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

September 2019 Black Music Releases of Note

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

Raphael Saadiq – Jimmy Lee

 

Title: Jimmy Lee
Artist: Raphael Saadiq
Label: Columbia
Formats: CD, LP, Digital
Release date: August 23, 2019

 

Raphael Saadiq, the extraordinarily talented singer-songwriter, instrumentalist and producer, is known for his genre-spanning solo albums as well as his collaborations with the likes of Solange, Mick Jagger, D’Angelo and the band Lucy Pearl. Before becoming a solo artist, Saadiq was a member of Sheila E.’s band, playing the bass at the age of 18 on Prince’s Parade Tour. He would later join the dynamic R&B band Tony! Toni! Toné! as the primary lead singer, bassist and producer. On Jimmy Lee, Saadiq’s fifth studio album, he has created a deeply personal and passionate project. Named after his oldest brother who died from a drug overdose, Jimmy Lee is also dedicated to Saadiq’s three other siblings who tragically passed away due to murder, drug addiction and suicide. While the album may be full of lament, it is also full of life, love and celebration. 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

Mavis Staples – We Get By

 

Title: We Get By
Artist: Mavis Staples
Label: ANTI
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date: May 24, 2019

 

Living legend and vocal powerhouse Mavis Staples’ twelfth studio album, We Get By, features eleven tracks written and produced by Ben Harper. Harper was able to capture the voice and the spirit of Staples by creating pieces that speak to who she is now and has always been—an advocate for change and for humanity. Continue reading

Jamila Woods – Legacy! Legacy!

 

Title: Legacy! Legacy!
Artist: Jamila Woods
Label: Jagjaguwar
Formats: CD, LP, Cassette, Digital
Release date: May 10, 2019

 

Chicago native and Brown University graduate Jamila Woods has released yet another impactful album that both celebrates Black culture and humanity. Legacy! Legacy! “highlights legendary artists of color, spanning disciplines, genres, and decades—[including] Zora Neale Hurston, James Baldwin, Frida Kahlo, Eartha Kitt, Miles Davis, and Jean-Michel Basquiat.” Woods honors each of these artist as ancestors, giving praise to them for being examples of how to unapologetically navigate life as a person of color. She also uses their lives and works as a way to discuss black life with an emphasis on Black feminism, Black identity, Black relationships, Black Rage, self-love and other sociopolitical issues found in Black communities. Continue reading

Rahsaan Patterson – Heroes & Gods

 

Title: Heroes & Gods
Artist: Rahsaan Patterson
Label: Shanachie
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date: May 17, 2019

 

Since releasing his self-titled album in 1997, singer/songwriter Rahsaan Patterson has been a steady presence on the R&B scene, exuding more than enough talent, charisma, and vocal prowess to gain legions of fans. On his new release, Heroes & Gods, Patterson offers 13 songs ranging from old-school R&B to uptempo dance tracks tinged with jazz and rock. The album’s first single, “Sent From Heaven,” is a throwback featuring lush orchestrations, sexy vocals and a jazzy horn interlude. Relationship songs, another important aspect of classic R&B, include “Catch Me When I Fall,” the slow ballad “Sweet Memories,” and a cover of Luther Vandross’s “Don’t You Know That.” The remainder of the album reflects Patterson’s love of house and electronic dance music, including the midtempo funk groove “Silly, Love, Fool,” the seductive party jam “Rock and Roll” featuring Trina Broussard and LaTonya Williams, the pulsing title track with drum programming by Jamey Jaz, and “Wide Awake,” which morphs between classic R&B and hip hop. Continue reading

Dionne Warwick – She’s Back

 

Title: She’s Back
Artist: Dionne Warwick
Label: eOne
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date: June 7, 2019

 

The great Dionne Warwick has had one of the longest careers in the music industry and at 78-years-old she is far from finished. Warwick returns to her roots on her latest album, She’s Back, produced by her son, Damon Elliott. Though she is still perfectly capable of carrying a song, the tracks that really soar pair Warwick with other artists, and she has chosen some of the best. Highlights include the ballads “Am I Dreaming” featuring Musiq Soulchild, whose dulcet tones blend well with Warwick’s throatier voice, and “How Do You Keep the Music Playing” with After 7’s Kevon Edmonds, which is nothing short of a life-affirming statement of purpose. Some of the more contemporary efforts, such as “Déjà Vu” with Krayzie Bone, fail to gel, but the album picks up steam again with uptempo songs such as “Life is Waiting” and Ashford and Simpson’s “We Need to Go Back.”  Despite billing the album as Warwick’s first R&B/soul release in fifty years, she really soars on two Burt Bacharach pop classics—the uplifting “If I Want To” and “What the World Needs Now”—concluding the album with a positive message song.  The two-CD set also includes a remastered edition of her 1998 album, Dionne Sings Dionne, which features her greatest hits, remastered for this edition. Continue reading

The O’Jays – The Last Word

 

Title: The Last Word
Artist: The O’Jays
Label: S-Curve
Formats: CD, LP, Digital
Release date: April 19, 2019

 

The O’Jays are back with their new project, The Last Word, and it’s like they never left.  Fans once again can experience the classic Philadelphia soul sound of Eddie Levert Sr., Walter Williams Sr. and Eric Nolan Grant (who joined the group in 1995), whose smooth, rich harmonies are backed by elaborate arrangements and lush strings. The new release is the O’Jays’ first studio album in 15 years and regrettably is said to be their final album. Grammy nominated producers Steve Greenberg, Mike Mangini and R&B legend Betty Wright assisted with the production. Continue reading

Ayanna Witter-Johnson – Road Runner

 

Title: Road Runner
Artist: Ayanna Witter-Johnson
Label: Hill and Gully Records
Formats: CD, LP, Digital
Release date: April 26, 2019

 

A singer, songwriter, and cellist in a class all her own, Ayanna Witter-Johnson has taken a classic R&B sound and turned it on its head. Born in the UK, Ayanna has been honing her craft for quite some time now, earning music degrees from Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance and the Manhattan School of Music. She has worked as a composer and arranger with both Hugh Masekela and the London Symphony Orchestra as well as the BBC Symphony Orchestra. Ayanna has released several EPs—Truthfully Still (2011), Black Panther (2015) and Ella, Reuben & Ay (2018)and now offers her full-length debut album Road Runner. Continue reading

Anu Sun – Sanguine Regum

 

Title: Sanguine Regum
Artist: Anu Sun
Label: Ropeadope
Formats: CD, Digital
Release Date: February 8, 2019

 

Music is in a constant state of evolution, enlightening our soundscapes with its ingenious performers who move themselves and their creations beyond the norm.  Producer, songwriter and engineer Anu Sun, affectionately known industry-wide as “Anu The Giant,” is one such artist. A staple in New York City’s live music scene, Sun’s recent credits include work on the Grammy Award winning motion picture soundtrack Miles Ahead, production partner Robert Glasper’s Grammy nominated Black Radio 2, his collaborations with jazz and R&B staples like Bilal, Ledisi, Laura Mvula and his credits with legends like Johnny Cash and Miles Davis. With the release of his own album, Sanguine Regum, Sun has positioned himself as a prominent, provocative renaissance musician alongside his peers in the business. But his music goes deeper than that. 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

Chaka Khan – Hello Happiness

 

Title: Hello Happiness
Artist: Chaka Khan
Label: Island
Formats: CD, LP, Digital
Release date: February 15, 2019

 

Chaka Khan’s new album, Hello Happiness, is a short, seven-track release that is somewhat of a departure from her previous work. Many listeners will associate Khan with her classic hits such as “I’m Every Woman,” which would lead them to expect a strong vocal showing. However, one might find this newest release more barren of Khan’s vocal prowess than anticipated. But before a decision is made to not give this album a chance, understand that the lessened presence of Khan is more attributed to a difference in production than a diminishing of her abilities. Chaka Khan’s powerful voice is used to complement contemporary production practices that are at times ambient in nature. Continue reading

Beldina – Black & Blond

 

Title: Black & Blond
Artist: Beldina
Label: Self-released
Formats: Digital
Release date: February 8, 2019

 

Born in Stockholm with ancestral ties to Kenya, Scandinavian R&B artist Beldina Malaika pays homage to her heritage through her autobiographical album title, Black & Blond. An aspiring artist from an early age, Beldina was accepted to one of Sweden’s most prestigious performing arts schools at age 10. Soon after, she was releasing her own music and performing with some of Sweden’s top acts in the country’s most iconic venues. Her work with artists such as Stevie Wonder, Pharrell Williams and Childish Gambino further enhanced her legendary status, and with the release of her newest EP, Beldina is emerging as a free, independent artist. Continue reading

New Holiday Albums: The Best of 2018

Christmas just isn’t Christmas without good music to really get you in the spirit! We’re featuring brief reviews of our favorite new holiday releases from PJ Morton, John Legend, Cece Winans, Aloe Blacc, Motown Gospel, and After 7. Our specially curated Black Grooves Christmas Spotify playlist features our favorite songs from these artists and more, providing the perfect soundtrack as you get together with friends and family to celebrate the holidays. Continue reading

Jermaine Dupri Presents So So Def 25

 

Title: Jermaine Dupri Presents So So Def 25
Artist: Various
Label: Certified Classics
Formats: LP, Digital
Release Date: October 19, 2018

 

Released in honor of So So Def’s 25th anniversary, So So Def 25 pays tribute to the pioneering Atlanta-based label with a collection of its hip-hop and R&B hits. Curated by So So Def founder Jermaine Dupri, the compilation has been released on a 12” vinyl collector’s edition by Sony Music’s Certified Classics. Featured artists include Jay-Z, Bow Wow, Ghost Town DJ, Aaliyah, and many more. Scattered amongst the So So Def classics are rarer tracks like Jagged Edge’s “Let’s Get Married (Kanye West Remix)”—one of Kanye’s early verses—as well as an explicit version of “Da B Side” by Da Brat with an alternative verse by The Notorious B.I.G. Additional playlists celebrating the anniversary can be found on So So Def’s website. Continue reading