Americus Brass Band’s Tribute to James Reese Europe

 

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

 

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

Fort Smith Symphony – Florence Beatrice Price Symphonies Nos. 1 and 4

 

Title: Florence Beatrice Price Symphonies Nos. 1 and 4
Artist: Fort Smith Symphony
Label: Naxos American Classics
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date: January 11, 2019

 

Born in segregated Little Rock, Arkansas in 1887, Florence Price attended the New England Conservatory when local schools refused to admit her, studying composition with George Whitefield Chadwick. Although she returned to Arkansas for a time, she and her daughters moved to Chicago in 1927 due to increased racial violence in Little Rock. There, she met prominent members of the Chicago’s African American arts scene such as Estelle Bonds, whose daughter, Margaret Bonds, became one of Price’s students. Though primarily known today as a composer of songs, notably “My Soul’s Been Anchored in the Lord” and “Songs to the Dark Virgin” popularized by Marian Anderson, Price was also the first African American woman to have a symphony performed by a major orchestra (the Chicago Symphony Orchestra performed her Symphony No. 1 at the World’s Fair in 1933). Unfortunately, many of her works were largely forgotten after her death, with major conductors like Serge Koussevitzky declining to program her symphonies. In fact, several of her works, including the Fourth Symphony recorded here, were thought to be lost until the manuscripts were rediscovered in a house in St. Anne, Illinois. This symphony was never performed during Price’s lifetime, and is instead receiving its premiere on this CD. Continue reading

Avery R. Young – Tubman

 

Title: Tubman
Artist: Avery R. Young
Label: FPE
Formats: CD, LP, Digital
Release date: July 19, 2019

 

Chicago poet and musician Avery R. Young’s new release, Tubman, is promoted as a soundtrack to his first volume of poetry, neckbone: visual verses (Northwestern University Press, June 2019), and serves as a platform for extending and exploring the book’s many interwoven themes through music. Accompanied by his group, De Deacon Board, Young’s brilliant cross-genre album dedicated to Harriet Tubman certainly stands on its own merits. The provocative tracks frequently delve into socio-political commentary, while Young’s musical palette is deeply rooted in the Delta—“the blues, the gospel, that swamp type of rock ‘n’ roll.” As one might expect from this poet, other influences include The Last Poets and Gil Scott-Heron, as well as ‘70s soul musicians such as Curtis Mayfield and Otis Redding, the Black church, and the Black Arts Movement. Plus funk, lots of funk! Continue reading

Avery Sharpe – 400: An African American Musical Portrait

 

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

 

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

Damon Locks Black Monument Ensemble – Where Future Unfolds

 

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

 

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

Charnett Moffett – Bright New Day

 

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

 

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

Soul Brass Band – Levels

 

Title: Levels
Artist: Soul Brass Band
Label: Independent
Formats: CD, LP, Digital
Release date: July 19, 2019

 

The Soul Brass Band, under the leadership of front man Derrick Freeman, just released their newest album Levels. Before founding this New Orleans-based brass band, Freeman—a virtuoso percussionist, vocalist, and pianist—performed with Kermit Ruffins as well as other notable bands like Mass Hysteria and Coolbone. Levels mixes the sounds of the brass band with soul, R&B, and hip hop, and includes lyrics that uplift and encourage people to ‘keep on pushin’ and enduring through the different spheres of life. The title track, “Levels,” as well as “How Far We Come” and “Ease on Down The Road” all articulate this positive mentality that stimulate and elevate one’s consciousness. Musically speaking, the album maintains a consistent level of high spirited energy throughout. From the lush and crisp harmonies in the horns to dynamic head-bopping grooves in the rhythm section, Levels certainly creates the perfect party atmosphere for all listeners. Continue reading

Zac Harmon – Mississippi BarBQ

 

Title: Mississippi BarBQ
Artist: Zac Harmon
Label: Catfood
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date: July 19, 2019

 

A native of Jackson, Mississippi, Zac Harmon knows barbecue like he knows the blues: intimately! No wonder the award-winning blues singer and guitarist has chosen to celebrate grill season in the South on his latest album, Mississippi BarBQ. Like many young folk, Harmon was beckoned by the bright lights of Tinseltown and spent many years in L.A. as a studio musician, songwriter and producer—including a stint at Michael Jackson’s publishing company, ATV Music. After writing songs for R&B artists such as The Whispers, The O’Jays, and Karyn White, Harmon decided to return to his roots and released his first blues album in 2003. What is immediately apparent on his latest effort are the dual strands of his musical influences, or in more colloquial terms, the soul seeps into his blues like barbecue sauce into pork. Continue reading

Ranky Tanky – Good Time

 

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

 

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

Mary Lane – Travelin’ Woman

 

Title: Travelin’ Woman
Artist: Mary Lane
Label: Women of the Blues
Formats: CD, Digital
Release Date: March 8, 2019

 

At 83 years of age, legendary blues singer Mary Lane is proving that she’s still got it. Two decades after the release of her first full-length CD, Lane has made a notable comeback with Travelin’ Woman, appropriately released on Women of the Blues Records. Continue reading

Moken – Missing Chapters

 

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

 

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

Hundred Watt Heart – Turbulent Times

 

Title: Turbulent Times
Artist: Hundred Watt Heart
Label: Whole Leap
Formats: LP, Digital
Release date: May 24, 2019

 

Hundred Watt Heart’s Turbulent Times is the first solo recording by “Captain” Kirk Douglas from The Roots. Joined by The Roots bassist Mark Kelley, the Hundred Watt Heart is a Black rock power trio rounded out by drummer Ricc Sheridan from the band Earl Greyhound (the three also perform together as The Dust Rays). Given the power trio theme, it is appropriate that this album was recorded at Jimi Hendrix’s Electric Lady Studios in New York. The eight tracks feature excellent songwriting and musicianship that is at times bare-bones rock and roll, and at other times well-produced pseudo-psychedelia. The entire band is first-rate, and Douglas is outstanding both as a vocalist and a guitarist. Perhaps most impressive is Douglas’s restraint as a guitar player. On tracks like “Uma” he demonstrates that he can play at a top-tier level when he wants to, but unlike some other highly technical guitarists, Douglas does not populate the entire album with flashy guitar licks. Continue reading

Black Pumas Self-Titled Debut Album

 

Title: Black Pumas
Artist: Black Pumas
Label: ATO
Formats: CD, LP, Digital
Release date: June 21, 2019

 

Already hailed as a breakout band of 2019, the Austin-based duo Black Pumas just dropped their self-titled debut album. The group is the brainchild of Adrian Quesada, former guitarist with the Latin funk band Grupo Fantasma, who began assembling tracks in his studio before seeking a lead singer. Friends connected him with Eric Burton, a California native and recent Austin transplant, whose vocal prowess is rooted in the Black church and honed in musical theater. To say the two musicians hit it off would be an understatement; Burton’s songwriting skills complimented Quesada’s production experience and they shared a musical vision. The duo’s chemistry is apparent on every track, and with the additional of an ace backup band they appear unstoppable, with solid bookings through the end of the year. The opening track and first single, “Black Moon Rising,” provides a taste of their distinctive brand of soul, which draws heavily from the past but is equally grounded in the present: Continue reading

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

 

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

 

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

Little Junior Parker Rocks

 

Title: Rocks
Artist: Little Junior Parker
Label: Bear Family
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date: April 5, 2019

 

Little Junior Parker (1932-1971) is the most recent artist to be featured on Bear Family’s long-running Rocks! series, which focuses on “the best upbeat recordings of seminal roots music artists.” Though Parker’s life “was tragically truncated by a brain tumor,” the blues harpist “had enough time to leave behind a bountiful blues recording legacy that stretched across two decades.” As explained by Bill Dahl, reissue producer and author of the extensive liner notes, Parker released a string of R&B and blues hits for two of the seminal independent labels of the postwar era: Sam Phillips’ Sun Records in Memphis and Don Robey’s Houston-based Duke imprint.” Both are represented on this compilation. Continue reading

Pieces of a Man – Made in Pieces

 

Title: Made in Pieces
Artist: Pieces of a Man
Label: Tru Thoughts
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date: July 12, 2019

 

Pieces of a Man (POAM) is a collective of musicians living in Manchester, England  comprised of Pils (Illya Gosling) on keyboards/sax, Mark Parkinson on guitar, Tim Curry on bass, Aden Peets on drums and beats, with lead singer/synth player To!u A¡ay and on talkbox/vocoder and David “DK” Klien on live effects. This is no typical band! Their music can be described as cross-genre, inspired by the likes of Ron Kenoly, Quincy Jones, Herbie Hancock and Israel Houghton. POAM also draws from more modern soul influencers such as D’Angelo, Dwele and Jill Scott “to create immersive, textured soundscapes built with hip-hop, funk and R&B.” Continue reading

John the Martyr Self-Titled Debut Album

 

Title: John the Martyr
Artist: John the Martyr
Label: Plus One
Formats: CD, LP, Digital
Release date: June 14, 2019

 

It’s becoming a familiar story: young soul music enthusiast encounters a seasoned elder who hasn’t performed professionally for years, and invites him or her to front a band. In this instance, the band is the ten-piece rock and soul group John the Martyr, and the elder is none other than 70-year-old Harlem soul singer Bill Hudson, who had been earning extra cash performing with a doo-wop group in the New York subway. Now, just two years after their formation, John the Martyr has released its eponymous debut album to wide acclaim. You may have already heard their first single, “Crossing the Line,” which is brimming over with a youthful enthusiasm tempered by the gravitas of Hudson’s vocals that reflect the septuagenarian’s lived experience: Continue reading

Alan Evans – Nothing To Say

 

Title: Nothing To Say
Artist: Alan Evans
Label: Vintage League Music
Formats: CD, LP, Digital
Release date: May 24, 2019

 

Don’t let the title fool you—Alan Evans has plenty to say on his solo debut album. Steeped in psychedelic rock and funk, Nothing To Say finds Evans stepping out from behind his drum kit and away from his acclaimed funk/jazz trio Soulive. The album’s ten original tracks were written, recorded, and produced over the past four years by Evans and released on his Vintage League Music label. In addition to laying down the drum tracks, the singer and multi-instrumentalist performs all vocals as well as guitar, bass, keys and percussion. Joining Evans on this outing are guitarists Danny Mayer and Ryan Hommel, who doubles on pedal steel, with Darby Wolf, Kris Yunker, Beau Sasser, and brother Neal Evans (Soulive) filling in on Moog, organ, piano and Mellotron. This keyboard centric mix is heavy on the organ, creating a soulful yet funky feel throughout, but includes enough stellar guitar solos to rock hard. Continue reading

Cole Williams – Believe

 

Title: Believe
Artist: Cole Williams
Label: Louisiana Red Hot
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date: May 31, 2019

 

After making a name for herself as a vocalist and percussionist with the Brooklyn-based quintet Pimps of Joytime and contributing background vocals for numerous artists, Cole Williams decided she was ready for a reboot. The Jamaican-American singer-songwriter and self-described “punk empress” relocated to New Orleans in 2015 and formed the Cole Williams Band, then set out to invoke an “African Rock Revolution.” Her new solo album, Believe, offers eleven original tracks all written, produced, and performed by the talented Williams. From the distorted soul of “Opposites ATTRACT” to the electro/hip hop vibe of “Turn Up,” the album gets off to a righteous start. Other highlights include the densely packed soundscape of the manifesto “Single Black FEmelle,” the good vibes of “Get High,” and the cautionary tale of “Sin City.” The album closes on a high note with the mid-tempo title track, “BeLieVe,” featuring jazzy, multilayered vocals over a punchy horn section on this affirmative song about love and relationships.  Though Believe is more experimental, free flowing, and synth heavy than Williams’ previous efforts, the album should still strike a chord for fans of her unique blend of rock and soul music. Continue reading

Aaron Whitby – Cousin From Another Planet

 

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

 

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

Dwayne Dopsie & The Zydeco Hellraisers – Bon Ton

 

Title: Bon Ton
Artist: Dwayne Dopsie & The Zydeco Hellraisers
Label: Louisiana Red Hot
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date: May 24, 2019

 

Dubbed the “Jimi Hendrix of the accordion” by Rolling Stone magazine, Dwayne “Dopsie” Rubin is a master of the “blood pumping zydeco” that seeps from the heart of Louisiana’s bayous on a hot summer night. Known for playing his accordion like a guitar, Dopsie’s fiery style incorporates elements of rock, funk, and R&B as well as the more traditional zydeco learned at the knee of his father, the late Alton Rubin Sr. (a.k.a. Rockin’ Dopsie). On his latest release, Bon Ton, Dopsie definitely ushers in summer with some good times and great music. His backing band, The Zydeco Hellraisers, features Paul Lafleur on washboard, Brandon David on guitar, Tim McFatter on sax, Dion Pierre on bass, and Dondrell Fleming on drums. Together they perform a synthesis of the blues, rhythm and blues, and traditional Cajun music that comprise the zydeco tradition. Continue reading

Los Coast – Samsara

 

Title: Samsara
Artist: Los Coast
Label: New West Records
Formats: CD, LP, Digital
Release Date: June 14, 2019

 

Austin, Texas based band Los Coast has made a name for themselves on the local scene as an exciting and inventive young band. On their debut album, Samsara, Los Coast delivers a blend of pop and soul inspired tracks that incorporate the band’s distinctive grooves and infectious energy. Continue reading

Oumar Konate – I Love You Inna

 

Title: I Love You Inna
Artist: Oumar Konate
Label: Clermont Music
Formats: CD, LP, Digital
Release Date: July 5, 2019

 

The music of Oumar Konate can be heard every weekend in the nightclubs, concert halls, and festival stages of Mali. The Malian superstar’s fifth album, I Love You Inna, is a reflection of the mood of the young people in his country. Sometimes overjoyed and sometimes angry, the songs on the album range from slower love songs and upbeat dance anthems to guitar-driven rock songs and ballads. On “Koima Djine” and “Ni Tchilla Sibara,” this rock-inspired vibe comes through in the commanding instrumentals of guitarist Khaira Arby, bassist Dramane Toure, and drummer Makan Camara. Konate’s vocals on these songs are especially powerful and hard-hitting, a departure from his more mellow vocals on other tracks. I Love You Inna offers some “desert rock” for your summer soundtrack with masterful performances from these Mailian musicians. Continue reading

Stewart Goodyear – Gershwin & Goodyear

 

Title: Gershwin & Goodyear
Artist: Stewart Goodyear
Label: Orchid Classics
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date: June 7, 2019

 

Young pianist Stewart Goodyear already has several accolades. Described as “a phenomenon” by the Los Angeles Times, he has performed with leading orchestras in North America, Europe, and Asia. In addition to his success as a performer, recording classical repertoire standards such as Beethoven’s piano sonatas and Diabelli Variations and piano concertos by Rachmaninov, Tchaikovsky, and Grieg, among others, Goodyear is also an accomplished improviser and composer. This new recording allows him to showcase both sets of talents, with a performance of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue in its original jazz band orchestration paired with Goodyear’s own Piano Sonata and his suite for piano and orchestra, Callaloo. He is accompanied by Chineke!, an orchestra founded in 2015 to give career opportunities to young Black and minority ethnic performers in Europe. The group’s founder, Chi-chi Nwanoku OBE, stated that her “aim is to create a space where [Black and minority ethnic] musicians can walk on stage and know that they belong, in every sense of the word.” For this recording, the musicians perform under the baton of celebrated Black conductor and pianist, Wayne Marshall. Continue reading

Wayne Wallace Latin Jazz Quintet – The Rhythm of Invention

 

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

 

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