Welcome to the September 2018 Issue

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

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

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

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

July 2018 Releases of Note

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

Blues, Folk, Country
Arthur Big Boy Crudup: If I Get Lucky (4 CD set) (JSP)
Benny Turner: Journey (Nola Blue)
Elvin Bishop’s Big Fun Trio: Something Smells Funky ‘Round Here (Alligator)
Errol Dixon: Midnight Train (Wolf)
Eugene Hideaway Bridges: Live In Tallahassee (Armadillo)
Madisen Ward & the Mama Bear: The Radio Winners (Glassnote)
Trudy Lynn: Blues Keep Knockin’ (Connor Ray Music)

Classical, Broadway
SUMMER: The Donna Summer Musical – Original Cast (Republic)

Funk, Rock, Pop, Electronic
Con Brio: Explorer (Transistor Sound/Fat Beats)
Ill Doots: S/T (Ropedope)
Jean Beauvoir: Rock Masterpieces Vol. 1 (Aor Heaven)
Lotic: Power (Tri Angle)
No Kind of Rider: Savage Coast

Gospel, Christian
Bishop Noel Jones & City of Refuge Sanctuary Choir: Run to the Altar (Tyscot)
Dr. Carmela Nanton: A Touch (Carmel Ministries)
Koryn Hawthorne: Unstoppable (RCA Inspiration)
Minister Marion Hall: His Grace (VPAL Music)
Shana Wilson Williams: Everlasting (Intersound)
Vincent Tharpe & Kenosis: Super Excited (digital)
Will Mcmillan: My Story (eOne)

Jazz
Bobby Sanabria Multiverse Big Band: West Side Story Reimagined (Jazz Heads)
David Garfield: Jammin’ Outside the Box
Dexter Gordon Quartet: Tokyo 1975 (Elemental Music)
Ernest Dawkins & New Horizons Ensemble: Chicago Now – Thirty Years of Great Black Music, Vol. 2 (Silkheart)
Erroll Garner: Nightconcert (Mack Ave.)
Jamar Jones: Fatherless Child (GPE)
Jim Stephens: Songs of Healing: Philasippiola Soul (1997-2017) (Ropedope)
Kaidi Tatham: It’s A World Before You (First Word)
Reginald Chapman: Prototype (Fresh Selects)
Rob Dixon Trio: Coast To Crossroads
Roy Campbell & Pyramid: Communion (digital)
Shaun Martin: Focus (Ropeadope)
Royal Krunk Jazz Orkestra: Get It How You Live (Ropeadope)
Various: Prince in Jazz: A Jazz Tribute to Prince (Wagram)
Woody Shaw: Tokyo 1981 (Elemental Music)

R&B, Soul
Appleby: Happiness (Haight Brand)
Cyril Neville: Endangered Species, Complete Recordings (World Order)
Jade Novah: All Blue (Empire)
Jaden Smith: SYRE (Digital) (Roc Nation/Republic)
James Brown: Mutha’s Nature (1st CD release) (LMLR)
Johnny Rain: Idol Blue (digital) (Odd Dream Republic)
Jr Jones: Nova (Black Musa)
Kiana Ledé: Selfless EP (Digital) (Republic)
Kizzy Crawford: Progression (Freestyle)
Meli’sa Morgan: Love Demands
The Internet: Hive Mind (Columbia)

Rap, Hip Hop
BrvndonP: Better Late Than Never (RPSMG)
B.o.B.: Naga (digital) (No Genre)
Blackgrits: Paradox 88 (digital)
Blackway: Good.Bad.Faded EP (digital) (Republic)
Buddy: Harlan & Alondra (digital) (RCA)
Busdriver: Electricity is on our Side (digital)
Cardi B: Her Life Her Story (DVD) (Intrinem Films)
Chief Keef: Mansion Musick (RBC)
Citro: No Cap (PlayMakaz Music Group)
Curren$y & Harry Fraud: Marina (Next)
Demrick: Came a Long Way (digital) (DEM)
Drake: Scorpion (Cash Money)
Drank Sanatra: Controlled Substance (digital) (Otherside Ent.)
Dyme-A-Duzin: Crown Fried (digital)
Eric B. & Rakim: Complete Collection (Hip-O)
Future: Beastmode (mixtape)
J. Diggs: #90Dayhousearrestproject (Rompt Out)
Kanye West: Ye (Def Jam)
King Magnetic: Back in the Trap (King Mag Music)
KR: In Due Time (Empire)
Kyle: Light of Mine (Atlantic)
Lil KeKe: SlfMade II (digital) (SoSouth)
Logic: Passion (DVD) (Intrinem Films)
Marlowe: Marlowe (Mello Music Group)
Migos: Evolution (DVD) (Intrinem Films)
Nav: Reckless (XO/Republic)
Nick Grant: Dreamin’ Out Loud (digital) (Epic)
Obuxum: H.E.R. (Urbnet)
Pawz One & Robin Da Landlord: Sell Me a Dream (Below System)
Philthy Rich: N.E.R.N.L. 4 (Empire)
Planet Asia: Mansa Musa (X-Ray)
Playboi Carti: Die Lit (digital) (Interscope)
Pusha T: Daytona (digital) (Def Jam)
Rae Sremmurd: SR3MM (digital) (Interscope)
Randy-B: Me, Myself and $ (Smeat)
Royce 5’9″: Book of Ryan (eOne)
Saweetie: High Maintenance (Warner Bros.)
Stalley: Tell the Truth Shame the Devil, Vol 3 (Blue Collar Gang)
Styles P (The LOX): G-Host (The Phantom Ent.)
Suspect: Still Loading (digital) (Rinse)
Tee Grizzley: Activated (digital) (300 Ent.)
Tobe Nwigwe: The Originals (digital)
Trap Gang Zone: Follow The Gang (digital) (Revenge Music)
Trick Daddy: Dunk Ride Or Duck Down (X-Ray)
Typical Div: S/T (Middle of Made)
Various: Oscillations (Strange Neighbor)
Wiz Khalifa: Rolling Papers 2 (digital) (Atlantic)
Wood & Yungman: Carlito’s Way Screwed (GT Digital)
World’s Fair: New Lows (digital) (Fool’s Gold)
YFN Lucci: Ray Ray from Summerhill (Think It’s A Game)
Zaytoven: Trapholizay (digital) (UMG)

Reggae
Kabaka Pyramid: Kontraband (Bebble Rock)
Kingly T: Got It All (digital)
Leon & The Peoples: Love Is A Beautiful Thing (Spectra Music Group)
Linval Thompson: Dub Landing Vols. 1 & 2 (Greensleeves)
Mad Professor: Electro Dubclubbing (Ariwa Sounds)
Santigold: I Don’t Want, Gold Fire Sessions (digital) (Downtown)
Tetrack: Let’s Get Started (Greensleeves)
U-Roy: Talking Roots (Ariwa Sounds)
Ziggy Marley: Rebellion Rises (Tuff Gong)

International, Latin
Bryant Myers: La Oscuridad (eOne)
Kamal Keila: Muslims & Christians (Habibi Funk)
Mulatu Astatke & His Ethiopian Quintet: Afro-Latin Soul (Strut)
Okonkolo: Cantos (Big Crown)
Te’Amir: Abyssinia EP (Tru Thoughts)

June 2018 Releases of Note

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 2018 Releases of Note

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

December 2017 Releases of Note

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

Blues, Folk, Country
Doctor Ross: Memphis Breakdown (ORG Music)
Robert Finley: Goin’ Platinum! (Easy Eye Sound)
Vance Kelly: How Can I Miss You If You Don’t Leave (Wolf)
Various: Memphis Blues Festival 1975 (Klondike)
Various: Chicago Blues All Stars 1970 (Klondike)

Comedy, Spoken Word
Nephew Tommy: Won’t He Do It (TNT)

Funk, Rock, Pop, Electronic
Bartees & The Strange Fruit: Magic Boy (Pineapple)
Danielia Cotton: The Mystery of Me (Cottontown)
Dk Aakmael: Take It Back (Scissor & Thread)
Hypnotic Brass Ensemble: Book of Sound (Honest Jon’s)

Gospel, Christian Rap, CCM
Alma Brown and A One Gospel Singers: Thank You Jesus

Jazz
Ella Fitzgerald: Ella at Zardi’s (Verve)
Incognito: Another Page of Incognito (P-Vine)
Irreversible Entanglements: S/T (International Anthem )
Khan Jamal Creative Arts Ensemble: Drum Dance to the Motherland (reissue) (Forced Exposure)
Melvin Sparks: I’m Funky Now (Westbound UK)
Tony Tixier: Life of Sensitive Creatures (Whirlwind)

R&B, Soul
Bettye Swann:  The Money Masters (Kent)
Bobbi Ruffin: Chapter Five (digital)
Dionne Warwick: Odds & Ends – Scepter Rarities (Real Gone Music)
K. Michelle: Kimberly – People I Used To Know (Atlantic)
Kashif: Essential Kashif – Arista Years  (Legacy)
Lee Moore: A Gram of Boogie: Story of Moore, Score & L&M Records (Past Due)
Minnie Riperton: Perfect Angel (Deluxe Ed.) (Capitol)
Next: Too Close EP (Arista/Legacy)
Otis Redding: Definitive Studio Album Collection (7 LP box) (Atlantic)
Ruby Camille: R C 1   (Moore-Caldwell Plus)
Sugaray Rayford: The World That We Live In (Transistor Sound)
Tamar-kali: Mudbound OST (Milan)
Various: Soul on Fire: Detroit Soul Story 1957-1977 (Cherry Red)
Vedo: From Now On (New WAV)

Rap, Hip Hop
A Cat Called Fritz: Vertical Iris (HHV.De)
Allan Kingdom: Lines (LP) (Omerta Inc.)
Big Sean/Metro Boomin: Double or Nothing (G.O.O.D Music)
Boosie Badazz: BooPac  (Atlantic)
Boulevards: Hurt Town USA (Don’t Funk With Me)
Chief Keef: Dedication (digital) (RBC)
Cobra íl Vero: Ecdysis (NS3T Ent)
Euroz: Two Birds One Stone (digital)
Fes Taylor: Hood Famous (Chambermusik)
Futuristic: Blessings (We’re The Future )
G. Perico: 2 Tha Left (So Way Out)
G-Eazy: When It’s Dark Out (RCA)
Jeezy: Pressure (Def Jam)
Juicy J: Rubba Band Business (Columbia)
Kidz In The Hall: Free Nights & Weekends (digital)
Kipp Stone: Dirty Face Angel (L.I.F.E. Art & Content Co.)
KXNG Crooked: Good vs. Evil II: The Red Empire (Empire)
Marty Baller: Baller Nation (LP) (Omerta Inc.)
Miguel: War & Leisure (RCA)
Mike Lowery: Before It’s Too Late (Music Junkies)
N.E.R.D: No One Ever Really Dies (Columbia)
Nyron: Appreciation Day (digital)
Pell: Girasoul (Payday)
Quaz: In My Mind (Odic)
Red Storm Chicago: Redemption (digital)
Saba: Bucket List Project (LP) (Omerta Inc.)
Snug: 70812 Where It All Started (Money Gang)
Supa Bwe: Finally Dead (Empire)
TheKidGeeQ: TheKidFrOmElmStreet (FlyOverEverything)
Too $hort: The Pimp Tape (Dangerous Music)
Trizz: Ashes N Dust (Below System)
Visioneers: Dirty Old Hip Hop (reissue) (Tru Thoughts)
Whispers: Whismonoxide (That’s Hip Hop)
WizKid: Sounds From the Other Side  (Sony Music Canada)
Z-Ro: Codeine  (1 Deep Ent.)

Reggae, Dancehall
Ethiopian & His All Stars: Return of Jack Sparrow (Omnivore)
Randy Valentine: New Narrative (Royal Order Music)
Various: Rise of Jamaican Dancehall Culture (SoulJazz)

World, Latin
Fela Kuti: Box Set #4: Curated by Erykah Badu (Knitting Factory)
Hamad Kalkaba: Hamad Kalkaba & Golden Sounds 1974-75 (Analog Africa)
The Secret: The New Africa – TNA (Secret Records Music Group)
Various: Beating Heart – South Africa (Beating Heart Music)

Brian Owens – Soul of Cash

Soul of Cash
Title: Soul of Cash

Artist: Brian Owens

Label: Ada Cole/Purpose Music Group

Formats: CD, Vinyl, MP3

Release date: October 6, 2017

 

Few African American artists have succeeded in country music. As Charles L. Hughes wrote in his groundbreaking book, Country Soul,* “In the 1960s and 1970s, nothing symbolized the rift between white and black in the United States more than the music genres of country and soul.”  Those who did cross musical boundaries to dip a toe into country music typically infused generous drops of blues, gospel and soul. Classic examples of this fusion include Ray Charles’ highly successful Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music (1962), Joe Tex’s Soul Country (1968), and Linda Martell’s Color Me Country (1969), to name just a few.

Enter soul singer Brian Owens. This preacher’s son from Ferguson, Missouri, first saw Johnny Cash on TV when he was 11 years old. Later, as an up-and-coming soul singer in his mid-20s, he was fascinated by the Cash biopic Walk the Line (2005), and decided there was just something about the famous country singer’s music and life story that really resonated. Perhaps the idea for a cover album has been germinating since that moment; whatever the case, the project has now come to fruition with Soul of Cash.

With this album, Owens seeks to bridge the divide by demonstrating that “a white man born in the South, who’s now passed on” and “a young African-American guy born in the Midwest, raised on soul music” can find common ground through music. Supporting Owens on this endeavor are a number of special guests as well as members of his regular backing band, The Deacons of Soul: Alvin Quinn (bass), Rob Woodie (drums), and Shaun Robinson (guitar).

While some singers might have sought out lesser known songs, Owens reaches for the gold ring, covering seven of Cash’s most iconic hits. Opening with “Ring of Fire,” he follows in the path of Brother Ray, but where Charles’ sweetened the mix with strings, Owens’ rendition punches in with a Stax-style horn section and the talented Daru Jones on drums, while Nashville session musician Zander Wyatt provides the country twang on acoustic guitar. This is followed by “Folsom Prison,” which Cash sang over a chugging acoustic guitar. Owens, however, raises the rafters with his uptempo rhythm and blues delivery, accented by Tripp Bratton on congas.

On “Walk the Line,” Owens captures the essence of the original version, but substitutes a driving, syncopated rhythm and gospel inflected vocals that heighten the emotional intensity of the lyrics. If there was ever a song that calls out for a soulful crossover version, it’s “Cry, Cry, Cry.” Owens fulfills this mission while still respecting the simplicity of the original, with excellent backing vocals by Anita Jackson and Trunesia Combs. Country music fans may enjoy “Sunday Morning Coming Down” and especially the mournful “Long Black Veil,” which maintain their country roots with pedal steel by Tony Esterly.

The final cover song, “Man in Black,” really struck a chord with Owens, who has seen his share of injustices on the streets of Ferguson. Indeed, any given line is as relevant today as when the song was written, including the second verse: “I wear the black for the poor and the beaten down / Livin’ in the hopeless, hungry side of town / I wear it for the prisoner who has long paid for his crime / But is there because he’s a victim of the times.”  This is definitely one of the highlights of the album, with Owens’ passionate delivery echoed by The Vaughans on backing vocals.

The album closes with an original, “Soul in My Country,” by Owens and Rissi Palmer, who share vocals with Robert Randolph sitting in on pedal steel. Ending on the refrain, “It’s a feeling I know / it’s the soul in my country / the country down in my soul,” the song expresses the commonalities between the genres. As Owens explains, “You shouldn’t look at me strange if I say I dig Johnny Cash, because I don’t look at you strange when you say you dig Otis Redding or Sam Cooke or Marvin Gaye. All of these guys came out of the church; that’s what binds them and us together.”

One album can’t heal the soul of this country, but with Soul of Cash Brian Owens proves that bridging the divide can bear sweet fruit.

* Hughes, Charles L., Country Soul: Making Music and Making Race in the American South (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2015).

Reviewed by Brenda Nelson-Strauss

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.

Zaire ’74 – The African Artists

Zaire 74

Title: Zaire ’74 – The African Artists

Artist: Various

Label: Wrasse

Formats: CD, LP, MP3

Release date: May 26, 2017

 

In conjunction with the Muhammad Ali-George Foreman “Rumble in the Jungle” fight, trumpeter Hugh Masekela and concert promoter Steward Levine planned a 3-day music festival in Kinshasa, the capitol of what was then Zaire (now called the Democratic Republic of the Congo). Held in the country’s largest sports stadium, the event included performances by James Brown, Bill Withers, the Crusaders, the Fania All-Stars with Celia Cruz and Ray Barretto, and other American stars. Also featured were the top stars of Zaire and folk singer Miriam Makeba, who hailed from Masekela’s home country of South Africa.

When the fight was delayed due to Foreman suffering a training injury, the music festival became a stand-alone event, three weeks removed from the “Rumble in the Jungle.” Both the fight and the musical performances of the American artists were previously well known, in part via the excellent documentaries. The Oscar-winning When We Were Kings documented the fight and Soul Power captured the American musical performances with some brief African musical segments, plus the behind-the-scenes story of staging the festival. Now, finally, the complete performances of the African artists have been released.

According to Masekela’s liner notes, even though all of the music performances were well recorded with modern equipment, event promoter Don King tied legal knots around releasing it. Given King’s history of, to put it charitably, non-traditional business dealings, Masekela’s version of events seems credible. In any case, most of the performances on this 2-CD set haven’t been available until now, 43 years after the event.

Miriam Makeba was already world-famous in 1974, and she put on a superb performance in Zaire. Like the other artists, she prepared a “Praise Song” for the country’s ruler, Mobutu Sese Seko. This was probably part tribute to the man who had led Zaire to independence from Belgian colonization, and partly insurance for safe passage in a country ruled with an iron fist by Mobutu.

Although all of the artists featured in the album offer something worthwhile, two bands stand out. Tabu Ley Rochereau and Afrisa present a guitar and horn-driven funk style that would be at home in the Nigeria of 1974, or opening up for James Brown. Franco and T.P.O.K. Jazz was already popular in Zaire, and they put on a flawless and fast-paced performance. In the interest of full disclosure, almost all lyrics are sung in non-English languages. The horn runs, complex beats and funky song structures are at home in any language.

This album makes a great companion to the two excellent documentaries, all mementos of a long-ago Big Event.

Reviewed by Tom Fine

Naomi Wachira – Song of Lament

Naomi Wachira
Title: Song of Lament

Artist: Naomi Wachira

Label: Doreli Music

Formats: CD, MP3

Release date: June 2, 2017

 

Between civil wars, natural disasters, environmental crisis, and refugees fighting for their lives across the globe, it is easy to feel surrounded by despair and violence. Seattle-based, Kenya-born artist Naomi Wachira certainly feels this way. On her sophomore release Song of Lament, she sings out looking for a connection by means of our mutual destruction: “I am the only one who thinks we’re gonna go up in flames?” (“Up In Flames”). Wachira, who grew up singing in gospel choirs, tries to reconcile faith and hope with insurmountable suffering on Song of Lament, which comes out June 2 on Doreli Music.

Wachira says that she was inspired to write Song of Lament when she read about 700 men, women, and children who drowned in the Mediterranean Sea while trying to reach a better life: “I felt so helpless watching people die needlessly, and I wanted to do something that would bring to light these issues.” The Afro-folk singer songwriter weaves empathy and a common thread of humanity through all the despair, whether questioning how people can use god to justify violence (“Where Is God?”) or urging those who feel life crashing in on them to continue fighting (“Run, Run, Run”).

Backed by acoustic guitar and bare bones percussion, for the most part Wachira’s effortless voice is in control here. A few songs have more involved instrumentation, such as “Beautifully Human,” which has an upbeat reggae beat as Wachira calls for seeing all life as sacred, tired of questions about who deserves to live:

“Don’t make me prove why I should be, why I belong, why I deserve to be here.”

“Up in Flames” also employs horns and drumset that add to the urgency and power of Wachira’s voice and desperation to find any spark of hope: “Where is kindness? Where is love?”

Though most of the tracks deal uniquely with global pain and suffering, Wachira still sees reason to seek light in the darkness. The opening and closing tracks, “Our Days Are Numbered” and “Think Twice,” are songs that beg for hope, as Wachira calls for a renewed responsibility to be kind, respect others, and show love before hate. As she says on her website, “while the sun does not discriminate between the good and the bad, fulfillment is found when we spend our days practicing kindness and wisdom.” In the end, Song of Lament is a cautionary message: evil will triumph over good if we let ourselves grow numb to the pain and suffering. Wachira wants the listener to turn into the despair instead of away from it, saying only through shared empathy will people find the energy to take action.

Reviewed by Anna Polovick

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.

Trombone Shorty – Parking Lot Symphony

Trombone Shorty
Title: Parking Lot Symphony

Artist: Trombone Shorty

Label: Blue Note

Formats: CD, LP, Digital

Release Date: April 28, 2017

 

The final Friday of April saw a new and compelling release by the acclaimed New Orleans trombonist, singer, and bandleader Troy Andrews (aka Trombone Shorty). This is the band’s fourth album, and their first on the heralded Blue Note label.

Trombone Shorty and his band blend elements from pop, R&B, funk, and jazz, and the group leans heavily on its roots in the New Orleans versions of these styles on Parking Lot Symphony. Stylistic diversity is the name of the game on this album, among both the songs that gesture more towards pop styles and those incorporating hardcore jazz and funk grooves.   “Parking Lot Symphony” and “Dirty Water” both hearken to 90s R&B, and are driven by drum machines and infectious hooks. The band included two quite faithful covers of songs by New Orleans legends in this set: The Meters’ “Ain’t No Use” and the Allen Toussaint-penned “Here Come the Girls.” Many originals follow the sterling legacy of New Orleans music as well—“Tripped Out Slim” is a funk barn-burner, and the album is bookended by a set of brass band dirges, titled “Leveau Dirge No. 1” and “Leveau Dirge Finale.”

As might be expected from an album that ambitiously incorporates pop sensibilities and funk-jazz roots, this record has a few swings and misses like “Familiar,” a club jam about barely recognizing someone (even this song, though, has a killer Rhodes and brass solo section). However, this rare misstep is tempered by the band’s overwhelming sense of earnestness on the rest of the album. For instance, “No Good Time,” has its heart firmly planted on its sleeve. Shorty croons the folksy wisdom that “nobody never learned nothing from no good time” on the melancholy brass-driven ballad. While the set may not be entirely cohesive, it is chock full of great grooves played by a killer band. Parking Lot Symphony is a well-executed effort from a group of steadily grooving musicians.

Reviewed by Matthew Alley

Taj Mahal and Keb’Mo’ – TajMo

TajMo
Title: TajMo

Artist: Taj Mahal and Keb’Mo’

Label: Concord

Formats: CD, LP, MP3

Release date: May 5, 2017

 

There’s a certain solemn sense of responsibility that comes with reviewing the first duo album by two giants of the blues: Taj Mahal and Keb’ Mo’. The two of them have logged eighty years of achievement in blues, and promotional literature attendant to TajMo, their new Concord release, highlights their strong sense of mutual respect. How could the album be anything other than absolutely wonderful? For the most part, it is.

TajMo is a true collaboration in the spirit of Brion Gysin’s concept of the “third mind” in which the combined efforts of two artists results in the product of a third. Taj Mahal and Keb’ Mo’ trade verses and guitar leads seamlessly to the extent that it isn’t always readily apparent who’s doing the talking, with Taj Mahal’s wry, gravelly voice leading to Keb’ Mo’s rich baritone and back. The stinging intensity of the leadoff track, “Don’t Leave Me Here,” and their sardonic, front porch acoustic take on the more traditional “Diving Duck Blues” are among the standout items here.

Taj Mahal and Keb’ Mo’ do have interests outside of the blues, and this where some incongruous elements tend to creep into the mix, including Stax/Volt grooves and ‘Big 80’s’ production values. The first part of TajMo is much stronger than the later, where the pair explore a couple of cover songs that really aren’t worthy of their talents. However, this disc is designed to support the joint tour between Taj Mahal and Keb’ Mo’ which begins this month and will run until October 2017; clearly the appeal of this project needed to be broad for that purpose. The sessions for TajMo sound like they were tremendous fun and that sense of camaraderie and good times shine through as evidence of their shared mastery; it’s going to be a great tour.

Reviewed by David N. “Uncle Dave” Lewis

Nicole Mitchell – Mandorla Awakening II: Emerging Worlds

Nicole Mitchell
Title: Mandorla Awakening II: Emerging Worlds

Artist: Nicole Mitchell

Label: FPE

Formats: CD, LP, MP3

Release date: May 5, 2017

 

Flutist Nicole Mitchell leads her Black Earth Ensemble in the Afrofuturist inspired album Mandorla Awakening II: Emerging Worlds. Commissioned by Chicago’s Museum of Modern Contemporary Art (MCA) as part of their 2015 celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Association of the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), this concert recording puts on full display the outstanding musicality and artistry of Mitchell and the members of the ensemble.

Based on the black speculative novella of the same name penned by Mitchell, Mandorla Awakening presents in sonic form the story of what happens when two citizens of the futuristic World Union venture beyond its borders and establish contact with the peoples of Mandorla, a society with different social values than their own. The theme of the novella and the album is inspired by anthropologist Riane Eisler’s influential book The Chalice and the Blade, in which she argues that societies arranged by cooperative of hierarchical governing models have been in competition with one another for centuries. Mitchell is not so much concerned with establishing a narrative of which society represents right or wrong, but rather proposes what societies in an oppositional duality can learn from each other if they can move beyond their differences and find commonalities.

The project relies on the originality of Mitchell’s score and the creativity of the musicians to present the work’s narrative. Unique to this project is the inclusion of Kojiro Umezaki on shakuhachi and Tatsu Aoki on bass, shamisen, and taiko. The infusion of Umezaki’s and Aoki’s playing provided moments of intriguing sonic textures both individually and in combination with other members of the Black Earth Ensemble that I found particularly enjoyable with a notable example happening in the opening of “Sub-mission.”

Joining the group for this project is Chicago-based spoken word artist and performer avery r. young, who animates Mitchell’s lyrics through his dynamic vocal inflections on three of the last four tracks. The lyrics in particular bring together the suite’s theme of competing approaches to life learning from one another. The string players, Tomeka Reid and Renée Baker, both standout soloists in their own right, provide colour and ethereal tones that enhance the works’ futuristic narrative and soundscape.

Other standout moments from the Black Earth Ensemble include JoVia Armstrong’s imaginative percussion playing in “Listening Embrace” and Alex Wing’s psychedelic infused guitar sounds on “TimeWrap.” Of course, one must call attention to the rich tone and fluidity of Mitchell’s playing that appears throughout the album. The penultimate track, “Mandorla Awakening” (which rightfully receives a handful of applause from the live audience), puts on full display everyone’s musical skill in a tightly woven ensemble setting.

Overall, this recording presents an accessible sonic entryway into the diverse musical world of the AACM and provides ample material for the listener to think through, both musically and intellectually.

Reviewed by Brian Lefresne

K’Valentine – Here For a Reason

K'Valentine
Title: Here For a Reason

Artist: K’Valentine

Label: Javotti Media

Formats: CD, LP, MP3

Release Date: April 7, 2017

 

K’Valentine is one of the newest young rappers to come out of Chicago, whose music scene is currently on the map due to the efforts of rappers like Chance the Rapper, Vic Mensa, Noname, and BJ The Chicago Kid. Her debut album, Here for a Reason, is the result of putting the work in on her previous mixtape projects, which drew the attention of Talib Kweli. She first met Kweli backstage at a concert in Chicago, and he later produced her 2014 mixtape Million Dollar Baby. Continuing that collaboration, Kweli is one of many artists featured on the album, including BJ The Chicago Kid, Tweet, Kendra Ross, and Scotty ATL. These collaborations offer a lot, but Valentine still holds her own throughout the rest of the album.

K’Valentine’s background is in poetry, which definitely shows throughout her verses. Her career as both a poet and a rapper was informed by a chance backstage meeting with the late great Maya Angelou, who encouraged her to continue to write. At times, the album can seem minimalistic, but never simplistic. If anything, the stripped down production, particularly on “King,” help Valentine’s message to shine through.

With this debut album, Valentine joins a long line of hard hitting female MC’s that can also hold their own with the men. Her flow is versatile, her verses personal, and she moves easily between conscious and club rap.  There’s something old school about her rhymes, and she shows an ability to be a rapper that can also create R&B jams. Here For a Reason provides a consistent sound, and gives the listener a good glimpse into the kind of MC K’Valentine is going to grow into.

Reviewed by Allie Martin

JC Brooks – The Neon Jungle

JC Brooks
Title: The Neon Jungle

Artist: JC Brooks

Label: Rock Ridge Music

Formats: CD, Digital

Release date: April 7, 2017

 

JC Brooks’ Neon Jungle seeks to take the listener on a journey through the nightlife. In fact, Brooks had a specific image in mind: “It’s ‘87, you’re going out on a Friday night and you’re ready to lose yourself in the city…” The album really succeeds in building on this scenario with songs like “Drive” and “Stumble in the Dark,” both of which have a very danceable feel that bubbles with the excitement of an evening where opportunity abounds.  However, the album also features more contemplative tracks like the opener “Jungle” and the ballad “Playing With Fire,” both evoking the vocal stylings of Donald Fagen of Steely Dan who Brooks cites as an influence.

While “JC Brooks” headlines, his backing band also contributes to the very cohesive feel of the record. They complement each other and Brooks on songs like the very funky “O.N.O.” Brooks takes on a Prince influenced falsetto while his band tightens up, making this one of the liveliest and most enjoyable tracks on the record.  On “One For Someone,” Brooks slows things down again for an inspired song that showcases his vocals and songwriting, with the added bonus of a great guitar solo by Alec Lehrman.

The album’s closer, “Watch Me,” blends a great story with great music. Brooks spikes the bridge with the message, “We are all currently losing this game of love / because we are searching out something brand new / when slightly used will most certainly do,” leaving those who are not too caught up in dancing to really think about what message Brooks is trying to send.

All in all, Neon Jungle succeeds in creating the feeling of a night out that’s full of both exciting and intimate moments.

Reviewed by Levon Williams

Columbia Nights – In All Things

Columbia Nights
Title: In All Things

Artist: Columbia Nights

Label: Record Breakin Music

Formats: CD, LP, MP3

Release Date: March 24, 2017 (CD & LP)

 

Washington, D.C. has always had a vibrant music scene, especially given its “Chocolate City” status. This scene, however, has typically been dominated by go-go music and at times, hardcore punk. Intent on breaking new ground, the D.C. band Columbia Nights is a “soultronic production group” comprised of John E. Daise, Jason Edwards and Hayling Price. The trio combines their numerous soul, funk, and R&B influences with their love of electronic music, and the result is harmonious to say the least. In All Things is their first full length album, following 2012’s EP Dawn | Dusk. There is definitely a sense of growth between the EP and this album.  The production is more lush on In All Things, and takes the listener further inside the sonic worlds that Columbia Nights constructs.

There are a number of interesting collaborators featured on the album—such as Diggs Duke, violinist Vaughan Octavia, and singer B.Jamelle, among others—who seek to highlight some of the group’s musical influences. The band’s collaboration with Aaron Abernathy on “Coming Home” is particularly compelling, and sounds like it could be a track off of D’Angelo’s album Black Messiah (2015).  The instrumentation on songs like “Glide” and “Cerulean” are also particularly impressive.

It is not an overstatement to describe In All Things as cosmic, both in scope and in sound.  The album moves seamlessly from groove to groove and vibe to vibe, offering a wide variety of sounds but never sounding at odds with itself. In All Things is a journey from start to finish, and a well-constructed one at that.  The album is a great first effort from Columbia Nights, who are representing the D.C. soul scene well.

Reviewed by Allie Martin

Battle of Santiago – La Migra

La Migra
Title: La Migra

Artist: Battle of Santiago

Label: Made With Pencil Crayons

Formats: CD, MP3

Release Date: April 28, 2017

 

Battle of Santiago blends together Afro-Cuban and Canadian influences rooted in jazz and electronic music to create their atmospheric sound. Recorded in a private Canadian studio, the band titled their album La Migra, translated as “deportation police,” not based on the current political climate, but rather on their own experiences and challenges migrating to Toronto. The sentiment extends to the related struggles in the United States all the same. La Migra is the third full-length album release on their own independent label following Full Colour (2012) and Followed by Thousands (2013) since Battle of Santiago formed in 2011.

La Migra opens with “Aguanileo,” a dedication to the deity of warriors named Oggun in a seven-minute jam that builds and falls with creative technical sound manipulation. “Rumba Libre” follows the introduction with a percussive meditation detailed with saxophone riffs. Each track vamps with consistently complex rhythms and instrumental variety, creating an album teeming with intensity. The energy exhibited throughout the music of La Migra is cumulative, drawing listeners into a deeply focused state of mind.

Particularly with “Barasu-Ayo” parts one and two, Battle of Santiago’s utilization of choral and solo Yoruba chants weave together with sustained electric guitar chords, Afro-Cuban rhythms, and carefully crafted electronic tones to produce a peculiar and entrancing listening experience. Whether witnessing La Migra performed live on stage or listening to it through headphones with eyes closed, it is interesting to imagine the varying experiential states of mind that could be induced by this pulsating music.

 

Reviewed by Jennie Williams

José James – Love In A Time of Madness

Jose James
Title: Love In A Time of Madness

Artist: José James

Label: Blue Note Records

Formats: CD, LP, MP3

Release date: February 24, 2017

 

José James has always been known for blending jazz together with hip-hop, but on his latest album Love In A Time of Madness, he takes it to a whole new level. Always one to try something new and daring, the album is a modern spin on the classic R&B themes of love, lust, and longing.

Skilled vocal sampling, a slow hip-hop rhythm, and heavy bass lead into James’ smooth voice on the first single for the album, “Always There.” Sensually singing about his devotion to his woman, James’ style is reminiscent of modern R&B stars such as Miguel or Usher, and could easily be heard on the radio:

Originally meant to be an album dealing with both love and “societal madness—a response to the systemic and often physical violence perpetrated on U.S. citizens of color,” James felt that the madness side of the album was spiraling out of control. Overwhelmed by the daily acts of violence, he decided to focus on the love part, creating an album of healing which provides a temporary respite from the madness.

This idea that love can be felt even in a time of despair can be heard on songs such as “Let It Fall,” which features Mali Music. Slow and melancholy, James and Mali Music sing,

“No one really likes when the rain comes because that’s the same time that the pain comes crashing down And that’s the same way that your love comes pouring down.”

This juxtaposition of rain as bringing both the realization of pain and a sign of new growth expertly shifts from soft jazz-infused vocals to a deep hip-hop beat with a drop around the three-minute mark.

Though many songs (“You Know I Know,” “Last Night”) are heavily electronic, the album also features a live band that adds flair to James’ brand of contemporary R&B and showcases his jazz influences. With Takeshi Ohbayashi on keys, Solomon Dorsey on bass and vocals, and Nate Smith on drums, “To Be With You,” a rhythmic jazz ballad, and “I’m Yours,” an intimate, gospel-infused declaration of commitment and love featuring Oleta Adams, particularly benefit from this live instrumentation.

The upbeat “Live Your Fantasy” brings the funk to the album, and certainly fulfills James’ hope to make the listener want to dance through the night. “Ladies Man” continues this vibe, as James tests out his falsetto in a George Clinton-esque psychedelic track. Despite these many styles, the music is all grounded in James’ velvet voice, making In A Time of Madness feel cohesive. It is clear that genre is fluid for José James, and there’s no telling what he will take on next.

Reviewed by Anna Polovick

The Soul of John Black – Early in the Moanin’

soul of John Black
Title: Early in the Moanin’

Artist: The Soul of John Black

Label: Big Slamm Music/dist. CD Baby

Formats: CD, Digital

Release date: May 6, 2016

 

The Soul of John Black is a project centered around guitarist John Bigham. Best known for his time as a member of Fishbone, Bigham uses The Soul of John Black as a love letter to the blues.  His latest release, Early in the Moanin’, infuses elements of both Delta and Chicago blues with soul and funk sensibilities. The album finds “JB,” as he a known, running through songs filled with an earthy-southern feel.

Bigham puts his sense of humor at the center of many of the tracks, including the album opener “Can’t Be Helped,” where he playfully pleads for help from his partner for his ailment: “Doctor says I can’t be helped / by nobody but thee / now lay some hands on me.”

Early In Moanin’ is reminiscent of soul-blues greats like Little Milton or Z.Z. Hill, but with a 2017 sensibility. It conjures up visions of people dancing away the troubles of the day at the local watering hole. Bigham’s vocals and guitar work are both superb throughout the album. Despite the fact that blues is not his most oft-played genre, he feels completely at home in the setting.  His comfort at weaving between genres—blues, soul, funk, R&B—speaks to the interconnectedness of these genres at large.  Blues in many ways is the root and Bigham taps into it in spectacular fashion on this album. Early In Moanin’ is highly recommended for lovers of the soul-blues of Bobby “Blue” Bland, Denise LaSalle and Clarence Carter.

Reviewed by Levon Williams

Abdullah Ibrahim (Dollar Brand) – Ancient Africa

Abdullah Ibrahim
Title: Ancient Africa

Artist: Abdullah Ibrahim

Label: Sackville/Delmark

Format: CD

Release Date: March 17, 2017

 

In a 1990 interview, Abdullah Ibrahim stated, “I used to use very eloquent language. Then I realized that hardly anyone understood what I said.” When I first heard the track “Cherry/Bra Joe from Kilimanjaro” from Sangoma (the 1973 vinyl predecessor to this CD) on WAIF radio in Cincinnati about 1977, I certainly felt like it was communicating to me. I was a teen-aged, wannabe classical composer that loved to improvise at the piano, and I was having difficulty with balancing the immediacy of improvisation with preparing written scores which would allow for that freedom. On Sangoma—issued initially under Ibrahim’s former moniker, Dollar Brand—Ibrahim made it clear that you could make big, ambitious, para-classical statements in improvisation alone. What made it different from Cecil Taylor was that Cecil was always ahead of the audience, constantly shifting the thread of his argument from subject to subject, whereas with Ibrahim there was always a sense of moving forward in a kind of continuum, often governed by an ostinato pattern, such as in the early, minimalistic music of Terry Riley.

There was a lot in Ibrahim, however, that was not like Riley. The title track “Ancient Africa” thunders forward with breathtaking intensity and power, whereas the following track “The Aloe and the Wild Rose” begins with blasted fragments of figures that settle, over time, into a distinctly Ellingtonian structure not unlike the Duke’s “The Clothed Woman.”

“Cherry/Bra Joe” was not originally included on Sangoma. Though recorded on the same day, it appeared on a different Sackville album, African Portraits. The first Ancient Africa issued as an album was the initial CD version of this from 1994, now long unavailable. This 2017 edition adds an unreleased track, “Khotso,” mainly a flute solo with some spoken narration. It illustrates some aspects of Ibrahim’s creative thinking, and would’ve been welcome on WAIF radio back in the ‘70s—though one understands why this was held back, given the limitations of album sides and that the rest of this session (“Thunder Sound, Toronto 1973-02-18”) was devoted to piano only.

The next step that Ibrahim would take was pretty far from the rarefied world of Ancient Africa; in 1974, he recorded Mannenberg with a small group in Cape Town, contributing a rallying cry to the struggle against Apartheid and laying the foundation for what became known as Cape Jazz. Nevertheless, the material on Ancient Africa is well worth knowing, both as Ibrahim’s final statements—in that time—in the field of long form, avant-garde solo piano improvisation and to experience the “very eloquent language” that Ibrahim mastered, but was compelled to leave behind.

Reviewed by Uncle Dave Lewis

Jeff Lorber Fusion – Prototype

Jeff Lorber Fusion
Title: Prototype

Artist: Jeff Lorber Fusion

Label: Shanachie

Formats: CD, Digital

Release Date: March 24, 2017

 

Jeff Lorber is generally considered jazz fusion, not smooth jazz. I don’t have the time or space to debate that pressing issue, but whatever you want to label it, Lorber has carved out a pretty good niche for himself. Lorber, who grew up in Cheltenham, a suburb outside of Philadelphia, just released his latest project, Prototype, with his group Jeff Lorber Fusion: Lorber on keyboards, with saxophonist Andy Snitzer (also from Cheltenham), bassist Jimmy Haslip (founding member of The Yellowjackets) and drummer Gary Novak. Special guests include bassist Nathan East, guitarists Chuck Loeb, Larry Koonse, Michael Thompson and Paul Jackson, Jr., and saxophonist Dave Mann. It’s vintage Lorber, which means a ‘real jazz ‘ fan may frown due to the infusion of multiple genres: rock, soul, funk, blues, pop, R&B and gospel.

Stand outs, such as the title track featuring Andy Snitzer on alto sax, make this album a worthwhile listen. On “Testdrive,” which begins with a Steely Dan sound, I was anticipating Donald Fagan any second on vocals. No Fagan, but Andy Snitzer on alto sax again comes to the rescue. “What’s the Deal” is a more upbeat Tower of Power inspired track, with the flow really changing and creating a different sound for Lorber, who switches to B3. The closer, “River Song,” starts off like the theme for a sappy ‘80s sitcom, but give Lorber credit. Just when you think you have the answer, he changes the question.

Yes, Prototype is smooth jazz. Jeff Lorber stays in his lane and apparently, he has it all to himself.

Eddie Bowman

April 2017 Releases of Note

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

Blues, Folk, Country
Alberta Hunter: Collection 1921-1940 (Acrobat)
Guitar Slim Jr.: Story of my Life (reissue) (Orleans)
John Primer & Bob Corritore: Ain’t Nothing You Can Do! (Delta Groove Music)
Johnny Guitar Watson: Stressin’ The Strings (Southern Routes)
Mr. Sipp: Knock a Hole in It (Malaco)
Robert Cray & Hi Rhythm: S/T (Jay-Vee)
Vintage #18: Grit (digital)

Broadway, Classical
Eric Lamb: Icons (Orlando)
Various: Billy Porter Presents: The Soul of Richard Rodgers (Masterworks Broadway)

Funk, Rock, Pop, Electronic
Andre Cymone: 1969 (Blind Tango)
Aye Nako: Silver Haze (Don Giovanni)
B.T. Express: Give Up The Funk: The B.T. Express Anthology (1974-1982) (BBR)
Barenaked Ladies & Persuasions: Ladies & Gentlemen (Raisin’ Records)
Fuzzy Haskins: I Got My Thang Together – The Westbound Years (Westbound Uk)
Garland Jeffreys: 14 Steps to Harlem (Luna Park)
Here Lies Man: S/T (Riding Easy)
Leonce: Insurgency EP (Fade to Mind)
O+S (Cedric LeMoyne & Orenda Fink): You Were Once the Sun, Now You’re the Moon (Saddle Creek)
Various: Honeybeat: Groovy ’60s Girl Pop (Real Gone Music)

Gospel
Brenda Jefferson: Invocation (digital) (Scripture Music Group)
Tammy Mccann And The Grand Voices Of Glory Choir: Tammy Mccann And The Grand Voices Of Glory Choir (SAAR)
Yolanda Adams: Becoming (Red One Media)

Jazz
Adam Turchin: Manifest Destiny (Rope a Dope)
Bobby Watson: Made in America (Smoke Sessions)
Bottle Tree: S/T (International Anthem)
Charles Kynard: Afro-Disiac (vinyl reissue) (JazzDispensary)
China Moses: Nightentales (MPS)
Christian Sands: Reach (Mack Ave.)
Elan Trotman: Electro Sax (Island Muzik Productions)
Ella Fitzgerald: 100 Songs For A Centennial (Verve)
Gerald Clayton: Tributary Tales (Motema)
Gruppo Afro Mediterraneo: 1972 Blues Jazz Session (Black Sweat)
Irvin Mayfield & the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra: Live at Newport (Basin Street)
Jamire Williams: Effectual (Leaving)
Jowee Omicil: Let’s Bash! ( Jazz Village)
Louis Jordan: Volume One 1939-1947 (Real Gone Music)
Nick Mazzarella & Tomeka Reid: Signaling (Nessa)
Preservation Hall Jazz Band: So Is Is (Legacy)
Roberto Blanco: Swinging New York (Connector)
Rusty Bryant: Fire Eater (vinyl reissue) (JazzDispensary)
S.O.A.R. (Sounds of A&R): Let’s Stay Forever (Cutmore)
Terence Blanchard: The Comedian OST (Blue Note)

Latin
Cuban Beats All Stars: La Receta (Timba)
Mayito Rivera: Estoy Aqui (Connector)

R&B, Soul
AverySunshine: Twenty Sixty Four (Shanachie)
David Brinston: Sidepiece Motel (Ecko)
Dr. E: Presents Songs for the Struggle (Give Us Free Records)
Ephemerals: Egg Tooth (Jalapeno)
Johnny Nash: Stir It Up – The Anthology, 1965-1979 (SoulMusic)
Mary J. Blige: Strength of a Woman (Capitol)
Norman Brown: Let It Go (Shanachie)
PJ Morton: Gumbo (Morton)
Quinton Marcel: The Blueprint (Hit Man)
Sean Whyte: Love Affair (Indie Music Factory)
Tanika Charles: Soul Run (Record Kicks)
Tommy Edwards: Singles Collection 1951-62 (Acrobat)
Various: More From the Other Side of the Trax: 45 RPM rarities (Kent)

Rap
Allan Kingdom: Lines (So Cold)
Benash: CDG (Capitol Music France)
Blackburner Vs. Dmx: Dog Eats Rabbit (Hypnotic)
Camp Lo: On the Way Uptown (Persia )
Daye Jack: No Data (Warner Bros. )
DJ Smoke and Nate Dogg: G Funk Era Mixtape (Imports)
J Dilla: Motor City (Nature Sounds)
Joey Bada$$: ALL – AMERIKKKAN BADA$$ (Cinematic Music/Pro Era)
Kendrick Lamar: Damn (Aftermath)
Migos: Culture (300 Entertainment)
Moneybagg Yo: Heartless (Be Great Music Group)
Nines: One Foot Out (XL)
Roc Marciano: Rosebudd’s Revenge (Marci Enterprises)
Starlito & Don Trip: Stepbrothers 3 (Grind Hard LLC)
Tech N9ne: Dominion [CD/DVD] (Strange Music )
The R.O.C.: Digital Voodoo (Majik Ninja)
Wale: Shine (Atlantic Urban)

Reggae, Dancehall
Augustus Pablo: King Tubbys Meets Rockers Uptown (reissue) (Clocktower)
Slim Smith: Just a Dream (reissue) (Clocktower)
Wrongtom Meets The Ragga Twins: In Time (Tru Thoughts)

World
Gino Sitson: Body & Voice (Buda Musique)
Vieux Farka Touré: Samba (Six Degrees )
YOUSSOU N’dour: Africa Rekk (Sony )
Kekele: Kinavana (Stern’s Africa)
Various: Vodou Drums in Haiti 2 (Soul Jazz)

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.

Regina Carter – Ella: Accentuate the Positive

Regina Carter
Title: Ella: Accentuate the Positive

Artist: Regina Carter

Label: Okeh/Sony Masterworks

Format: CD, MP3

Release Date: April 21, 2017

 

Jazz violinist Regina Carter’s newest album, Ella: Accentuate the Positive, is an ode to the music of Ella Fitzgerald in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the singer’s birth.  Featuring nine arrangements of Fitzgerald’s songs, this album puts Carter’s imagination on full display.  This is not her first foray into Fitzgerald’s catalog, having recorded both “Oh, Lady Be Good” and “A-Tisket, A-Tasket” on previous albums.  For this project, though, Carter goes deeper into Fitzgerald’s music, recording not only her well known tunes but also some lesser known songs, such as “Judy” and “I’ll Never Be Free.”

Carter’s technique is flawless throughout the album, but highlights include her wide vibrato on “All My Life,” as well as her blues slides on “I’ll Chase the Blues Away.” One of the best takes on Ella’s work is on “I’ll Never Be Free.” Carter’s version becomes a gospel blues song, but the tone of her instrument still holds onto and exemplifies the clarity of Fitzgerald’s voice.  In this way, Carter’s arrangements evoke a variety of genres, including jazz, blues, gospel, and R&B, to name a few. Two of the tracks on the album feature vocalists Miche Braden and Carla Cook, and  Carter’s interaction with them, particularly on “Undecided,” is impressive. Other collaborators on the album include bassist Chris Lightcap, drummer Alvester Garnett, pianist Xavier Davis and guitarist Marvin Sewell.

Carter has a long history of drawing on influences in her personal life for her music. I’ll Be Seeing You: A Sentimental Journey (2006) features her mother’s favorite jazz standards, whereas in Southern Comfort (2014) she traces and interprets her own heritage through music.  In Ella, Carter reimagines Fitzgerald’s catalog, retaining her spirit but giving her listeners a fresh take on old classics.  The result is a stunning combination of range, with Carter expanding on the depth and creativity already so present in Fitzgerald’s work.

Reviewed by Allie Martin

Patrice Williamson and Jon Wheatley – Comes Love: A Tribute to Ella Fitzgerald and Joe Pass

Comes Love
Title: Comes Love: A Tribute to Ella Fitzgerald and Joe Pass

Artist: Patrice Williamson and Jon Wheatley

Label: Riverlilly

Formats: CD, MP3

Release date: April 25, 2017

 

Boston educator and vocalist Patrice Williamson’s new release, Comes Love, is one of many projects celebrating the 100th birthday of Ella Fitzgerald on April 25, 2017. The album, which pays tribute to the distinguished duo of Fitzgerald and Joe Pass, draws on 12 timeless standards that allow Williamson to craft “a narrative arc that reflects a woman’s journey from loneliness to love, and from lost love back to resilience and joy.” She’s accompanied by guitarist Jon Wheatley, her colleague at the Berklee College of Music and author of the book, Jazz Swing Guitar (Berklee Press, 2016).

Fitzgerald and Pass made six albums together, and the songs selected by Williamson were all drawn from their recorded repertoire. Opening with Toots Thielemans’ “Bluesette,” Williamson and Wheatley provide a breezy, atmospheric reading, with Williamson overdubbing a flute solo in the chorus. Williamson’s light, supple voice is ideally suited for songs such as Ellington’s “Take Love Easy,” Billy Eckstine’s “I Want to Talk About You,” and Strayhorn’s “Lush Life,” where she easily negotiates the chromatics. The album concludes on a positive note, so to speak, with “One Note Samba.” The song offers a delightful change of pace and demonstrates Williamson’s scatting technique, while the interplay between her flute and Wheatley’s guitar adds just the right nuance to this bossa nova standard.

Reviewed by Brenda Nelson-Strauss