Welcome to the October 2020 Issue

Welcome to the October 2020 issue of Black Grooves, sponsored by the Indiana University Archives of African American Music and Culture

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.

Rap and hip hop selections include Sa-Roc’s debut album, The Sharecropper’s Daughter; new socially conscious projects from two of the most politically charged rappers of the ‘80s and ‘90s—Paris’ Safe Space Invader and Public Enemy’s What You Gonna Do When the Grid Goes Down—and the Free Radicals compilation White Power Outage Volume 1.

Gospel music selections include the Chicago Mass Choir’s My Soul Says Yes and The Last Shall Be First: the JCR Records Story Volume 1, a compilation of Memphis area gospel recordings from the 1970s.

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.

Wrapping up this issue is our compilation of September 2020 Black Music Releases of Note.

Gregg August – Dialogues on Race

 

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.

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Teodross Avery – Harlem Stories: The Music of Thelonious Monk

 

Title: Harlem Stories: The Music of Thelonious Monk
Artist: Teodross Avery
Label: WJ3
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date: September 18, 2020

 

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.

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Charles McPherson – Jazz Dance Suites

 

Title: Jazz Dance Suites
Artist: Charles McPherson
Label: Chazz Mack Music
Formats: CD, Digital  
Release date: September 25, 2020

 

Distinguished alto saxophonist, composer and bandleader Charles 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.

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Cindy Blackman Santana – Give the Drummer Some

 

Title: Give the Drummer Some
Artist: Cindy Blackman Santana
Label: Copperline
Formats: CD, LP, Digital
Release date: September 18, 2020

 

Virtuoso 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.

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Sa-Roc – The Sharecropper’s Daughter

 

Title: The Sharecropper’s Daughter  
Artist: Sa-Roc
Label: Rhymesayers Entertainment
Formats: CD, LP, Digital
Release date: August 12, 2020

 

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.

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Paris – Safe Space Invader

 

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 limits.

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Public Enemy – What You Gonna Do When the Grid Goes Down

 

Title: What You Gonna Do When the Grid Goes Down
Artist: Public Enemy
Label: Def Jam
Formats: CD, LP, Digital
Release date: September 25, 2020

 

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.

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Free Radicals – White Power Outage Volume 1

 

Title: White Power Outage Volume 1
Artist: Free Radicals
Label: RWE
Format: Digital
Release Date: September 15, 2020

 

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.

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The War And Treaty – Hearts Town

 

Title: Hearts Town
Artist: The War And Treaty
Label: Rounder
Formats: CD, LP, Digital
Release Date: August 14, 2020

 

Named the 2019 Emerging Act of the Year by Americana Music Association, husband and wife duo Michael Trotter Jr. and Tanya Blount-Trotter are artists to watch out for as they continue to take the music world by storm. Between their performance at the 62nd Annual GRAMMY Awards back in January, the release of their newest album Hearts Town in August, and their spot as an opener on John Legend’s upcoming Bigger Love 2020 Tour (rescheduled for 2021), The War And Treaty have proven themselves to be a powerhouse R&B duo.

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Toots & the Maytals – Got To Be Tough

 

Title: Got To Be Tough 
Artist: Toots & the Maytals
Label: Trojan Jamaica/BMG
Formats: CD, LP, Digital
Release date: June 12, 2020

 

It is hard to imagine a title more fitting for Frederick “Toots” Hibbert’s final album than Got To Be Tough. The legendary Jamaican reggae pioneer, who died at age 77 on September 11, 2020 from COVID-19 related complications, experienced more than his share of hardships. Orphaned at the age of 11, imprisoned in his twenties for possession of ganja, and severely injured during a music festival in 2013 by an inebriated bottle-wielding fan, Toots was a survivor. What was meant to be a comeback album for Toots & the Maytals, the ska and rocksteady collective Toots led for nearly 60 years, instead serves as a poignant tribute to the much beloved musician and his indomitable spirit.  

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Valvin “V” Roane – Image a Nation

 

Title: Image a Nation
Artist: Valvin “V” Roane
Label: BBE Music
Format: Digital  
Release date: October 2, 2020

 

Philadelphia R&B/soul singer, songwriter and producer Valvin “V” Roane is making his return with Image a Nation, his first full-length project with Barely Breaking Even (BBE Music) in 15 years. In collaboration with production partners Jontae Slade, Andre Capers and Yameen Allworld, V creates an album that colorfully illustrates the changes in the world around us through both the lyrical and melodic structures within the project.

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Kenny “Blues Boss” Wayne – Go, Just Do It!

 

Title: Go, Just Do It!
Artist: Kenny “Blues Boss” Wayne
Label: Stony Plain Music
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date: April 1, 2020

 

Usually thought of as a blues musician, Kenny Wayne is too versatile as a player to be bound within any one genre. Now 75 years old, Wayne has been paying his dues for a long time, and that level of experience is evident on Go, Just Do It!  Playing like a seasoned veteran—always playing the right notes, and always in the groove—it is obvious why Wayne has been inducted into the Boogie Woogie Piano Hall of Fame in Cincinnati. On this latest release he is joined by veteran personnel, such as former B. B. King bassist Russell Jackson and a rhythm section rounded out by Joey DiMarco on drums and Yuji Ihara on guitar, both of whom have played with the Canadian act Boogie Patrol. Harmonica ace Sherman “Tank” Doucette plays on “They Call Me the Breeze,” and Wayne is joined by Grammy winner Diane Schuur on a cover of Percy Mayfield’s “You’re in for a Big Surprise.” A horn section consisting of Jerry Cook on sax and Vince Mai on trumpet rounds out some of the other notable personnel on the record.

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Chicago Mass Choir – My Soul Says Yes

 

Title: My Soul Says Yes
Artist: Chicago Mass Choir
Label: New Haven
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date: July 31, 2020

 

There’s truly no sound like that of the gospel mass choir and the Chicago Mass Choir embodies the very spirit and essence of this tradition. With thrilling heart thumping, hand clapping, foot stomping songs, the choir takes you back to the “old time way,” to quote the late Bishop G.E. Patteson (former presiding Bishop of the Church of God in Christ denomination). My Soul Says Yes, the choir’s 17th album release, continues this legacy through their creation of songs that further their mission of giving back to their community and the world.

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Various Artists – The Last Shall Be First: The JCR Records Story

 

Title: The Last Shall Be First: the JCR Records Story, Volume 1
Artist: Various
Label: Bible & Tire
Formats: CD, LP, Digital
Release date: September 18, 2020

 

Rev. Juan D. Shipp was the force behind many Black gospel recordings emanating from Memphis, Tennessee in the 1970s. A pastor at the Greater Abyssinia Missionary Baptist Church, Shipp also had a gospel radio show on K-WAM, where he spun gospel quartet records as “Juan D.” Believing that “local artists deserve a better sound,” he formed a relationship with Clyde Leoppard, a former Sun Studio drummer who owned Tempo Recording Studio in downtown Memphis. Shipp began recording and releasing professional quality singles for many local and regional gospel groups on his own small boutique label, D-Vine Spirituals. Soon business was booming, and he spun off a secondary label, JCR, for up-and-coming artists who wanted to press a record but didn’t make the D-Vine cut. Seventeen of these tracks are featured in The Last Shall Be First: the JCR Records Story, Volume 1, which was produced by Rev. Shipp.

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Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers – Just Coolin’

 

Title: Just Coolin’
Artist: Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers
Label: Blue Note
Formats: CD, LP, Digital
Release date: July 17, 2020

 

This reissue of Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers’ Just Coolin’ is from a 1959 studio album that was never released, most likely due to the fact that four of the six tracks were included several months later on a pair of live albums recorded at the legendary jazz club Birdland in New York City—Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers at the Jazz Corner of the World (vols. 1 & 2, later reissued as a two-CD set.). Consequently, the original studio sessions comprising this release were shelved and are finally seeing the light of day 60 years later.

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James Booker – Classified

 

Title: Classified
Artist: James Booker
Label: Rounder/Craft
Formats: LP
Release date: July 31, 2020

 

As part of Rounder Records’ 50th anniversary celebration, Craft Recordings is offering this remixed and remastered vinyl reissue of Classified, an unjustly overlooked 1982 release by New Orleans keyboardist James Booker, the iconoclastic disciple of the legendary Professor Longhair. On this record Booker performs an eclectic variety of songs, including tunes by R&B legends like Titus Turner, Fats Domino, and Lloyd Price. But he also covers “Hound Dog” (the Leiber & Stoller classic made famous by Big Mama Thornton and later by Elvis), the jazz standard “Angel Eyes,” the 1926 pop standard “Baby Face,” as well as the country classic “King of the Road” and two originals, particularly the scintillating “Three Keys” that concludes the record. Yet in spite of these disparate song sources, it all comes out sounding like Booker thanks to his inimitable musical talent and force of personality.

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The Staple Singers – Let’s Do It Again

 

Title: Let’s Do It Again
Artist: The Staple Singers
Label: Omnivore
Formats: CD
Release date: June 5, 2020

 

In June, the reissue label Omnivore released four expanded editions of classic albums by the Staple Singers, including Family Tree (1977), produced by former Chi-lite Eugene Record; Unlock Your Mind (1978), produced by Jerry Wexler and Barry Beckett at Muscle Shoals; and Pass It On (1976), produced by Curtis Mayfield. The fourth release was another Curtis Mayfield production—the soundtrack to the 1975 film, Let’s Do It Again, which featured an all-star cast led by Sidney Poitier, Bill Cosby, Ossie Davis and Jimmie Walker. Recorded three years after Mayfield’s critically acclaimed soundtrack for Superfly, Let’s Do It Again used many of the same personnel from his Curtom house band: Mayfield on lead guitar, Joseph “Lucky” Scott on bass, and Master Henry Gibson laying down the funky conga and bongo parts. The album represented the Staple Singers’ first post-Stax Records release, and features five songs and three instrumentals that Mayfield composed for the film.

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Welcome to the September 2020 Issue

Welcome to the September  2020 issue of Black Grooves, sponsored by the Indiana University Archives of African American Music and Culture

We’re back from a summer hiatus to celebrate Classical Music Month with a review of the new biography on composer Florence B. Price, The Heart of a Woman, by Rae Linda Brown. Classical music recordings include Duo Dolce’s Summerland: Music for Cello and Piano by Composers of African Descent; and the ORF Vienna Radio Symphony performing William Dawson’s Negro Folk Symphony and Ulysses Kay’s Fantasy Variations and Umbrian Scene.

Jazz releases this month include flutist/composer Nicole Mitchell and soprano Lisa E. Harris’s EarthSeed, based on the Afrofuturistic novels of Octavia E. Butler; Swing States: Harmony in the Battleground by the Regina Carter Freedom Band; trombonist Javier Nero’s debut album Freedom; bassist/composer Derrick Hodge’s concept album Color of Noize; trumpeter Derrick Gardner’s Still I Rise with the Big dig! Band; saxophone legend Maceo Parker’s Soul Food: Cooking with Maceo; saxophonist/keyboardist Mike Burton’s cross-genre project Walk With Me; and Sun Piano by ambient music icon Laraaji.

Popular music releases include soul-rock musician Fantastic Negrito’s Have You Lost Your Mind Yet?; London artist L.A. Salami’s The Cause of Doubt & A Reason to Have Faith; the collective Austin Musicians for Transformative Justice’s call for social justice on No More Silence Vol. 2; Billy Ocean’s 70th birthday celebration One World; R&B diva Brandy’s b7; French-Caribbean bassist, singer and producer Adeline’s Intérimes; R&B superstar Teyana Taylor’s The Album; the late blues musician Frank Bey’s final release All My Dues Are Paid; and Chris Jasper’s For the Love of You which revisits some of The Isley Brothers’ hits.

World music releases include Mutation from the Parisian Afrobeat group Les Frères Smith, and the eponymous release from the Afro-Colombian group Ghetto Kumbé.

Wrapping up this issue is our list of Summer 2020 Black Music Releases of Note covering additional releases from June, July and August.

New Biography of Florence B. Price by Rae Linda Brown

Title: The Heart of a Woman: The Life and Music of Florence B. Price
Author: Rae Linda Brown
Publisher: University of Illinois Press (Music in American Life series)
Formats: Book (hardcover, paperback, ebook)
Release date: June 22, 2020

 

The Heart of a Woman is the first full-length biography on Florence B. Price, the renowned African American composer. Based on Dr. Rae Linda Brown’s 1987 Ph.D. dissertation on Price, the author sadly did not live to see her expanded book published before succumbing to cancer in 2017.

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Duo Dolce – Summerland: Music for Cello and Piano by Composers of African Descent

 

Title: Summerland: Music for Cello and Piano by Composers of African Descent
Artist: Duo Dolce
Label: MSR Classics
Formats: CD, Streaming
Release date: January 30, 2020

 

Duo Dolce, featuring cellist Kristen Yeon-Ji Yun and pianist Phoenix Park-Kim, has assembled a satisfying collection of pieces by composers of African descent on their recent release, Summerland. This album is a follow up to Deep River: Music for Violin and Piano by Composers of African Descent, released by Park-Kim and violinist Merwin Siu in 2016. Most of the pieces chosen for Summerland reflect the lyrical side of classical music, with winding, twisting harmonies and long, sustained melodies.

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Works by William Dawson & Ulysses Kay

Title: William Dawson Negro Folk Symphony/Ulysses Kay Fantasy Variations & Umbrian Scene
Artist: ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra; Arthur Fagan, cond.
Label: Naxos
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date: June 16, 2020

 

Whether intentional or not, Naxos picked an opportune time to release this recording featuring works by two very prominent 20th century African American composers—William Levi Dawson (1899-1990) and his somewhat younger contemporary, Ulysses Simpson Kay (1917-1995). As a result of the Black Lives Matter movement, at least a portion of white America is finally addressing gaps in their knowledge of Black history, having come of age at a time when the historical narrative and education system was (and is) unquestionably white-washed. At the same time, many university music departments and libraries have begun the process of re-examining the Western classical music canon in an attempt to decolonize syllabi and collections. This new release on Naxos American Classics series is certainly a very welcome addition to those efforts. Though most of these works have been released commercially in the past, the most recent of these recordings was issued nearly 20 years ago.

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Nicole Mitchell & Lisa E. Harris – EarthSeed

 

Title: EarthSeed
Artist: Nicole Mitchell & Lisa E. Harris
Label: FPE
Format: CD, LP, Digital
Release Date: June 26, 2020

 

They say that great minds think alike, and that seems to be the case with the new collaborative album between renowned composers Nicole Mitchell and Lisa E. Harris. The pair met at the New Quorum Composers’ Residency in New Orleans and were drawn together by a shared interest in celebrated author Octavia E. Butler, one of the best known African American writers in science fiction. Together, the two musicians took inspiration from Butler’s legacy of Afrofuturistic novels to create EarthSeed.

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Regina Carter Freedom Band – Swing States: Harmony in the Battleground

 

Title: Swing States: Harmony in the Battleground
Artist: Regina Carter Freedom Band
Label: Tiger Turn
Format: Digital
Release date: July 31, 2020

 

Virtuoso jazz violinist Regina Carter has a history of releasing music that celebrates Black culture, whether commemorating the 100th anniversary of Ella Fitzgerald or her father’s roots on Southern Comfort. Yet at this pivotal point in history, with the COVID-19 pandemic surging unabated in tandem with protests and civil unrest, Carter has chosen a more politically charged theme. Swing States: Harmony in the Battleground is her urgent message to those who have not taken part in the democratic process, extolling them to get out and exercise their right to vote. The title, she explains, speaks to the current state of the nation: “We are living in surreal times…we have become a divided country of Red vs. Blue, Us vs. Them or Not Our Kind, and that pot is starting to boil over.” Rest assured, however, that both hope and harmony are encouraged across the album’s 14 tracks as Carter and her band of jazz luminaries take the listener on a tour from sea to shining sea.

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