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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