maxine Sullivan: Great Songs from the Cotton Club (reissue) (Harbinger)
Allen Toussaint: The Complete Warner Recordings (Rhino/Warner Bros.)
Rene Marie: Sound of Red (Motemo)
Chico Freeman 4-Tet: Spoken Into Existence (Jive)
Defunkt: Live at Channel Zero (ESP-DISK )
Allen Toussaint: The Complete Warner Recordings (re-release) (Rhino/Warner Bros.)
Ivo Perelman & Matthew Shipp: Soul (Leo)
Ivo Perelman & Matthew Shipp: Corpo (Leo)
René Marie: Sound of Red (Motema Music)
Cyrus Chestnut: Natural Essence (Highnote)
JD Allen: Americana – Musings on Jazz and Blues (Savant)
Luis Perdomo : Spirits and Warriors (Criss Cross)
Dayme Arocena: One Takes (Brownswood)

R&B, Soul
Trammps: The Legendary Zing Album (Fever Dreams)
Smiley Lewis: Collection: 1947-61 (Acrobat)
Nancy Wilson: The Early Years, 1956-62 (Acrobat)
Gloria Gaynor: Glorious: Expanded Ed. (BBR)
The Independents: Just As Long – The Complete Wand Recordings 1972-74 (Kent)
Billy Ocean: Here You Are: The Best of (Sony)
Esther Phillips: Capricorn Princess: Expanded Ed. (SoulMusic)
Kool & The Gang: Emergency (deluxe ed.) (BBR)
Beyoncé: Lemonade (Columbia)
George McCrae: Love (Popmi Music)
Corinne Bailey Rae: The Heart Speaks In Whispers (Virgin)
Slim: Re-Fueled (Shanachie)
Trammps: Trammps III (expanded ed.) (BBR)
Fifth Harmony: *7/27* (Syco Music/Epic)
Fly Moon Royalty: Delicious Trouble (Self issued)
Jermaine Jackson: Dynamite (expanded ed.) (Funky Town Grooves)
Tavares: Words & Music (expanded ed.) (Funky Town Grooves)
Audrey Wheeler: Let It Be Me (expanded ed.) (Funky Town Grooves)
T.K. Soul: Legacy (Music Access Inc.)
Maxine Brown: Funny Kind of Feeling: Complete 1960-1962 Recordings (Jasmine Music)
Rich Medina: Presents Jump ‘N’ Funk (BBE)
Bernie Worrell: Retrospectives (Purple Woo)
Real Thing: Live At The Liverpool Philharmonic 2013 (Angel Air)
Ro James: Eldorado (RCA)

Rap, Hip Hop
Kaytranada: 99.9% (XL)
Elzhi: Lead Poison (Slum Village)
Slum Village: Fan-Tas-Tic (Box set)(Get on Down)
M1 (Dead Prez) & Bonnot: Between Me And The World (Krian Music Group)
Yawl: A pile to keep, a pile to burn (Anette)
Bryan Ford & Killah Priest: Future of Hip Hop (Revolutionary Music)
Homeboy Sandman: Kindness for Weakness (Stones Throw)
Jay Dee/J Dilla: Jay Love Japan (Vintage Vibes)
Ohbliv: Bakers Dozen (Fat Beats)
The Legendary Traxster: Black Saints (digital) (Legendary Traxster Inc.)
Chance the Rapper: Coloring Book mixtape (download)
Oddisee: The Odd Tape (Mello Music Group)
David Banner: The God Box (A Banner Vision)
Cymarshall Law & Mr. Joeker: Hip Hop In The Soul III (Freedom Ent.)
Havoc & Alchemist: Silent Partner (Babygrande Records)
Afroman: Happy To Be Alive (X-Ray)
Masta Ace: Falling Season (Showdown / Hhv.De)
J-Zone: Fish-N-Grits (Old Maid Ent.)
Unity Lewis (ft. George Clinton): 7th Dynasty (Unity Lewis Arts and Entertainment)
Zo!: Skybreak (Foreign Exchange)
Zodiac Mprint: Ride the Stars EP (Majik Ninja)
DJ Quik and Problem: Rosecrans  (Diamond Lane Music)
Various: Boombox: Early Independent Hip-Hop, Electro and Disco Rap 1979-82 (Soul Jazz)
Skepta: Konnichiwa (Better Boy Know)
DâM-Funk: DJ Kicks (K7)
Jigmastas: Resurgence (BBE)
Legalizers (Paul Wall & Baby Bash): Legalize or Die (Paul Wall Music)

Reggae, Dancehall
Gregory Isaacs: Warning (Dubstore)
Henry ‘Junjo’ Lawes: Junjo Presents: Heavyweight Dub Champion(Greensleeves)
Henry ‘Junjo’ Lawes: Junjo Presents: Evil Curse of the Vampire (Greensleeves)
Ernest Ranglin: Boss Reggae (Dubstore)
Henry ‘Junjo’ Lawes: Junjo Presents: Big Showdown (Greensleeves)
Alboroise: Freedom & Fyah (VP)
Tippa Lee: Cultural Ambassador (VP)
Ziggy Marley: Ziggy Marley (VP)
Count Ossie & The Mystic Revelation Of Rastafari: Man From Higher Heights (Soul Jazz)
The Sea: Red String Riddim EP (Tru Thoughts)
Raging Fyah: Everlasting (VP)
Wailers: Wailing Wailers (reissue) (Studio One)

Family Atlantica: Cosmic Unity (Soundway)
Elza Soares: woman at the end of the world (Mais Um Discos)
Debo Band: Ere Gobez (FPE)

View review June 1st, 2016

Welcome to the May 2016 Issue

Welcome to the May 2016 edition of Black Grooves, sponsored by the Indiana University Archives of African American Music and Culture.

Kicking off this month’s issue is jazz guitarist Anthony Wilson’s Frogtown, a blend of jazz and Americana that serves as a musical tribute to Wilson’s home neighborhood. Other jazz releases include the soundtrack for Don Cheadle’s impressionistic Miles Davis biopic Miles Ahead, trumpeter Theo Croker’s spaced-out Escape Velocity, and the smooth jazz of Rick Braun, Kirk Whalum and Norman Brown’s BWB. We’re also featuring old jazz material that is now being released for the first time, including a recently unearthed Sarah Vaughan performance from 1978, Live at Rosy’s, and a set of recordings made by jazz organist Larry Young in 1964 and 1965, In Paris – The ORTF Recordings.

In hip hop, we have Kanye West’s latest effort Life of Pablo, Anderson.Paak’s Malibu, and Newark rapper Beneficence’s Basement Chemistry. BJ The Chicago Kid blends hip hop with soul on In My Mind.  We’re also featuring another genre-bending album, Santigold’s 99 Cents.

We have The Relatives’ Goodbye World, a new gospel funk release from a group that was not adequately appreciated in its time. This month’s book review is of sumdumhonky, a memoir by R&B pioneer Lloyd Price.

We’re featuring three fusion-oriented world music releases this month: Monistic Theory, an eclectic collaboration between producer Joe Driscoll and kora player Sekou Kouyate; Daby Touré’s diverse Amonafi; and the updated Haitian rara of Ram’s Ram 6: Manmman m se Ginen.

Wrapping up this month’s issue are two expanded Blind Boys of Alabama reissues, Spirit of the Century and Higher Ground, as well as our list of April 2016 Releases of Note.

View review May 2nd, 2016

April 2016 Releases of Note

Following are additional albums released during April 2016—some will be reviewed in future issues of Black Grooves.

Blues, Folk, Country
B.B. King: The King’s Blues Box (3 LP set) (Stardust)
Little Junior Parker: Next Time You See Me…Complete Singles 1952-1962 (Jasmine)
Keb’ Mo’: Live – That Hot Pink Blues Album
Sonny Mack: Get on Up! (Ecko)
Bobby Blue Bland: Further on Up the Road: The Duke Recordings (Southern Routes)
Sugar Blue: Voyage (M.C. Records)
Otis Rush and Buddy Guy: Live in Chicago ’88 (Klondike)
Teddy Thompson and Kelly Jones: Little Windows
Professor Longhair: Live at the University of Chicago Folk Festival (Select-O-Hits)
Kwesi Forae : 27 EP

Funk, Rock, Pop, Electronic
Various: Sissle & Blake Sing Shuffle Along (Harbinger)
Cha Wa : Funk ‘n’ Feathers
The Relatives: Goodbye World (Luv N Haight Records)
DJ Rashad: Afterlife (Teklife)
The Heavy: Hurt & Merciless (Bad Son Recording Company)
Ben Harper & the Innocent Criminals: Call It What It Is (Stax)
Lilith Ai : Riot (EP Deluxe, digital) (Lo)
Snarky Puppy: Culcha Vulcha
Judith Hill (with Prince): Back in Time (NPG)
Prince:  HITNRUN Phase Two (NPG)
Juan Atkins & Moritz von Oswald: Present Borderland – Transport (Tresor)

Gospel, Gospel Rap
Da’ T.r.u.t.h: It’s Complicated
Various: Hallelujah: The Journey of Larry Clark – O.S.T. (Larry Clark Gospel)
Chicago Mass Choir: We Give You Praise (New Haven )
Various: Feel Good! 40 Years Of Life Changing Music (Tyscot)

Various: Miles Ahead Original Soundtrack (Legacy)
Robert Glasper: EVERYTHING’S BEAUTIFUL: Recordings of Miles Davis Reimagined (Legacy)
Nick Colionne: The Journey
HenryThreadgill Double-Up Ensembl : Old Locks and Irregular Verbs (Pi Recordings)
Anthony Braxton: 3 Compositions (EEMHM) 2011 (Firehouse 12)
George Coleman : A Master Speaks (Smoke Sessions)
Ralph Peterson: TriAngular III (Onyx Music/Truth Revolution)
Marcus Strickland’s Twi-Life: Nihil Novi (Blue Note)
Anthony Wilson: Frogtown (Goat Hill Recordings)
Various: Jazz Dispensary: Cosmic Stash (Record Store Day special ed.) (Fantasy)
Shola Adisa-Farrar & Florian Pellissier Quintet: Lost Myself (Hot Casa)
James Tatum : Contemporary Jazz Mass (reissue) (Jazzman)
BWB (Norman Brown, Kirk Whalum, Rick Braun ): BWB (Artistry Music )
Yellowjackets: Cohearence (Mack Ave.)
Bill Evans:  Some Other Time: the Lost Session from the Black Forest (Resonance)
Mat Walerian/Matthew Shipp/Hamid Drake: Live at Okuden (ESP Disk)
Albert Ayler: European Radio Studio Recordings 1964
Gail Thompson: Jadu (Enja)
Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers: Justice: Live in Amsterdam November 1959 (Dutch Jazz Archive)

R&B, Soul
Charles Bradley: Changes (Dunham / Daptone )
James Brown & The Famous Flames: The Roots Of Revolution (Southern Routes)
Various: One Track Mind! More Motown Guys (Kent)
Deep Street Soul: Come Alive! (Freestyle)
Charles Wright: Something to Make You Feel Good
Javier Colon: Gravity (Concord)
Musiq Soulchild: Life on Earth (eOne)
KeKe Wyatt: Rated Love (Aratek Ent.)
Reverend Billy and the Stop Shopping Choir: The Earth Wants YOU! (album + book)
Impressions: “The Best Of The Impressions: The Curtom Years” (Varese Sarabande)
Emotions: Blessed: The Emotions Anthology 1969-1985  (Cherry Red)
Bo-Keys: Heartaches by the Number (Omnivore)
Boulevards : Groove! (Captured Tracks)

Rap, Hip Hop
Illphonics: Gone With the Trends (Record Machine)
Lil Keke: Slfmade (Hustletown)
Epidemic : 4 Dimensions On A Paper (Mic-Theory)
Krizz Kaliko: Go (Strange Music)
Phesto and Izrell: Guillotine Music (Hieroglyphics Imperium)
Euclid: Save yourself ( Backwoodz Studioz)
J Dilla: The Diary (Mass Appeal)
Mr. Lif:  Don’t Look Down (Mello Music)
Royce Da 5’9″:Layers (Bad Half Ent.)
Boosie Badazz & C-Murder:  Penitentiary Chances
Grand Puba: Black from the Future (Ihiphop Dist.)
Lord Finesse: The Remixes: A Midas Era Retrospective (Slice-of-Spice)
Chuuwee & Trizz: AmeriKKa’s Most Blunted 2 (Below System)
GAIKA: Security (Mixpak)
A$AP Ferg: Always Strive and Prosper (RCA)
Freeway: Free Will ( Babygrande)
Aesop Rock: The Impossible Kid (Rhymesayers)
Horseshoe Gang: Anti Trap Music
Various: Empire: Original Soundtrack, Season 2  (Columbia)
Ty Dolla Sign: Coast 2 Coast 265 (Yikes)
Horseshoe Gang: Anti-Trap Music (Gracie)
Freeway: Free Will (Ihiphop )

Reggae, Dancehall
Richie Stephens and The Ska Nation Band : Internationally (Zojak World Wide)
Still Cool: Still Cool ( Uprising/Deeper Knowledge)
Alpha Blondy & the Solar System: Positive Energy (VP)
Phill Pratt : Star Wars Dub (Burning Sounds)
Linval Thompson: Linval Presents: Space Invaders (Greensleaves)

Lakou Mizik: Wa Di Yo (Cumbancha)
Various: Every Song Has Its End: Sonic Dispatches From Traditional Mali (K7)
Moken: Chapters of My Life (Bantu)
Fela Ransome Kuti & His Koola Lobitos : Highlife-Jazz and Afro-Soul (Knitting Factory)
Alma Afrobeat Ensemble: It’s Time
Various: Every Song Has Its End (CD + DVD) (Glitterbeat/K7)
Nikhil P. Yerawadekar & Low Mentality: Everything Lasts Forever (3rd Generation Recordings)
Wake Up You! The Rise and Fall of Nigerian Rock Vol. 1 (Now-Again)

View review May 2nd, 2016

Welcome to the April 2016 Issue

Welcome to the April 2016 edition of Black Grooves, sponsored by the Indiana University Archives of African American Music and Culture.

April is Jazz Appreciation Month, and we have several featured jazz releases including Snarky Puppy’s newest DVD/CD combo Family Dinner Volume 2, drummer Zane Rudolfo’s debut EP Pathways, the “Cuban Cubism” of Aruán Oritz’s Hidden Voices, and Raphael Imbert’s transatlantic collaboration Music is My Home.   We’re also featuring a review of the documentary Killer B3: A Documentary about the Hammond Organ, which focuses on jazz musicians who pioneered the instrument’s use in the genre as well a new release by one of the artists interviewed in the documentary, Dr. Lonnie Smith’s Evolution.

This month’s issue also features Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra’s hybrid liturgical/jazz CD/DVD project The Abyssinian Mass, which celebrates the relationship between jazz and African American religious life. Other releases with spiritual themes include the Christian rapper Lecrae’s newest mixtape Church Clothes 3,  YouTube gospel sensation Bri’s debut album Keys to My Heart, and the anti-consumerist gospel of Reverend Billy and the Stop Shopping Choir, on their special Earth Day release The Earth Wants You.

In blues, we have Guy Davis’s Kokomo Kid and Keb Mo’s slick playing and singing on That Hot Pink Blues Album. We have folk rockers Birds of Chicago’s Real Midnight, Mardi Gras rockers Cha Wa’s Funk n’ Feathers and Detroit DJ Moodyman returns with DJ-KicksAlso included are the Haitian folk-fusion group Lakou Mizik’s Wa Di Yo and Silk’s “grown-man sexy” release Quiet Storm.

Finally, this issue features two reissues, a limited edition vinyl of Fred Wesley and the J.B.’s Damn Right I Am Somebody and a CD release of funk group Anglo-Saxon Brown’s 1976 album Songs for Evolution.  Wrapping up this month’s issue is our list of March 2016 Releases of Note.

View review April 1st, 2016

Fred Wesley and the J.B.’s – Damn Right I Am Somebody

Fred wesley and the jbs_damn right i am somebody

Title: Damn Right I Am Somebody

Artist: Fred Wesley and the J.B.’s

Label: Get On Down/Universal Special Markets/People Records

Format: LP with bonus “Flexi Disc” single

Release Date: February 5, 2016


The first half of the 1970s was a very productive time for James Brown and the musicians in his orbit. Damn Right I Am Somebody, produced by Brown under the moniker of Fred Wesley and the J.B.’s, was released in 1974 on the heels of Brown’s highly successful double-LP The Payback. Many of the same musicians are heard on both albums—some parts were recorded by the same J.B.’s who toured with Brown, and other parts with a band of crack NYC studio musicians.

Fred Wesley, trombone player extraordinaire, was Brown’s bandleader in that era. The J.B.’s were in constant personnel flux in the 1970s, particularly with saxman Maceo Parker and bassist Bootsy Collins moving between Brown’s orbit and the George Clinton/Parliament world. As was the case on previous and future J.B.’s albums, the emphasis here is funky instrumentals, and longer explorations of riffs and hooks, rather than tight, radio-singles-oriented vocal-centric songs typical of Brown’s name-brand output (although, on his LP releases, Brown and his band always included stretched-out versions that featured instrumental solos and pyrotechnics).

At the time of this album, James Brown was in his peak Godfather of Soul period, and used his voice in the popular culture to espouse black liberation and empowerment. The album title is a reference to the poem “I Am – Somebody,” written in the 1950s by Rev. William Holmes Borders, Sr., the senior pastor at Atlanta’s Wheat Street Baptist Church. In the 1970s, Rev. Jesse Jackson often quoted the poem in his public speeches, perhaps most famously at the 1972 Wattstax music festival. A loop of Jackson quoting the poem underlies part of “Same Beat – Part 1,” the first cut on side B of this funky vinyl slab. A studio-chatter riff of Brown calling on various band members and asking, “are you somebody?” followed by the response “damn right, I am somebody!” starts off side A and the title track.

Another “message” song is the last cut on side A, “I’m Payin’ Taxes, What Am I Buyin’.” Given that it’s tax-paying season, perhaps a listen to this tune on Youtube will salve some of the sting.

Another significant cut on the album is “Blow Your Head.” In an interview with the Red Bull Music Academy, Wesley told the story of how a Moog synthesizer ended up on the track:

“We used a New York studio band sometimes and that was recorded with the studio band. So James came in and he wanted to hear it. I thought he was gonna put his voice on it. He saw this Moog synthesizer, and he said [mimicking James’ voice], “What’s that?” So we said, “Oh that’s a Moog synthesizer, Mr. Brown. We’re thinkin’ about using it on some of the tunes.” He said, “How’s it sound?” “Well, we went through some sounds with it.” He said, “Turn it on! Put it on the track!” We said, “What? No, we were gon’-” “Turn it on! Put it on the track!”

So he put it on the track. [imitates sound of synth intro] I said, “Oh lord, I hope he don’t leave this on, it’s messin’ up my track!” [laughs] So he put it on THE WHOLE TRACK. And we could not believe it. We were like, it’s just an experiment, this will stay in the studio forever, no one will ever hear this. And what do you know, it got out on the album and the next thing you know it’s a hit all over the world.” (full interview here)

Hip-hop fans will probably recognize parts of “Blow Your Head.” It’s been widely sampled by artists such as Public Enemy, Digable Planets and De La Soul. Included with this LP reissue is a 7-by-7-inch “flexi-disc” of the “2000 undubbed version,” which doesn’t include the Moog synthesizer. It is fertile sampling fodder, aside from being a super-tight funk instrumental.

This album flows from song-to-song without breaks. As each tune fades out or stops on a beat, a loose studio jam, replete with Brown shrieks and screams, fades out, rides for a few dozen seconds, and fades out, with the next tune immediately starting. This technique was later used as a “concept album” method by Brown and other funk and soul artists. The “faded in and out jam” serves as a musical connector and bedrock. Here, it give the album a feeling of an endless groove/jam, to the last 33⅓ rotations.

Also worth mentioning about this vinyl reissue are the heavy cardboard jacket, faithful reproduction of original graphics, and the column of repeated text on the back which relays the album’s core message: “Think that you are somebody, and you’ll be somebody. Positive Thinking, Positive Thinking, Positive Thinking.”

To get a flavor of James Brown and the J.B.s in the early 70’s, check out their appearances on the Soul Train TV show circa 1974 (“Damn Right I Am Somebody” and interview) and September 14, 1974 (medley of “Cold Sweat,” “Payback,” “Damn Right I Am Somebody”). Also, see the excellent documentary, Soul Power.


Reviewed by Tom Fine



View review April 1st, 2016

March 2016 Releases of Note

Following are additional albums released during March 2016—some will be reviewed in future issues of Black Grooves.

Blues, Folk, Country
Tasha Taylor: Honey for the Biscuit (Ruf)
Sam Frazier, Jr. : Take Me Back (Music Maker Foundation)

Funk, Rock, Pop, Electronic
Million Dollar Ecstasy: Million Dollar Ecstasy (reissue) (Manufactured Recordings)
The Knocks: 55* (Atlantic/Big Beat)
Starchild & The New Romantic: Crucial EP (Ghostly)
Bonzai: Sleepy Hungry EP (digital)

Gospel, Gospel Rap
Echoaires: Stronger Than Ever (Ecko)
Various: Gospel’s Best: Songs of Hope (Motown)
Deon Kipping: Something to Talk About (RCA)
Jonathan Nelson: Fearless (eOne)
Walker Family Singers: Panola County Spirit (Daptone)
Cory Henry: The Revival [CD/DVD Combo] (Ground Up)
Israel Tutson: Sand Castles (digital)
Propaganda: Selected Songs (Fair Trade Services)
Mr . Del: Love Noize (digital)

Kenny Barron : Book of Intuition (impulse!)
Arturo O’Farrill Sextet: Boss Level (Zoho)
Alfredo Rodriguez: Tocororo (Mack Avenue)
Zawinul Syndicate: Hollywood Bowl 1993 (Hi Hat)
Larry Young: In Paris: The ORTF Recordings (Resonance)
Jason Miles: To Grover With Love (Live in Japan) (Whaling City Sounds)
Freddy Cole: He Was the King (HighNote)
Russell Malone: All About Melody (HighNote)
Blue Mitchell & Sonny Red: Baltimore 1966 (Uptown Jazz)
Phillip Doc Martin: Pocket Love (Innervision)
Makaya McCraven: In the Moment (deluxe ed.) (International Anthem )
Danny Barker: New Orleans Jazz Man And Raconteur (GHB)
Vijay Iyer & Wadada Leo Smith: A Cosmic Rhythm With Each Stroke (ECM)
The JT Project:  Moments of Change (MRI)
Quincy Jones and His Orchestra: Live in Ludwigshafen 1961 (SWR Jazzhaus)
Sarah Vaughan: Live at Rosy’s (Resonance)
Ella Fitzgerald:  Jazz at the Philharmonic: The Ella Fitzgerald Set (Verve)
Axel Tosca Laugart: Axel Tosca  (MRI)
Machitos y Sus Afro Cubanas: Tanga: King of Afro Cuban Jazz  (Cherry Red)
Adam Hawley: Just the Beginning (Kalimba)

R&B, Soul
The Three Degrees: Strategy (Our Tribute To Philadelphia) (Cherry Red)
Howard Tate: I Learned It All the Hard Way (compilation) (Play Back)
O.V. Wright: Treasured Moments: Complete Backbeat/ABC Singles (Play Back)
Various: Harmony Of The Soul – Vocals Groups 1962-1977 (Kent)
Moods: Moods (reissue) (BBE)
Christon Gray:  The Glory Album (Fo Yo Soul/RCA )
9.9 9.9 (expanded ed.) (PTG)
Rosie Gaines : Caring (expanded ed.) (PTG)
King: We Are King (King Creative)
Luster Baker: They Call Me Mr. Juicy (Music Access Inc.)
Ernie K-Doe: Don’t Kill My Groove (Playback)
Frankie & The Spindles: Count to Ten (Playback)
Jaheim: Struggle Love (BMG)
Take 6:  Believe (Independent Label Services)
Michelle: More Issues Than Vogue (Atlantic Urban)
Various: Loma: A Soul Music Love Affair (LITA)
Anthony Hamilton: That I’m Feelin’ (RCA)

Rap, Hip Hop
Bentley & Parallel Thought : Street Knowledge
337 Mafia  Presents: L.A.D’s Ambition (eOne)
Bas: Too High To Riot (Interscope)
Nature: Target practice  (Vodka & Milk)
Malik B And Mr. Green: Unpredictable (Enemy Soil)
TOKiMONSTA: Fovere EP (Young Art )
Tarica June: Stream of Consciousness, Vol. 1.5 EP (download)
Kap G: El Southside  (Atlantic)
Flatbush Zombies: 3001: A Laced Odyssey (Glorious Dead)
Big Punisher: Bronx Legends Never Die (vinyl) (Vinyl Digital)
Ghostface Killah: More Fish –  10 Year Anniversary Edition (Def Jam)
Joell Ortiz: That’s Hip Hop (That’s Hip Hop Music)
DJ Illogik: beginningofsomethinG.old (Focus)
Young Dolph: King of Memphis (Paper Route Empire)
Kendrick Lamar: untitled unmastered (Top Dawg Entertainment)
Blu & Ray West: Crenshaw Jezebel (vinyl EP) (Red Apples 45)
Dday One: Gathered Between (Content (L)abel)
Open Mike Eagle & Paul White: Hella Personal Film Festival (Mello Music Group)
2 Chainz & Lil Wayne: COLLEGROVE (Def Jam)
Father: I’m A Piece Of Shit (Awful)
Planet Asia & DJ Concept: Seventy Nine  (Coalmine Music)
Domo Genesis: Genesis  (Columbia)
Fababy : Ange Et Demon
Kano: Man in the Manor
Mr. Criminal: Street Unity (Hi Power Ent.)
N.E.R.D.: Live At The Babylon

Reggae, Dancehall
Noel Ellis: Noel Ellis (10th anniv. Edition) (Light in the Attic)
Various: Sharp and Ready (compilation) (Tru Thoughts)
Binary Sol (Madison McFerrin and Jarred Barnes)
Earlan “Alkaline” Bartley: New level Unlocked (Zojak World Wide)

Aziza Brahim: Abbar El Hamada  (Glitterbeat)
Ebo Taylor: My Love & Music (reissue) (Mr Bongo)
Jagger Botchway Group : Odze Odze (Cultures of Soul)
La Yegros : Magnetismo  (Soundway )
Wesli: Ayiti, Étoile Nouvelle
Various: Rough Guide To South African Jazz (World Music Network)

View review April 1st, 2016

Welcome to the March 2016 Issue

Welcome to the March 2016 edition of Black Grooves, sponsored by the Indiana University Archives of African American Music and Culture.

It’s Women’s History Month and we’re celebrating with recent releases by women artists.

Our featured jazz releases include Esperanza Spalding’s Emily’s D+Evolution, Chicago-based jazz cellist Tomeka Reid’s Tomeka Reid Quartet, Dee Dee Bridgewater ‘s celebration of New Orleans jazz on Dee Dee’s Feathers, Indra Rios-Moore’s Heartland, plus two releases from jazz harpists—Brandee Younger’s Wax & Wane and Mariea Antoinette’s Straight from the Harp.

On the soulful side there’s Regina Belle’s The Day Life Began and The Three Degrees’ Strategy (Our Tribute to Philadelphia). Mindi Abair & the Boneshakers’ give a hard rocking performance on Live in Seattle, featuring vocalist Sweet Pea Atkinson and guitarist Randy Jacobs, while poet-musician shirlette ammons’ explores rock, folk and hip-hop on Language Barrier. Contemporary Christian recording artist Lynda Randle offers Ageless Hymns: Songs of Joy, while Western Saharan singer/activist Aziza Brahim reflects on her life as a refugee on Abbar el Hamada (Across the Hamada).

Also featured is the CD/DVD edition of Michael Jackson’s Off the Wall that’s bundled with the new Spike Lee documentary Michael Jackson’s Journey from Motown to Off the Wall; the Blind Willie Johnson tribute album God Don’t Never Change from Alligator Records; and the Latin jazz album Canto América from Indiana University Jacobs School of Music faculty Michael Spiro (percussion) and Wayne Wallace (trombone). Wrapping up this issue is a review of two 1970s Afro-pop compilations—Senegal 70: Sonic Gems & Previously Unreleased Recordings from the 70’s and Soul Sok Sega: Sega Sounds from Mauritius, 1973-1979—plus our list of February 2016 Releases of Note.

View review March 1st, 2016

February 2016 Releases of Note

Following are additional albums released during February 2016—some will be reviewed in future issues of Black Grooves.

Blues, Folk, Country
Albert Collins: Live At Rockpalast CD/DVD (Made in Germany Music)
Birds of Chicago: Real Midnight  (Five Head Ent.)
Buddy Guy: I’ll Play the Blues for You – Live (1992) (Klondike)
Jimmy Rogers: Chicago Bound: Complete Solo Chess Records As & Bs (Jasmine)
Johnny Rawls: Tiger In A Cage (Catfood Records)
Junior Crudup: Sure Love (CD Baby)
Robert Cray Band ft. Stevie Ray Vaughan: Old Jam, New Blood: Redux Club, Dallas 1987 (All Access)
Toronzo Cannon: The Chicago Way (Alligator)

Various: Piano Works by Zenobia Powell Perry (Cambria)

Funk, Rock, Pop, Electronic
Shirlette Ammons: Language Barrier (Churchkey/SugarQube )
Moodymann: DJ-Kicks (K7)
Rasputin Stash: Devil Made Me Do It (vinyl reissue) ( BBE)
Santigold: 99 Cent (Atlantic)
Soul Inscribed: Soul Inscribed
Space Captain: In Memory EP (Tru Thoughts )

Gospel, Gospel Rap, CCM
Bishop Larry D. Trotter and Sweet Holy Spirit Choir : How Far Back Can You Go?-Church Unplugged Vol 2 (Utopia Music Group )
Lecrae: Church Clothes 3 (Reach)
Newsboys: God’s Not Dead – The Greatest Hits of the Newsboys (Inpop)
Pastor Tim Rogers: Churchin’ (Sag Music Group)
T.J. Hooker Taylor: Going Back to Church (Music Access Inc.)
Talley Boyz: Home (Ecko)
The Showers: The Showers (MRI)
Thi’sl: Against All Odds
Virtue: Fearless (Mixed Bag Music Grp.)

Donald Edwards: Prelude To Real Life (Criss Cross)
Ed Cherry: Soul Tree (Posi-Tone)
EMPIRICAL: Connection (Cuneiform)
Freddie Hendrix: Jersey Cat (Sunnyside Communication)
Heliocentrics: Quatermass Sessions: From The Deep (Now-Again)
Herbie Hancock: Live in Chicago 1977 (Hi Hat)
Herlin Riley: New Direction (Mack Ave.)
Laurence Hobgood Trio: Honor Thy Father (Circumstantial)
Logan Richardson: Shift (Blue Note)
Omar Sosa and Joo Kraus: Jog
Raphael Imbert & Co.: Music Is My Home (Jazz Village)
Red Garland: Albums Collection Part One: 1956-1959 (Enlightenment)
Red Garland: Albums Collection Part Three: 1961-1962 (Enlightenment)
Red Garland: Albums Collection Part Two: 1959-1961 (Enlightenment)
Snarky Puppy: Family Dinner Vol. 2 (CD/DVD) (Ground Up)
Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra: All My Yesterdays: The Debut 1966 Village Vanguard Recordings (Resonance)
The Stryker / Slagle Band: Routes (Strikezone)
Thelonious Monk: The Complete 1947-1956 Trios (Essential Jazz Classics)
United Vibrations: Myth of the Golden Ratio (Ubiquity)
United Vibrations: The Myth Of the Golden Ratio (Ubiquity)
Various: Jazz Vocalists Sing Cole Porter (3 CD) (W52st Records)
Various: Jazz Vocalists Sing George Gershwin (W52st Records)
Wynton Kelly: Nine Complete Albums: 1951-1961 (Enlightenment)

R&B, Soul
Al Green: The Essential Album Collection (box set) (Fat Possum / Hi Records)
Amos Milburn: Best Of The Aladdin Years 1946-57 (Acrobat)
Ashford & Simpson: I Wanna Be Selfish: Expanded Ed. (BBR)
BJ The Chicago Kid: In My Mind (Motown)
Blowfly: 77 Rusty Trombones (Saustex Media)
Brian McKnight: Better (Kobalt)
Chaka Khan: What Cha Gonna Do for Me: Expanded Ed. (BBR)
Charles Bradley & Menahan Street Band: Live From The House Of Soul (DVD) (Daptone)
Charles Wilson: Southern Soul Juke Joint (Music Access)
Clarence Carter: This Is Clarence Carter / The Dynamic Clarence Carter (Kent)
Clarence Carter : This Is Clarence Carter/The Dynamic Clarence Carter (Kent)
Fred Wesley and The JB’s: Damn Right I Am Somebody (limited Ed. vinyl) (Get on Down)
Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes: To Be True: Expanded Ed (BBR)
Jerome Brooks: Better
Larry Williams: The Very Best of Larry Williams (One Day)
Mavis Staples: Livin’ on a High Note (Anti/Epitaph)
Michael Jackson: Off the Wall/Spike Lee Documentary (Legacy)
Nigel Hall: Ladies & Gentleman (Feel Records)
Patti Austin: Street of Dreams (compilation) (Water Music)
Rhianna: Anti (Roc Nation)
Sister Sledge: Circle of Love: Special 40th Anniversary Ed. (BBR)
SWV: Still (Mass Appeal Ent./eOne)
Teddy Pendergrass: Joy (expanded ed.) (BBR)
The Suffers: The Suffers (Rhyme And Reason)
Tweet:  Charlene (eOne)
Various: Aloha Got Soul (Strut)
Various: The Other Side Of The Trax – Stax-Volt 45rpm Rarities 1964-1968 (Kent)
Killer B3: A Documentary About the Hammond Organ (DVD) (Crooked Soul Productions)

Rap, Hip Hop
Dizzy Wright: Wisdom & Good Vibes EP (Funk Volume)
Amiri: The New Negative ( HiPNOTT Records)
Beneficence: Basement Chemistry ( Ill Adrenaline)
Billionaire Buck: The Black Jew (B&B Ent.)
C-bo: Blocc Movement / Tales From the Crypt (2 CD set) (RBC)
David Banner: The God Box (A Banner Vision)
French Montana: Wave Gods (self-released)
G-Scott: Another Weekend in Los Vegas (3B Entertainment LLC)
J Alvarez: Desde Puerto Rico Live (Sony U.S. Latin)
Kahlil: The Tale of Wod Higgins (Pocket Fixed Mob LLC)
Kanye West: The Life of Pablo (Def Jam/G.O.O.D. Music)
Last Poets: This is Madness (expanded ed.) (Snapper)
Lefa: Monsieur Fall ( Jive Epic)
Lil C: H-Town Chronicle 18 (Oarfin)
Lushlife: Ritualize (Western Vinyl)
Mr. Green: The Project ( Live From The Streets )
Nature: Target Practice  (Vodka & Milk)
Philly Fate: #Onelife (Real Life Music)
Rick Rubin: Star Wars Headspace
Statik Selectah & KXNG Crooked: Static KXNG (Penalty Ent.)
The Bad Boy Young Me$$ (aka Messy Marv): The Money in the Bitch Purse, DLK Collabs Vol. 4 (Dlk Enterprise)
T-Nutty: Blue Venom (Nutt Factor)
Trae tha Truth:  Tha Thruth Part 2 (Empire)
Truth: From Ashes to Kingdom Come (Ill Adrenaline)
Vic Spencer & Chris Crack: Who the Fuck Is Chris Spencer?? (Perpetual Rebel)
Yo Gotti: Art of Hustle (Epic)
Young Thug: I’m Up (Atlantic / 300 Ent)

Reggae, Dancehall
Glen Brown: Boat to Progess (VP)
Horace Andy: In the Light (VP)
Jago: Microphones And Sofas (Tru Thoughts )
John Holt: 1000 Volts of Holt (expanded ed.) (Trojan)
Skin, Flesh & Bones: Dub in Blood (reissue) (Pressure Sounds)

Rokia Traoré: Ne So (Nonesuch)
Adama Yalomba: Waati Sera
Count Ossie & The Mystic Revelation Of Rastafari: Tales Of Mozambique (Soul Jazz)
DJ Katapila: Trotro (Awesome Tapes From Africa)
RAM: RAM 6: Manman m se Ginen
Stanley and the Ten Sleepless Knights: Quelbe! Music of the U.S. Virgin Islands (Smithsonian Folkways)

View review March 1st, 2016

Welcome to the February 2015 Issue

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

This month our primary theme is Black radio to promote the AAAMC’s new four-part virtual exhibition celebrating “The Golden Age of Black Radio” on the Google Cultural Institute website. As a tie-in, there are reviews of two new books related to the exhibit: Walker Smith’s Mello Yellow: The Incredible Life Story of Jack the Rapper about legendary deejay Jack Gibson, and Sonja D. Williams’ landmark biography Word Warrior: Richard Durham, Radio and Freedom. And because they are named after the famous deejay Eddie O’Jay, we’re also featuring the O’Jays’ 50th Anniversary Concert.

Tying into more Black history themes, we’re featuring poet-activist-musician Saul Williams’ MartyrLoserKing; Tomás Doncker’s socially-conscious album The Mess We Made; Adegoke Steve Colson’s solo jazz piano album Tones For, dedicated to Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, and Frederick Douglass; Jaimeo Brown Transcendence’s sample based Work Songs, which resurrect stories of workers and prisoners worldwide; and the documentary Take Me to the River, which celebrates Memphis culture and Mississippi Delta musicians.

On the funk and rock side we’re featuring the reunion album A Simple Act of Faith from the 1980s band Cymande, Brooklyn Funk Essentials’ Funk Ain’t Ova, and a blending of rock and gospel on Sam Butler’s Raise Your Hands!

In celebration of Valentine’s Day and love in general, there’s Sweet Honey in the Rock’s #LoveinEvolution, Terri Lyne Carrington’s The Mosaic Project: Love and Soul, a reissue of Jay Dee’s Come on in Love, and Taj Weekes & Adowa’s Love Herb & Reggae.

For the Mardi Gras and Carnival season, we featuring Matthew Hartnett’s blending of New Orleans brass and gospel roots in Southern Comfort, and the Brazil meets New Orleans collaboration of Nation Beat and Cha Wa in Carnival Caravan.

Wrapping up this issue is the Senegalese band Dieuf-Dieul de Thies’ compilation of unreleased 1980s sessions Aw Sa Yone, Vol. 2, a reissue of Magic Sam Blues Band’s Black Magic, and our list of January releases of note.

View review February 2nd, 2016

Walker Smith – Mello Yello: The Incredible Life Story of Jack the Rapper

walker smith_mello yello

Title: Mello Yello: The Incredible Life Story of Jack the Rapper

Author: Walker Smith

Publisher: Sonata Books LLC/Walker Smith Books

Format: Book (softcover, 270 p.), eBook

Release date: 2015


Based on interviews conducted by Walker Smith over a two year period from 1997-1999, Mello Yello: The Incredible Life Story of Jack the Rapper is part biography, part autobiography—told primarily through the words of Jack Gibson.

Affectionately known as “Jockey Jack,” and later “Jack the Rapper,” Jack Gibson was a legendary figure in Black radio and the Black entertainment industry. Though not well known outside of those circles (amazingly, Gibson doesn’t even have a Wikipedia entry), his influence was incredibly broad, reaching all four corners of the nation and extending from the 1940s until his death in 2000, and beyond. A master storyteller to the end, Mello Yello is his final exposé on the industry—with sidebars on life, love, and the pursuit of happiness—edited by Ms. Smith in a manner that’s both informative and entertaining.

Born May 13, 1920 on the South Side of Chicago, Gibson was the son of a prosperous doctor from Barbados, who was also Marcus Garvey’s personal physician. Though Gibson trained at Lincoln University to be an actor, due to his mixed race heritage and light skin he was not able to land one of the few roles reserved for Black actors. Capitalizing instead on his vocal talents, Gibson was given a starring role in “Here Comes Tomorrow,” the first radio soap opera drama to feature an all-Black cast. Produced by another legendary Chicagoan, the African American writer Richard Durham, the show went on the air in 1945 over Chicago station WJJD. As Gibson recalls, “during a time when Negro actors were relegated to playing cartoonish sidekicks, maids and butlers, we were playing three-dimensional characters concerned with voting rights, segregation, and family relationships.” Shortly thereafter, Gibson launched his own music-based radio program, “The Jack Gibson Show,” while also working as a local emcee and helping Black artists such as Sarah Vaughan get booked into Chicago clubs.

Gibson’s next big break occurred in October 1949 when he was invited to participate in opening the first Black-owned and operated radio station in America—Atlanta’s WERD. As Gibson recollects, “I had been playing Black music to make money for the white man so long that the importance of this venture did not escape me—or anyone else in Atlanta, either.” His first words on the air were “Good morning Atlanta,” aimed towards his Black listeners. But Gibson’s “next three words were meant for everyone, Black and white, like it or not: We are here.” WERD ushered in an era of jive-talking deejays who played “race records”—primarily blues, gospel, and rhythm and blues. But this was still the Jim Crow era, and as Gibson recalls: “Back in my day, white folks put so many obstacles in our way, we just treated it like an everyday thing. Sometimes it seemed like a miracle that we were on the air at all, or that all those talented black entertainers put up with the indignities they did.”

Over the next decade, Gibson hopped from city to city, serving as producer and deejay at various stations: WLOU-Louisville, WMBM-Miami, WCIN-Cincinnati, WABQ-Cleveland, and back to WERD in Atlanta where he began what was likely the first jazz program in the South. Several chapters of the book recount his exploits in these cities: covering the Civil Rights Movement, serving as a mediator between the police and the Black community, working with fellow deejays such as Tommy Smalls (aka “Dr. Jive, the “Mayor” of Harlem) and Eddie Castleberry, and “breaking” records for various artists and promoting their shows.

Radio, however, could not contain Jack Gibson forever. A true renaissance man, he branched out into other facets of the industry, as detailed in chapters 13-17. In 1961, “he put his innovative mind to work and developed a new design for radio control rooms.” Later that year, Gibson transitioned to promotion manager at Motown Records, where he started the Soul imprint and accompanied Stevie Wonder, the Miracles, and the Supremes on tour, witnessing the latter group’s break-out performances at the Copacabana nightclub and on the Ed Sullivan Show. Gibson also did a short stint at LeBaron Taylor’s Revelot label in Detroit, then with Joe Medlin at Brunswick in New York, Curtis Mayfield’s Curtom label in Chicago, and from 1969-1972 he worked with his friend Al Bell at Stax Records in Memphis. During this period he also founded the National Association of Radio Announcers (NARA, and later NATRA), where he worked to improve conditions for African Americans in the radio and record industries.

Chapter 19 tells the story behind the final stage of Gibson’s career. After semi-retiring in 1976, he launched the industry magazine Jack the Rapper, the oldest Black trade publication targeted to radio, which continued through 1997 (in later years known as Jack the Rapper’s Mellow Yello). Building upon this momentum, in June 1977 he organized “Jack the Rapper’s Family Affair,” a Black music convention “where generations of performers, radio and record executives came together to celebrate each other and the music of Black America.” For the next twenty years the annual Family Affair Convention, typically held in Atlanta, was a networking and resource mecca for the Black entertainment industry. Ironically, as rap music garnered a larger share of the music industry, many newcomers assumed that “Jack the Rapper’s Family Affair” convention was devoted to rap music. As this section of the book concludes, battles—some turning violent—between rival rappers attending the convention regrettably lead to its demise.

Walker Smith has done an excellent job of editing the interviews into a fitting tribute to Jack “The Rapper” Gibson—one of the foremost pioneers in Black radio and Black music, a man who mentored and promoted countless deejays and artists, and a national treasure who should receive much wider recognition.

Editor’s note: Many of the images published in Mello Yello are from the Jack Gibson Collection at the Archives of African American Music and Culture (AAAMC). Photos from the Gibson collection can be viewed through Indiana University’s Image Collections Online; a video of a 1981 interview of Jack Gibson by Dr. Portia K. Maultsby was recently preserved by IU’s Media Digitization and Preservation Initiative and can be viewed here; Gibson is also featured prominently in the AAAMC’s new multi-media virtual exhibit, “The Golden Age of Black Radio,” available online at Google Cultural Institute.

Reviewed by Brenda Nelson-Strauss


View review February 2nd, 2016

Sonja D. Williams – Word Warrior: Richard Durham, Radio and Freedom

sonja d williams_word warrior

Title: Word Warrior: Richard Durham, Radio and Freedom

Author: Sonja D. Williams

Formats: hardcover (265 pages), softcover, eBook

Publisher: University of Illinois Press; New Black Studies Series

Release date: August 11, 2015


Sonja D. Williams, a professor in Howard University’s Department of Radio, Television, and Film, offers the first full-length biography of Chicago writer Richard Durham, an extremely important figure in the history of radio whose most notable programs included Here Comes Tomorrow and Destination Freedom. Williams’ was first introduced to Durham’s work in the early 1990s while serving as associate producer on the Peabody Award-winning radio documentary, Black Radio: Telling It Like It Was, for Smithsonian Productions. After the conclusion of that project, she was determined to embark on a more thorough study of Durham, whose “dramatic flair and fiery rhetoric” infused his dramas about African American life. Now, after twenty years of research, we are finally gifted with Word Warrior: Richard Durham, Radio and Freedom—which explores Durham’s life as well as the totality of his contributions to radio.

Williams is a natural storyteller, weaving an engaging story of Durham’s early life. Born in 1917 in Mississippi where his grandparents were both former slaves, Durham spent his early years on the family farm. His father was one of a few Black landowners, while his mother earned extra income peddling Madame C.J. Walker hair products. Williams provides an interesting account of the history of the Durham family in the south, based on first-hand interviews and quotes from Durham family papers. His parents eventually decided to leave their agricultural life behind to seek better educational and employment opportunities for their family, and thus in 1923 joined the Great Migration to Chicago. At the same time, radio was expanding rapidly in the city. As a young boy, Durham was exposed to programs on WMAQ, WGN, and WLS, including “Amos ‘n’ Andy”—a “blackface” radio comedy that poked fun at southern-born Negroes using minstrel stereotypes. Williams conjectures that the show likely had a major impact on Durham, inspiring him in later years to create more realistic characters who fought for social and economic justice.

Durham’s family purchased a home in Chicago’s Bronzeville, which quite fortuitously was near the neighborhood’s first public library, which opened in 1932 and was headed by Vivian G. Harsh. Now a teenager, Durham exhibited a thirst for knowledge, immersing himself in the library where he studied the works of Charles Dickens, W.E.B. Du Bois, and Langston Hughes—all of whom had a major impact on his writing career. Williams follows Durham’s intellectual awakening, including his exposure to Richard Wright, the South Side Writer’s Group, the Communist Party, and the burgeoning Black Chicago Renaissance. By the time he reached adulthood, Durham had published numerous poems and articles, and through a WPA funded position gained entrée into radio. Williams analyzes some of his early scriptwriting and follows his progress in “finding his dramatic voice—effectively using tension and release, plot twists and humor to capture listener’s attention”—while also tracing the emergence of his socially conscious voice, expressed through his desire to aid Chicago’s struggling black population and expose injustices.

Durham’s break in radio came in 1946 as a writer for the weekly program “Democracy USA,” sponsored by the Chicago Defender, about accomplished Negroes. At that time, he was likely the only African American writer working full-time in radio. Williams goes on to describe the delicate balance Durham faced in producing his trademark provocative scripts yet not going so far as to upset WBBM and CBS management. As a side job, Durham aided the wealthy white soap opera script writer Irna Phillips, which gave him the requisite experience to develop his groundbreaking 1947 series Here Comes Tomorrow, the first radio soap opera with an all-Black cast, starring Jack Gibson and Oscar Brown, Jr. Chronicling a fictional African American family headed by a prosperous physician, Here Comes Tomorrow was the Cosby Show of its day, and also drew comparisons to NBC’s The Goldbergs, about a Jewish family in New York. Since Durham believed “media should serve a higher purpose than mindless diversion,” Here Comes Tomorrow dealt with weighty themes such as racial intolerance, which likely led to its early demise, despite receiving numerous awards and a loyal following.

Durham’s most significant radio series was the critically acclaimed Destination Freedom, a weekly docudrama he both wrote and produced, broadcast over WMAQ Chicago from June 1948-August 1950. Using “eloquent, politically outspoken scripts” and a “multiracial cast and crew,” the series highlighted Black protagonists—from Frederick Douglass and Sojourner Truth to James Weldon Johnson and Blind Lemon Jefferson—who “stood up for their rights while championing equality and justice for their fellow citizens.” Durham’s “lilting, opinionated scripts” allowed him to break through the “thoroughly racist-ridden electronic media of radio and television” in the post-WWII era. But progress is often followed by a step backwards. Ironically, in 1950 WMAQ revived Destination Freedom as a TV show, without Durham’s consent, whitewashing themes and characters to focus on (white) American patriotic heroes. (Williams includes an appendix with a complete radio log of Destination Freedom shows, many of which are available via the Internet Archive).

Throughout the final chapters of the book, Williams details Durham’s many other jobs, including program head of the largely Black union organization UPWA, editor of the Nation of Islam’s newspaper, ghostwriter for various television sci-fi shows including The Outer Limits, and as chief writer for WTTW’s groundbreaking 1970 television drama Bird of the Iron Feather, about a Black detective killed in the crossfire between Black rebels and the police during a race riot on Chicago’s West Side (an enthralling story!). Prior to his death in 1984, he had also co-authored Muhammad Ali’s memoir The Greatest: My Own Story, and served as a campaign advisor and speech writer for Chicago mayor Harold Washington.

In Word Warrior, Williams paints a picture of a man way ahead of his time, who persevered against all odds to produced groundbreaking Black-oriented programs for radio and television, and who fought throughout his life against blatant racial discrimination and inequality. This book is essential reading for those interested in media history, African American writers, and the history of Chicago.

Editor’s note: Richard Durham is featured in the AAAMC’s new multi-media exhibit, “The Golden Age of Black Radio,” available online at Google Cultural Institute. The AAAMC also holds the production files and interviews for the radio documentary Black Radio: Telling It Like It Was.

Reviewed by Brenda Nelson-Strauss




View review February 2nd, 2016

Sweet Honey in the Rock – #LoveInEvolution


Title: #LoveInEvolution

Artist: Sweet Honey in the Rock

Label: Appleseed Records

Formats: CD, MP3

Release date: January 22, 2016


Sweet Honey in the Rock is an acclaimed a capella group that has incorporated soul, jazz, spirituals, and blues into their music for over 40 years. On their first studio album in nine years, #LoveInEvolution, they explore current topics such as mass shootings, systematic racism and climate change, while displaying a warm heart and soul that chooses hope over fear.

Sweet Honey in the Rock still has two original members, Carol Maillard and Louise Robinson, who lend their seasoned voices to create soulful harmonies with newer members Aisha Kahlil and Nitanju Bolade Casel. Since 1981 they have also been joined by sign language interpreter Shirley Childress in all performances, which shows their commitment to making music accessible to all.

Much of #LoveInEvolution is a mix of spoken word and song. For instance, their Marvin Gaye cover “Mercy Mercy Me (Evolution)” has a great deep bass and extended introduction explaining the meaning of the original song and Gaye’s What’s Going On album. Aisha Kahlil speaks and riffs for nearly three minutes before the rest of the ensemble joins in.

Of the original songs on #LoveInEvolution, “Second Line Blues” may be the strongest, particularly in its message. Calling out the names of “innocent people who have fallen victim to murder at the hands of anyone from deranged citizens to police abusing their license to kill,” this incredibly powerful track is more spoken than sung, backed by a stark snare drum march beat and mournful vocals.

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“Oh, Sankofa” also reiterates the theme of systematic racism in the United States, but it emphasizes the importance of remembering history, saying: “We must remember, perhaps forgive but not forget, so we will not repeat the past.” “The Living Waters” addresses both the lack of clean drinking water in the world (foreshadowing the crisis in Flint, Michigan) and climate change.

There are many genres present on the album, including the more contemporary track “IDK, but I’m LOL!” where a group member portrays a radio deejay, and the spiritual “I Don’t Want No Trouble at the River.” These songs round out the album, combining heartwarming, easy-listening a capella tracks with more serious topics that beg the listener to consider contemporary world issues but never lose faith.

Reviewed by Anna Polovick

View review February 2nd, 2016

Jay Dee – Come On In Love


Title: Come On In Love

Artist: Jay Dee

Label: Real Gone Music

Format: CD

Release date: October 2, 2015


Before he became “Jay Dee” (and later, Jackie Lee), Earl Nelson first broke out as part of the duo Bob & Earl with the 1963 hit “Harlem Shuffle,” famously covered by the Rolling Stones in 1986. Barry White had arranged the song, and worked again with Nelson on the single “Ooh Honey Baby” two years later. This collaboration led to the 1974 album Come On In Love, produced by Barry White and featuring Jay Dee as the front man. Recorded during the peak of White’s Love Unlimited Orchestra period, the album is awash with his lush string arrangements.

Seven of the nine songs on the original album were also written or co-written by White, and his signature R&B/funk production is evident throughout. Filled with upbeat funky tunes such as the instrumental “Jay’s Theme” and the title track “Come On In Love,” the album also features smooth R&B ballads such as “You’ve Changed.” The ‘70s love theme continues on catchy, soulful songs such as “I Can Feel Your Love Slipping Away” and “Your Sweetness Is My Weakness.”

Now Real Gone Music has re-released this funky album for the first time on CD, with two bonus tracks: both sides of the “Strange Funky Games and Things” single including a long instrumental version under the name “Games and Funky Things.” The CD booklet includes extensive liner notes by Gene Sculatti that explore the background behind this lost classic of ‘70s soul.

Reviewed by Anna Polovick

View review February 2nd, 2016

Nation Beat featuring Cha Wa – Carnival Caravan


Title: Carnival Caravan

Artist: Nation Beat featuring Cha Wa

Label: Nation Beat Music

Formats: CD, MP3

Release date: July 31, 2015


Nation Beat is a Brazilian American collective that combines their cultural mix of music with the help of New Orleans band Cha Wa, who perform “Mardi Gras Indian funk.” Together, they create irresistible Mardi Gras music on the EP, Carnival Caravan. The two bands stay true to traditions, even dressing in Carnival costumes as can be seen in the following promotional video:

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Featuring Brazilian artist Silverio Pessoa, “Vou Vantar Esse Coco” is filled with brisk Portuguese lyrics that lie somewhere between rapping and singing. With its smooth harmonies, the chorus is a bit slower than the faster paced verses with a Latin beat. “Casa Diamante – Sew Sew Sew” includes electric guitar, adding a rock aspect to the otherwise Brazilian percussion and music.

“Golden Crown” is about the big chiefs that are famous during New Orleans Mardi Gras celebrations. With extensive use of call and response, the song emphasizes the interactive and performance-based aspect of the two bands. The EP ends with a cover of the classic “Liza Jane,” featuring a full complement of New Orleans brass, including trumpet and tuba solos, and Caribbean percussion.

Carnival Caravan is the perfect Mardi Gras soundtrack, full of fun, traditional themes and beats that combine music and culture from the two of the most pivotal centers of Carnival today: New Orleans and Brazil.

Reviewed by Anna Polovick

View review February 2nd, 2016

January 2016 Releases of Note

Following are additional albums released during January 2016—some will be reviewed in future issues of Black Grooves.

Blues, Folk, Country
T Bone Walker: Texas Guitar-From Dallas To L.A. (remastered) (Friday Music)

Funk, Rock, Pop, Electronic
Alyson Cambridge: Until Now (Suite 28/Naxos)
Doran Stucky Studer Tacuma: Call Me Melium – Music of Jimi Hendrix (Double Moon)
Skunk Anansie: Anarchytecture (Universal Ireland)
Bloc Party: Hymns (BMG/Infectious Music/Vagrant)
Danko Jones: Live At Wacken CD/DVD ( UDR)
Pure Hell: Noise Addiction (CD+DVD expanded ed.) (Cherry Red)

Gospel, Gospel Rap, CCM
Conrad Miller: Thankful (Millcon Music Ministires)
Canton Jones:  I am Justice (Cajo International)
Donald Lawrence & The Tri-City Singers: The Millennium Collection (Motown Gospel)
J. Moss: GFG Reload (Pmg Gospel)
Lynda Randle: Ageless Hymns (Gaither)
Regina Belle: Day Life Began (Shanachie)
Various: Wow Gospel 2016 (20-20 Ent.)
Various: God Cares For U-Give Him Glory (Tyscot)
William McDowell: Sounds of Revival (eOne)

Various: The Color Purple (New Broadway Cast Recording) (Broadway)

Ron Funches: The Funches Of Us (Comedy Dynamics)

Aruán Oritz: Hidden Voices   (Intakt)
Charles Lloyd & The Marvels: I Long to See You (Blue Note)
Dr. Lonnie Smith: Evolution  (Blue Note)
Grant Green: 1961 Summer Sessions (American Jazz Classics)
Jason Marsalis: Heirs of the Crescent City (OST) (Elm)
Jazz Funk Soul: More Serious Business (Shanachie)
Jeremy Pelt: #JiveCulture (HighNote)
Jim Cullum Jazz Band/William Warfield: Porgy And Bess Live (Riverwalk)
Joseph Dailey: The Tuba Trio Chronicles (JoDa Music)
Mack Avenue Super Band: Live From the Detroit Jazz Festival 2015 (Mack Ave.)
Miles Davis: Paul’s Mall. Boston September 1972 (Hi Hat)
Nina Simone:  Complete 1959-61 Live Recordings (Essential Jazz Classics)
Parker, Gayle, Drake:  Live at Jazzwerkstatt Peitz     (Jazzwerkstatt)
Smith/Taborn/Maneri: The Bell (ECM)
Three’s Company: We’ll Be Together Again   (Naxos)
Willie Jones III: Groundwork (WJ3)
Art Sherrod Jr : Intervention (Pacific Coast Jazz)
Nicolas Bearde (ft. Nat Adderley Jr.): Invitation (Right Groove)

R&B, Soul
Adrian Younge: Something About April II (Linear Labs)Alexander O`Neal: Complete Single Collection (Tabu)
Ango-Saxon Brown: Songs For Evolution (Expanded Ed. – 1st CD release) (Cherry Red)
Ashford & Simpson: Gimme Something Real (expanded ed.) (BBR)
Drifters: Complete Releases 1953-62 (Acrobat)
Rose Royce: In Full Bloom: Expanded Edition (BBR)
S.O.S. Band : Complete Single Collection (Tabu)
Tank: Sex Love & Pain II (Atlantic)
Various: Ohio Soul (History of Soul)

Rap, Hip Hop
B Legit: Throwblock Muzic (Black Armor)
Guilty Simpson & Small Professor: Highway Robbery (vinyl) (Coalmine Music)
Koncept & J57: Fuel EP (Kon57)
Wordsworth/Donel Smokes: New Beginning (Worldwide Communications)
337 MAFIA: L.A.D.’s Ambition (eOne)
Alpha Wann: Alpha Lauren 2 (Don Dada)
Anderson Paak: Malibu (Steel Wool / Obe)
Beneficence: Basement Chemistry (Ill Adrenaline)
Big L: Lifestylez Of Da Poor & Dangerous Deluxe Edition Box set (Get On Down)
Blanco/YG/DB Tha General : California Livin’ (Guerrilla Ent)
Boy Boy Young Me$$ (Messy Marv): The Money In The Bitch Purse’ Collabs Vol.4 (Dlk Ent.)
D.I.T.C.: Remix Project (Deluxe Ed.) (Alliance)
Daz-N-Snoop: Cuzznz  (Dogg Pound)
GainesFM: Reanimation (FreeMinds Music Group)
K-Def: Unpredictable Gemini / The Way It Was (Redefinition)
Kevin Gates: Islah (Bread Winners Assoc./Atlantic)
Shabaam Sahdeeq: Modern Artillery (vinyl)  (Elite Fleet)
Talib Kweli: Fuck the Money (Javotti Media)
The Game: Doc 2/2.5 Collector’s Edition (eOne)
Torae : Entitled (Alliance Import)
Tricky: Skilled Mechanics (K7)
Various: Straight Outta Compton: Music From The Motion Picture (Capitol)
Z-Ro: I Found Me Vol. 2 (RBC)
Ksi: Keep Up EP (Island )

Reggae, Dancehall
Jacob Miller: Who Say Jah No Dread (remastered ed.) (VP)
Various: STUDIO ONE Showcase: The Sound Of Studio One In The 1970s (Soul Jazz)

Buyepongo: Todo Mundo (Buyepongo)
Baaba Maal: Traveller (Plus +180)
Black Kent: Morceaux D’Un Homme (Polydor (France)
Domingo Justus: Juju Music In Nigeria 1928 Vol 1   (Asherah)
Kumasi Trio: Fanti Guitar In West Africa 1928 Vol 1 (Asherah)
Muyiwa: Eko Ile (Riversongz Ltd)
Salute: Gold Rush EP (vinyl) (PIAS America)
Various: Soul Sok Séga’ (Strut)
Various: Bahamian Rake-n-Scrape (Smithsonian Folkways)

View review February 2nd, 2016

Welcome to the January 2016 Issue

Welcome to the January 2016 issue of Black Grooves, sponsored by the Indiana University Archives of African American Music and Culture.

This month were leading with Wes Montgomery’s One Night in Indy, Resonance Records’ third volume of mostly unreleased recordings by the jazz guitar legend, who is joined here by the Eddie Higgins Trio. Other jazz recordings include the live Abbey Lincoln album Sophisticated Abbey, the Abbey Lincoln tribute album Ghosts Appearing through the Sound by New York vocalist Kosi, and the jazz-based album Freedom & Surrender by Lizz Wright.

African American poets are also celebrated this month. Detroit native Jessica Care Moore’s debut, Black Tea: The Legend of Jessi James, is a “jazz poetry” album with guests Talib Kweli, Roy Ayers, and Jose James, among others. Also included is the new Blu-Ray edition of the 1982 concert documentary Gil Scott-Heron in Black Wax, and the Charenee Wade tribute album Offering: The Music of Gil Scott-Heron and Brian Jackson.

Continuing our annual winter blues theme, we’re featuring the Andy T- Nick Nixon Band’s Numbers Man, Steve Howell & the Mighty Men’s Friend Like Me, Linsey Alexander’s Come Back Baby, Danielle Nicole’s Wolf Den, and the Sonny Terry compilation His 21 Best Songs.

Wrapping up this issue is Dream by R&B vocalist Angie Stone; Transparency by the rock band Straight Line Stitch; the Numero reissue of Eyes of Love recorded by soul group The Edge of Daybreak in Powhatan prison; and our list of December 2015 Releases of Note.

View review January 4th, 2016

Angie Stone – Dream

Angie Stone

Title: Dream

Artist: Angie Stone

Label: Shanachie

Formats: CD, MP3

Release date: November 6, 2015

For the writing and recording of her newest album, Dream, veteran R&B vocalist Angie Stone found herself in an unfamiliar place: she was single.  With no love to call her own, the recording finds Stone inspired by what it would be like to love, lust, and correct the mistakes of her previous relationships.  Thus, one can imagine why Dream is an appropriate title for the release.

On the album, Stone collaborated with Walter Millsap III, a producer who has worked with Lady Gaga, Beyoncé, and Timbaland.  Millsap is clearly inspired by classic R&B and soul, as the album, at times, nods to Stevie Wonder and Motown in its compositions.  Stone admits that her favorite track is “Magnet,” which rhetorically questions why the singer always ends up with the wrong type of man.  “Two Bad Habits” is a playful R&B tune that explores Stone’s two worst behaviors: drinking too much wine and a particular romantic interest.

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One of the stand out tracks is “Begin Again,” a duet with R&B singer Dave Hollister.  The song opens with an irresistible groove that finds the singers wishing to rekindle a relationship that went sour.  “Dollar Bill” is a single woman’s anthem, detailing the excitement of preparing for a night on the town for a group of women “not looking for Mr. Right, right now.”

Stone’s artistic contributions to R&B have been significant throughout the 1990s and 2000s.   Dream continues down this successful artistic path, showing that Stone is not only a survivor in the music industry, but also in the game of love.

Listen on Spotify here

Reviewed by Douglas Dowling Peach

View review January 4th, 2016

December 2015 Releases of Note

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

Blues, Folk, Country

B.B. King: Here’s One You Didn’t Know About– From The RPM & Kent Vaults (Ace)
Barrence Whitfield & Tom Russell: Hillbilly Voodoo & Cowboy Mambo (reissue) (Rockbeat)
Big Bill Broozy: Seven Classic Albums (remastered) (Real Gone Jazz)
Elmore James: Complete Singles As & Bs, 1951-62 (Acrobat)

Funk, Rock, Pop, Electronic
Cymande: A Simple Act of Faith (Cherry Red)
Deantoni Parks: Technoself (vinyl) (Leaving Records)
Egyptian Lover: 1984 (Egyptian Empire)
Fingers Inc.: Another Side (vinyl reissue)    (Alleviated)
Kid Cudi: Speedin’ Bullet 2 Heaven (Republic)
Mickey’s Candy: Unprotected Funk ( Magic Mile Music)
Willow Smith: Ardipithecus (digital) (Roc Nation)

Gospel, Gospel Rap, CCM
Duawne Starling: Deeper Faith (New Day Ent.)
Pilgrim Travelers: Gospel Boogie Rare Recordings, 1946-1957 (Gospel Friend)

Ameen Saleem: Groove Lab (Vio Veneto Jazz)
Comet Is Coming: Prophecy EP (vinyl) ( Leaf)
James Taylor Quartet:  Rochester Mass  (Cherry Red)
Max Ionata, Clarence Penn, Reuben Rogers: Kind of Trio (Vio Veneto Jazz)
Miles Davis: The Last Word – The Warner Bros. Years (8CD Boxset)   (Rhino)
Nat King Cole: Stardust—The Rare Television Performances (Real Gone)
Robin Eubanks Mass Line Big Band: More than Meets the Ear (ArtistShare)
Various: Detroit Jazz City (Blue Note)

R&B, Soul
Aurra :  Body Rock (Family Groove Rec.)
Babyface: Return of the Tender Lover (Def Jam)
Chris Brown: Royalty (RCA)
Coasters: Four Classic Albums Plus Bonus Singles (Real Gone Jazz)
Dells: Freedom Means  (Caroline International/SoulMusic Records)
Five Satins: Complete Releases 1954-62 (Acrobat)
King Curtis: Complete Atco Singles (Real Gone)
Leeda Lyric Jones : Perspective
Monica: Code Red (RCA)
R Kelly: The Buffet (RCA)
Various: Chi-Raq (OST)  (RCA)
Various: Dave Hamilton’s Detroit Soul Volume 2 (Kent)
Various: From Sacred to Secular: A Soul Awakening (box set)  (History of Soul)
Various: King & Deluxe Acetate Series Beef Ball Baby! New Orleans R&B (Ace)
Various: The Wiz LIVE! OST of the NBC TV Event   (Masterworks)

Rap, Hip Hop
August Alsina: This Thing Called Life (Def Jam)
Boosie Badazz:  Thrilla Vol. 1 (Trill Ent)
Chief Keef :   Nobody 2 (digital)  (12million)
Corey Paul : Today, Tomorrow, Forever (digital)   (Collision)
Curren$y:  Canal Street Confidential   (Atlantic Urban)
Daz -N- Snoop:  Cuzznz (Dogg Pound)
DJ Ready Cee: Order 66 (End Of Days) (ReadyMade)
G-Eazy: When It’s Dark Out (RCA)
Jeremih: Late Nights: The Album   (Def Jam)
Kid Ink: Summer In The Winter (digital)  (RCA)
Kidd Called Quest : Put Your Headphones On 2  (New Era Boom Batt)
King Chip: CleveLAfornia   (S.L.A.B. Ent)
Pearl Gates: Diamond Mind (Below Systems)
Pimp C: Long Live the Pimp  (Mass Appeal)
Prhyme (DJ Premier & Royce Da 5′ 9 ): Prhyme  (Prhyme)
Price the Poet:  The Passion of the Price  ( Blaze Of Glory Productions)
Pusha T: King Push Darkest Before Dawn (Def Jam)
R. Kelly: Buffet (RCA)
Rick Rock: Rocket the Album  (Southwest Federation)
Rick Ross: Black Market (Def Jam)
Rohff: Rohff Game
Sheek Louch: Silverback Gorilla 2  (Tommy Boy)
Talib Kweli: Fuck the Money (Javotti Media)
Termanology: Term Brady  (Showoff)
Young Roddy: The Kenner Loop  (Ihiphop Dist.)

Reggae, Dancehall
Iba Mahr: Diamond Sox (VP)
John Holt: Memories By the Score  (VP)
Junior Kelly: Urban Poet  (VP)
Pablo Gad: Hard Times, Best of (Burning Sounds)
Sly & Robbie and Spicy Chocolate: Reggae Power 2 (Tuff Gong)

Domingo Justus: Juju Music in Nigeria 1928, Vol. 1 (Ashera)
Kumasi Trio: Fanti Guitar in West Africa 1928, Vol. 1   (Ashera)
Peace:  Black Power (Now-Again)

View review January 4th, 2016

Welcome to the December 2015 Issue

Welcome to the December 2015 holiday issue of Black Grooves, sponsored by the Archives of African American Music and Culture.

This month we’re featuring a Holiday Music Wrap Up with an overview of releases from Etienne Charles, the Count Basie Orchestra, the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis, Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, Kenny Neal, The Soulful Strings, Pittsburgh Jazz Orchestra, and Sons of Serendip.

Over the course of the year we’ve reviewed a number of box sets ideal for gift giving, including those devoted to the Isley Brothers, Johnny Mathis, Little Richard, Lead Belly, and Sly & the Family Stone. This month we’re featuring more box sets and limited editions, including the new Staple Singers’ compilation Faith and Grace: A Family Journey 1953-1976. The other sets are divided into three posts: New Soul Music Box Sets (Halo Records, Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, Syl Johnson, Early Motown EPS); Blues, Rock and Reggae Box Sets (Bobby Rush, Arthur Lee & Love, Bob Marley), and Jazz Box Sets (Weather Report, Billy Cobham, Bee-Hive Records). Also featured is the 25th Anniversary Edition of A Tribe Called Quest’s People’s Instinctive Travels & the Paths of Rhythm, and the 2016 Blues Images Calendar/CD 24 Classic Blues Songs from 1920s Vol. 13.

Speaking to the sacred side of the holiday, we’re featuring two recent Tyscot gospel releases: Anthony Brown & group therAPy’s Everyday Jesus and Danetra Moore’s Light in the Dark.

 Wrapping up this issue is My Name is Doug Hream Blunt featuring the 1980s work of Bay area lo-fi musician Doug Blunt, and our list of November 2015 Releases of Note.

View review December 2nd, 2015

November 2015 Releases of Note

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

Blues, Folk, Country
Eric Bibb & JJ Milteau: Lead Belly’s Gold (Stony Plain)
Gentry Jones: Roll It Roll It (Music Access Inc.)
Harmonica Shah: If You Live To Get Old, You Will Understand (Electro-Fi)
Johnny Jones: Doin’ The Best I Can (JSP)
Laja Ferlance: Mo’ Betta Blues (Music Access Inc.)
Lightnin’ Hopkins: Shootin’ Fire (Cicadelic)
Lightnin’ Hopkins & Billy Bizor: Wake Up The Dead (Cicadelic)
Magic Sam: Black Magic (Remastered ed.) (Delmark)
O.B. Buchana: Mississippi Folks  (Ecko)
Victoria Spivey: Collection 1926-27 (Acrobat)

Funk, Rock, Pop, Electronic
Brooklyn Funk Essentials: Funk Ain’t Ova (Dorado)
Cymande: Do It (Cherry Red)
Hieroglyphic Being: The Acid Documents (Soul Jazz)
Tracy Chapman: Greatest Hits (Elektra/Rhino)

Gospel, Gospel Rap, CCM
Al Green: Higher Plane  (Fat Possum)
Al Green: I’ll Rise Again  (Fat Possum)
Al Green: Lord Will Make a Way (Fat Possum)
Al Green: Precious Lord  (Fat Possum)
Al Green: Trust in God   (Fat Possum)
Deitrick Haddon: Masterpiece (eOne)
James Bolton: Count It All Joy (New Day)
Kirk Franklin: Losing My Religion (RCA)

Coasters: Christmas with the Coasters (Goldmine)
Committed: Home for Christmas (Mixed Bag Music Grp.)
Johnny Mathis: Complete Christmas Collection 1958-2010 (Real Gone)
Kenny Neal: I’ll Be Home For Christmas  (Cleopatra)
Various: Santa’s Funk & Soul Christmas Party Vol.3 (Tramp)

Adegoke Steve Colson: Tones For (Silver Sphinx)
Ash Walker: Augmented 7th (Deep Heads)
Billy Cobham: Live From Dallas Electric Ballroom 1975 (United States Dist)
Darren Barrett: Trumpet Vibes  (dB Studios)
John Coltrane: A Love Supreme- The Complete Masters (impulse!/Verve)
Myke Masters:  Mustn’t Grumble (digital)
Oscar Peterson: Exclusively for My Friends (8 CD Box set) (Naxos)
Pieces of a Dream: All In (Shanachie)
Robin Eubanks’ Mass Line Big Band: More Than Meets the Ear

R&B, Soul
Angie Stone: Dream (Shanachie)
Bobby Caldwell: Cool Uncle (+180)
CeeLo Green: Heart Blanche (Atlantic)
Chaka Khan: One Classic Night (Wienerworld)
Derobert: Got the Goods (City Bump)
Dominique Toney: A Love Like Ours (K-Tone Ent. )
Gloria Ann Taylor: Love Is A Hurtin’ Thing (Luv N Haight
James Brown: Live At Chastain Park (Wienerworld)
L. Young: 4EVER Young (eOne)
Lala Hathaway: Live (eOne)
Lara Price: I Mean Business (Vizz Tone)
The New Stylistics: Very Best of Stylistics Live…And More! (Forevermore)
Seal: 7 (Warner Bros. )
Terisa Griffin: Revival of Soul (digital)
Terry Tobin: Truth Is (Topnotch Music)
Various: Love & Affection – More Motown Girls (Ace)
Various: Lost Without You – The Best of Kent Ballads 2 (Kent)

Rap, Hip Hop
J-Live: How Much is Water? (Mortier Music)
Big K.R.I.T.: All My Life (RBC)
Busdriver: Thumbs (digital)
Chief Keef: Finally Rollin 2 (RBC)
E-40: Poverty & Prosperity (digital) (Heavy on the Grind)
Fabolous: Summertime Shootout (Collector’s Ed.) (Def Jam)
Fetty Wap: The Life (DVD) (Meldose Films)
Freddie Gibbs: Shadow of a Doubt (ESGN)
Goth Money: Trillionaires (Break World)
Jadakiss: Top 5 Dead or Alive (Def Jam)
Jeezy: Church in These Streets (Def Jam)
Krayzie Bone: Chasing the Devil (RBC)
Lil Wayne: No Ceilings 2 (Collector’s Ed.) (Young Money)
Lil-C: H-Town Chronic 16 (Oarfin)
Master P: Empire from the Hood to Hollywood (digital) (Globy House)
Michael Christmas: What a Weird Day (self-release)
Raplords: #Raplords (Uni-Fi)
Rapper Big Pooh & Nottz: Home Sweet Home (Mello Music)
Redman: Mudface (digital) (Gilla House)
Richon Aubrey: Dreams (Twenty Two)
Silas Blak: Editorials (War Tunes) (Cabin Games)
Talib Kweli & 9th Wonder Present: Indie 500 (It’s a Wonderful World)
Tech N9ne: Strangeulation II (Strange Music)
Ty Dolla $ign: Free TC (Atlantic)
Waka Flocka Flame: Flockaveli 1.5 (Collector’s Ed.) (BSM)

Reggae, Dancehall
Congo Natty: Jungle Revolution In Dub (Big Dada)
Gentleman’s Dub Club: Big Smoke (Easy Star)
Various: First Recordings of Sir Coxsone The Downbeat 1960-63 (Soul Jazz)

Elikeh: Kondona (Ropeadope)
Falz: Stories That Touch (digital) (BahdGuys Ent.)
Sauti Sol: Live and Die in Africa (digital) (Sauti Sol Ent.)
Tinariwen: Live In Paris  (Anti/Epitaph)
Various: Senegal 70 – Sonic Gems & Previously Unreleased Recordings from the 70’s (Analog Africa)
Zenglen: Rezilta Pi Red (digital)


View review December 1st, 2015

Welcome to the November 2015 Issue

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

This month we’re featuring albums with a local connection: Mind Your Head by the Bloomington-born funk band The Main Squeeze; Life in the City by Indianapolis-based reggae artist Kingly T; The Lonely Roller by Steven A. Clark (released on Bloomington’s Secretly Canadian label); and the self-titled debut album by Son Little (who will be performing in Bloomington on Nov. 6).

We’re featuring three anniversary albums in this month’s jazz releases: Silver, the 25th anniversary of the “groove jazz” band Fourplay; Vicennial: 20 Years of the Hot 8 Brass Band; and 10, celebrating ten years of activity by the Gabriel Alegría Afro-Peruvian Sextet. Also included is Reincarnation by Sonny Simmons, a new release drawn from a 1991 live set recorded in Olympia, Washington.

Under the umbrella of R&B, rock and soul we’re featuring Misunderstood by Olympia, Washington singer-songwriter Ethan Tucker; Just a Mortal Man, the solo debut from Jerry Lawson (of Persuasions fame); Happiness in Every Style by Nicole Willis & the Soul Investigators; and the first CD release of Love’s Reel to Real.  Blues albums include Outskirts of Love by Shemekia Copeland and Right Man Right Now by Zac Harmon.

In world music, we have Ballads & Blasphemy from the cosmopolitan globe-traveler Kuku and Alone from the desert-rock band Terakaft. Rounding out this month’s issue is the new compilation Packin’ Up: The Best of Marion Williams, which features highlights from the gospel legend’s career, plus our list of October 2015 Releases of Note.


View review November 2nd, 2015

Sonny Simmons with Barbara Donald – Reincarnation

Sonny simmons with barbara donald_reincarnation

Title: Reincarnation

Artist: Sonny Simmons with Barbara Donald

Label: Arhoolie

Formats: CD

Release Date: October 9, 2015


Jazz aficionados may know Sonny Simmons as a minor personality who briefly recorded with luminaries such as Eric Dolphy and Elvin Jones.  They may also be aware of his musical partner and wife, Barbara Donald, who appeared on several of Simmons’s recordings as a leader during the 1960s and 1970s.  It is less likely that they are familiar with the duo’s son, Zarak Simmons, who appeared on Sonny’s 1994 disc Ancient Ritual as well as a few other recordings.  The new Arhoolie records release, Reincarnation, captures a rare set in which husband, wife, and son performed in the same combo, recorded live during a 1991 set at Barb’s BBQ in Olympia Washington.

Those familiar with the work of the elder Simmons and Donald may be surprised at how inside this set is, compared to the duo’s more avant-garde releases from decades past.  The original compositions on Reincarnation have audibly conventional changes, and the album includes two fairly straightforward renditions of songbook ballads, “Body and Soul,” and “Over the Rainbow,” neither of which, it may be argued, set any new standard for interpreting the tunes.  However, those looking for the playful experimentation that characterizes much of the duo’s older work will not be disappointed–Sonny plays the same long, angular alto solos that made him famous (“American Jungle Theme”), while simultaneously weaving large intervallic jumps and squeaks in with flurries of bop lines make the changes in swinging fashion (“Body and Soul”). Donald is the far more conservative player of the two, answering Sonny’s squeals and screams with motivic development that could have been pulled from Kind of Blue (“Ancient Ritual”), and playing it straight and lyrical on her feature tune “Over the Rainbow.”

Zarak’s playing is energetic, although usually busier than the moment calls for–he finds the hits on time on “Ancient Ritual,” and supports the chaotic energy of “American Jungle Theme,” but adds additional punctuation where it isn’t required on the more inside numbers, breaking the solid bop of “Reincarnation” a bit too often and dramatically overplaying on the standards.  The remainder of the rhythm section is solid, with another minor personality, Travis Shook, providing confident, if a bit too low in the mix during solos, piano, and a fairly obscure bassist, Court Crawford, rounding out the rhythm section as a solid rhythmic-harmonic anchor.

Reincarnation showcases the versatility of the pair credited in the title, providing contrast between Simmons’s energetic avant-garde playing and Donald’s more conservative approach to improvisation.  They are accompanied by a competent band, even if the stylistic inflections of particular tunes tend to get lost in the somewhat uncoordinated rhythm section’s accompaniment.

Listen on Spotify here.

Reviewed by Matthew Alley

View review November 2nd, 2015

October 2015 Releases of Note

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

Blues, Folk, Country
Eugene Hideaway Bridges: Hold on a Little Bit Longer (Armadillo Music)
Ironing Board Sam: Super Spirit (Big Legal Mess)
Joe Louis Walker: Everybody Wants A Piece (Provogue)
Sam Butler: Raise Your Hands! (Severn)
Taj Mahal & the Hula Blues Band: Live From Kauai (Kuleana Music)
T-Bone Walker: Texas Guitar From Dallas to L.A. (remastered ed.) (Friday Music)

David Chesky: Rap Symphony (Chesky)
Various: Hamilton Original Broadway Cast Recording (Atlantic)
Willard White: Willard White in Concert (Musical Concepts)

Funk, Rock, Pop, Electronic
Denai Moore: Elsewhere (Because Music/WMI)
4th Coming: Strange Things, Complete Works 1970-1974 (Now-Again)
Alesha Dixon: Do It For Love (Precious Stone)
Blue Daisy (Kwesi Darko): Darker Than Blue (R&S)
Doug Hream Blunt: My Name Is Doug Hream Blunt (Luaka Bop)
Escort: Animal Nature (Escort)
Jimi Hendrix: Electric Church (DVD) (Legacy)
Judith Hill: Back in Time (NPG)
Lenny Kravitz: Just Let Go Live (DVD) (Eagle Rock)
Seinabo Sey: Pretend (Virgin)

Gospel, Gospel Rap, Sacred
Ambassador: When Scared Meets Secular (Next Music LLC)
James Hall Worship & Praise: WAP New Era (eOne)
Janice Gaines: Greatest Life Ever (Motown Gospel)
Jonathan Butler: Free (Rendezvous)
Patrick Riddick & D’vyne Worship: Ready (PMG)
Travis Greene: The Hill (RCA Inspiration)
Tru-Serva: Eyes Open (Psalms Group)
Williams Brothers: Gospel Praise (Orchard)
Williams Brothers, Lee Williams & the Spiritual QCs: My Brother’s Keeper III (Orchard)

Al Green: Feels Like Christmas (Fat Possum)
Earth, Wind & Fire: Classic Christmas Album (Legacy)
India.Arie & Joe Sample: Christmas With Friends (Motown)
Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis: Big Band Holidays (Blue Engine)
KC & The Sunshine Band: A Sunshine Christmas (BFD)
Kim Waters: My Gift to You (Red River Ent.)
Mint Condition: The Healing Season (Mint Condition Music)
Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings: It’s A Holiday Soul Party (Daptone)
Sons of Serendip: Christmas Beyond The Lights (NIA)
Soulful Strings: The Magic of Christmas (Real Gone)

Billy Cobham: Live Electric Ballroom in Dallas Texas 1975 (United States Dist.)
Chucho Valdés: Tribute to Irakere (Live in Marciac) (Jazz Village)
Cilantro Boombox: A Live, Sweaty Session (Good Music Club)
Erik Friedlander: OSCALYPSO (Tribute to Oscar Pettiford) (Skipstone)
Sun Ra and His Arkestra: To Those of Earth…And Other Worlds (Strut)
Houston Person: Something Personal (HighNote)
Johnny Hammond: Gears (expanded ed.) (BGP)
Kenny Burrell: The Road to Love (HighNote)
Leon Thomas: Full Circle (remasted ed.) (BGP)
Lionel Loueke: GAÏA (Blue Note)
Matthew Shipp Trio: The Conduct of Jazz (Thirsty Ear)
Nicole Mitchell, Tomeka Reid & Mike Reed: Artifacts (482 Music)
Sopko, Laswell, Pridgen: s/t (self-released)
Sullivan Fortner: Aria (Impulse)

R&B, Soul
Damita Jo: Love Laid It’s Hand on Me 1952-1962 (Jasmine)
Edge of Daybreak: Eyes of Love (Numero)
Fats Domino: Thrillin In Philly! Live 1973 (Cleopatra)
Gene-O: Born to Love (Spectra Music Group)
Janel Jackson: Unbreakable (BMG)
Jay Dee: Come On In Love (expanded ed.) (Real Gone Music)
Lalah Hathaway: Live (eOne)
Monica: Code Red (RCA)
Narada Michael Walden: Evolution (Tarpan)
O’Jays: 50th Anniversary Concert (CD+DVD) (Wienerworld)
OMI: Me 4 U (Columbia)
Otis Redding: Soul Manifesto 1964-1970 (Box set) (Rhino)
Raury: All We Need (Columbia)
Tamar Braxton: Calling All Lovers (Epic)
The Jack Moves: s/t (Wax Poetics)
Various: Private Wax Vol. 2, Super Rare Boogie & Disco (BBE)
Willie Clayton: Heart & Soul (Endzone Ent.)

Rap, Hip Hop
First Degree the D. E.: Black Bane, Misunderstood Hero (Part 1) (Fahrenheit)
First Division: Overworked & Underpaid (Slice of Spice)
PleaseThankYouKnow (Infinito:2017): Children Have Room To Grow ( Joe Left Hand)
Ray West & Kool Keith: A Couples of Slices (Red Apples 45)
B.B. & The Underground Kingz (B.B. King & UGK): The Trill is Gone (digital) (Soul Mates)
Bryson Tiller: Trap Soul (RCA)
Chedda Da Connect: Chedda World the Album (eOne)
Chuck Inglish: Everybody’s Big Brother (digital) (Sounds Like Fun)
Doc Illingsworth: Worth the Wait (LP) (Fat Beats)
Illa J: Illa J (Bastard Jazz)
J Dilla: Dillatronic (Vintage Vibes)
J. Stalin: Tears of Joy (Empire)
J-Diggs & Jacka: Mobb Nation (Romp’t Out)
Joe Budden: All Love Lost (eOne)
June Onna Beat: No Favors (Black Market)
Kirk Knight: Late Knight Special (Cinematic Music Group)
Knxwledge: Anthology (vinyl) (Leaving)
LE1F: Riot Boi (XL)
Lil C: H-Town Chronic 16 (Oarfin)
Little Simz: A Curious Tale of Trials + Persons (Age 101 Music)
M.I.C.: A.W.A.P. (All Work All Play) (Empire)
Marcellous Lovelace Presents American Poverty: Fray & Tay (Joe Left Hand)
Med, Blu, Madlib: Bad Neighbor (BangYaHead Ent.)
Mozzy: Yellow Tape Activities (Black Market)
Ohana Bam: Tree Up (digital)
Pharoah Davinci: The Art of Life (Black Market)
R.City: What Dreams Are Made Of (RCA)
Roots Manuva: Bleeds (Big Dada)
Semi Hendrix: Breakfast At Banksy’s (Mello Music)
Shakka: The Lost Boys EP (digital) (RME)
Styles P: A Wise Guy and A Wise Guy (Phantom Ent.)
T.I.: The Dime Trap (Columbia)
The Game: Documentary 2.5 (eOne)
The Other Guys: After the 9 to 5 (HipNott)
Various: New Sounds of Hip-Hop (Wagram)

Reggae, Dancehall
Gussie Clarke: From the Foundation (2 CD/DVD) (VP)
Lee Perry: Mr. Perry I Presume (Pressure Sounds)
Macka B: Never Played a 45 (VP)
Soul Jazz Records presents 100% Dynamite! (expanded ed.) (Soul Jazz)
The Selecter: Subculture (Redeye)
Various: Trevor Jackson Presents Science Fiction Dancehall Classics (On-U Sound)
Various: Clarks in Jamaica (VP)

Spoken Word, Comedy
D’Militant: Too Raw For Mainstream (Uproar)
Jessica Care Moore: Black Tea, The Legend of Jessi James (Javotti Media)

World, Latin
Rim Kwaku Obeng: Too Tough/I’m Not Going to Let You Go (BBE)
Bixiga 70: III (Glitterbeat)
Dexter Story: Wondem (Soundway)
Dieuf-Dieul De Thies: Aw Sa Yone 2 (Teranga Beat)
DJ Khalab & Baba Sissoko: Khalab & Baba (Wonderwheel)
Eji Oyewole: Charity Begins at Home (LP reissue) (BBE)
Gangbé Brass Band: Go Slow to Lagos (Buda Musique)
Grupo Fantasma: Problemas (Blue Corn)
Holy Forest: s/t (Mighty Fine Music)
Kandia Kouyaté: Renascence (Sterns Africa)
Kranium: Rumors (Atlantic)
Lura: Herança (Lusafrica)
Rim Obeng Kwaku: Rim Arrives (BBE)
SK Kakraba: Songs of Paapieye (Awesome Tapes From Africa)
Various: The Brasileiro Treasure Box of Funk & Soul (Cultures of Soul)
Youssou N’Dour & Le Super Etoile de Dakar: Fatteliku: Live (Real World)




View review November 2nd, 2015

Welcome to the October 2015 Issue

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

This month it seems appropriate to begin with Cheers to the Fall, the major label debut from San Diego’s soulful songstress Andra Day. Also featured are several new releases with a socially conscious agenda including Stereotypes from the duo Black Violin, Pistol Politics from the Bay Area rapper Paris, and Siglo XXI from the Bloomington, Indiana-based jazz group Liberation Music Collective.

Other jazz albums include the new Legacy release of Erroll Garner’s The Complete Concert By the Sea, bassist Ben Williams’ Coming of Age, Harold Mabern’s Afro Blue, and “Doctuh” Michael Woods’ jazz suite Uhthuh Planets. Blues and country music releases include self-proclaimed blues preacher Shawn Amos’ The Reverend Shawn Amos Loves You, Chicago blues harpist Omar Coleman’s Born & Raised, and Darius Rucker’s Southern Style, an ode to his home state of South Carolina.

New compilations include Dust-to-Digital’s No More Good Time in the World for Me featuring African-American work songs sung by J.B. Smith; Henry Stone’s Miami Sound: Finest Funky 45s paying tribute to the legendary founder of T.K. Records; the Wilson Pickett 2-CD set Mr. Magic Man: The Complete RCA Studio Recordings and the Ben E. King 2-CD set The Complete Atco/Atlantic Singles Vol. 1, 1960-1966, both from Real Gone Music; and Legacy’s 4-CD set Johnny Mathis: The Singles.

Wrapping up this issue is Herança from the Cape-Verdean singer Lura, and our list of September 2015 releases of note.

View review October 1st, 2015

J.B. Smith – No More Good time in the World for Me

jb smith no more good time in the world for me

Title: No More Good Time in the World for Me

Artist: J.B. Smith

Label: Dust-to-Digital

Formats: 2-CD set, MP3

Release Date: April 28, 2015


In the liner notes to No More Good Time in the World for Me, folklorist Nathan Salsburg makes a succinct observation: “African-American work songs are long-gone.” Indeed, as the social and labor conditions that provided context for this music—slavery, chain gangs, and share-cropping—have somewhat or fully disappeared, so have the work songs. Undoubtedly, these changes are welcomed progress. However, African-American work songs are important documents of cultural history, especially considering their influence on blues and other musical forms. This makes the recordings on No More Good Time in the World for Me—some of the last African-American work songs recorded in the United States—a vital historical document.

The album features eighteen songs performed by Johnnie B. Smith—also known as J.B.—while incarcerated at the Ramsey State Farm in Rosharon, Texas in 1965 and 1966. Folklorist Bruce Jackson recorded J.B. Smith at the prison, and would use this material for his 1972 book, Wake Up Dead Man: American Worksongs from Texas Prisons.

Smith was in his mid-40s at the time of these recordings, serving his fourth prison term. He led work songs earlier in his life while serving on a chain gang and even composed work songs for himself while chopping sugarcane or picking cotton. These original compositions provide, arguably, the most interesting content of the collection.

Often stretching twenty minutes in length, Smith’s own work songs are stark meditations on a variety of topics, including: being accused of crimes, the remaining time in his prison sentence, and a longing for freedom. The majority of Smith’s songs employ the same melody and ABBA form, the latter created by inverting the first and second lines for the third and fourth lines of each stanza. The result is a feeling of despondency: Smith uses music as a tool for escape, yet arrives back where he started again and again. “Sure Make a Man Feel Bad” (disc 2, song 1) gives the most accurate performance context of African-American work songs, as it is a group performance by Smith, Jesse “G.I.” Hendricks, Frank Young, and Houston Zachary. Smith sings the rest of the songs in this collection a capella.

In the tradition of Dust-to-Digital’s previous releases, No More Good Time in the World for Me is beautifully packaged and thoughtfully produced. Bruce Jackson’s evocative photos, Nathan Salsburg’s erudite liner notes, and Michael Graves’ excellent mastering provide strong accompaniment and context for Smith’s work songs. No More Good Time in the World for Me is a timely reminder of why traditions are documented and an artistic portrait of J.B. Smith: a man searching for solace and awaiting freedom through song.


Reviewed by Douglas Dowling Peach

View review October 1st, 2015

September 2015 Releases of Note

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


Blues, Folk, Country

Adolphus Bell: Mississippi Rubberleg (Music Maker)

B.B. King: Complete Singles As &Bs 1949-62 (Acrobat)

Gary Clark Jr: The Story of Sonny Boy Slim (Warner Bros)

Guy Davis: Kokomo Kidd (M.C. Records)

James Cotton: Live at Antone’s Nightclub (reissue) (Texas Music Group)

James Cotton: Mighty Long Time (reissue) (Texas Music Group)

JC Smith Band: Love Mechanic (Cozmik)

John Lee Hooker & Friends: The House of Blues (Klondike)

Mighty Sam McClain & Knut Reiersrud: Tears of the World (Music & Vision)

Mr. David: Put It On Ya (Waldoxy)

Shemekia Copeland: Outskirts of Love (Alligator)

Various: Rough Guide to the Blues Songsters (World Music Network)

Various: Rough Guide to Unsung Heroes of Country Blues, Vol. 2 (World Music Network)

Willie Dixon: Live in Chicago – 1984 (Hi Hat)


Funk, Rock, Pop, Electronic

Boulevards: Boulevards EP (Don’t Funk With Me)

Darlene Love: Introducing Darlene Love (Columbia)

Gap Band: The Gap Band I, II & III (Reissue) (Beat Goes On)

Harleighblu: Futurespective EP 2 (Tru Thoughts)

Leona Lewis: I Am (Def Jam)

Main Squeeze: Mind Your Head (digital)

Mindi Abair & The Boneshakers: Live in Seattle (Concord)

Petite Noir: La Vie Est Belle/Life is Beautiful (Domino)

P-Funk All-Stars: Live at the Beverly Theater (reissue) (Westbound)


Thunderbitch: Thunderbitch (digital, LP)

Various: Daptone Gold II (Daptone)


Gospel, Gospel Rap, CCM

Audrey Cher: The Intro (CD Baby)

Danetra Moore: Light in the Dark (Tyscot)

John P. Kee: Level Next (Motown)

Jonathan McReynolds: Life Music: Stage Two (eOne)

Tiff Joy: Tiff Joy (Tyscot)

Walter Hawkins: Classic 3: Love Alive (eOne)



Billy Cobham: Atlantic Box Set 1973-1978 (8 CD) (Atlantic)

Bob James & Nathan East: The New Cool

Carlos Henriquez: Bronx Pyramid (Blue Engine)

Cecile McLorin Salvant: For One to Love (Mack Avenue)

Christian McBride Trio: Live at the Village Vanguard (Mack Avenue)

Duke Ellington: Black Power (Live, 1969) (Squatty Roo)

Incognito: Live in London – 35th Anniversary Show (earMusic)

Josh Evans: Hope and Despair (Passin’ thru)

Kendrick Scott Oracle: We Are The Drum (Blue Note)

Lizz Wright: Freedom & Surrender (Concord)

Mack Avenue SuperBand: Live from the Detroit Jazz Festival – 2014 (Mack Avenue)

Mariea Antoinette: Straight from the Harp: Special Edition (MAH Productions)

Mike Reed’s People, Places and Things: A New Kind of Dance (482 Music)

Miles Davis: San Francisco 1970: Classic Radio Broadcast (Left Field Media)

Orrin Evans: The Evolution of Oneself (Smoke Sessions)

Perez Patitucci Blade: Children of the Light (Mack Avenue)

Rob Reddy: Bechet: Our Contemporary (Reddy Music)

Ron Carter & WDR Big Band: My Personal Songbook (IN+OUT)

Tomeka Reid Quartet: Tomeka Reid Quartet (Thirsty Ear)


R&B, Soul

Avant: The VIII (MO-B Ent.)

Charity: Yellow EP

Jonathan McReynolds: Life Music: Stage Two (Light/eOne)

Kwabs: Love + War (Warner Music UK)

La Mont Zeno Theatre: Black Fairy (reissue) (Athens of the North)

Marc Stone: Poison & Medicine (Louisiana Red Hot)

Marvin Gaye: Volume One 1961-1965 (7 CD Box Set) (Motown)

Miki Howard: Live in Concert (Slimstyle)

Otis Redding: Otis Redding Sings Soul (Collector’s Edition) (Atlantic/Rhino)

Steven A. Clark: Lonely Roller (Secretly Canadian)

Urban Mystic: Soulful Classics (SoBe Ent.)

Various: Please Mr. Disc Jockey: Atlantic Vocal Group Sound (Fantastic Voyage)

Various: Reaching Out: Chess Records at Fame Studios (Kent)


Rap, Hip Hop

Apollo Brown: Grandeur (Mello Music Group)

Big Boi & Phantogram: Big Grams (Epic)

Blackalicious: Imani Vol. 1 (Black Mines)

Casey Veggies: Live and Grow (Epic)

Chief Keef: Bang 3 (RBC)

Curtiss King: Raging Waters (digital) (Magnate Music)

Do or Die: Picture This 2 (Rap-a-Lot)

Erick Sermon: E.S.P. (Def Squad)

Fetty Wap: Fetty Wap (300 Ent.)

First Division: OVERWORKED & UNDERPAID: THE LP (Soulspazm)

Glasses Malone: GlassHouse 2: Life Ain’t Nuthin But…

Guilty Simpson: Detroit’s Son (Stone’s Throw)

Jay Rock: 90059 (Top Dawg Entertainment)

Jigmastas: Grassroots: The Prologue (BBE)

K Camp: Only Way is Up (digital) (Interscope)

Little Simz: A Curious Tale of Trials + Persons (AGE 101)

Mayday!: Future/Vintage (Strange Music)

Mega Ran: RNDM (digital) (RandomBeats)

OCKZ: The Stuyvesant Chronicles (digital)

Opio & Free the Robots: Sempervirens (Hieroglyphics)

Paul Wall: Slab God (Paul Wall Music)

Psalm One: P.O.L.Y. (DIGITAL)

Public Enemy: Live from Metropolis Studios (DVD) (Def Jam)

Pupp Barber: Somethin to Prove (Reality)

Rawyals: Our Queendom

Reconcile: Catchin’ Bodies EP (Track or Die, LLC)

Rick Ross: Black Dollar Mixtape (Maybach Music Group)

Scarface: Deeply Rooted (BMG)

Sheek Louch: Silverback Gorilla II (Koch)

Sir Michael Rocks: Populair (digital) (6 Cell Phones)

Solow Redline: #homelessrapper (Wicked Ent)

T.I.: Da ‘Nic EP (digital) (King Inc.)

Talib Kweli: Train of Thought: Lost Lyrics, Rare Releases & Beautiful B-sides (Javotti Media)

Travis Scott: Rodeo (Epic/Grand Hustle)

Underachievers: Evermore (RPM MSC Dist.)

Wordsworth & Donel Smokes: New Beginning (Worldwide Communication)

Young Dro: Da Reality Show (eOne)

Young Thug: Hy!£UN35


Reggae, Dancehall

Bob Marley: Complete Island Recordings (12 LP Box Set) (Tuff Gong)


World, Latin

Ballaké Sissoko & Vincent Segal: Musique de Nuit (Six Degrees)

Chouk Bwa Libete: Se Nou Ki La (Buda Musique)

Daby Touré: Amonafi (Cumbancha)

Gambari Band: Kokuma (Membran)

Insingizi: African Harmonies: Siyabonga – We Thank You (ARC)

Kuku: Ballads & Blasphemy (Buda Musique)

Mr. Pauer: Orange

Terakraft: Alone

Various: Kanta Cabo Verde (Lusafrica)

Various: sounds of Anguilla (Massenburg Media)

Vieux Farka Touré & Julia Easterlin: Touristes (Six Degrees)

Witch: We Intend to Cause Havoc! (4-CD box set) (Now-Again)

View review October 1st, 2015

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