The Soul Rebels – Poetry in Motion

 

Title: Poetry in Motion
Artist: The Soul Rebels
Label: Rebelution Music Group/Artistry Music/ Mack Avenue
Formats: CD, LP, Digital
Release date: October 25, 2019

 

New Orleans based ensemble The Soul Rebels was formed in the early ‘90s by drum majors from HBCUs such as Southern, Grambling, and Texas Southern University. Percussionists Derrick Moss and Lumar LeBlanc, who first met as members of Harold Dejan’s Young Olympia Brass Band, decided they wanted to play the rap music they were hearing on the radio while also respecting the long tradition of the New Orleans brass bands and marching bands they had played in growing up. Now an eight member brass/jazz/hip hop powerhouse, The Soul Rebels include LeBlanc (snare drum) and Moss (bass drum), in addition to Marcus Hubbard (trumpet), Erion Williams (saxophone), Paul Robertson (trombone), Julian Gosin (trumpet and MC), Manuel Perkins Jr. (sousaphone) and Corey Peyton (trombone and MC). For their latest album, Poetry in Motion, The Soul Rebels started with the premise “no genre is off limits for us,” and concluded with twelve tracks that sound contemporary and hip. Their New Orleans rhythms and Black college band attitude combined with rap lyrics and rhymes will make you move your feet and get out of your seat. Continue reading

Vincent Herring, Bobby Watson & Gary Bartz – Bird at 100

 

Title: Bird at 100
Artists: Vincent Herring, Bobby Watson, Gary Bartz
Label: Smoke Sessions
Formats: CD, Digital
Release Date: November 29, 2019

 

Saxophone legends Vincent Herring, Bobby Watson, and Gary Bartz present a tribute to Charlie Parker with their new release Bird at 100, which marks the 100 year anniversary of Charlie Parker’s birthday. Described as an “alto saxophone summit,” the album is a homage to the musical legacy left by Parker and contains a compilation of Parker’s tunes, popular standards, and new compositions. Recorded live over three days in late August and early September 2019 at the Smoke Jazz & Supper Club in New York City, the rhythm section features members of Herring’s regular quartet: David Kikoski (piano), Yasushi Nakamura (bass), and Carl Allen (drums). Continue reading

Kenyatta Beasley Septet – Frank Foster Songbook

 

Title: Frank Foster Songbook
Artist: Kenyatta Beasley Septet
Label: Art Vs Transit
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date: August 9, 2019

 

Trumpeter and composer Kenyatta Beasley’s tribute album, Frank Foster Songbook, celebrates his late mentor, the noted tenor and soprano saxophonist, composer and arranger Frank Benjamin Foster III. Recorded live over the course of two evenings at Brooklyn’s Jazz 966 club in 2013, this two-disc album captures the dynamic musical interactions between Beasley and his ensemble with guest appearances by Wynton Marsalis (trumpet), Mark Whitfield (guitar), Carla Cook (vocals), and Eric Wyatt (tenor saxophone). Beasley includes eleven songs covering a wide range of Foster’s original compositions. Continue reading

New Holiday Albums: The Best of 2019

That special time of year has come around again, filling everyone with holiday cheer. But nothing has the ability to spread Christmas spirit quite like music does. Following are brief reviews of what we believe to be the best holiday albums so far this year, featuring releases from Keb’ Mo’, Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, The McCrary Sisters, Elijah Blake, Jonathan Butler, and Mariah Carey. We hope these selections provide the perfect soundtrack for everyone’s holiday season. Continue reading

Nat King Cole – Hittin’ the Ramp: The Early Years (1936-1943)

 

Title: Hittin’ the Ramp: The Early Years (1936-1943)
Artist: Nat King Cole
Label: Resonance
Formats: 7-CD box set, 10-LP box set, Digital
Release date: November 1, 2019

 

I could open this review with a clinical statement: This set presents virtually all of Nat Cole’s earliest recordings prior to his long association with Capitol Records, a relationship that provided the foundation to establish his wide recognition as one of the most important vocalists in the tradition of the Great American Songbook. Yet, I prefer a more emotionally connected view: Hittin’ the Ramp presents Nat King Cole’s earliest recordings, showing how he discovered, step by step, a pathway that permitted his remarkable talents to be heard and loved by a worldwide audience. Both views are correct, but only the second reflects the challenges a talented African American artist faced in building a reputation and, with it, the economic base necessary to support a sustainable full time career during the WWII era. Continue reading

The Fred Hersch Trio – 10 Years / 6 Discs

 

Title: 10 Years / 6 Discs
Artist: The Fred Hersch Trio
Label: Palmetto Records
Formats: 6-CD Box Set, Digital
Release date: October 18, 2019

 

Palmetto’s new box set celebrates the 10-year anniversary of the acclaimed Fred Hersch Trio, featuring renowned jazz pianist and composer Fred Hersch with bassist John Hébert and drummer Eric McPherson. Though Hersch’s originals are prominent throughout this set, tracks also feature a deep exploration of compositions by jazz luminaries such as Thelonious Monk, Wayne Shorter, and Jaki Byard. The set includes all five albums released by the label: Whirl (2010), the two-disc Alive at the Vanguard (2012), Floating (2014), Sunday Night at the Vanguard (2016), and Live in Europe (2018). Additionally, an accompanying booklet features liner notes written by Hersch and a forward by award-winning author and jazz historian Ted Gioia. On the whole, 10 Years / 6 Discs is an enjoyable set for jazz lovers, and a great introduction to listeners unfamiliar with Hersch’s artistry. Continue reading

Miles Davis Quintet – The Legendary Prestige Quintet Sessions

 

Title: The Legendary Prestige Quintet Sessions
Artist: Miles Davis Quintet
Label: Craft
Format: 6 LP Box Set
Release date: November 8, 2019

 

In celebration of the 70th anniversary of Prestige Records, Craft has released a new 6 LP box geared towards jazz fans and vinyl collectors. The Legendary Prestige Quintet Sessions includes, in chronological order, the quintet’s 1955-56 sessions with Rudy Van Gelder that resulted in five classic albums: The New Miles Davis Quintet (their 1956 debut), Cookin’ (1957), Relaxin’ (1958), Workin’ (1959), and Steamin’ (1961). Though the six disc vinyl set was originally released in 2006, this new box ups the ante with a bonus disc featuring with audio from radio and TV appearances by the group, including a 1955 guest spot on The Tonight Show with Steve Allen, plus a 20-page hardcover book with new liner notes by jazz historian Bob Blumenthal.

Jerome Jennings – Solidarity

 

Title: Solidarity
Artist: Jerome Jennings
Label: Iola/dist. CD Baby
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date; November 8, 2019

 

Jazz drummer Jerome Jennings highlights his compositional skills on his latest release, Solidarity, marking his second album as a leader. This groundbreaking project focuses on the experiences of African American women, who he explains have “traditionally been the conscience of the country.” In his view, “solidarity means…being present, not walking away. Being an ally, in a very overt way. ‘I got you. I hear you. I’m with you.’”  Jennings turns this laser sharp focus on injustices faced by women from all walks of life, as well as those who have made a significant difference through various movements such as Black Lives Matter, #MeToo, Civil Rights, and more. Joining him on this quest is his core unit—Josh Evens (trumpet), Stacy Dillard (tenor and soprano sax), Andrae Murchinson (trombone), Zaccai Curtis (piano), and Christian McBride (bass) —along with a number of special guests. 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

November 2019 Black Music Releases of Note

Following are additional albums released during November 2019 across multiple genres—some will be reviewed in future issues of Black Grooves. Continue reading

Branford Marsalis featured in Gabriel Prokofiev’s Saxophone Concerto

Title: Gabriel Prokofiev Saxophone Concerto & Bass Drum Concerto
Artist: Branford Marsalis, Joby Burgess, Ural Philharmonic Orchestra
Label: Signum
Formats: CD, MP3
Release date: September 27, 2019

 

When Gabriel Prokofiev called Branford Marsalis to see if he had any thoughts on the new saxophone concerto he was about to compose, Branford had one request: “make it melodic.” So Prokofiev took it upon himself to write, as he says, “a classical concerto,” but one that combines his love of jazz with classical elements in a harmonious and syncretic way. Continue reading

Wynton Marsalis’s Violin Concerto & Fiddle Dance Suite

 

Title: Violin Concerto in D & Fiddle Dance Suite
Artist: Wynton Marsalis (comp.), Nicola Benedetti, Philadelphia Orchestra
Label: Decca Classics
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date: July 11, 2019

 

Decca Classics has released a remarkable collaboration between Grammy-winning jazz composer Wynton Marsalis and violin virtuoso Nicola Benedetti. Marsalis’s Violin Concerto in D and his Fiddle Dance Suite for solo violin were recently recorded by Benedetti, the former performed with the Philadelphia Orchestra under the direction of Cristian Mǎcelaru. These two works represent new heights in Marsalis’s compositional style as he deftly mixes classical music with other idioms. Continue reading

Kirk Whalum – Humanité

 

Title: Humanité
Artist: Kirk Whalum
Label: Artistry Music/Sheer Sound
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date: October 11, 2019

 

Memphis native and Grammy® Award-winning global recording artist Kirk Whalum has dropped his latest album, Humanité, which is unlike anything he has released before. Expressing the vision “With One Voice–At Times With Words–We Speak,” this project is the “synergistic result of encounters made and relationships formed onstage and off with some of the finest recording artists from all over the world,” many of whom are featured on the album. Kirk’s international collaborators include Japanese jazz pianist Keiko Matsui; bassist Barry Likumahuwa and global pop star Afgan from Indonesia; South African Afro-soul singer Zahara; Kenyan pianist Aaron Rimbui and percussionist Kasiva Mutwa; Nigerian-French R&B singer Asa; plus UK jazz pianist/vocalist Liane Carroll and many supporting musicians. Continue reading

Roberto Fonseca – Yesun

 

Title: Yesun
Artist: Roberto Fonseca
Label: Mack Avenue
Formats: CD, MP3, LP
Release date: October 18, 2019

 

Grammy-nominated Cuban pianist Roberto Fonseca, known for experimenting with African and diasporic genres, offers his eleventh solo album, Yesun. On his previous releases, Yo (2013) and At Home: Live in Marciac (2014), we heard Fonseca’s use of diverse musical styles to express his artistic voice. Yesun retains this sense of taking “more risks, breaking new ground,” as he situates his music—and the music of Cuba—in an ongoing inter-diasporic musical dialogue. The 13-track album features Fonseca’s long-standing trio, the prominent Cuban female a cappella group Gema 4, acclaimed trumpeter Ibrahim Maalouf, rising Cuban rapper Danay Suárez, and Grammy-winning saxophonist Joe Lovano. Continue reading

Richie Goods – My Left Hand Man: A Tribute to Mulgrew Miller

 

Title: My Left Hand Man: A Tribute to Mulgrew Miller
Artist: Richie Goods
Label: Richman Music
Formats: Digital
Release date: November 7, 2019

 

Bassist extraordinaire and bandleader Richie Goods’ new release, My Left Hand Man, is a phenomenal tribute album to his mentor, the late and great jazz pianist Mulgrew Miller. Joined by his band, The Goods Project, the album offers a collection of funk and R&B oriented arrangements of Miller’s tunes which, according to Goods, “aims to educate listeners about the late pianist’s eclectic taste and musical versatility.” As the youngest person to be inducted into the Pittsburgh Jazz Hall of Fame, Goods has had a prolific career performing and recording with major artists such as Whitney Houston, Lenny White, Brian McKnight, Common, Alicia Keys, and Chris Botti, among others. He draws upon this wealth of experience to breathe new life into Miller’s works. Continue reading

The Frankie Newton Collection 1929-46

 

Title: The Frankie Newton Collection 1929-46
Artist: Frankie Newton
Label: Acrobat
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date: May 10, 2019

 

Though perhaps unknown beyond the circle of jazz collectors, Frankie Newton is widely recognized by jazz critics as one of the foremost trumpet players in the history of the genre. Newton performed in nearly fifty recording sessions as sideman or as leader from 1929 to 1951, and nearly half of these sessions are represented by at least one of the original 78-rpm sides in this new three disc collection from Acrobat. Clearly this a comprehensive and convenient point for listener’s to learn about and enjoy Newton’s artistry. But where to begin? Continue reading

October 2019 Black Music Releases of Note

Following are additional albums released during October 2019 across multiple genres—some will be reviewed in future issues of Black Grooves. Continue reading

Welcome to the October 2019 Issue

Welcome to the October 2019 issue of Black Grooves, sponsored by the Indiana University Archives of African American Music and Culture.

Our featured project this month is the new three disc compilation, Protobilly: Minstrel & Tin Pan Alley DNA of Country Music 1892-2017, produced and/or annotated by Dom Flemons, Dick Spottswood, Henry Sapoznik, and David Giovannoni.

Also highlighted are two classical recordings: Richard Thompson’s The Mask in the Mirror – A Chamber Opera and Jamaican-born composer Eleanor Alberga’s String Quartets Nos. 1-3, performed by Ensemble Arcadiana.

This month’s jazz selections include Ramsey Lewis & the Urban Knights seventh album VII, the Chick Corea Trio’s Trilogy 2, and the Louisiana-based Lilli Lewis Project’s multi-genre album We Belong. Gospel releases include John P. Kee’s I Made It Out and a new compilation, Jewell Gospel Trio: Many Little Angels in the Band, featuring a 1950s gospel girl group that included a teenage Candi Staton.

Other new releases include rising Chicago blues musician Toronzo Cannon’s The Preacher, The Politician or The Pimp, spoken word artist/poet Tenesha The Wordsmith’s Peacocks & Other Savage Beasts, the Brooklyn Funk Essentials’s Stay Good, and Vaneese Thomas’s Down Yonder. Wrapping up this issue is our list of September Black Music Releases of Note.

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

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

 

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

Ramsey Lewis & Urban Knights – VII

 

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

 

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

Chick Corea Trio – Trilogy 2

 

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

 

 

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

Lilli Lewis Project – We Belong

 

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

 

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

Tenesha The Wordsmith – Peacocks & Other Savage Beasts

 

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

 

 

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