Black Voices Rise: African American Artists at the Met, 1955-1985

 

Title: Black Voices Rise: African American Artists at the Met, 1955-1985
Artists: Various
Format: CD
Label: The Metropolitan Opera
Release Date: September 18, 2019

 

Coinciding with the 2019-20 season’s acclaimed opening production of the Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess and the exhibition Black Voices at the Met, the Metropolitan Opera offers a third blockbuster with Black Voices Rise: African American Artists at the Met. This compilation of performances by Black artists from 1955 to 1985 celebrates the talent and “overdue arrival” of these history-making singers. The album opens with a performance by Marian Anderson, who broke the Met’s color barrier with her debut in Verdi’s Un Ballo in Maschera in 1955. Other featured performers include celebrated stars Leontyne Price, Grace Bumbry, Kathleen Battle, George Shirley, and Jessye Norman, among others. Black Voices Rise also includes rare excerpts from the Met’s 1985 company-premiere of Porgy and Bess starring Simon Estes and Roberta Alexander. The extensive liner notes by Dr. Maurice Wheeler include a brief history of African American performers at the Metropolitan Opera and the struggle for racial equality, as well as biographies of the singers included in the compilation. All recordings were restored and remastered from the original analog tapes, allowing these voices to triumph yet again. Continue reading

London Afrobeat Collective – Humans

 

Title: Humans
Artist: London Afrobeat Collective
Format: CD, LP, Digital
Label: London Afrobeat Productions
Release Date: October 25, 2019

 

Following their popular 2015 release Food Chain that earned them glowing reviews and widespread radio support, London Afrobeat Collective has released their newest album, Humans. The collective is formed of nine members who hail from England, Congo, Italy, France, Argentina, and New Zealand, and their music reflects the varied cultural backgrounds of their members. LAC is known for their eclectic sound that draws on funk, jazz, rock, and dub paired with socially conscious lyricism and their latest project is no departure from this. Continue reading

Brutal Africa: The Heavy Metal Cowboys of Botswana

 

Title: Brutal Africa: The Heavy Metal Cowboys of Botswana
Artist: Various
Label: Svart
Formats: CD, Vinyl
Release Date: August 30, 2019

 

From Finnish label Svart Records comes Brutal Africa: The Heavy Metal Cowboys of Botswana. This compilation of six bands from across Botswana explores the thriving, yet often unrecognized heavy metal scene of the country. The name Brutal Africa is likely inspired by brutal metal, a sub-section of metal music that is played by some of the bands on this recording. Continue reading

The Warrior Women of Afro-Peruvian Music

 

Title: The Warrior Women of Afro-Peruvian Music
Artists: Various
Label: Just Play
Formats: CD, Digital
Release Date: July 19, 2019

 

Since its founding in 2014 by executive producer and bassist Matt Geraghty, Just Play has highlighted artists in New Orleans, Havana, and San Juan in an attempt to capture cross-cultural musical collaborations. The Warrior Women of Afro-Peruvian Music is the first release in the label’s exploration of the Peruvian music scene. For this venture, the producers brought a group of talented, yet often underappreciated, Afro-Peruvian singers and percussionists into the studio to perform together for the first time. Continue reading

Lakou Mizik – HaitiaNola

 

Title: HaitiaNola
Artist: Lakou Mizik
Formats: CD, LP, Digital
Label: Cumbancha
Release Date: October 25, 2019

 

Inspired by the historical, cultural, and spiritual connections that tie the people and music of Haiti and New Orleans together, HaitiaNola is the sophomore release from Haitian roots revival collective Lakou Mizik. Founded in 2010 following the devastating Haitian earthquake, Lakou Mizik first came together with the goal of promoting Haitian culture and music when the international media was filled with negative stories and imagery from the country. Their debut album, Wa Di Yo, was released in 2016. The following year, a performance at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival inspired the group’s recent New Orleans infused collaboration. The band members immediately felt a connection to the city which reminded them of home—no surprise, given the number of Haitians that fled the island during the Haitian Revolution and assimilated into New Orleans’ Creole population. Continue reading

Brooklyn Funk Essentials – Stay Good

 

Title: Stay Good
Artist: Brooklyn Funk Essentials
Label: Dorado
Formats: CD, LP, Digital
Release date: September 20, 2019

 

Brooklyn Funk Essentials may not be based in Brooklyn anymore, but they sure haven’t given up on the funk. Founded over twenty years ago by Lars “Lati” Kronlund, BFE and its lineup have gone through many shifts over the years. Just before forming the band, Lati released the club anthem “Where Love Lives” with Alison Limerick. Now, for the band’s latest album, the creative relationship between Lati and Alison has been rekindled—with the addition of four other musicians—and BFE has given new life to the projects the duo was working on in the 90s. Continue reading

Vaneese Thomas – Down Yonder

 

Title: Down Yonder
Artist: Vaneese Thomas
Label: Segue
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date: August 23, 2019

 

The long spanning, successful career of Vaneese Thomas is no surprise given her background—the daughter of legendary R&B musician and entertainer Rufus Thomas and the sister of “Memphis Queen” Carla Thomas and keyboardist Marvell Thomas, Vaneese has certainly carried on her family’s musical legacy. In her own style, Vaneese has captured the rich heritage of Memphis soul and R&B while infusing it with gospel, blues, and jazz influences from her lived experiences. In her latest project, Down Yonder, Thomas returns to her southern roots for a soul-stirring album that is at times both heart wrenching and joyous. Continue reading

Battle of the Blues: Chicago vs Oakland

 

Title: Battle of the Blues: Chicago vs Oakland
Artist: Various
Label: Delta Roots
Format: CD, Digital
Release Date: August 2, 2019

 

Drummer, songwriter, and producer Twist Turner has worked for nearly six years on his latest project, Battle of the Blues: Chicago vs Oakland. Not only did this certified blues man write 11 original tracks and play the drums for the album, but he also mixed and produced it for his own label, Delta Roots Records. According to Turner, the project was originally inspired by his desire to “produce a recording of the unknown and underappreciated blues men and women of the Bay Area.” Oakland, an often-overlooked focal point of the West Coast blues and jazz scenes, was Turner’s home for six years. After relocating to Chicago, however, Turner expanded the project to also highlight seasoned blues artists from both of his home cities. 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

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

Various Artists – Putumayo Presents World Peace

 

Title: Putumayo Presents World Peace
Artist: Various Artists
Label: Putumayo World Music
Formats: CD, Digital
Release Date: June 14, 2019

 

Putumayo World Music, the record label known for its joyful compilations of international music, has released its newest project, World Peace. Inspired by John F. Kennedy’s historic “peace speech” of 1963 that eased Cold War tensions, World Peace draws upon the speech’s themes of ending excessive militarism and “making the world safe for diversity.” Continue reading

Christone “Kingfish” Ingram – Kingfish

 

Title: Kingfish
Artist: Christone “Kingfish” Ingram
Label: Alligator Records
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date: May 17, 2019

 

Christone “Kingfish” Ingram has been making waves in the blues community and beyond with his natural musical talent, soulful vocals, and compelling songwriting. The 20-year-old guitarist has the passion of a young performer as well as a commitment to the Delta blues tradition, established just outside his hometown of Clarksdale, Mississippi. Ingram’s debut album, Kingfish, is a collection of tracks that, while inspired by the work of blues legends like Buddy Guy, are unique to the young performer. The album’s songs range from autobiographical (“Been Here Before”) to humorous (“Trouble”) and slow and searing (“Love Ain’t My Favorite Thing”). Continue reading

Brandee Younger – Soul Awakening

 

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

 

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

Southern Avenue – Keep On

 

Title: Keep On
Artist: Southern Avenue
Label: Concord Records
Formats: CD, LP, Digital
Release Date: May 10, 2019

 

Southern Avenue was the talk of Memphis when they released their self-titled debut album in 2017, which hit #6 on Billboard’s Top Blues Albums Chart. Listeners loved the group’s effortless soul, blues, and R&B fusion and the band went on to perform in high-profile festivals as well as reach the finals of the International Blues Challenge. After two years of touring and working tirelessly on their music, Southern Avenue is releasing their much-anticipated sophomore album, Keep On. Continue reading

Tanika Charles – The Gumption

 

Title: The Gumption
Artist: Tanika Charles
Label: Record Kicks
Formats: CD, LP, Digital
Release Date: May 10, 2019

 

Canadian soul star Tanika Charles’ newest release, The Gumption, picks up where her debut album left off, modernizing traditional soul with contemporary production styles. The 12-track album opens with Charles asking, “what gave you the gumption?”—a strong statement that sets the tone for the tracks to come. Continue reading

Bob Baldwin Presents Abbey Road and the Beatles

 

Title: Bob Baldwin Presents Abbey Road and the Beatles
Artist: Bob Baldwin
Label: Red River Entertainment
Formats: CD, Digital
Release: November 30, 2018

 

For his 25th album, jazz pianist-keyboardist Bob Baldwin turned to the iconic songbook of the Beatles. Bob Baldwin Presents Abbey Road and the Beatles is an album that celebrates the legendary group while highlighting Baldwin’s quintessential urban-jazz sound. Inspired by his childhood spent listening to the Beatles on pop radio, Baldwin said, “I wanted to interject my own reharmonized view of the Beatles’ music while keeping the original melodies pure.” Continue reading

Basin Street Records – Live at Little Gem Saloon

 

Title: Live at Little Gem Saloon
Artist: Various
Label: Basin Street Records
Formats: CD, Digital
Release Date: November 23, 2018

 

Started in 1998, New Orleans-based record label Basin Street Records has released Live at Little Gem Saloon to celebrate their 20th anniversary. Recorded at the historic French Quarter saloon on May 5, 2017, the nine-track album includes performances from an all-star lineup of local artists. Featured performers include vibraphone master Jason Marsalis who offers two originals, “Bourbon Street Ain’t Mardi Gras” and “At the House, In Da Pocket.” Clarinetist and jazz historian Dr. Michael White improvises on a swinging rendition of “Summertime” and his original “Give It Up (Gypsy Second Line),” trumpeters Kermit Ruffins and Irvin Mayfield join forces on a couple of standards, and pianist/vocalist Davell Crawford brings the project to a rousing close with a bluesy rendition of Luther Dixon’s “Big Boss Man” and his original medley “Don’t Ever Be Blue/Ode to Louisiana.”  Live at Little Gem Saloon captures an evening of new music and standards by jazz musicians in honor of Basin Street Records’ two decade long commitment to representing New Orleans-based jazz, blues, funk, and R&B artists. Continue reading

Johnny Shines – The Blues Came Falling Down

 

Title: The Blues Came Falling Down
Artist: Johnny Shines
Label: Omnivore Recordings
Formats: CD, Digital
Release Date: May 3, 2019

 

Blues singer and slide guitarist Johnny Shines had quite the career; his accomplishments include touring with Robert Johnson, recording for Columbia, Vanguard, and Chess Records, as well as playing with blues legends like Little Walter and Willie Dixon. Following his success in the 1930s and ‘40s, however, Shines experienced a series of commercial failures before stepping away from music. A few years later, at a show in Chicago, he was “rediscovered” and began actively touring and recording music again. It was at the peak of Shines rediscovery that The Blues Came Falling Down – Live 1973 was captured. Continue reading

Alicia Olatuja – Intuition: Songs From The Minds of Women

 

Title: Intuition: Songs From The Minds of Women
Artist: Alicia Olatuja
Label: Resilience Music Alliance
Formats: CD, Digital
Release: February 22, 2019

 

The newest release from acclaimed vocalist, composer, and arranger Alicia Olatuja celebrates noted female composers in a collection of reinterpretations entitled Intuition: Songs from the Minds of Women. Olatuja, who showcased her vocal talent for millions during the second inauguration ceremony for President Barack Obama, picked songs for Intuition that encompass a wide variety of themes, genres, and perspectives in an effort to celebrate the diversity of women’s musical expression. Continue reading

Nubiyan Twist – Jungle Run

 

Title: Jungle Run
Artist: Nubiyan Twist
Label: Strut Records
Format: CD, LP, Digital
Release Date: February 15, 2019

 

The 12-piece collective Nubiyan Twist, named after frontwoman Nubiya Brandon, just released their newest studio album, Jungle Run. Formed in 2015 at Leeds College of Music and influenced by the diverse music scene in Leeds, Nubiyan Twist and their unique sound can only be described as versatile, fluid, and all-around captivating. Continue reading

Rocky Dawuni- Beats of Zion

 

Title: Beats of Zion
Artist: Rocky Dawuni
Label: Six Degrees Distribution
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date: March 8, 2019

 

Named one of CNN’s Top 10 Global Stars from Africa and a GRAMMY nominee for “Best Reggae Album” in 2016, Ghanaian artist Rocky Dawuni is the real deal. Rocky is more than a musician, however; his eloquence and passion for activism have led to his designation as a UN Goodwill Ambassador for Africa and a global spokesperson on various causes. It is the experiences he gained while traveling as an ambassador that have helped shape his highly anticipated seventh studio album, Beats of Zion. Continue reading

Mark Lomax, II – 400: An Afrikan Epic

 

Title: 400: An Afrikan Epic
Artist: Mark Lomax, II
Label: self-released
Formats: Digital
Release Date: January 23, 2019

 

As we start a new year and look forward to the months ahead, it’s important to look back and reflect on the past. Although not a positive milestone, 2019 marks the 400th anniversary of the beginning of the transatlantic slave trade. Drummer, composer, and educator Dr. Mark Lomax, II used this anniversary as inspiration for 400: An Afrikan Epic, his magnificent 12 album cycle that tells the story of Black America. Continue reading

Maxwell – Embrya 20th Anniversary Reissue

 

Title: Embrya 20th Anniversary Reissue
Artist: Maxwell
Label: Sony Music
Formats: 2-LP
Release Date: September 28, 2018

 

Maxwell’s sophomore album, Embrya, was released in 1988 at the peak of the neo-soul movement and changed the course of the singer’s career. The seductive ballads and slow grooves of tracks such as “Matrimony: Maybe You” resonated with his female fan base, who propelled the album to #2 on Billboard’s Top R&B/Hip-Hop chart and earned Maxwell a Grammy Award nomination for best R&B album. Continue reading