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.
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.