Welcome to the April 2021 Issue

Welcome to the April 2021 issue of Black Grooves, sponsored by the Indiana University Archives of African American Music and Culture.

In honor of Jazz Appreciation Month, we’re highlighting new releases from a wide variety of artists. Included in our selection is the late pianist Hasaan Ibn Ali’s previously unreleased 1965 session Metaphysics: The Lost Atlantic Album;  Chicago trumpet player Marques Carroll’s The Ancestors’ Call; New Orleans-born pianist Jon Batiste’s multi-genre, multi-generational We Are; Kansas City-born saxophonist Logan Richardson’s AfroFuturism; jazz-soul organist Dr. Lonnie Smith’s Breathe; Chicago visionary Damon Locks & Black Monument Ensemble’s NOW; and guitarist Dan Wilson’s Vessels of Wood and Earth.

Other selections include African American folk musician Rhiannon Giddens’ They’re Calling Me Home; vocal legend Merry Clayton’s return to her gospel roots on Beautiful Scars; classical avant-punk duo String Noise’s Alien Stories featuring newly commissioned works from five young Black composers; New Orleans’ group Cha Wa’s tribute to Mardi Gras Indians on My People; and Democratic Republic of Congo group Jupiter & Okwess’s Na Kozonga featuring the Preservation Hall Jazz Band horn section.

Wrapping up this issue is our list of March 2021 Black Music Releases of Note.

Hasaan Ibn Ali – Metaphysics: The Lost Atlantic Album

 

Title: Metaphysics: The Lost Atlantic Album
Artist: Hasaan Ibn Ali
Label: Omnivore
Formats: CD, LP, Digital
Release date: April 23, 2021

 

If Bud Powell defined bebop piano, then Hasaan Ibn Ali belongs to a group of pianists, including Thelonious Monk, Elmo Hope, and Herbie Nichols, who devoted themselves to extending the style into new territories. Or at least he should be in that group, and quite possibly would be if Atlantic Records had released this 1965 session as a follow-up to the Max Roach Trio’s Featuring the Legendary Hasaan LP. It’s a shame bordering on tragedy that Hasaan’s second and final commercial recording did not see the light of day until now. Had it been released at the time, it would have fit perfectly alongside the work of the many bop-rooted musicians who were exploring new paths in composition and improvisation during this exciting period of music.

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Marques Carroll – The Ancestors’ Call

 

Title: The Ancestors’ Call
Artist: Marques Carroll
Label: JMarq
Formats: CD, LP, Digital
Release date: April 16, 2021

 

Within the musical canon of the genre traditionally known as “jazz,” Chicago’s legacy as birthplace or training ground for some of the genre’s most innovative and technically adept trumpeters is solidified by musicians such as Ray Nance, Louis Armstrong, Lester Bowie, Marquis Hill, and Corey Wilkes. With his stellar debut quintet album, The Ancestors’ Call, Chicago-based trumpeter and composer, Marques Carroll, rightly adds his name to this list.

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Jon Batiste – We Are

 

Title: We Are
Artist: Jon Batiste
Label: Verve
Formats: CD, LP, Digital
Release date: March 19, 2021  

 

Fresh off of winning a Golden Globe and Critic’s Choice Awards for his score to the animated film Soul, pianist/composer Jon Batiste has released a new album with similar sensibilities. We Are is a masterful synthesis of musical styles, most notably those reflecting Batiste’s upbringing in New Orleans amidst a family dynasty of notable jazz, blues, and R&B musicians. Add to this mix Batiste’s classical training at Juilliard and his roots in the church, and you get a musician who is fluent in every major musical genre, all of which are seamlessly integrated in this album.

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Logan Richardson – AfroFuturism

 

Title: AfroFuturism
Artist: Logan Richardson
Label: Whirlwind
Formats: CD, LP, Digital
Release date: March 12, 2021

 

Kansas City-born saxophonist Logan Richardson made his debut as a bandleader in 2007 with Cerebral Flow, an album that reflects his time performing with jazz musicians such as Pat Metheny, Joe Chambers, Billy Hart, Butch Morris, Stefon Harris and Jason Moran. Since then, Richardson’s work has become increasingly eclectic, ranging from performances with the urban jazz supergroup NEXT Collective to his 2018 release Blues People, which busted through any boundaries limiting what jazz fusion could aspire to. Now back in Kansas City and sheltering from the pandemic in an apartment once inhabited by Charlie Parker, Richardson imagines an even broader universe of sound on his latest project, AfroFuturism.

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Dr. Lonnie Smith – Breathe

 

Title: Breathe
Artist: Dr. Lonnie Smith
Label: Blue Note
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date: March 26, 2021

 

The reigning master of the Hammond B-3 organ, Dr. Lonnie Smith has ruled the soul jazz scene from his keyboard for over five decades. Still a prolific recording artist, the musical icon has just released Breathe, his third album for Blue Note in the last five years, all produced by the label’s president, Don Was. The majority of the tracks were recorded live at the Jazz Standard in New York City in 2017 during Smith’s 75th birthday celebration, in the seemingly long-ago days when one could hang out at a crowded club on the weekends. Fans weary of social distancing can now vicariously join the celebration through album’s eight tracks.

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Damon Locks & Black Monument Ensemble – NOW

 

Title: NOW
Artist: Damon Locks & Black Monument Ensemble
Label: International Anthem
Formats: Digital (CD, LP available July 9, 2021)
Release date: April 9, 2021

 

Following his auspicious 2019 debut, Where Future Unfolds, Chicago-based multi-media artist/activist Damon Locks and his jazz-based Black Monument Ensemble return with their latest release, NOW. Featuring six new tracks, this multi-generational collective of Chicago artists continues their mission of presenting vibrant, uplifting music and dance that draws “from all facets of the diverse wellspring of Black artistic excellence.” The new project is also a response to the group’s previous release: “the future has unfolded and taken a new and dangerous shape… what happens NOW?’” 

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Dan Wilson – Vessels of Wood and Earth

 

Title: Vessels of Wood and Earth
Artist: Dan Wilson
Label: Brother Mister Productions/Mack Avenue
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date: April 23, 2021

 

Grammy-nominated guitarist and composer Dan Wilson’s debut album, Vessels of Wood and Earth, exhibits a rich range of tones and textures. Joined by pianist Christian Sands, bassist Marco Panascia, drummer Jeff “Tain” Watts and guest vocalist Joy Brown, this incredibly talented band showcases a mastery of musical expression, revealing robust musical perspectives from each and every artist. Produced by bassist, composer, arranger, and Philadelphian jazz icon, Christian McBride, the project is a mix of both original compositions and arrangements of classic songs from the likes of Stevie Wonder and Ray Charles, assembled to illustrate Wilson’s foundation that is “rooted as much in tradition as it is in moving the music irresistibly forward into the modern world.” The album is the first release on Brother Mister Productions, McBride’s own record label under the Mack Avenue Music Group.

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Rhiannon Giddens with Francesco Turrisi – They’re Calling Me Home

 

Title: They’re Calling Me Home
Artist: Rhiannon Giddens with Francesco Turrisi
Label: Nonesuch
Formats: CD, LP, Digital
Release date: April 9, 2021

 

Acclaimed African American folk musician Rhiannon Giddens and Italian multi-instrumentalist Francesco Turrisi offer their second collaboration, They’re Calling Me Home. Sheltering in Ireland during the pandemic, the two artists decided to draw from traditional folk music of three countries for this project. The album’s title not only speaks to those who are sheltering in place during the pandemic, but also to the metaphorical “call home” or “homegoing” of death, in tribute to those who have lost their lives due to COVID-19. 

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Merry Clayton – Beautiful Scars

 

Title: Beautiful Scars
Artist: Merry Clayton
Label: Motown Gospel
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date: April 9, 2021

 

Vocal legend Merry Clayton embodies the true essence of the words resilience and fortitude. The Grammy Award-winning artist has made a return to her southern Baptist gospel roots with her new album, Beautiful Scars. Co-produced by Rock & Roll Hall of Famer Lou Adler and Grammy Award-winning songwriter, vocalist and instrumentalist Terry Young, Beautiful Scars is a testimony of the hardship that Clayton has endured over her lifetime and in recent years. In 2014, she survived a tragic accident but unfortunately her doctors were forced to amputate both of her legs. In the eye of this storm, when doctors told Clayton she would have to lose her legs, she began to sing. Drawing form the strength of her ancestors and giving praise to God, she persevered despite the new challenges that she would face.

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String Noise – Alien Stories

 

Title: Alien Stories
Artist: String Noise
Label: Infrequent Seams (Dist. Bandcamp)
Formats: CD, Cassette, Digital
Release date: April 2, 2021

 

The New York-based classical avant-punk duo String Noise, featuring violinists Conrad Harris and Pauline Kim Harris, is celebrated for their wide-ranging performances of contemporary music. Since the duo’s founding in 2011, they have added more than 50 new works to their repertoire. Their latest release, Alien Stories, was influenced by the Black Lives Matter movement, which also increased attention on issues of racial equality with the musical realm. In support of Black artists, the duo decided to co-commission, with Carnegie Hill Concerts, new works from five young Black composer-performers based in New York City. These five works are featured on Alien Stories.

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Cha Wa – My People

 

Title: My People
Artist: Cha Wa
Label: Single Lock
Formats: CD, LP, Digital
Release Date: April 2, 2021

 

Since the late 19th century, Mardi Gras Indians have paraded the streets of New Orleans outside of the gaze of tourists that flock to Bourbon Street. The Mardi Gras Indian community is a group of primarily Black New Orleanians who pay respect to Native Americans through their wardrobe, music, and dialect. The tradition of Mardi Gras Indian krewes is said to have originated to pay tribute to the Native groups that sheltered Black New Orleanians fleeing enslavement. Drawing on this rich heritage, Cha Wa’s My People captures the sounds of Mardi Gras Indian street parades and blends them with other New Orleans influences including the ‘70s era funk of The Meters, brass band music, jazz, R&B, hip-hop, and African-inspired rhythms.

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Jupiter & Okwess – Na Kozonga

 

Title: Na Kozonga
Artist: Jupiter & Okwess
Label: Everloving
Formats: CD, LP, Digital
Release Date: April 23, 2021

 

Hailing from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Jupiter & Okwess makes music that pulls together international musical influences in a stand against global injustice. Their newest release, Na Kozonga, is an explosive and energetic compilation of music featuring the Preservation Hall Jazz Band horn section, pioneer of Brazilian rap Marcelo D2, and the vocals of American Maiya Sykes and Chilean Ana Tijoux.

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Welcome to the March 2021 Issue

Welcome to the March 2021 issue of Black Grooves, sponsored by the Indiana University Archives of African American Music and Culture.

In celebration of Women’s History Month we’re featuring new releases from female artists including singer-songwriter Valerie June’s eclectic The Moon and Stars: Prescriptions for Dreamers; Prince protégé Judith Hill’s Baby I’m Hollywood; L.A. singer-songwriter and acoustic guitarist Sunny War’s Simple Syrup; blues-rock singer Skylar Rogers’s Firebreather; and scholar Maureen Mahon’s book, Black Diamond Queens: African American Women and Rock and Roll.

Classical releases include the Catalyst Quartet’s Uncovered Vol. 1: Samuel Coleridge-Taylor featuring acclaimed clarinetist Anthony McGill and pianist Stewart Goodyear; and the woodwind quintet Imani Winds’ Bruits featuring guest appearances by soprano Janai Brugger and narrator John Whittington Franklin.

Also featured is composer Adrian Younge’s unapologetic critique of systemic racism on The American Negro, pianist-composer Cameron Graves’ thrash-jazz fusion release Seven, and the London-based fusion group Nubiyan Twist’s Freedom Fables.

Wrapping up this issue is our list of February 2021 Black Music Releases of Note.

Valerie June – The Moon and Stars

 

Title: The Moon and Stars: Prescriptions for Dreamers
Artist: Valerie June
Label: Fantasy
Formats: CD, LP, Digital
Release date: March 12, 2021

 

Valerie June’s The Moon and Stars: Prescriptions for Dreamers is an amalgam of genres, referencing 1960s psychedelia, 1980s pop, gospel, Americana, and especially Memphis soul. The connection to Memphis, where June began her career, is evident throughout, from an appearance by Carla Thomas to sessions recorded at Sam Phillips Studio and Royal Studios. Like this album, Memphis is a melting pot of styles, and the instrumentation on The Moon and Stars is just as diverse as its stylistic influences—from lush strings to horns, pedal steel, and banjo. Jointly produced by June and Jack Splash (Alicia Keys, Kendrick Lamar, John Legend), the fourteen tracks of original music have all of the elements necessary to guarantee success.

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Judith Hill – Baby I’m Hollywood

 

Title: Baby I’m Hollywood
Artist: Judith Hill
Label: Regime Music Group
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date: March 5, 2021

 

Many may be familiar with Grammy-winning artist Judith Hill through her work with Michael Jackson, or any number of other artists ranging from Josh Groban, Stevie Wonder and John Legend to the late Andraé Crouch. Hill was also one of the featured backup singers in the Academy Award winning documentary 20 Feet From Stardom (2013), and that same year she made it to the finals on The Voice. Yet despite these successes and a debut album co-produced by Prince, the singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist is still struggling in her pursuit of a career in music. Hill’s new project, Baby I’m Hollywood, speaks to the highs and lows of life in the spotlight, and so much more.

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Sunny War – Simple Syrup

 

Title: Simple Syrup
Artist: Sunny War
Label: Org Music
Format: LP, Digital
Release Date: March 26, 2021

 

Following a captivating NPR Tiny Desk performance and an acclaimed album in 2019, Sunny War became an artist to watch for fans of acoustic roots music. Since then, the L.A.-based singer and guitarist has certainly kept busy, founding a Los Angeles chapter of the nonprofit Food Not Bombs, marching for BLM protests, and recording her newest album, Simple Syrup.

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Skylar Rogers – Firebreather

 

Title: Firebreather
Artist: Skylar Rogers
Label: CD Baby (distrib.)
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date: January 29, 2021

 

With a sound that draws comparisons to Etta James and Koko Taylor, Chicago-born vocalist Skylar Rogers is a relatively new force on the blues scene. After the success of her debut EP, she began touring nationally in 2019 and dropped her first single last year. Now Rogers tears into her first full-length album, Firebreather, with a powerful blast of energy that fuels her unique blend of “soul rockin’ blues.”

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Maureen Mahon – Black Diamond Queens

 

Title: Black Diamond Queens: African American Women and Rock and Roll
Author: Maureen Mahon
Publisher: Duke University Press
Formats: Hardcover, Paperback, Kindle
Release date: October 9, 2020

 

Maureen Mahon’s Black Diamond Queens: African American Women and Rock and Roll is a chronological collection of case studies of African American women’s contributions to rock from 1953–1984, and, simultaneously, a feminist critique of the forces that have prevented African American women from enjoying more success in the rock world. Mahon, an associate professor at New York University, demonstrates that African American women and their music were foundational to the rock genre, and that their contributions have continued to be a driving force in the development of rock over time. These women, however, have found success to be elusive, due to barriers of genre expectations, gender expectations, racial expectations, and record industry marketing.

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Catalyst Quartet – Uncovered Vol. 1, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor

 

Title: Uncovered Vol. 1, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor
Artist: Catalyst Quartet, with Stewart Goodyear and Anthony McGill
Label: Azica
Formats: Digital
Release date: February 5, 2021

 

Great performances and recordings of their work can go a long way in helping solidify the reputation of any composer. The GRAMMY Award-winning Catalyst Quartet is working to use their immense talent to highlight chamber music by composers who may have been overlooked because of their race or gender with a new series of recordings, titled Uncovered. Volume One, featuring early works by Afro-British composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, promises an exceptional project, bringing the incredible playing of a top-tier string quartet to finely selected repertoire.

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Imani Winds – Bruits

 

Title: Bruits
Artist: Imani Winds
Label: Bright Shiny Things
Format: CD, Digital
Release Date: February 5, 2021

 

The acclaimed Grammy®-nominated woodwind quintet Imani Winds have released their latest studio album, Bruits. Composed of the talented artists Brandon Patrick George (flute), Toyin Spellman-Diaz (oboe), Mark Dover (clarinet), Jeff Scott (French horn), and Monica Ellis (bassoon), Imani Winds delivers a provocative commentary on the issues that have, and continue to, plague our country. Elucidated by the metaphorical title, “Bruits,” a medical term for an abnormal sound generated by blood flow through an obstructed artery, this album utilizes three inspiring works to describe our ongoing social and political climate, reflecting on the turmoil and strife within our country in an effort to bring about beneficial change before the damage becomes irreparable. Additional featured performers on the album include Grammy® award-winning pianist Cory Smythe, Metropolitan Opera National Council & Operalia award-winning soprano Janai Brugger, and scholar and narrator John Whittington Franklin.

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Adrian Younge – The American Negro

 

Title: The American Negro
Artist: Adrian Younge
Label: Jazz Is Dead
Format: CD, Digital
Release date: February 26, 2021

 

In the wake of social unrest and political trauma, composer Adrian Younge, like many before him, has now become part of a canon of musical and literary expression that will likely live on for generations. Younge’s new album, The American Negro, offers 26 tracks of message songs and soulful instrumentals interjected with Younge’s spoken word treatise on racism in America. Through the album, he dissects the chemistry behind blind racism, using music as the medium to restore dignity and self-worth [of Black people]… It should be evident that any examination of black music is an examination of the relationship between black and white America. This relationship has shaped the cultural evolution of the world and its negative roots run deep into our psyche.”

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Cameron Graves – Seven

 

Title: Seven
Artist: Cameron Graves
Label: Artistry Music/Mack Avenue
Formats: CD, LP, Digital
Release date: February 19, 2021

 

Pianist-composer Cameron Graves initially achieved acclaim as a member of the West Coast Get Down, a collective of L.A. jazz musicians that includes Kamasi Washington and Stephen “Thundercat” Bruner. More recently he has performed and recorded with fusion pioneer Stanley Clarke, who has served as a mentor to the younger musician. Releasing his widely acclaimed debut album Planetary Prince in 2017,Graves now returns with his own brand of progressive jazz on Seven. Referring to his new style as thrash-jazz, Graves draws upon his jazz and classical studies as well as his love of Living Colour, Meshuggah, and other heavy metal bands to create a stunningly inventive jazz-rock fusion that will blast you into another galaxy.

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Nubiyan Twist – Freedom Fables

 

Title: Freedom Fables
Artist: Nubiyan Twist
Label: Strut
Format: CD, LP, Digital
Release date: March 12, 2021

 

Since their formation in 2009 at the Leeds College of Music, Nubiyan Twist has gone on to sell out major concerts and collaborate with iconic musicians like Ghanaian highlife king Pat Thomas and pioneering Afrobeat drummer Tony Allen. The London-based collective is known for their captivating and unique blending of jazz, Afrobeat, and highlife music with electronic touches. Nubiyan Twist’s much-anticipated third album, Freedom Fables, builds on the group’s past success with the new feature of rising star vocalists.

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