Protobilly: The Minstrel & Tin Pan Alley DNA of Country Music

Title: Protobilly: The Minstrel & Tin Pan Alley DNA of Country Music
Artist: Various
Label: JSP
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date: October 25, 2019

 

 

Those who watched Ken Burns Country Music documentary on PBS and want to dig a little deeper into the roots of the genre should find this new box set quite fascinating. Protobilly: The Minstrel & Tin Pan Alley DNA of Country Music 1892-2017, as the title suggests, “documents old country songs with origins in minstrelsy, vaudeville, Tin Pan Alley, ballads, ancient hymnals, deep-south blues, and other venerable popular music genres.” The anthology was meticulously produced by three highly regarded sound recording historians—the vernacular music specialists and radio producers Dick Spottswood and Henry Sapoznik, who also wrote the liner notes, and David Giovannoni, who contributed many rare cylinders and discs from his own collection. Additionally, Grammy Award winning musician Dom Flemons, aka “The American Songster” and former member of the Carolina Chocolate Drops, also contributed to the notes.  Continue reading

Richard Thompson – The Mask in the Mirror: A Chamber Opera

 

Title: The Mask in the Mirror: A Chamber Opera
Artist: Richard Thompson (comp.)
Label: Navona
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date: February 8, 2019

 

The Mask in the Mirror, a three-act chamber opera from composer and pianist Richard Thompson, portrays turmoil and tragedy in this dramatization of the courtship and marriage of renowned African-American poet Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906) and author Alice Ruth Moore (1875-1935). Conducted by Stephen Tucker, The Sanaa Opera Project released a recording of The Mask in the Mirror earlier this year. Featuring tenor Cameo Humes in the role of Paul and soprano Angela Owens as Alice, with mezzo-soprano Lindsay Patterson Abdou in several supporting familial roles, The Mask in the Mirror balances man against woman, jazz against classical composition, and society against self in a rise of tension that resolves only with end of their relationship and Paul’s subsequent surrender to tuberculosis. Continue reading

Ramsey Lewis & Urban Knights – VII

 

Title: VII
Artist: Ramsey Lewis & Urban Knights
Label: Ropeadope
Formats: CD, LP, Digital
Release date: September 27, 2019

 

Music industry iconic figure, legendary jazz pianist, and Chicago native Ramsey Lewis has released what is possibly his final album with the Urban Knights, VII, before embarking on his journey into retirement. Since his debut album, Ramsey Lewis and his Gentle-men of Swing (1956), Lewis has been a thriving force in the music industry as a successful artist and radio personality, producing countless record albums, and hosting his Legends of Jazz radio and television series. Along the way he has received three Grammy Awards and five gold records, not to mention recordings and collaborations with major music figures such as Nancy Wilson, Maurice White, Freddie Hubbard, Grover Washington Jr., Oliver Nelson, Benny Golson, Dr. Lonnie Smith, and Tony Bennett, among many others. Continue reading

Chick Corea Trio – Trilogy 2

 

Title: Trilogy 2
Artist: Chick Corea Trio
Label: Concord Jazz
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date: October 4, 2019

 

 

Musician extraordinaire and jazz luminary Chick Corea returns to the stage with jazz giants Christian McBride and Brian Blade on his newest two-disc live recording, Trilogy 2. Released five years after his Trilogy (2014), which won two Grammy Awards for Best Jazz Instrumental Album and Best Improvised Jazz Solo for “Fingerprints,” Trilogy 2 comes as a welcome sequel and features Corea’s originals as well as jazz classics and standards from the American Songbook.  Continue reading

Lilli Lewis Project – We Belong

 

Title: We Belong
Artist: Lilli Lewis Project
Label: Louisiana Red Hot
Formats: CD, LP, Digital
Release date: September 6, 2019

 

On the Lilli Lewis Project’s newest release, We Belong, the Louisiana-based quintet offers their commentary on the importance of being connected to others, whether that connection is within a community, family or intimate relationship. Led by Lilli Lewis on piano and vocals, the multi-genre jazz, folk, funk and soul band also features Smokey Brown (guitar), Wade Hymel (drums), Ryan Murry (percussion), Ole Oddlokken (sax), Dr. Jimbo Walsh (bass), plus a few special guests. Continue reading

Tenesha The Wordsmith – Peacocks & Other Savage Beasts

 

Title: Peacocks & Other Savage Beasts
Artist: Tenesha The Wordsmith
Label: On the Corner
Formats: CD, LP, and Digital
Release date: August 30, 2019

 

 

First coming on to the scene as a guest on the title track of DJ Khalad’s 2018 On The Corner release, Black Noise 2084, Tenesha The Wordsmith has delivered a timely yet timeless solo album with Peacocks & Other Savage Beasts. Blending and bending genres, Tenesha holds true to her name, wordsmithing to weave narratives together, painting a new reality in the process. This album withholds nothing, deftly balancing social commentary, and critiques, with narrative. There is also a clear through-line of hope. Though many of the narratives included within this album are considered personal, they are framed such that they transcend the individual to become the collective, as exemplified in the track, ‘The Collection.” The pieces that bookend the album, “Dangerous Women” and “I Dream So Loud,” are poetry as prayer; they are invocation, they are inspiration, they are aspiration.  Continue reading

Wynton Marsalis’s Swing Symphony

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

 

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

Jazzmeia Horn – Love and Liberation

 

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

 

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

James Carter Organ Trio – Live From Newport Jazz

 

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

 

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

Jon Batiste – Anatomy of Angels

 

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

 

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

Louis Armstrong – Live in Europe

 

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

 

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

Americus Brass Band’s Tribute to James Reese Europe

 

Title: Tribute to James Reese Europe’s Harlem Hell Fighters’ Band
Artist: Americus Brass Band
Label: Cambria Master Recordings/Naxos
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date: July 19, 2019

 

The full title of this fantastic project is self-explanatory: The Americus Brass Band Pays Tribute to James Reese Europe’s Harlem Hell Fighters’ Band on the 100th Anniversary of the Pathé Recordings. At the dawn of the 20th century, Jim Europe was making a name for himself on the musical stages of New York as a talented pianist, composer and conductor, later leading the famed Clef Club Symphony Orchestra as well as his own group, James Reese Europe’s Society Orchestra. In mid-1916, Europe’s life changed course when he was asked to lead an all-black regiment band on the eve of WWI. After sailing to France in January 1918, Europe’s group quickly became the most acclaimed band in the army. Renaming themselves the “Hell Fighters” (after the Black soldiers of the 369th Regiment), they toured France, thrilling both American and French audiences with their performances of the syncopated music newly designated as “jazz.” At the close of WWI in February1919, Europe’s Hell Fighter’s Band returned to a hero’s welcome in New York and one month later entered the recording studio. Continue reading

Avery Sharpe – 400: An African American Musical Portrait

 

Title: 400: An African American Musical Portrait
Artist: Avery Sharpe
Label: JKNM Records
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date: May 1st, 2019

 

From the arrival of the first slave ships in Jamestown, VA in 1619 to the present, Africans in the diaspora have retained the common African belief that life, religion and music are one. Jazz bassist Avery Sharpe’s new project, 400: An African American Musical Portrait, embodies the very essence of this concept. Sharpe pays homage to the continent of Africa and to African diasporic ancestors as he commemorates the 400 years since Africans were brought to America. Continue reading

Damon Locks Black Monument Ensemble – Where Future Unfolds

 

Title: Where Future Unfolds
Artist: Damon Locks Black Monument Ensemble
Label: IARC
Formats: CD, LP, Digital
Release date: June 14, 2019

 

Recorded live last November at the Red Bull Music Festival in Chicago, Damon Locks’ new release with his 15-piece Black Monument Ensemble may quite literally capture Where Future Unfolds. This forward looking project began as a sound collage piece incorporating samples from Civil Rights era speeches and grew into an epic, avant-garde oratorio. While the album can’t capture the full spectacle of the live performance with dancers from Move Me Soul, the recording still conveys the powerful message of Locks’ music. Likely influenced by the theatricality of Sun Ra and the aesthetics of The Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, Locks’ magnum opus also bears some resemblance to albums released during the Black Power and Black Arts Movement eras. This is clear from the opening “Statement of Intent/Black Monument Theme,” which is primarily a spoken word piece over the African-rooted percussion of Arif Smith and Dana Hall. The dense lyrics conclude with the call to action: “So we choose our next move / The time is now, it has always been / Respond anew / Pass the guard and get through, because some things never change.” Continue reading

Charnett Moffett – Bright New Day

 

Title: Bright New Day
Artist: Charnett Moffett
Label: Motéma Music
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date: June 21, 2019

 

Bright New Day is the newest album by bass player extraordinaire, Charnett Moffett. Released just two years after his Music From Our Soul (2017), Bright New Day is his seventh album with Motéma Music and sixteenth album as front man and bandleader. Moffett’s remarkable resume includes performances and recordings with jazz luminaries such as Ornette Coleman, Tony Williams, Mulgrew Miller, Wallace Roney, Brandford and Wynton Marsalis, and Stanley Jordan, among others. His album features a great supporting cast which includes guitarist and founder of Motéma Music Jana Herzen, drummer Mark Whitfield Jr., keyboardist Brian Jackson, and violinist Scott Tixier. Continue reading

Ranky Tanky – Good Time

 

Title: Good Time
Artist: Ranky Tanky
Label: Resilience Music
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date: July 12, 2019

 

Ranky Tanky‘s Good Time is a beautiful project that honors the Gullah culture while also celebrating African and African American culture and music. Their music represents the African concept of music, life and religion as a unified entity. Because of this “oneness,” many of Ranky Tanky’s songs such as “Freedom” and “Stand By Me” are intertwined with social and political messages, conveying issues in contemporary Black life while also using religious overtones. These sacred overtones are heard throughout the song “Good Time,” which “takes you straight to church” as they say in the vernacular. Ranky Tanky also revisit the storytelling folk tradition of their Gullah heritage to convey the messages found in each song. Continue reading

Moken – Missing Chapters

 

Title: Missing Chapters
Artist: Moken
Label: MoodSwing Records
Format: CD, Digital
Release Date: August 9, 2019

 

When Cameroonian-born artist Moken released his debut album, Chapters of My Life (2016), he sought to capture the tumultuous experience of moving to the U.S. in the jazzy, rhythmic style of Cameroonian makossa music. Three years later Moken, who is now based in Atlanta, has compiled both new and reworked songs he felt were missing from his first album in the aptly titled Missing Chapters. Drawing upon a close circle of Atlanta musicians and other friends, including drummer Raphael Periera and violinist/flutist Marla Feeney, Moken offers what he calls “a feelings album,” as in “whatever felt right, we kept it.” Continue reading

Burnt Sugar The Arkestra Chamber – 20th Anniversary Mixtapes: Groiddest Schizznits Vol. 1-3

 

Title: 20th Anniversary Mixtapes: Groiddest Schizznits Vol. 1-3
Artist: Burnt Sugar The Arkestra Chamber
Label: TruGroid/Dist. CD Baby
Formats: 3 CDs, Digital
Release date: 2019

 

This year marks the twentieth anniversary of the acclaimed and renowned experimental soul-jazz-hip hop ensemble, Burnt Sugar The Arkestra Chamber. Founded in 1999 by Village Voice critic, black music scholar and guitarist Greg Tate and co-leader/bassist Jared Michael Nickerson, Burnt Sugar was, and is, a collective of musicians creating music that traverses black music styles, genres, and eras. According to Tate and Nickerson, “Burnt Sugar was originally conceived as a forum for the New York area improvisational musician to compose, record and perform material which reflects the breadth and depth of African diasporan music in the 21st century.” To commemorate their illustrious career, Burnt Sugar recently released their three volume album compilation, 20th Anniversary Mixtapes: Groiddest Schizznits. Continue reading

Aaron Whitby – Cousin From Another Planet

 

Title: Cousin From Another Planet
Artist: Aaron Whitby
Label: Ropeadope
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date: June 21, 2019

 

British producer, composer, songwriter, and keyboardist Aaron Whitby has worked with many legendary rock and funk musicians, including the late Walter ‘Junie’ Morrison (Ohio Players), George Clinton (Parliament Funkadelic) and Vernon Reid (Living Colour). On his debut solo album, Cousin From Another Planet, Whitby crash lands on Earth to create a masterful fusion of jazz, rock and funk brewed in the cosmos of the 1970s. Assisting with the creation of his “percolating, stimulating and motor-booty activatin’” music (as described by Greg Tate in the liner notes), is Charlie Burnham (violin), Keith Loftis (tenor sax), Fred Cash (electric bass), Gary Fritz (percussion), and Rodney Homes (drums). Other denizens of this universe include three goddesses of rock, punk, and soul: singers Lisa Fischer, Tamar Kali, and Whitby’s longtime collaborator Martha Redbone. Continue reading

Wayne Wallace Latin Jazz Quintet – The Rhythm of Invention

 

Title: The Rhythm of Invention
Artist: Wayne Wallace Latin Jazz Quintet
Label: Patois Records
Formats: CD, MP3
Release date: June 7, 2019

 

Trombonist Wayne Wallace does it again with his latest jazz album, The Rhythm of Invention. Released three years after his Canto América (2016), the new release features the established Wayne Wallace Latin Jazz Quintet and maintains the harmonious sounds of Canto’s chamber orchestra. The Rhythm of Invention includes 10 tracks of original compositions and arrangements of jazz and Latin jazz classics. Continue reading

Jordon Dixon – ON!

 

Title: ON!
Artist: Jordon Dixon
Label: Dist. CD Baby
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date: June 7, 2019

 

A native of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, tenor-saxophonist Jordon Dixon relocated to Washington, D.C. a few years ago after concluding an 11-year career as a musician with the U.S. Marine Corps. Since that fortuitous decision, he has become a fixture on the local scene. On his sophomore release, ON!, Dixon also has an opportunity to flex his muscles as a composer, presenting nine original tracks in a variety of styles. He is joined by other D.C. stalwarts including pianist Allyn Johnson (who engineered and co-produced the album), bassist Herman Burney, and drummer Carroll “C.V.” Dashiell, III. Continue reading

Various Artists – Jazz Fest: The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival

 

Title: Jazz Fest: The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival
Artist: Various
Label: Smithsonian Folkways
Formats: CD, MP3
Release date: May 10, 2019

 

The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival’s new box set, Jazz Fest, is a grand 50th anniversary celebration. Curated by Jazz Fest and Smithsonian Folkways, this compilation includes 50 tracks culled from live performances—one song for each year of the festival’s existence—as well as announcements intermixed throughout the collection. The set features prominent New Orleans artists like Allen Toussaint, Kermit Ruffins, Irma Thomas, Professor Longhair, Trombone Shorty, Dr. John, Stanley Joseph Dural Jr. (a.k.a Buckwheat Zydeco), The Zion Harmonizers, Big Freedia, and The Neville Brothers, and many others, all while exploring the Fair Grounds as a space where music genres such as traditional New Orleans jazz, blues, zydeco, Cajun, and bounce music converge to create a unique and rich experience. Continue reading

Wynton Marsalis – Bolden: Music from the Original Soundtrack

 

Title: Bolden: Music from the Original Soundtrack
Artist: Wynton Marsalis
Label: Blue Engine
Formats: CD, MP3
Release date: April 19, 2019

 

The name Charles “Buddy” Bolden should be a familiar one for many jazz fans and aficionados. Bolden, a New Orleans cornet player, is “ranked among the most influential yet obscure figures in the pantheon of American music,” according to jazz clarinetist and historian Dr. Michael White. Known for developing a style of music that blended Black sacred and secular musical aesthetics (melodic, harmonic, and rhythmic ideas), European dance music, marching-band, and Caribbean folk styles, Bolden laid the foundation and was a progenitor for what we refer to today as jazz music. Although none of his recordings or compositions are extant, we have an understanding of what the cultural and musical environment was like during that period. Continue reading

Wes Montgomery – Back on Indiana Avenue: The Carroll DeCamp Recordings

 

Title: Back on Indiana Avenue: The Carroll DeCamp Recordings
Artist: Wes Montgomery
Label: Resonance
Formats: 2-CD set, Limited Ed. LP, Digital
Release date: April 26, 2019

 

Resonance Records has made yet another miraculous discovery, extending its documentation of legendary jazz guitarist Wes Montgomery’s early career and sharing the results with us.  I had the great pleasure of contributing reviews of this company’s two earlier releases that set the stage for the wonderful performances captured on this new release, One Night in Indy and In the Beginning.  For those readers with ties to Indiana, it is worth noting that this release was prepared with assistance of a number of notable artists and scholars, among them David Baker, Duncan Schiedt, Jamey Aebersold, Royce Campbell, and John Edward Hasse.  They, along with others, attempted to identify the musicians who accompanied Wes.  Some possibilities are also identified  in the photographs included in the comprehensive notes that accompany this release. Visible there are Larry Ridley, Melvin Rhyne, David Baker, David Young, Pookie Johnson, Buddy and Monk Montgomery, Carroll DeCamp, and Hal Grant.  But despite their collective wisdom, specific personnel cannot be conclusively linked to each recorded performance. But no matter, the results are consistently musical, reflecting creativity at the highest possible level.  Sound quality proves the considerable care taken in preparing these invaluable recordings. Both the solos and collective interplay among the musicians are clearly captured, bringing the listener right into the spirit of each performance. Continue reading

Theo Croker – Star People Nation

 

Title: Star People Nation
Artist: Theo Croker
Label: Sony Masterworks
Formats: CD, LP, Digital
Release date: May 17, 2019

 

Jazz trumpeter Theo Croker continues the success of his two most recent releases—Afro Physicist (2014) and Escape Velocity (2016)—with his ambitious new project, Star People Nation.  The genre-defying album is Croker’s personal exploration of “the everyday rituals of blackness,” fusing elements of African percussion, American jazz, Caribbean reggae and more to reflect the plurality of his identity and Afrodiasporic experiences. As the title suggests, Star People Nation draws upon legends of extraterrestrials that came to Earth, encapsulated in a poem by Justin Emeka (from the liner notes): “Somewhere there’s a star child, gazing in the sky/On the verge of madness, but not really knowing why/They are reaching for a dream, that was poisoned with a lie/They are searching for a song, that might teach them how to fly/Play the songs of a star nation.” Perhaps this is a continuation of Croker’s fascination with Afrofuturists, but whatever the case may be, he never flags in his quest to expand our musical horizons. Continue reading

Brandee Younger – Soul Awakening

 

Title: Soul Awakening
Artist: Brandee Younger
Label: Self Released
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date: June 7, 2019

 

Jazz harpist Brandee Younger’s latest album, Soul Awakening, has finally been released nearly seven years after its inception. The album’s eight tracks were recorded in 2012 by the Brandee Younger Quartet under the direction of bassist Dezron Douglas. Showcasing the ensemble’s aptitude for improvisation, spiritual jazz, and experimental music, the tracks include everything from Marvin Gaye’s “Save the Children” (featuring Niia) to album producer Dezron Douglas’s “Soulris,” reflecting the Brandee Younger Quartet’s passion for social justice and creative freedom. This album will also satisfy longtime Brandee Younger fans with covers of Dorothy Ashby’s “Games” and Alice Coltrane’s “Blue Nile,” two popular staples of Younger’s live performances. The remaining tracks are all originals by Younger, including “Respected Destroyer” (featuring Sean Jones on trumpet) and “Linda Lee,” a tribute to her mother. Continue reading

Marcus Shelby Orchestra – Transitions

 

Title: Transitions
Artist: Marcus Shelby Orchestra
Label: MSO
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date: June 7, 2019

 

As we officially enter summertime and peak baseball season, jazz bassist Marcus Shelby offers an irresistible combination in his new album, Transitions. The centerpiece is Shelby’s original suite, “Black Ball: The Negro Leagues and the Blues,” inspired by his research for a similarly-themed theatrical project last September. Each movement reflects prominent Negro League teams and the music associated with their hometowns. “Transition 1 (Pittsburgh)” celebrates both the Pittsburgh Crawfords and Homestead Grays with a hard swinging tune featuring Rafa Pastel on trumpet. “Transition 2 (New York)” has a hip urban vibe punctuated by frenetic transitions and tenor sax solos by Patrick Wolff, while the tight and steady groove of “Barnstormin’ (Chicago)” morphs into the slow, bluesy drawl of a South Side speakeasy. Concluding with “Black Ball Swing,” Shelby pays tribute to the Kansas City Monarchs, “the most respected team of all-time in the Negro Leagues,” which of course warrants a large dose of the hard bop pioneered by KC native Charlie Parker. Other notable tracks on the album include Duke Ellington’s “On a Turquoise Cloud” performed by violinist Mads Tollings and five newly arranged tunes from the Cole Porter, George Shearing, and Ellington songbooks featuring vocalist Tiffany Austin. Continue reading

Elan Trotman – Dear Marvin

 

Title: Dear Marvin
Artist: Elan Trotman
Label: Woodward Avenue
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date: April 2, 2019

 

Released in April in celebration of Marvin Gaye’s 80th birthday, Dear Marvin is jazz saxophonist Elan Trotman’s tribute to the legendary soul singer. Reimagining ten tracks from Gaye’s catalogue, this predominantly instrumental album includes a variety of guest artists who compliment Trotman’s smooth sax solos. Opening with “Inner City Blues,” Trotman is assisted by guitarist Sherrod Brown, who holds down the rhythm section throughout the album along with Keithen Foster and Kyle Miles alternating on bass, Mitch Henry on keyboards, and Atticus Cole on percussion. The lead single, “Got to Give it Up,” retains the funky flavor of Gaye’s original version, while Ray Green covers the vocals on “Mercy Mercy Me.” Trumpet player Patches Stewart is featured on “Distant Lover,” with Jeff Lorber taking over the keys on “Trouble Man” and Najee adding a flute solo to “After the Dance.” Ushered in on a bed of sensuous strings and snappy horns, “I Want You” receives an update courtesy of a brief appearance by rapper Obadele Thompson, and trombonist Jeff Bradshaw alternates funky solos with Trotman on the satisfying closing track, “I Heard It Through the Grapevine.” Continue reading

Sam Newsome – Chaos Theory

 

Title: Chaos Theory: Song Cycles for Prepared Saxophone
Artist: Sam Newsome
Label: New Music
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date: June 3, 2019

 

Saxophonist and composer Sam Newsome is perhaps best known for pushing the envelope of his instrument, expanding the sound palette through a wide range of avant-garde techniques. His arsenal includes everything from electronic manipulation to multi-phonics and micro-tones to sound effects produced by percussive slap tonguing—all spliced into a multi-layered concoction that defies categorization. On Chaos Theory, Newsome goes one step further by augmenting his soprano sax with plastic tubes between the neck and mouthpiece, extending the range by two or more octaves. The album’s 15 tracks are representative of Newsome’s “improvisatory art music in which jazz functions more as a resource than a musical genre.” Many of the track titles portend what is to come, such as the Middle Eastern overtones of “Tel Aviv,” the increasingly frenetic sounds of “Marching Towards Insanity,” and mechanical drone underlying “Boiler Room Aesthetics.” Throughout, there are also tracks that fall within the more typical parameters of jazz, such as “Solo No. 1 (Naked Truth).” Chaos Theory should appeal to anyone interested in experimental music, especially those with a desire to tinker with instruments. Continue reading

New Orleans Jazz Orchestra – Songs: The Music of Allen Toussaint

 

Title: Songs: The Music of Allen Toussaint
Artist: New Orleans Jazz Orchestra
Label: Storyville
Formats: CD, MP3
Release date: April 19, 2019

 

The New Orleans Jazz Orchestra (NOJO) is back at it again with their latest album release, Songs: The Music of Allen Toussaint. Released just two years after their Live at Newport (2017), and four years after Dee Dee’s Feathers (2015), Songs pays tribute to New Orleans’ legendary composer, pianist, and singer Allen Toussaint. Under the leadership of drummer/artistic director Adonis Rose, NOJO takes us on journey of Toussaint’s musical legacy from a big band’s perspective. Continue reading