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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