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.