Welcome to the October 2018 Issue

This month we’re rolling out a new and improved website and mobile version of Black Grooves!

Our featured releases include soulful songstress Macy Gray’s new album Ruby, the Prince acoustic compilation Piano & a Microphone 1983, and avant-garde artist Lonnie Holley’s third release, MITH.

Jazz releases include mezzo soprano Alicia Hall Moran’s genre blending classical/jazz project Here Today, Judith Lorick’s Second Time Around with the Eric Reed Trio, drummer Tosin Aribisala’s Áfríkà Rising, and two Grant Green compilations from Resonance Records—Slick! Live at Oil Can Harry’s and Funk in France: From Paris to Antibes 1969-1970.

For this month’s gospel music selections were looking in our own backyard with releases from two Indianapolis-based artists—Judah Band’s sophomore album Gone Fishin’ and Tyscot Records’ own Bishop Leonard Scott’s praise and worship album Jesus Love Legacy. R&B/soul releases include Unstoppable by Candi Staton and Free Me from Burundian soul singer J.P. Bimeni & The Black Belts.

Albums with a Caribbean tie include legendary reggae group Black Uhuru’s new release As the World Turns, the collaboration of reggae musician Winston McAnuff and French accordionist Fixi on Big Brothers, French-Guadeloupian trio Delgres’ debut album Mo Jodi, Snarky Puppy spin-off group Bokanté with the Metropole Orkest on What Heat (featuring Guadeloupian vocalist Malika Tirolien), plus Bokanté member and lap/pedal steel guitarist Roosevelt Collier’s ‘dirty funk’ solo debut Exit 16.

Wrapping up this issue is the Screamin’ Jay Hawkins compilation, Are YOU one of Jay’s Kids? – The Complete Bizzare Sessions 1990-1994, and our list of September 2018 Black Music Releases of Note.

Welcome to the July 2017 Issue

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

SZA – Ctrl

SZA Ctrl
Title: Ctrl

Artist: SZA

Label: Top Dawg Entertainment/RCA

Formats: CD, MP3

Release date: June 9, 2017

 

When RZA, leader of the iconic east coast group Wu-Tang Clan, endorses an upcoming album, rap fans from all directions are bound to take notice. On May 24, SZA found herself in the driver’s seat of anticipation alley when her album announcement date dropped in the form of a voiceover message overlaid onto SZA visuals via Top Dawg #TDE’s Twitter. Fans of the New Jersey singer responded to Ctrl with unbridled respect, resulting in a #3 spot on Billboard 200 Chart a mere 10 days after its June 9th release. Signed to Top Dawg Entertainment in 2013, Ctrl is SZA’s debut studio album featuring fellow Top Dawg artists Kendrick Lamaar and Isaiah Rashad in addition to The Y’s James Fauntleroy. Classed as an R&B and Neo Soul artist, SZA continues to dominate, garnering to date over 49 million album streams and more than 24 thousand CD purchases.

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Bringing her own style of bluesy vocals to the table, SZA both croons and rasps out her heart-felt regret of long-gone-wrong in almost every song on the album. The collection’s opening track, “Supermodel,” models to the letter the back-and-forth emotions of a recent breakup, alternatively threatening revenge—“I’ve been secretly banging your homeboy”—while pleadingly begging for another chance—“I could be your supermodel if you believe, if you see it in me.”

Travis Scott picks up the story with his opening lines on “Love Galore,” seducing with his mellow “I need, I need” that almost has us believing things will work out as SZA answers with “Long as we got, Love, Love, Love.” But as the track unfolds, the relationship portrayed unravels to a thin, forgotten thread. “Doves in the Wind” showcases SZA’s vocal expertise as she melodically jumps from note to note to effortless ease, finding her own voice of self-empowerment and determination within the “sorry about your luck” lyricism.

While the rest of the album features many moments where SZA’s dreamy voice soothes regardless of the song pockets of regret, two solo tracks—“Drew Barrymore” and “20 Something” —provide a deep, introspective look into the mind of someone who’s not only wondering what went wrong, but also what can still go right. The tempos are winding, the poetics are heart-rending, and the reminiscence lingers long after SZA’s voice drifts off with the final notes.

Ctrl does exactly what RZA promises—drama is cut loose and karma is claimed—resulting in the utmost respect for SZA’s control of what promises to be a long career to come.

Reviewed by Amy Aiyegbusi

Welcome to the May 2017 Issue

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

This month we’re featuring Parking Lot Symphony by New Orleans artist Trombone Shorty and the new Taj Mahal & Keb’ Mo’ collaborative project Tajmo. Other jazz and blues releases include flutist Nicole Mitchell’s Afrofuturist inspired album Mandorla Awakening II: Emerging Worlds commissioned by Chicago’s Museum of Modern Contemporary Art, the Jeff Lorber Fusion’s latest smooth jazz release Prototype, the Afro-Cuban/Canadian jazz/electronica band Battle of Santiago’s La Migra, a reissue of Abdullah Ibrahim’s (aka Dollar Brand) avant-garde solo piano suite Ancient Africa, and Early in the Moanin’ by The Soul of John Black (aka Fishbone guitarist John Bigham).

Albums influenced by rap, rock and soul include Chicago MC K’Valentine’s debut Here for a Reason, JC Brooks’ cinematic Neon Jungle, Jose James’ Love in A Time of Madness, the “soultronic production group” Columbia Nights’ first full length project In All Things, and the Pete Rock and Smoke Dza collaboration Don’t Smoke Rock.

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

Welcome to the April 2017 Issue

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

We’re celebrating Jazz Appreciation Month with two projects paying homage to Ella Fitzgerald’s 100th Anniversary on April 25, 2017: Regina Carter’s Ella: Accentuate the Positive and Patrice Williamson’s Comes Love.

Other jazz releases include cellist Akua Dixon’s Akua’s Dance, the new project Langston Hughes: The Dreamkeeper narrated by Eric Mingus, Kevin Eubanks’ bicoastal collaboration East West Time Line, Soul Science Lab’s jazz/rap/soul fusion album Plan for Paradise, and the Hot 8 Brass Band’s On the Spot.

Under the categories of blues, rap, rock and soul we’re featuring Eric Bibb’s timely new release Migration Blues, Ruthie Foster’s Joy Comes Back, Atlanta rapper Future’s Hndrxx, the forthcoming Record Store Day release Curtis Knight feat. Jimi Hendrix: Live At George’s Club 20, 1965-66, and the first CD reissue of the 1979 soundtrack album The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh, scored by Thom Bell.

New gospel music releases include the Edna Gallmon Cooke compilation My Joy – Rare Recordings 1948-1966 on the Gospel Friend label, and Smithsonian Folkways’ second release featuring the McIntosh County Shouters titled Spirituals & Shout Songs from the Georgia Coast. Under world music we’re featuring Republique Amazone from the West African all-female supergroup Les Amazones d’Afrique, and Kidal from the Mali band Tamikrest.

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

March 2017 Releases of Note

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

Blues, Folk Country
Big Daddy Wilson: Neckbone Stew (Ruf)
Bukka White: High Fever Blues: Complete 1930-1940 Recordings (Soul Jam)
Eric Gales: Middle of the Road (Provogue/Mascot)
Gary Clark Jr.: Live North America 2016 (Warner Bros.)
Gene Mighty Flea Conners: Sanctified (Remastered) (JSP)
Guy Davis & Fabrizio Poggi: Sonny & Brownie’s Last Train (M.C. Records)
John Lee Hooker: Whiskey & Wimmen: John Lee Hooker’s Finest (Vee-Jay )
Leo Bud Welch: Live at the Iridium (Cleopatra)
Lettuce: More Crushmore (Lettuce Records)
Lightnin’ Hopkins: Live In Denver [1974] (Klondike)
Teddy Williams: Worry Off My Mind (Big legal Mess)

Classical, Spoken Word, Soundtrack
Roscoe Mitchell: Four Compositions (reissue) (Lovely Music)
Roscoe Mitchell: Pilgrimage (reissue) (Lovely Music)

Funk, Rock, Pop, Electronic
Cilantro Boombox: Shine (digital)
Columbia Nights: In All Things (Record Breakin’ Music)
Danko Jones: Wild Cat (AFM/Soul Food Music Dist.)
Delta Moon: Cabbagetown (Jumping Jack)
E-Life 7: Miked Up (Three 2 Go Music)
Flyjack: New Day (Bean Pie Records)
KXM (with Dug Pinnick): Scatterbrain (Rat Pak)
Mother’s Finest: Love Changes: Anthology 1972-1983 (SoulMusic)
Osunlade: Pyrography (vinyl) (BBE)
Sampha: Process (Young Turks)
Star Stuff: Chaz Bundick Meets The Mattson 2 (Company)
Theo Parrish: First Floor, Part 1 & 2 (vinyl) (Peacefrog)
Wayne Snow: Freedom TV (Tartelet)

Gospel, Christian Rap
Carolyn Traylor: The Best of My Story (Traylor Made Music Group)
Da’dra: All of Me ( Greathouse Music Group / DREAM)
JJ Hairston & Youthful Praise: You Deserve It (eOne)
Jor’Dan Armstrong: Vibes EP (SeaQ/Good Guys)
Montel Dorsey & Muniversity: Love Over Hate (eOne)
Rev. Sam Dixon: My Soul Says Yes (Asherah)
The Williams Singers: In Real Time (CD + DVD) (Blackberry)
Various: Lord Have Mercy: The Soulful Gospel of Checker Records (Playback)
William McDowell: Sounds of Revival II: Deeper (eOne)

Jazz
Abdullah Ibrahim: Ancient Africa (reissue) (Sackville)
Bill Evans Trio: On A Monday Evening (previously unreleased) (Fantasy)
Billy Childs: Rebirth (Mack Ave.)
China Moses: Nightintales (MPS)
Christian Scott Tunde Adjuah: Ruler Rebel (Ropeadope)
Collocutor: The Search (On the Corner)
David L. Harris: Blues I Felt (digital)
Ernest Dawkins New Horizons Ensemble feat. Vijay Iyer: Transient Takes (Denmark)
Heads of State: Four in One (Smoke Sessions)
Howard Johnson And Gravity: Testamony (Tuscarora)
Idrees Sulieman Quartet: The 4 American Jazz Men in Tangier (Sunnyside)
Jamiroquai: Automaton (Virgin EMI)
Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis and Jon Batiste: The Music of John Lewis (Blue Engine)
Jazz Passengers: Still Life With Trouble (Thirsty Ear)
Joey DeFrancesco & The People: Freedom project (Mack Ave.)
Johnny Griffin: Riverside Collection 1958-1962 (Enlightenment)
Marcus Anderson: Limited Edition (Anderson Music, LLC)
Matthew Shipp & Ivo Perelman: The Art of Perelman-Shipp (Leo)
Ronald Bruner, Jr.: Triumph (World Galaxy / Alpha Pup)
Roscoe Mitchell With Yuganaut: Four Ways (Nessa)
Sol: Upfront (Pacific Coast Jazz)
Steve Nelson: Brothers Under the Sun (Highnote)
Trio 3: Visiting Texture (Naxos)
William Parker & Stefano Scodanibbio: Bass Duo (Aum Fidelity)

Latin
Daymé Arocena: Cubafonía (Brownswood)
Ondatrópica: Baile Bucanero (Soundway)

R&B, Soul
6lack: Free 6lack (Interscope )
Chet Ivey: A Dose Of Soul – The Sylvia Funk Recordings 1971-75 (BGP)
Frankie & The Spindles: Count To Ten: The Complete Singles Collection 1968-77 (Playback)
Johnny Guitar Watson: At Onkel Po’s Carnegie Hall Hamburg 1976 (NDRInfo)
Kevin Ross: The Awakening (Motown)
Khalid: American Teen (RCA)
La’Porsha Renae: Already All Ready (Motown)
Lee Fields & the Expressions: Special Night Instrumentals (Big Crown)
Leela James: Did It For Love (BMG)
Nicole Willis, Jimi Tenor & Jonathan Maron: Big Fantasy (For Me) / Tear It Down (Persephone)
Norman Connors: Valentine Love: The Buddah/Arista Anthology (SoulMusic)
Otis Junior & Dr.Dundiff: Hemispheres (Jakarta)
Roscoe Shelton: Best of Roscoe Shelton (Sunset Blvd )
Selina Albright: Conversations (Golden Rays Music )
Stevie Wonder: Live at the Regal Theater Chicago June 1962 (Jambalaya)
Syd: Fin (Columbia)
Syl Johnson: My Funky Funky Band (Numero)
Syl Johnson: We Do It Together (Numero)
Trey Songz: Tremaine (Warner)
Vanessa Collier: Meeting My Shadow (In Tune Music Group)
Various: Soul of the 60s (Time Life)
Various: This Love Is For Real – The Sweet Soul Of Chicago: 1968-1981 (Interstate)
Various: This Time Will Be Different The Sweet Soul Of Philadelphia: 1968-1982 (Interstate)

Rap
50 Cent: Best Of (Aftermath)
Alchemist: Rapper’s Best Friend 4 (ALC)
Amir Obè: NØTÇW (digital) (Def Jam)
Body Count: Bloodlust (CD + DVD) (Century Media)
Boondox: The Murder (Majic Ninja)
Clutchy Hopkins & Fat Albert Einstein: High Desert Low Tide ( Aural Tradition)
Daye Jack: No Data (digital) (Warner Bros.)
Deaf Switch & Toon Kurtis: Backup (Dirty Version)
Devin the Dude: Acoustic Levitation (Coughee Brothaz Ent.)
Dorrough: Ride Wit Me (Real Talk Ent)
Dr. Dooom: First Come, First Served (Threshold)
Drake: More Life: A Playlist by October Firm (Young Money Ent./Cash Money)
Freddie Gibbs: You Only Live 2wice (digital) (ESGN/Empire)
Goldlink: At What Cost (digital) (Squaaash Club/RCA)
Gorilla Zoe: Don’t Feed Da Animals 2 (Real Talk Ent.)
GrandeMarshall: Risk/Reward (Fool’s Gold)
Homeboy Sandman: Veins (Stones Throw)
IAM: Revolution (Universal France
Stalin: I Don’t Sell Dope No Moe (Livewire)
J.I.D: The Never Story (digital) (Dreamville/Interscope)
K’Valentine: Here for a Reason (Javotti Media)
Kodak Black: Painting Pictures (digital)
Kool Keith & KutMasta Kurt: Your Mom Is My Wife EP (Threshold)
Little Simz: Stillness in Wonderland (Age 101)
Locksmith: Olive Branch (digital) (Landmark Ent.)
Mike WiLL Made-It: Ransom 2 (digital) (Eardruma/Interscope)
Mozzy: Fake Famous (Mozzy Records)
Murs: Captain California (Strange Music)
Nnamdi Ogbonnaya: Drool (Sooper/Father-Daughter)
O.C.: Same Moon Same Sun: 1st Phase (Ditc )
Oddisee: The Iceberg (Mello Music Group)
P.O.S: Chill, Dummy (Doontree)
Porter Ray: Watercolor (Sub Pop)
Raekwon: The Wild (H20)
Realz: Blue Lion Chamber (Chambermusik/Thrice Great)
Rick Ross: Rather You Than Me (Epic)
Shawty Lo: R.I.C.O. (digital) (300 Ent.)
Slum Village: Fantastic Collection (Ne’Astra Music Group)
Too $hort: The Pimp Tape (Dangerous Music)
Tuamie: Holy Ghost Spirituals (Fat Beats)
Your Old Droog: Packs (Fat Beats)
Iam: Revolution (Universal)

Reggae, Dancehall
Dillinger: Answer Me Question (reissue) (Radiation Roots)
Inna de Yard: The Soul of Jamaica (Chapter Two/Wagram)
Jackie Edwards: Mr. Peaceful (Kingston Sounds)
Jackie Mittoo: The Keyboard King (reissue) (Radiation Roots)
Keith & Tex: Same Old Story (Liquidator Music)
Prince Far I: Psalms for I (Deeper Knowledge)
Queen Ifrica: Climb (VP)
Skatalites: Foundation Ska (Studio One)
Talisman: Don’t Play with Fyah (Sugar Shack)
Various: Hustle! Reggae Disco – Kingston, London, New York (Soul Jazz)

World
Abdou El Omari: Nuits D’été
Elida Almeida: Djunta Kudjer EP (Lusafrica)
Ibibio Sound Machine: Uyai (Merge)
Livy Ekemezie: Friday Night (Odion Livingstone)
Mokoomba: Luyando (OutHere)
Ondatrópica: Baile Bucanero (Soundway )
Orchestra Baobab: Tribute to Ndiouga Dieng (World Circuit)
Red Baraat: Bhangra Pirates (Rhyme & Reason)
Seydou Boro: Hôrôn (Indigo)
Somi: Petite Afrique (OKeh)

February 2017 Releases of Note

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

Blues, Folk Country
Eddie Bo, Chris Barber: The 1991 Sea-Saint Sessions (Last Music Co.)
Hayes McMullan: Everyday Seem Like Murder Here (LITA)

Classical, Spoken Word, Soundtrack
Grace Bumbry: The Art Of Grace Bumbry (Deutsche Grammophon   )
Jordi Savall: the Routes of Slavery (Alia Vox)
Leontyne Price: Puccini: Tosca (Decca)
Steve Brown: Live at the Atlanta Comedy Theater (ATL Comedy Theater)
Various: The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh OST (Real Gone Music)

Funk, Rock, Pop, Electronic
Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears: Backlash (Ingrooves)
Chameleon: Chameleon (expanded ed.) (BBR)
Dawn Richard: Redemption (expanded ed.) (Local Action / Our Dawn Ent.)
Della Reese: Special Delivery (Sepia)
Just Robyn: Mustard Seed (Joziewood)
Pazant Brothers: Skunk Juice: Dirty Funk From the Big Apple (BGP)
Sinkane: Life & Livin’ It (City Slang)
Thievery Corporation: The Temple of I & I (ESL Music)

Gospel, Christian Rap
AnG White: I Am AnG White (C Bazz Ent.)
Anthony Evans: Back to Life (Sherman James Productions)
Antonia Wilson: The Sower and the Seed (Tight Tunes Inc)
Ayiesha Woods: The Runway Project (Original Peace Music Group)
Meachum L. Clarke & True Purpose: The Victory Experience
Minister Antonio Coney & The Voices of Fire: I Been Born Again (Deltone)
Mos Stef: Christian Hip Hop 101 (Victorious Life)
Speez: Let Me Introduce Myself (I’M DOIN’ JESUS)
Tramaine: Clear (Divine Light Media)

Jazz
Albert Ayler Quartet: The Hilversum Sessions (Modern Silence)
Cameron Graves: Planetary Prince (Mack Avenue)
Carmen Lundy: Code Noir (Afrasia Productions)
Chris McClenney: Portrait in Two EP
Craig Taborn: Daylight Ghosts (ECM)
Curtis Brothers Quartet: Syzygy (Truth Revolution Records)
David Weiss & Point of Departure: Wake Up Call (Raopeadope)
Elijah Rock: Gershwin For My Soul
Harriet Tubman: Araminta (Sunnyside Communications )
Heads of State: Four in One (Smoke Sessions)
Kayla Waters: Apogee (Trippin N Rhythm)
Mike Longo Trio: Only Time Will Tell (Consolidated Artists Prod)
Nicholas Payton: Afro-Caribbean Mixtape (Paytone-Ropeadope)
Ransom Moreland Jr: Restoration
The Baylor Project: The Journey (Be A Light)
Tiger Trio (with Nicole Miller): Unleased (Rogueart)
Xixel Langa: Inside Me (Modigi)

R&B, Soul
Andy Suzuki & The Method: The Glass Hour (digital)
Aretha Franklin: Aretha (2 CD deluxe ed.) (Funky Town Grooves)
Brenton Wood: The Very Best Of (Concord)
Charlie Wilson: In It To Win It (RCA)
Chocolate Milk: Chocolate Milk (expanded ed.) (Funky Town Grooves)
Chocolate Milk: We’re All in This Together/Milky Way (Funky Town Grooves)
D.J. Rogers: Love, Music & Life (Funky Town Grooves)
Delegation: Promise of Love: Limited (Clinck )
Divine Brown: Crazy Love Amplified EP
Eddie Kendricks: Something More (Funky Town Grooves)
Emanny: Black Heart (digital)
Gladys Knight & the Pips: 2nd Anniversary (Funky Town Grooves)
Gladys Knight & the Pips: I Feel a Song (Funky Town Grooves)
Gladys Knight & the Pips: The One and Only (Funky Town Grooves)
Jermaine Jackson: Don’t Take It Personal (Funky Town Grooves)
Jermaine Jackson: Precious Moments (Funky Town Grooves)
Jesse Boykins III x Two Fresh: TOKiMONSTA’s Young Art Sound
Jessica Manning: What If I Run
José James: Love in a Time of Madness (Blue Note)
Moonglows: Complete Singles As & Bs 1953-62 (Acrobat)
Oleta Adams: Third Set
Phil Perry: Breathless (Shanachie)
Roy Roberts: Roy Roberts Experience (Perfect Toy)
Sampha: Process (Young Turks)
Sergio Sylvestre: S/T (Sony )
Sir: Her Too EP (digital) (TDE)
Starpoint: Restless/Sensational (reissue) (Cherry Red)
SYD: Fin (Columbia)
Tef Poe: Black Julian (Footklan Music Group)
Tymes: Turning Point (expanded ed.) (Funky Town Grooves)

Rap
A$AP Mob: Cozy Tapes Vol. 1: Friends
Big Sean: I Decided (G.O.O.D. Music)
Black Moon: Enta Da Stage: The Complete Edition (box set) (Fat Beats)
Ces Cru: Catastrophic Event Specialists (Strange Music)
Christopher Martin: Big Deal (VP)
Dej Loaf and Jacquees: F*ck A Friend Zone (digital)
Denmark Vessey: Martin Lucid Dream ( Street Corner Music)
Fat Joe & Remy Ma: Plata O Plomo (RNG)
Funky DL: Marauding At Midnight: A Tribute To The Sounds of A Tribe Called Quest (Washington Classics)
Future: S/t
Ill Bill: Septagram (Uncle Howie)
Joe Young: Invincible Armour ( YoungLife Music Group)
Karriem Riggins: Headnob Suite (Stone’s Throw)
K-DEF: In the Moment (vinyl) (Redefinition)
Kent Jones: The Luh Tape (digital)
Kirk Knight: Black Noise (digital)
LiKWUiD & 2 Hungry Bros.: Fay Grim ( HiPNOTT)
Lil Reese: Better Days (digital) (RBC)
Lupe Fiasco: DROGAS Light ( 1st & 15th Productions)
Neek The Exotic: The Neek The Exotic Experience ( Still On The Hustle Music)
Nines: One Foot Out (digital) (XL)
Nobigdyl: Canopy (digital) (indie tribe)
Olivier St. Louis: Ever Since the Fall ( Jakarta)
Par-City: The Young, Dope & Gifted II (Par-City)
Paul Nice: Ultimate Block Party Breaks Volumes 3 (Super Break)
Quelle Chris: Being You Is Great, I Wish I Could Be You More Often (Mello Music Group)
Reek Daddy: Fiery Hot Rocks
Shield Enforcers: Crash Course ( ChamberMusik)
“Starlito and Don Trip:”  karate in the Garage (digital)
Steven Malcolm: S/T (digital) (4 AGAINST 5)
Urban Legend Blakboy: Koais Atrd (Mathutie)
Various: New Gen (XL)
Westside Gunn: Riots On Fashion Avenue (Effiscienz)
Young Dolph: Gelato (Paper Route Empire )

Reggae, Dancehall
Lyricson: Revolution Time Again (Undisputed)
Nafrythm: Ocean (RCM)
Neville Staple: Return of Judge Roughneck (Cleopatra)
Samu: My Soul (Maxizamus)
Skatalits: Foundation Ska ( Studio One)

World
Aurelio: Darandi (Real World)
Black Market Brass: Cheat & Start a Fight (Secret Stash)
Flavia Coelho: Sonho Real (PIASL)
Joe King Kologbo: Sugar Daddy (vinyl) (Strut)
Omar Sosa & Seckou Keita: Transparent Water (Ota)
Saddysa: African Modern Spirituals
Tinariwen: Elwan (Anti/Epitaph)

January 2017 Releases of Note

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

Blues, Folk Country
David “Honeyboy” Edwards: I’m Gonna Tell You Somethin’ That I Know (Omnivore)
Ronnie Baker Brooks: Times Have Changed (Provogue)
Danni Peace: The Odyssey

Classical
Kathleen Battle: Complete Sony Recorordings (Sony/Naxos)
Measha Brueggergosman: Songs of Freedom (Outside Music)
Cynthia Haymon/Wilard White: Glyndebourne Festival Opera’s Porgy and Bess (Warner Classics/Parlophone)

Funk, Rock, Pop, Electronic
Various: Studio One Rocksteady, Vol. 2 (Soul Jazz)
Anonymous Choir: Sings Stax (Mind Rider)
King’s X: Dogman (reissue) (King’s X)
King’s X: Ear Candy (reissue) (King’s X)
King’s X: King’s X (Reissue) (King’s X)
King’s X: Out of the Silent Planet (reissue) (King’s X)

Gospel, Gospel Rap
The Williams Singers: In Real Time (Blackberry)
McIntosh County Shouters: Spirituals & Shout Songs from the Georgia Coast (Smithsonian/Folkways)
Various: WOW Gospel 2017 DVD (RCA Inspiration)
Lyrically Blessed: Freedom (Lyrically Blessed)

Jazz
Throttle Elevator Music & Kamasi Washington: Retrospective (Wide Hive)
Three Sounds: Groovin’ Hard: Live at the Penthouse (Resonance)
Noah Young: Start the Reactor (Noah Young)
Jeff Siegel/Feya Faku: King of Xhosa (ARC)
Muhammad Ali: The Greastest OST (reissue) (Varese Sarabande)
Vibration Black Finger: Blackism (Enid)
Mark Whitfield: Grace (Marksman Productions)
Mark Lewis: New York Session (Audio Daddio)
Jimmy Scott: I Go Back Home (Rough Trade)
Matthew Shipp Trio: Piano Song (Thirsty Ear)
Lil Bibby: FC3 the Epilogue (digital)

R&B, Soul
Tony Fletcher: In the Midnight Hour: The Life & Soul of Wilson Pickett (Oxford University Press)
Tina Turner: Windy City Limits: Chicago Broadcast 1984 (FM Concert Broadcasts)
Soul Scratch: Pushing Fire (Colemine)
Sugar Pie DeSanto: A Little Bit of Soul 1957-1962 (Jasmine)
Desiree Jordan: The Principles Present (Rich Life/Zosmooth)
Manhattans: I Kinda Miss You: The Anthology – Columbia Records 1973-1987 (Soul Music)
Nathan East: Reverence (Yamaha Ent.)
Kehlani: SweetSexySavage (Atlantic)
Omar: Love in Beats (Freestyle )
Dawn Richard: Infrared EP (Fade to Mind)
Bell Biv DeVoe: Three Stripes (eOne)
Various: Men in the Glass Booth (BBE)
Chief Keef: Two Zero One Seven (mixtape, digital)

Rap
Lil Ross: The Connection
Jefe: The World is Yours (digital)
Jaylib: Championship Sound: The Remix (LP) (Stones Throw)
Run the Jewels: Run the Jewels 3
Ran Reed: Still Commanding Respect
Tristate x Oh No : 3 Dimensional Prescriptions (Heiroglyphics)
PnB Rock: Gttm: Goin Thru The Motions (Atlantic)
Reek Daddy: Firey Hot Rocks
Prodigy of Mobb Deep: Hegelian Dialectic (The Book Of Revelation) (Vodka & Milk)
Nadio Rose: Highly Flammable
Ras Kass: Intellectual Property (vinyl) (Goon Music)
PartyNextDoor: PartyNextDoor 3 (OVO)
Wyclef Jean: J’ouvert (eOne)
Tinie Tempah: Youth
Damu the Fudgemunk : Vignettes (Redefinition)
Homeboy Sandman: Actual Factual Pterodactyl (Boy Sand Industries)
Denzel Curry: Imperial (Loma Vista)
P.O.S.: Chill, Dummy (Doomtree)
Wiley: Godfather (Wiley)
Elaquent: Worst Case Scenario (vinyl) (Urbnet)
Juelz White: This Sh-T Ain’t Free (Juelz White Music)
Raised By Seuss: Unless: Twenty Years Too Late (Untek)
Loyle Carner: Yesterday’s Gone (Virgin EMI)

Reggae, Dancehall
Lloyd Parks: Time A Go Dread (Pressure Sounds)
Sylford Walker: Lamb’s Bread (Greensleeves)

World
Jake Sollo: Coming Home (PMG)
Mighty Flames: Metalik Funk Band (PMG)
Black Children Sledge Funk Co. Band: Vol. 3 (PMG)
The Nile Project: Jinja
Various: Calabar-Itu Road: Groovy Sounds From South Eastern Nigeria (1972-1982) (Comb & Razor)
Baba Sissoko: Tchiwara (Good Fellas)
Joe Kemfa: Jungle Juice (reissue) (PMG)
Wells Fargo: Watch Out (Now Again)
Awa Poulo: Poulo Warali (Awesome Tapes From Africa)

Welcome to the December 2016 issue of Black Grooves

Welcome to the December 2016 holiday issue of Black Grooves, sponsored by the Archives of African American Music and Culture.

This month we’re featuring an Overview of Holiday Music with new releases from Andra Day, Leslie Odom Jr., Bob Baldwin, Kenny Lattimore, R. Kelly and Big Freedia.  Our Recent Books on Music Recommended for Holiday Giving include biographies of Charles Wright (Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band), New Orleans jazz legend Danny Barker, soul icon Curtis Mayfield, and EW&F’s Maurice White, as well as Ben Westoff’s Original Gangstas: The Untold Story of Dr. Dre, Eazy-E, Ice Cube, Tupac Shakur, and the Birth of West Coast Rap and Flyboy 2: The Greg Tate Reader.

New releases include Common’s Black America Again, Solange’s A Seat at the Table, Dom Flemons & Martin Simpson’s Selection of Ever Popular Favourites, the Buselli-Wallarab Jazz Orchestra’s Basically Baker Vol. 2 (a tribute to David Baker), Trevor Weston Choral Works performed by Trinity Wall Street and Julian Wachner, and the DVD and OST album Miss Sharon Jones.

Reissue projects include Dust-to-Digital’s book/CD Washington Phillips & his Manzarene Dreams, the Bear Family box set Arthur ‘Big Boy’ Crudup – A Music Man Like Nobody Ever Saw, the two CD compilation Best of Proverb & Gospel Corner Records: 1959-1969, the complete recordings of Otis Redding: Live at the Whisky A Go Go, a remastered and expanded edition of the Isley Brothers’ Go For Your Guns, and two classic Blind Boys of Alabama reissues in expanded editions – the holiday album Go Tell It on the Mountain and their 2005 release Atom Bomb.

 Wrapping up this issue is the 2017 Blues Images Calendar/CD set 24 Classic Blues Songs from 1920s Vol. 14 and our list of November 2016 Releases of Note.

November 2016 Releases of Note

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

Blues, Folk, Country
Howlin’ Wolf: Shake For Me: The Lost FM Broadcast Tapes 1975 (Laser Media)
Little Walter: Boom Boom (Black Knight)
Muddy Waters: Muddy Waters Story  (Maximum Series)
Muddy Waters: Elevate Me Mama  (Black Knight)
Sharon Lewis And Texas Fire: Grown Ass Woman (Delmark)
Willie Clayton: Heart & Soul Reloaded  (Endzone Ent.)

Classical
Marion Anderson: Let Freedom Ring (JSP)

Funk, Rock, Pop, Electronic
Bruno Mars: 24K Magic (Atlantic)
Craig David: Following My Intuition ( Speakerbox/Insanity)
Du-Rites: J-Zone & Pablo Martin Are the Du-Rites (Redefinition)
Harsh Crowd: Better EP
Joan Armatrading: Me Myself I – World Tour Concert (Savoy)
Marvin Whoremonger: Mark III (Now Again)
Nth Power: Live to Be Free (Harmonized Records)
Prince: 4EVER (Warner Bros.)
The Weeknd: Starboy (Republic)
Toro Y Moi: Live from Trona (Carpark)
Various: Keb Darge Presents the Best of Legendary Deep Funk

Gospel, Gospel Rap
Eddie James: Magnify (Dreambridge)
Sho Baraka: The Narrative (Humble Beast Records)
Swanee Quintet: Complete Nashboro Releases 1951-62 (Acrobat)
Tasha Cobbs: One Place Live at Capitol Studios (Motown Gospel)
Various: Gospel Pioneer Reunion (DVD) (Gaither Studios)
VaShawn Mitchell: Secret Place: Live in South Africa (Motown Gospel)

Jazz
Dizzy Gillespie:  Concert of the Century – A Tribute to Charlie Parker (Justin Time)
Gregory Porter:Live in Berlin (Eagle Rock)
Gregory Porter and Melody Gardot: Jazz Loves Disney (Verve Int’l)
Herbie Hancock: Early Years: Selected Recordings 1961-62 (Acrobat)
Jerome Jennings: The Beast (Iola)
Miles Davis Quintet: Legendary Prestige Quintet Sessions (Prestige)
Nat King Cole: How High The Moon: The Lost Tapes (Laser Media)
Roberto Fonseca: ABUC (Impulse)
Wallace Roney: A Place in Time (Highnote)
Yussef Kamaal: Black Focus (Brownswood)

R&B, Soul
94 East Ft. Prince: S/T (Charly)
Aaron Abernathy: Monologue (Aaron Abernathy Music)
Alicia Keys: HERE (RCA)
Bobby Bland: Singles Collection 1951-62 (Acrobat)
Carleen Anderson: Cage Street Memorial – The Pilgrimage  (Freestyle
Chuck Willis: From The Bottom Of My Heart: My Life, My Story, My Songs (Jasmine)
denitia and sene.: love and noir. (Input)
Donna Summer: Ultimate Collection
Emeli Sandé: Long Live The Angels [Deluxe Edition] (Capitol)
Hannah Williams & The Affirmations: Late Nights & Heartbreak (Record Kicks)
Harleighblu X Starkiller: Amorine (Tru Thoughts)
Intruders: Save the Children (expanded ed.) (BBR)
Joe: #MyNameIsJoeThomas
J-Wonn: The Legacy Begins (Music Access Inc.)
Lee Fields & The Expressions: Special Night (Big Crown)
Lula Reed: I’m A Woman (But I Don’t Talk Too Much) (Jasmine)
Melba Moore: Standing Right Here: Anthology Buddah & Epic Years (SoulMusic)
Myles Sanko: Just Being Me (Légère)
Rozetta Johnson: A Woman’s Way (Kent)
Slim Gaillard: Searching For You: The Lost Singles of McVouty (Sunset Blvd.)
Sonny Knight and the Lakers: Sooner or Later (Secret Stash)
Various: One-Der-Ful Collection – Midas Records  (Secret Stash)
Various: Funk the Disco (Ministry of Sound)
Yonrico Scott: Life of a Dreamer (Blue Canoe)

Rap
A Tribe Called Quest: We got it from Here… Thank You 4 Your service  (Epic)
Big Scoob: H.O.G. (Strange Music)
Black Milk & Nat Turner: Sunday Outtakes (Computer Ugly)
Blu & Union Analogtronics: Cheetah in the City (Fat Beats)
Czarface : A Fistful Of Peril  (Silver Age)
DJ Luke Nasty: Highway Music: Stuck in Traffic  (Othaz)
Dubble-Oo: Next Level (Space Age Ent.)
E-40: The D-Boy Diary: Book 1 & 2 (Heavy on the Grind)
Invisibl Skratch Piklz : 13th Floor (Alpha Pup)
Journalist 103: Battle for the Hearts & Minds  (Babygrande)
Lewis Parker: Release the Stress (King Underground)
Mac Dre: Ronald Dregan (Sumo/Thizz Entertainment D50)
Mac Dre: The Genie of the Lamp (Sumo/Thizz Entertainment D50)
Philthy Rich: Hood Rich 4 (Scmmllc / Empire)
Saba: Bucket List Project (digital) (Saba Pivot, LLC)
Sleepdank: Airport Lifestyle (Hands Down Ent.)
Soprano: L’Everest ( Warner Music France)
Swet Shop Boys : Cashmere (Customs)
Tall Black Guy: Let’s Take a Trip (First Word)
The Flying Dutchmen: Foul Weather (Thrice Great)
The Game: 1992 (eOne)
The Kleenrz: Season 2 (NRK)
The Outlawz : Living Legends
Tone Spliff: Pull No Punches (Mind Write Music)
Travis Scott: Birds In The Trap Sing McKnight (Epic)
TreSolid : Applying Pressure (Black Market)
U.G.: Portals (Creative Juices)
Unknown Mizery: Kill the Flowers (Thrice Great)
Various: Latest & Greatest Hip-Hop Anthems (Union Square Music)
Various: BBE20: Attitude, Belief & Determination (BBE)
Vellione: Stranded on the Wire (Livewire)
Wycliff Jean: J’ouver EP
Zeroh: Tinnitus (Hit+Run)
Z-Ro: Legendary (1 Deep Ent.)

Reggae, Dancehall
Alkaline: New Level Unlocked (Zojak World Wide)
Black Uhuru: Live At Rockpalast (DVD) (Made In Germany Music)
Bunny Wailer: Solomonic Singles 1: Tread Along 1969-1976 (Dubstore)
Bunny Wailer: Solomonic Singles 2: Rise & Shine 1977-1986 (Dubstore)
KutiMangoes: Made in Africa (Tramp)
Max Romeo: Horror Zone (Nu-Roots Records)
No-Maddz: Sly & Robbie Presents No-Maddz  (Nomaddz/Epiphany)
Osunlade: Mix The Vibe-King Street Goes Yoruba  (King Street Sounds)
Patrice: Life’s Blood (Supow Music)
Various: Merritone Rock Steady 1: Shanty Town Curfew 66-67 (Dubstore)
Various: Kuduro Reggaeton Hits 2017
Yabby You: Beware Dub (Expanded ed.) (Pressure Sounds)

World
Baloji: 64 Bits & Malachite (Bella Union)
Bobo Yeye: Belle Epoque in Upper Volta (3xCD)  (Numero)
Le Tout Puissant Orchestre Poly-Rythmo: Madjafalao  (Because Music)
Noura Mint Seymali : Arbina (Glitterbeat Records)
PeruJazz: Verde Machu Picchu (Vampisoul)
Tiken Jah Fakoly: Racines (Wrasse)

Allen Toussaint – American Tunes

Allen Toussaint
Title: American Tunes

Artist: Allen Toussaint

Label: Nonesuch Records

Formats: CD, LP, MP3, HD Digital, FLAC

Release Date: June 10, 2016

 

Allen Toussaint’s final album is a commemorative collection of reimagined compositions by musical visionaries who have defined American music, particularly in the genres of jazz and blues. Released within a year after his untimely passing, American Tunes tells the story of peaceful weariness from a lifetime of sensation, longing, and unpredictable complication. Toussaint is a beloved New Orleans icon known far and wide as an award-winning composer, performer, producer, and collaborator since the 1950s. This album is a hat’s off to the musicians who inspired Toussaint while also demonstrating his undying commitment to his home and the people of Crescent City.

American Tunes complements Toussaint’s former record, The Bright Mississippi (2009), which was also produced by Joe Henry and released on Nonesuch Records. It matches his interest in intertwining New Orleans elegance into his instrumental performances written by the jazz and New Orleans R&B greats. Fats Waller, Duke Ellington, Billy Strayhorn, Bill Evans, and more are featured in addition to a few exciting guest musicians. Toussaint especially recognizes Professor Longhair, his longest enduring inspiration, whose song “Mardi Gras in New Orleans” is slowed and sweetened on this album, turned into a more reflective instrumental rendition.

The album opens with “Delores’ Boyfriend,” a steady and playful blues instrumental by Toussaint following into a mischievous, yet almost vaudevillian tune titled “Viper’s Drag” by Fats Waller. Toussaint performs solo for much of the album, though each track stands alone in distinction, such as “Big Chief” and “Hey Little Girl.” However, a small band joins Toussaint on certain tunes such as “Confessin’ (That I love You),” “Lotus Blossom,” “Rosetta” and “Waltz for Debby.” Percussionist Jay Bellerose, tenor saxophonist Charles Lloyd, bassist David Piltch, Greg Leisz on Weissenborn and electric guitarist Bill Frisell each carefully and delicately add texture to the compositions, highlighting Toussaint’s unmistakable grace on the piano. On “Danza, Op. 33,” an orchestral section along with pianist Van Dyke Parks supports Toussaint on this classical tune composed by New Orleans native Louis Moreau Gottschalk.

While the majority of the tunes do not feature the original lyrics, a pleasing collaboration takes place on two songs of this album performed by vocalist Rhiannon Giddens of the Carolina Chocolate Drops. Giddens joins Toussaint, providing her deep soulful vibrato, in celebration of Duke Ellington on “Rocks in my Bed” and “Come Sunday,” which was famously performed by gospel singer Mahalia Jackson. Toussaint’s second original composition, “Southern Nights,” a refreshing piano duet with Van Dyke Parks, brings the album to a near close.

On the last track of the album, Toussaint finally takes his turn at the microphone singing his arrangement of Paul Simon’s “American Tune.” A song with lyrics so touching and appropriate, it is truly difficult to listen with dry eyes. Simon’s lyrics are reassuring while Toussaint’s voice is calming as he sings:

“Oh, it’s all right, it’s all right

It’s all right

You can’t be forever blessed

Still, tomorrow’s going to be another working day

And I’m trying to get some rest

That’s all I’m trying to get, some rest”

Pleasant and playful, though distantly melancholic, American Tunes is a satisfying collection of New Orleans jazz, R&B, and classical music clearly inspirational to a musician who has in turn inspired other creative minds. In the liner notes, Tom Piazza reflects on Toussaint’s return to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina: “His return was a sign that New Orleans, itself, was back. You would see him, as before, at the supermarket, or at a concert, and every time you saw him you were happy and grateful.” Friends and fans are happy and grateful as well to have received American Tunes as a parting gift in remembrance of the great Allen Toussaint.

Reviewed by Jennie Williams

Marquis Hill – The Way We Play

Marquis Hill
Title: The Way We Play

Artist: Marquis Hill

Label: Concord Jazz

Formats: CD, Digital

Release date: June 24, 2016

 

Chicago trumpeter Marquis Hill, who studied under Ronald Carter at Northern Illinois University and earned a masters in jazz pedagogy from DePaul University, released several projects of his original music on Skiptone Music. In 2014, Hill won the prestigious Thelonious Monk International Trumpet Competition, which awarded him a recording contract with Concord Records. From this contract comes his debut album for Concord Jazz, The Way We Play, which pays homage to jazz standards reinterpreted by Hill and his ensemble, the Blacktet, featuring Christopher McBride (sax), Justin Thomas (vibes), Makaya McCraven (drums), and Joshua Ramos (bass).

The title track, “The Way We Play/Minority” is playful mashup of a Gigi Gryce tune and features spoken word by Harold Green III. It can be listened to as a manifesto (“the way we play is / the way we love”), or as Hill emphatically states, “this is the sound of my band, which is uniquely Chicago.” Green enters after the intro, claiming the music’s blackness, stating “the way we play signify from which we came/Black always in season.” Light and fast paced, Hill’s rendition never numbs a gut or unseats a listener as free jazz strove to do. This is a fantastic piece, which describes many of the songs on this release. It dances the spirit in a comforting way and is great at romancing the beings that this society has had us become.  The drumming is singularly superb and so the trumpet playing.

Other highlights are Horace Silver’s “Moon Rays,” which inspires idealism in its listener, and the Afro-Cuban take on “Fly Little Bird Fly” (by Donald Byrd), which also features spoken word by Harold Green. His prose asks “the descendants of sharecroppers” to “sprinkle black girl magic” and “rise and dance.” Are these songs politically romantic? Marquis Hill seems to intend to transform at least some of the tracks into statements of political activism or even protest. Also included on the album is an Afro-Latin version of “Smile,” the Charlie Chaplin tune, while “My Foolish Heart” is a love ballad with R&B influences featuring Christie Dashiell on vocals.

Marquis Hill’s The Way We Play is a delightful album that combines the best of two worlds: Archie Shepp without the jagged edges, post-bop with overt protest.

Reviewed by Adolf Alzuphar

Incognito – In Search of Better Days

Incognito
Title: In Search of Better Days

Artist: Incognito

Label: Shanachie

Formats: CD, Digital

Release Date: June 24, 2016

 

I personally first heard of British group Incognito in the 1990s, when the acid jazz scene made its way to the U.S. Groups such as Fertile Ground and the Brand New Heavies gave Incognito a run for their money on who was going to be the big dog. Well, in 2016, I think it is unanimous. Brand New Heavies had a taste of mainstream success and Fertile Ground was strictly an underground favorite, but Incognito is still regularly putting out new material. Their latest, In Search of Better Days, is Incognito’s 17th album, and if you are even a little familiar with their previous work, then you know what time it is. Incognito is funk, soul jazz and house. Yes, you read it right, house!

The intro for “Better Days” starts off with a very trippy house feel. After a buildup of five minutes, vocalist Vula Malinga takes over and then the track begins to sound more like we expect from Incognito.  Different vocalists are showcased throughout, including Imaani on the opening track, “Love Born in Flames”:

Maysa is featured on four tracks, including “Racing Through the Bends.” Catchy lyrics, combined with Maysa’s vocals equals a winner. Maysa shines on all of her tracks, but hands down this is the ONE.  Vocalist Tomoyasu Hotai gives “Bridges of Fire” a very different feel, but without a doubt it’s still smooth. Incognito is just that, smooth. After seventeen albums, Incognito has proven they have staying power. That’s a good thing.

Reviewed by Eddie Bowman

Vaneese Thomas – The Long Journey Home

Vaneese Thomas
Title: The Long Journey Home

Artist: Vaneese Thomas

Label: Segue Records

Formats: CD, MP3

Release Date: September 16, 2016

 

Listening to The Long Journey Home feels like a night-long dance party as each song tests the boundaries of southern American roots genres. Vaneese Thomas celebrates her family and musical heritage in this latest album, following her most recent release Blues for My Father (2014). Raised in a talented and renowned musical family, Vaneese is the youngest daughter of Rufus Thomas and sister of Carla Thomas. R&B, soul, funk, and blues styles come naturally to Vaneese, and her ability to wield and experiment with these song varieties is evident in The Long Journey Home.

Vaneese demands complete attention in her performance using powerful vocals with a full band including harmonica, electric guitar, and a brass section. She kicks off the album with “Sweet Talk Me,” a rockin’ rhythm and blues song with a catchy refrain and a chorus of back-up singers beckoning listeners to the dancefloor. The album follows into “Lonely No More,” a song keeping with the Delta blues tradition about reclaiming self-confidence. The catchiest song of the album, “Sat’day Night on the River,” starts up with full energy and a swinging saxophone solo by Cliff Lyons. Perhaps one of the most surprising songs on this album, because of its unique blend of genres, is “Country Funk.” Demonstrating exactly what its title implies, Vaneese sings “I just can’t get enough of that country funk” while the percussion and brass section support elements of funk music, and dobro, banjo, and fiddle intertwine creating an intriguing mix of music traditions. The genres highlighted on this album convey Vaneese’s appreciation for the musically diverse reputation of Memphis.

Vaneese wrote songs on The Long Journey Home about her concerns on past and current social justice issues. Civil rights, imbalances of political power, and the need for love and kindness are common themes in songs such as “Mean World,” “Rockin’ Away the Blues,” and “The More Things Change,” during which she reflects on Sam Cooke’s timeless hit “A Change is Gonna Come”:

“Well, I’m still here waiting.

Hardly a damn thing has been done.

Well ain’t it funny? I said, it’s a shame

That the more things change, the more they stay the same”

Vaneese attempts to offer something for everyone on this album, whether they are songs about love and inspiration as in “Mystified” and “Prince of Fools” or songs with heavier blues and gospel roots like “I Got a Man in TN” or “Revelation.” The album closes with a cover of “The Chain,” originally written by Fleetwood Mac. It is a distinctive concluding track relative to the rest of the album for its minimalist acoustic instrumental section. Nevertheless, Vaneese sings out with her heart’s full power, which she sustains throughout the album.

Reviewed by Jennie Williams

Macy Gray – Stripped

MacyGray
Title: Stripped

Artist: Macy Gray

Label: Chesky Records

Formats: CD, Digital

Release Date: September 9, 2016

 

Macy Gray’s latest studio album, Stripped, displays the comfort of a veteran and the willingness to explore new territory at the same time.  Recorded in just two days in a Brooklyn church, the album’s 10 tracks are a combination of covers, originals, and new arrangements of Macy Gray songs.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7D28ssy4c0o

One such arrangement is “I Try,” Gray’s hit from her 1999 debut album On How Life Is.  This new arrangement allows for some flexibility that’s missing from the original, especially rhythmically.  The musicians featured on the record—Ari Hoenig (drums), Daryl Johns (bass), Russell Malone (guitar), and Wallace Roney (trumpet), provide Gray a freedom that allows her voice to function like the jazz instrument it has remained all these years.

Gray’s rasp allows the album’s covers to shine as though they were her own. She turns Metallica’s “Nothing Else Matters” into a convincing jazz tune, with the help of star solos from Roney and Malone.  Her cover of Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song” is relatively straightforward, yet haunting.

Besides Gray’s vocals, the other standout aspect of this project is the production quality. Produced by Chesky Records for their binaural recording series, this album comes to life in a pair of headphones.  This method of recording attempts to put the listener in the room with the musicians, which is ideal for the intimacy of the small jazz ensemble on this album.

Stripped is well paced, with grooves that complement each other, and a performance from Macy Gray that highlights her songwriting, vulnerability, and command of a voice that sets her apart from her contemporaries.

Reviewed by Allie Martin

Michael Franti & Spearhead – Soulrocker

Michael Franti

Title: Soulrocker

Artist: Michael Franti & Spearhead

Label: Fantasy Records/Concord

Formats: CD, LP, MP3

Release date: June 3, 2016

 

Michael Franti & Spearhead are known for their brand of upbeat, socially conscious pop and hip hop-infused reggae. In their ninth studio album, Soulrocker, they continue to experiment with genre and beat, introducing electronic music to their repertoire. Though most of their records have been largely self-produced, they worked on Soulrocker with Jamaican producers Stephen “Di Genius” McGregor, known for his dancehall sensibilities, and Swayne “Supa Dups” Chin Quee, who has worked with artists such as Bruno Mars and John Legend. Despite the new producers and beats introduced on Soulrocker, Michael Franti & Spearhead continue to find innovative ways to keep their organic instrumental and reggae sound that fans have come to know and love.

In a single more akin to past hits “Say Hey (I Love You)” and “I’m Alive (Life Sounds Like),” the upbeat anthem “Once A Day” is about unexpected moments in life, whether they are beautiful moments or “unexpectedly challenging.” Featuring Sonna Rele and produced by Supa Dups, this reggae jam is an infectious celebration of life and all its ups and downs. Franti wrote on YouTube that the song originally stemmed from how his family came together in the wake of his son’s diagnosis of a rare kidney disease, and hopes the song and video (below) can help people rise up, sing, and dance:

YouTube Preview Image

“My Lord,” “We Are All Earthlings,” and “Get Myself to Saturday” play with heavy EDM beats and synth, inspired by Franti’s love for Kraftwerk since he was seven years old. “Get Myself to Saturday” embodies the main message of the album, that throughout life’s struggles and personal longings for success, true happiness is found in giving back to the community and working for the greater good. The track is full of determination and hope, as Franti sings, “There is a part of me that can’t go on today/and there is a part of me that finds a way.”

Michael Franti & Spearhead have never been afraid of making political statements and being forthright about social issues, true to the messages of peace and nonviolence that come from Rastafari beliefs and from reggae legends like Bob Marley. “Good To Be Alive Today” is an acoustic guitar driven track that tackles everything from climate change and police brutality to drone strikes and ISIS. True to form, Franti infuses this sorrowful song with hope, asking people to remember the little “moments of victory” in life.

A personal favorite on the album is “Crazy for You,” a song about the power of loving someone amidst a seemingly crazy world of violence and political difference. The romantic declaration is accompanied by bright, staccato horns and a full unison chorus, and is made sweeter by Franti’s reference to the song as an ode to his wife.

Though some may be wary of the EDM elements on Soulrocker, Michael Franti & Spearhead have always pushed the boundaries of reggae styles and popular music, and this album is no different. From joyful declarations of love to thought-provoking songs, Soulrocker at once fully feels the weight of a world prone to violence, misunderstanding and hate, while recognizing that joy and hope keep people motivated to create change. Franti’s hope is that everyone can become a “soulrocker,” what he calls someone who “lives from the heart with compassion for all, and who’s got tenacious enthusiasm for music, life, and the planet.”

Reviewed by Anna Polovick

Hard Proof – Public Hi-Fi Sessions 03

Hard Proof

Title: Public Hi-Fi Sessions 03

Artist: Hard Proof

Label: Public Hi-fi

Formats: LP, Digital

Release date: June 24, 2016

 

Live music tourists to Austin, TX will add Afrobeat to their show calendars in greater numbers if Hard Proof continues releasing solid albums like this summer’s Public Hi-Fi Sessions 03. Since 2008, members of Hard Proof have purveyed African funk, world music, and jazz inspired by sub-Saharan Africa, while also paying their dues in other notable Austin acts such as Black Joe Lewis, The Calm Blue Sea, Ocote Soul Sounds, Spanish Gold, Cougar, and The Echocentrics. Hard Proof adds Public Hi-Fi Sessions to nearly a decade of high-energy live performances and recorded output of albums and singles.

Recorded live to tape by Jim Eno between December 2015 and February 2016, each song on Public Hi-Fi Sessions packs its own punch while holistically showcasing the Fela Kuti-inspired group at a new level. Horn arrangements and solos captivate and weave freely in and out of the guitar, bass and drums that push the recordings forward and display the group’s ability to build hypnotizing, danceable rhythms.

Hard Proof has earned a well-deserved reputation as one of Texas’s best Afrobeat, funk, and jazz groups. Inspired by everything from a busted lip to painted flowers to questioning established religious institutions, this tracks on this album should impress those both familiar and new to Hard Proof’s live performances and recordings.

Reviewed by William Vanden Dries

Jimi Hendrix – Machine Gun: The Fillmore East First Show 12/31/69

Jimi
Title: Machine Gun: The Fillmore East First Show 12/31/69

Artist: Jimi Hendrix

Label: Sony/Legacy

Formats: CD, SACD, LP, Digital

Release date: September 30, 2016

 

For Jimi Hendrix, 1969 was a critical year of transition. With his British-American band, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, he rode a 2-year explosion of popularity that culminated in the fall 1968 release of the 2LP set Electric Ladyland. After that, a combination of road weariness, musical restlessness and personnel squabbles led to the breakup of the Experience. By the time of the Woodstock festival, August 1969, Hendrix was playing with Experience drummer Mitch Mitchell and bassist Billy Cox, an old friend from the Army and co-traveler on the early 1960’s Chitlin Circuit. The Woodstock band also included extra percussion and Larry Lee on rhythm guitar. Although the Woodstock performance was memorable—think of the electrified psychedelic performance of the National Anthem in the Woodstock movie)—the band was assembled just for that event.

By late fall 1969, Hendrix was rehearsing with Cox on bass and soul/blues multi-instrumentalist Buddy Miles on drums. The group, which Hendrix called Band of Gypsys, debuted in public at the Fillmore East on New Year’s Eve 1969. This new album is the first official release of the unedited first set, an audio record of Jimi Hendrix bringing forth something very new, at some risk to his career and popularity.

The concert is long known and yet not well-known. There were four sets that night. All previous releases have been edited together out of pieces of the four, with only some bits from the first set. The original LP, released in 1970, was mostly comprised of the later overnight sets. The multi-CD deluxe reissue pieced together a running order similar to the middle sets, with tunes picked from all four. The running order and vibe of these previous issues isn’t quite what the audience heard, although as stand-alone albums, the original LP—which reached #5 and stayed 61 weeks on the Billboard Top 200 chart—is especially powerful.

Band of Gypsys has been somewhat controversial with critics and hardcore Hendrix fans. Miles’ drumming is heavy and somewhat leaden compared to Mitchell, and the Gypsys was firmly set in blues and hard-funk music, whereas the Experience was more freeform and trippy-psychedelic. Also, Buddy Miles was a showman, and some critics and listeners at the time just couldn’t cotton to his sometimes heavy-handed vocal riffing; the feeling was that he was upstaging the star, Hendrix. In retrospect, Miles’ style fits the music that Hendrix and band wanted to put out, and the point was that it wasn’t a “new Experience,” it was a different direction for Hendrix and his music.

The first New Year’s Eve set was almost all new material, no nuggets from the Experience hit parade except a decent but not stellar rendition of “Hear My Train a Comin’,” a song Hendrix played live numerous times with the Experience. More Experience songs were sprinkled into the later sets, and showed up on the multi-CD reissue compilation. In this unedited release of the first set, we hear the band having some timing and rhythm issues, probably opening night jitters. Several long blues jams keep things in order.

Indeed, blues are the order of the evening. Hendrix used this band as a vehicle to dive fully into the blues music always at the core of his rock hits. His band mates are up to the task, all seasoned by years of playing in R&B revues. Miles definitely prefers a heavier and busier drum style than a classic blues stickman like Chess’s Fred Below. He worked closer to Stax’s Al Jackson Jr.’s backing of Albert King, which was contemporary to these recordings. With mostly rock-steady bass backing by Cox, Hendrix stretches out and explores the ranges of both his guitar and his voice. Particularly on “Bleeding Heart,” near the end of the set, slow blues is rendered with full tension and power, the heavier style of Cox and Miles deployed to perfection.

The album’s title track, “Machine Gun,” presented here in an unedited form (previous releases were edited together from all four sets’ versions) is a smoldering anti-war anthem as powerful in today’s world as the turbulent late 1960s. “Izabella,” based around a fictional soldier’s letters to his girlfriend from Vietnam, is also of the time, although the rendition in this set is somewhat sloppy and tentative.

The set closes with an up-tempo rock colossus, “Burning Desire.” Here, at the end of the set, we hear Hendrix let loose in a rocking manner more familiar to the Experience fan. Miles even displays some Mitch Mitchell-like fleetness at times, which is probably unfair to note since Band of Gypsys was resolutely not aiming to be Experience-like.

Sony says no other complete sets from the New Year’s Eve at the Fillmore East concerts will be released, likely because so much from the later sets is already out there. It’s also worth noting that this will be the first Sony release of Hendrix material in SACD and high-resolution digital downloads. This is surprising, since Sony has in recent years released a large trove of remastered Hendrix recordings, likely transferred and remastered in higher than CD resolution. For whatever reason, these studio and live recordings have been issued only on CD, lossy downloads and in some cases vinyl. This new release was mixed from the original 8-track tapes by long-time Hendrix engineer Eddie Kramer, and mastered by Bernie Grundman.

After the New Year’s Eve sets, the Band of Gypsys played one more live set, a song-and-a-half misadventure at the January 28, 1970 Winter Festival for Peace. Hendrix walked off the stage, his manager fired Miles on the spot, and that was it for Band of Gypsys. Hendrix died from drug-related asphyxia on September 18, 1970; he was 27 years old.

Hendrix’s short-lived Band of Gypsys phase has always received mixed reviews. An informative listening session would compare this new release of the first New Year’s Eve set with Hendrix’s “American unveiling” at the 1967 Monterrey Pop Festival, and the August 1969 Woodstock performance. One might also listen to one of Hendrix’s 1968 Winterland shows to trace the arc of his brief career as a rock and blues superstar. His playing, singing and songwriting evolved greatly in that short time, and the Band of Gypsys’ New Year’s Eve performance was an important part of the journey.

Reviewed by Tom Fine

Lecrae – Church Clothes 3

CC3

Title: Church Clothes 3

Artist: Lecrae

Formats: CD, MP3

Label: Reach Records

Release date: January 15, 2016

 

Lecrae has never been one to shy away from controversy, from criticizing rappers who glorify violence on his Grammy-winning Gravity to his personal story about abortion on his last album Anomaly. His latest project, Church Clothes 3 (often abbreviated CC3) is no different. He dropped the ten-track album without warning on January 15, and it fully embraces racial politics in a new way for Lecrae while retaining his characteristic Christian messages.

The first two Church Clothes mixtapes were produced by Don Cannon (50 Cent, Ludacris), and CC3 was produced by S1 (Kanye West, Jay-Z). All three have excellent production with beats that sound typical of what one hears from mainstream hip hop. CC3 reached the number one slot on Billboard’s Rap/Hip-Hop Album charts within a week of being released, showcasing Lecrae’s tendency to cross genre boundaries despite being known as a gospel rapper.

Central to the album and its political messages is the short film that was released simultaneously, featuring the songs “It Is What It Is,” “Gangland,” “Déjà Vu,” and “Misconceptions 3.” The video follows a young gang member who gets shot:

The opening track, “Freedom,” frames the concept through two lenses: freedom as spiritual salvation and freedom from racial injustice. The hook, sung by Dallas vocalist N’dambi, is smooth soul and claims freedom as a mindset. The song samples a gospel chorus in the background, which is chopped up in the verses, creating holy syncopation. There are clear influences of Kendrick Lamar’s acclaimed To Pimp A Butterfly throughout the entitle album and video, but this song includes a direct reference to the Lamar’s “King Kunta.”

Gangland,” featuring Propaganda, is the most overtly political song on CC3. Referencing the New Jim Crow and the government’s role in allowing drugs to permeate African American communities, the track includes spoken narration in between verses that criticize the criminal justice system and explain the origins of gangs in the United States. Maybe most controversial to Lecrae’s white, Christian fan base may be the lyrics in Propaganda’s verse: “When American churches scuff they Toms on our brother’s dead bodies / As they march to stop gay marriage / We had issues with Planned Parenthood too / We just cared about black lives outside the womb just as much as in.”

The song “Can’t Do You,” featuring the rapper E-40, brushes off haters, encouraging the listener to “do you.” It’s backed by a standard hand-clapping beat and a R&B chorus sung by Drew Allen. Another standout track is “Misconceptions 3,” featuring John Givez, JGivens & Jackie Hill Perry. As the title indicates, it is the third in a series of tracks about misconceptions that appear on the first two Church Clothes albums. The beat is fast and hard, and indiscriminate chanting in the background helps moves the song forward. Lecrae lets these rappers shine on the track, with fast flows and witty lyrics such as “They shocked to see us like Donald Trump up in a taqueria.”

Lecrae, who marched with #BlackLivesMatter protestors in Atlanta last year, recently said on CNN that he wants to “educate and help” people who don’t see the reality of racism in the United States. Church Clothes 3 certainly makes a bold step in that direction, as Lecrae explains the complexities of racism, unashamedly continuing to change the way people view the world.

Reviewed by Anna Polovick

Bri – Keys To My Heart

bri

Title: Keys to My Heart

Artist: Bri

Label: Marquis Boone Enterprises/Tyscot

Formats: CD, MP3

Release date: March 25, 2016

 

Briana Babineaux, known simply as Bri, started singing at age five in the Lafayette, Louisiana church where her stepfather was a pastor. Now 21 years old and studying criminal justice, she never considered a career as a singer until one of her friends posted a video of her singing “Make Me Over” by Tonex on YouTube, which became a viral sensation.

Rising up through social media, Bri has become a full-fledged gospel star, releasing her debut album Keys to My Heart through Marquis Boone Enterprises and Tyscot Records. Her first gospel single, “I’ll Be the One,” came out last June and reached the top spot on Billboard’s Gospel Digital Songs chart. This heartfelt song includes a call and response chorus in which Bri offers her life to God:

Many gospel artists have encouraged and supported Bri on her debut album. Recording artist Bryan Andrew Wilson composed the warm, stripped-down ballad “Grace” especially for Bri, and Christian artist Reece wrote “Love You Forever.” The latter is evocative of ‘90s R&B girl groups, especially in the outro that features snapping, with Bri riffing both in melodies and speech as the song fades out.

Trying her hand as a singer-songwriter, Bri wrote her first compositions for the album—“Jacob’s Song” and its reprise “I’m Desperate.” They are both dynamic, with reverently quiet moments that build until the music swells and Bri belts outs skillfully embellished runs and high notes in the choruses.

In Keys to My Heart, Bri puts her soul into every song she sings, proving that she’s not just a social media star, but a rising gospel star with a lot to say.

Reviewed by Anna Polovick

Anglo-Saxon Brown – Songs for Evolution

AngloSaxonBrown

Title: Songs for Evolution

Artist: Anglo-Saxon Brown

Label: SoulMusic Records

Format: CD (expanded edition)

Release date: January 22, 2016

 

David Nathan’s SoulMusic Records frequently targets albums that have yet to be released on CD. Such is the case with Songs for Evolution, the 1976 debut album by Anglo-Saxon Brown—a soul and funk group formed in Richmond, Virginia. Formerly known as Ujima, the group (which included former members of The Manhattans, Sweet Inspirations, and the Harmonizing Four) recorded briefly for Epic in the early ‘70s before their careers stalled.

Soon thereafter they were rediscovered by Philadelphia producer Joe Jefferson, who also brought along his songwriting partner Charles “Charlie Boy” Simmons, to write new material (both were former staff writers for Thom Bell). The band then auditioned for Atlantic’s Jerry Greenberg, who agreed to sign them based in part on the strength of lead singer Debra Henry (now affiliated with Patti LaBelle). Since their old management company laid claim to the name Ujima, they had to decide on a new identity. The name Anglo-Saxon Brown came about after their costume designer heard a demo and asked, “Are they black . . . or are they Anglo-Saxon?” Though as the cover illustrates all members were indeed African American, the name Anglo-Saxon Brown encapsulated their new music which married the Philly sound with a bit of disco, rock guitar, and soul-jazz.

The roster of musicians on Songs for Evolution included lead guitarist Clemente Burnette, lead and rhythm guitarist Anthony Ingram, Carlton Robinson on bass, Debra Henry on lead vocals, plus a horn and rhythm section.  There are several highlights on the album.  “Call on Me” has almost a Broadway-style veneer, with Henry singing over a jazzy groove (the song was sampled on Action Bronson’s 2001 track “Larry Csonka”). The symphonic disco-jazz-funk “ASB Theme” is primarily an instrumental, segueing  between smooth vocal harmonies, a punchy horn section, funk guitar solos, and sections showcasing  pianist Dwight Smith.  Debra Henry is given an opportunity to shine on the ballad “The Man I Love,” a crowd favorite from the group’s live shows.

Despite follow-up promotional tours, Anglo-Saxon Brown’s new music and name didn’t take off with the public, and ultimately the short-lived project was relegated to a cult collectible, known primarily to soul music aficionados. However, the cross-genre approach marks an interesting chapter in the evolution of R&B music during the disco era of the mid to late 1970s, and now thanks to SoulMusic Records the album is widely accessible.

Reviewed by Brenda Nelson-Strauss

Silk – Quiet Storm

Silk

Title: Quiet Storm

Artist: Silk

Label: Shanachie

Formats: CD, MP3

Release date: March 18, 2016

 

The Atlanta-based R&B vocal group Silk originally started performing at churches, talent shows, and even in the streets, eventually becoming known for their “baby-making music” throughout the ‘90s. Now the five men of Silk are back with their first new album in a decade titled Quiet Storm.

Unlike their 2006 album which reinterpreted other artists’ R&B hits, Quiet Storm features ten original tracks. As suggested by the title, these are intensely romantic songs, such as “Love 4 U 2 Like Me” and “It Only Takes One,” as well as some characteristically sensual tracks such as “Slow Grind and “Baby Maker,” which they call a new brand of “grown-man sexy.” The group takes pride in their vocal arrangements and perfectly blended five-part harmonies, which remain as skillful and smooth as when they started.

Reviewed by Anna Polovick