Our top features this month are The Power Of The One from funk legend Bootsy Collins with appearances from Christian McBride, Branford Marsalis, Victor Wooten, Snoop Dog, and members of the IU Soul Revue; and Uncivil Warfrom blues queen Shemekia Copeland that probes deeply into the divided state of our nation.
Jazz releases include Benjamin Boone’s The Poets Are Gathering featuring eleven acclaimed poets narrating their works set to jazz; Chicago musician and composer Kahil El’Zabar’s America the Beautiful that reflects upon what America has become; trumpeter Alonzo Demetrius’s Live from Prison Nation that addresses the prison industrial complex; Venezuelan-born pianist and composer Edward Simon’s two-disc Latin jazz compilation 25 Years; Baltimore-based pianist Lafayette Gilchrist’s double album Now; and Aaron Burnett & The Big Machine’s genre-spanning Jupiter Conjunct.
New R&B/soul releases include Cory Henry’s socially conscious project Something to Say and Aloe Blacc’s All Love Everything. Also featured is the debut albumAll of This from Oakland reggae-rap fusion groupRoots And Tings; Optimisme from the Malian supergroup Songhoy Blues; the self-titled debut from the Benin girl group Star Feminine Band; and the compilation Your Man of Faith featuring recordings from 1937-1956 by singing evangelist Elder Charles Beck.
Title: The Power Of The One Artist: Bootsy Collins Label: eOne/Sweetwater Format: CD, LP, Digital Release date: October 23, 2020
Rock & Roll Hall of Fame legend Bootsy Collins is back, hitting us with The Power Of The One, his 25th album release. Bootsy has been a huge influencer in the popular music community for generations. As a bass player, he was one of the first to use effect pedals, particularly the MU-Tron III, which provided the envelope filter necessary to create the squealing synth-like sound featured on many of the songs he recorded as a member of Funkadelic. He was also a progenitor of the slide technique which is used in many of today’s different genres of music. Rolling Stone’s current list of the “50 Best Bassists of All Time”places Bootsy at #4, stating that he “redefined soul and funk bass playing in the Seventies, and, by proxy, rap and pop in the Eighties and Nineties. . . You can hear his influence in practically every bass player to come since…”
Title: Uncivil War Artist: Shemekia Copeland Label: Alligator Format: CD, Digital Release date: October 23, 2020
Reigning blues queen Shemekia Copeland delves
deep into the divided heart and tarnished soul of America on her latest
release, Uncivil War. The follow-up
to her 2018 album, America’s
Child, Copeland again teams up with Nashville guitarist/producer
Will Kimbrough, who casts her signature vocal style into a spellbinding Americana
brew. Assisting with this effort is an all-star cast featuring singer-guitarist
Jason Isbell, rising young Delta blues guitarist Christone
“Kingfish” Ingram, lap steel guitarist Jerry Douglas, bluegrass mandolinist
Sam Bush, legendary Stax guitarist Steve Cropper (Booker T. & the M.G.’s), roots
guitarists Duane “King of Twang” Eddy and Webb Wilder, plus The Orphan Brigade
on background vocals.
Boone continues his fascination with poetry and jazz on his latest album, The Poets Are Gathering. The Cal State
University Fresno professor, who has released two previous collections devoted
to this pairing, notes that jazz and poetry have been inextricably linked since
the Harlem Renaissance. Following the tradition of artists such as Langston
Hughes and Charles Mingus, who collaborated on the album Weary Blues (1958), Boone’s new project features eleven acclaimed
poets—including Black poets Tyehimba Jess, Patrick Sylvain, Patricia Smith, and
Donald Brown, II—who narrate their own works. Boone, who performs on soprano
and alto sax, leads the various backing ensembles, featuring contributions from
guitarist Ben Monder, pianist Kenny Werner, bassist Corcoran Holt, and drummer
Ari Hoenig. Recorded over the last three years, the content reflects the
political and social turmoil of the present, providing “up-to-the minute,
Title: America the Beautiful Artist: Kahil El’Zabar Label: Spiritmuse Formts: CD, LP, Digital Release date: October 23, 2020
musician and composer Kahil El’Zabar, former chairman of the legendary AACM
(Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians) collective, is also
known as a pioneer of spiritual jazz. A master multi-percussionist and
instrumentalist, El’Zabar founded the Ethnic Heritage Ensemble in 1973, the
Ritual Trio a decade later, and other ensembles including JUBA Collective, the
Kahil El’Zabar Quartet, and more recently the Ethnics featuring Nona Hendryx.
His new release, Kahil El’Zabar’s America the Beautiful, was inspired by
music he scored for Daryl Roberts’s award-winning three-part documentary series,
America the Beautiful (2007-2014). Joining El’Zabar on these selections
are a number of notable Chicago musicians, including cellist Tomeka Reid,
trumpeter Corey Wilkes, alto saxophonist Dennis Winslett, and the late baritone
saxophonist Hamiet Bluiett, to whom this recording is dedicated.
Title: Live from the Prison Nation Artist: Alonzo Demetrius Label: Onyx Productions Formats: CD, Digital Release date: October 16, 2020
On his debut album, Live
from the Prison Nation, trumpeter Alonzo
Demetrius strives for an educational as well as a musical experience.
Expressing a sense of urgency, he hopes to inspire listeners into taking action
against the Prison Industrial Complex (PIC). A recent graduate of the Berklee
Global Jazz Institute Masters Program, Demetrius conceived of this project
while taking classes that dealt with the social and political significance of
activism for musicians. His website
not only delves into the thoughts behind each track, but also offers ‘conversation
starters’ that provide discussion questions and workshops
to facilitate the development of community action plans. Backing him on this
project is his band, The Ego, featuring tenor saxophonist Yesseh
Furaha-Ali, pianist Daniel Abraham Jr., bassist Benjamin Jephta, and drummer
Brian Richburg Jr.
Title: 25 Years Artist: Edward Simon Label: Ridgeway Records Formats: CD, Digital Release date: October 9, 2020
In celebration of a quarter century of inventive and trailblazing
music, Venezuelan-born pianist, composer and bandleader Edward Simon has
released two-disc career retrospective 25
Years. This project is a collection that celebrates his 50th
birthday, featuring tracks from thirteen of Simon’s albums that span from
1995-2018. Featuring collaborations with members of the SFJAZZ Collective and
other brilliant musicians such as tenor saxophonist Mark Turner, altoist David
Binney, bassists Scott Colley, John Patitucci and Ben Street, drummers Brian
Blade and Adam Cruz, and vocalists Luciana Souza, Lucia Polito, Genevieve
Artadi, and Gretchen Parlato, this is a self-curated album that uses jazz to
reflect the variety of musical styles that Simon has grown comfortable with
over his career, from Latin American folk and popular idioms to Afro-Latin
rhythms and European classical forms.
Title: Now Artist: Lafayette Gilchrist Label: Lafayette Gilchrist Music Formats: CD, Digital Release date: October 2, 2020
Baltimore-based composer and jazz pianist Lafayette Gilchrist offers a new double album, Now, that’s brimming over with his signature genre-spanning tunes. Though his recordings over the past decade have featured larger ensembles, for this project Gilchrist returns to the more intimate trio format with bassist Herman Burney and drummer Eric Kennedy. Addressing topics that range from the state of race relations and daily struggles faced by many within and beyond the city of Baltimore, to the more romantic aspects of love and life, the music reaches deep into the heart and soul of the community and the nation as a whole.
Title: Jupiter Conjunct Artist: Aaron Burnett & the Big Machine Label: Fresh Sound New Talent Formats: CD, Digital Release date: November 6, 2020
From Aaron Burnett & the Big Machine
comes Jupiter Conjunct, a follow up
to their 2019 album Anomaly. Drawing
on hip-hop and electronica influences, this album pushes the sound of jazz along
the trajectory of other current artists like bassist and vocalist Esperanza
Spalding, who is a featured guest on this project. Led by Burnett on saxophone,
the group consists of trumpeter Adam O’Farrill, keyboardist Carlos Homs,
bassist Nick Jozwiak, drummer Kush Abadey, and Joel Ross on vibraphone.
Title: Something To Say Artist: Cory Henry Label: Culture Collective Formats: Digital Release date: October 30, 2020
Singer, composer, producer and multi-instrumentalist Cory Henry
has released his much anticipated studio album, Something To Say.
Produced by Henry himself, the album wonderfully expresses Henry’s wide variety
of musical talents in each of its eleven tracks, which tackle subjects ranging
from love and breakups to injustices and the effects of being emotionally
drained, resulting in a project that artistically reflects the climate of the
world today. “I feel good because all of the songs came together and they mean
something to me,” Henry humbly advises, “so I hope they mean something to other
Title: All Love Everything Artist: Aloe Blacc Label: BMG Rights Formats: CD, Digital Release date: June 25, 2020
songwriter, producer, and activist Aloe Blacc
has released his fifth and latest studio album, All Love Everything. Full of warm, nostalgic sounds, soulful
vocals, and an inspiring chorus, Blacc delivers heartfelt, yet grounded,
melodies that pull the listener into emotions of love, loss, and many of the
Title: All of This Artist: Roots And Tings Label: Truth’s Sound Formats: Digital, Limited ed. 45s Release date: August 21, 2020
Combining elements of dancehall, reggae, soul and
hip-hop in a subversive genre that they call Revolutionary Culture Music, Roots And Tings
is a new project of Lateef the Truth Speaker (Blackalicious, Lytrix, Quannum),
acclaimed DJ-producer Jah Yzer, and multi-talented musician Winstrong. Speaking
about their new project, Winstrong describes Roots and Tings as “a community of
curious souls with a generous goal to engage with each other through the
Title: Optimisme Artist: Songhoy Blues Label: Fat Possum Format: CD, LP, Digital Release Date: October 23, 2020
Hailing from Mali, the African rock band Songhoy Blues has
returned with their highly anticipated third album, a response to their
homeland’s corrupt and oppressive political system. Entitled Optimisme,
French for optimism, the album reflects the group’s desire to impact the world
around them in tangible and positive ways through their music.
Title: Star Feminine Band Artist: Star Feminine Band Label: Born Bad Format: Digital Release Date: November 13, 2020
You wouldn’t know it by
listening, but the girls of Star Feminine Band had never touched a guitar or
drumkit before meeting in 2016. Brought together by a local radio call out offering
free music training, the girls, ranging in ages from 10 through 17, use music
to channel feelings about equality and empowerment in a male-dominated society.
Title: Your Man of Faith Artist: Elder Charles Beck Label: Gospel Friend/dist. City Hall Records Formats: CD, Digital Release date: November 20, 2020
Elder Charles D. Beck, born in 1902 in
Mobile, Alabama, was a self-taught musician who covered a variety of
instruments including drums, trumpet, saxophone, vibes, piano, and organ. A
member of the large African American Pentecostal denomination, Church of God in
Christ, he was influenced by the performance style of another well-known church
member, the early gospel singer and pianist Arizona
Dranes. After cutting his first recordings on
the OKeh label in 1930 (a year after Dranes’ final OKeh session), Beck became
an ordained COGIC minister and briefly moved to Chicago, where he met Thomas A.
Dorsey, before permanently relocating to Buffalo, New York. Known as the singing
evangelist and one of the most accomplished sanctified musicians of his
generation, Beck released many recordings and also spread the gospel far and
wide through weekly radio broadcasts of his sermons and live performances at
churches across the U.S.
Our featured release this month is bassist/composer Gregg August’s Dialogues on Race, an extended suite for large jazz ensemble, vocalists, and strings that draws upon poems by Maya Angelou, Langston Hughes, Marilyn Nelson and other notable American poets. Other jazz releases include Teodross Avery’s tribute album Harlem Stories: The Music of Thelonious Monk; alto saxophonist/composer Charles McPherson’s Jazz Dance Suites; jazz-rock fusion drummer/vocalist Cindy Blackman Santana’s Give the Drummer Some featuring guitarists Carlos Santana, John McLaughlin, Kirk Hammett, and Vernon Reid; and the never-before-released album Just Coolin’ by Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers.
Also featured is Hearts Town from the R&B duo The War And Treaty; Frederick “Toots” Hibbert’s final album with the Maytals, Got To Be Tough; Philly R&B singer Valvin “V” Roane’s Image a Nation; Kenny “Blues Boss” Wayne’s Go, Just Do It!; an expanded reissue of the Curtis Mayfield soundtrack Let’s Do It Again featuring the Staple Singers; and a remastered vinyl edition of Classified by New Orleans keyboardist James Booker.
Title: Dialogues on Race, Volume One Artist: Gregg August Label: Iacuessa/dist. Bandcamp Formats: CD, LP, Digital Release date: August 21, 2020
An extremely versatile artist, double bassist and composer Gregg August performs and records with groups spanning multiple genres. Currently a member of the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra and American Composers Orchestra, he also performs regularly as a jazz bassist with the JD Allen Trio and Arturo O’Farrill’s Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra. In 2009, shortly after the inauguration of President Barack Obama, August was inspired to compose Dialogues on Race, an extended suite for large jazz ensemble, vocalists, strings and narrator. Drawing upon poems by Maya Angelou, Langston Hughes, Marilyn Nelson and other notable American poets, August hoped to “create a musical conversation that would help bring awareness and foster understanding on the issue of race” in support of the nation’s first Black president. Following the premiere at The Jazz Gallery in New York, the work was set aside for a time. But as the political discourse in the U.S. grew increasingly toxic and more Black lives were lost to violence, many of the musicians that premiered Dialogues urged August to revive and record the suite. The result is a stunning achievement that deftly combines jazz, blues, classical and Latin influences with gripping poetic verses to create a provocative work that is even more relevant and necessary today.
Soprano and tenor saxophonist Teodross Avery developed a keen
interest in the music of Thelonious Monk as a teenager, after hearing the acclaimed
jazz pianist’s landmark 1963 album Monk’s
Dream. After repeated listening, Avery says, “It became clear to me that
Monk wanted his complex melodies and harmonies to affect the musicians and the
listeners alike with non-stop swing rhythms…He wanted that swing beat to just
permeate the sound while he delivered his unique sound on top.” Avery went on to
earn a Doctorate in Jazz Studies from the University of Southern California and
along the way performed and recorded with many jazz titans as well as artists
ranging from Leela James and Lauryn Hill to Mos Def and Talib Kweli. But for
his latest project, Avery decided to return to his early fascination with Monk and
take a much deeper dive into the complexities of his music on Harlem Stories: The Music of Thelonious Monk.
Title: Jazz Dance Suites Artist: Charles McPherson Label: Chazz Mack Music Formats: CD, Digital Release date: September 25, 2020
Distinguished alto saxophonist, composer and
McPherson, known for his bebop and bluesy style and
improvisational ingenuity, adds to his plethora of notable works with Jazz
Dance Suites. Inspired and
dedicated to his daughter Camille, a soloist in the San Diego Ballet, McPherson’s
album of ballet music is a fusion of refreshing harmonies and unique lyrical
melodies that wonderfully combine with inventive rhythm and syncopation,
creating a bouncy and vibrant project that is a beautiful compliment to dance.
Title: Give the Drummer Some Artist: Cindy Blackman Santana Label: Copperline Formats: CD, LP, Digital Release date: September 18, 2020
drummer Cindy Blackman Santana is well-known for her versatility, especially in
the realm of jazz and rock. A member of Lenny Kravitz’s band from 1992-2007,
for the past decade she has been the regular touring drummer for Santana (and
later married Carlos Santana). Heavily influenced by her mentor, the late
drummer Tony Williams who initially rose to fame in the 1960s as a member of
Miles Davis’ group, Cindy has extended and expanded his jazz-rock fusion
legacy. On her new album, Give the Drummer Some, Cindy reaches new
heights, on vocals and percussion, as she collaborates with four of the world’s
top fusion guitarists: Carlos Santana, John McLaughlin, Kirk Hammett (Metallica),
and Vernon Reid (Living Colour). Produced by Narada Michael Walden, the album
was three years in the making, and the results are no less than spectacular.
As the musical tide shifts and conscious rap is once
again foregrounded, The Sharecropper’s Daughter by Sa-Roc is an album that
should be canonized. Lyrically dexterous, this album is Ancestral remembrance,
community healing, and a call to check internalized systems of oppression,
packaged in fifteen phenomenal tracks. From the opening track “EmergencE” stating,
“to heal the spirit, reveal the prison,” to the closing track “Grounded” that provides
the reminder, “I got too much in me for you to take it from me, that’s how I
learned to be free,” The Sharecropper’s Daughter leaves you feeling both
affirmed and called to action.
Title: Safe Space Invader Artist: Paris Label: Guerilla Funk Formats: CD, LP, Digital Release date: September 25, 2020
One of the most politically
charged rappers to emerge in the 1990s, Paris is perhaps best known for his
militant albums The Devil Made Me Do It and Sleeping with the Enemy.
The latter album, originally scheduled for release prior to the 1992 election
(but withheld by the label), featured the incendiary track “Bush
Killa,” aimed at the incumbent, President George H.W. Bush. Now, prior to
what may be the most contentious election in US history amidst a pandemic and
social unrest, the Bay Area rapper returns with Safe Space
Invader. Released on Paris’ own Guerilla Funk label, there is no one to hold him back and nothing is off
Public Enemy is back! In yet
another pre-election release by socially conscious hip hop icons, What You Gonna Do When the Grid Goes Down is an
explosive album of politically charged tracks from Chuck D, Flavor Flav and DJ
Lord. With collabs from the likes of George Clinton, Ice T, Cypress Hill and Run-DMC,
there’s plenty of nostalgia to arouse the interest of golden age hip hop fans,
as well as tracks addressing contemporary issues, ranging from the Trump
presidency and internet dependency to the killing of Breonna Taylor. Yet
despite addressing weighty social-political topics, the infectious beats and
off-the-charts production give the album a celebratory quality, with tracks
maintaining a high energy level from beginning to end.
One of the most diverse musical collectives in the
country, Free Radicals
includes over 50 musicians that range from 4-year-old attendees of Peace Camp
Houston to 92-year-old vibraphone player Harry Sheppard. These musicians bring
together their varied backgrounds and talents on White Power Outage Volume 1,
a revolutionary album that demands an end to white supremacy in the arts,
culture, and politics.