November 2020 Black Grooves

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

Our top features this month are The Power Of The One from funk legend Bootsy Collins with appearances from Christian McBride, Branford Marsalis, Victor Wooten, Snoop Dog, and members of the IU Soul Revue; and Uncivil War from blues queen Shemekia Copeland that probes deeply into the divided state of our nation.

Jazz releases include Benjamin Boone’s The Poets Are Gathering featuring eleven acclaimed poets narrating their works set to jazz; Chicago musician and composer Kahil El’Zabar’s America the Beautiful that reflects upon what America has become; trumpeter Alonzo Demetrius’s Live from Prison Nation that addresses the prison industrial complex; Venezuelan-born pianist and composer Edward Simon’s two-disc Latin jazz compilation 25 Years; Baltimore-based pianist Lafayette Gilchrist’s double album Now; and Aaron Burnett & The Big Machine’s genre-spanning Jupiter Conjunct.

New R&B/soul releases include Cory Henry’s socially conscious project Something to Say and Aloe Blacc’s All Love Everything. Also featured is the debut album All of This from Oakland reggae-rap fusion group Roots And Tings; Optimisme from the Malian supergroup Songhoy Blues; the self-titled debut from the Benin girl group Star Feminine Band; and the compilation Your Man of Faith featuring recordings from 1937-1956 by singing evangelist Elder Charles Beck.

Wrapping up this issue is our list of October Black Music Releases of Note.

Bootsy Collins – The Power Of The One

 

Title: The Power Of The One
Artist: Bootsy Collins
Label: eOne/Sweetwater
Format: CD, LP, Digital
Release date: October 23, 2020

 

Rock & Roll Hall of Fame legend Bootsy Collins is back, hitting us with The Power Of The One, his 25th album release. Bootsy has been a huge influencer in the popular music community for generations. As a bass player, he was one of the first to use effect pedals, particularly the MU-Tron III, which provided the envelope filter necessary to create the squealing synth-like sound featured on many of the songs he recorded as a member of Funkadelic. He was also a progenitor of the slide technique which is used in many of today’s different genres of music. Rolling Stone’s current list of the “50 Best Bassists of All Time places Bootsy at #4, stating that he “redefined soul and funk bass playing in the Seventies, and, by proxy, rap and pop in the Eighties and Nineties. . . You can hear his influence in practically every bass player to come since…” 

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Shemekia Copeland – Uncivil War

 

Title: Uncivil War
Artist: Shemekia Copeland
Label: Alligator
Format: CD, Digital
Release date: October 23, 2020

 

Reigning blues queen Shemekia Copeland delves deep into the divided heart and tarnished soul of America on her latest release, Uncivil War. The follow-up to her 2018 album, America’s Child, Copeland again teams up with Nashville guitarist/producer Will Kimbrough, who casts her signature vocal style into a spellbinding Americana brew. Assisting with this effort is an all-star cast featuring singer-guitarist Jason Isbell, rising young Delta blues guitarist Christone “Kingfish” Ingram, lap steel guitarist Jerry Douglas, bluegrass mandolinist Sam Bush, legendary Stax guitarist Steve Cropper (Booker T. & the M.G.’s), roots guitarists Duane “King of Twang” Eddy and Webb Wilder, plus The Orphan Brigade on background vocals.

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Benjamin Boone – The Poets Are Gathering

 

Title: The Poets Are Gathering
Artist: Benjamin Boone
Label: Origin
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date: October 16, 2020

 

Composer-saxophonist Benjamin Boone continues his fascination with poetry and jazz on his latest album, The Poets Are Gathering. The Cal State University Fresno professor, who has released two previous collections devoted to this pairing, notes that jazz and poetry have been inextricably linked since the Harlem Renaissance. Following the tradition of artists such as Langston Hughes and Charles Mingus, who collaborated on the album Weary Blues (1958), Boone’s new project features eleven acclaimed poets—including Black poets Tyehimba Jess, Patrick Sylvain, Patricia Smith, and Donald Brown, II—who narrate their own works. Boone, who performs on soprano and alto sax, leads the various backing ensembles, featuring contributions from guitarist Ben Monder, pianist Kenny Werner, bassist Corcoran Holt, and drummer Ari Hoenig. Recorded over the last three years, the content reflects the political and social turmoil of the present, providing “up-to-the minute, ripped-from-the-headlines” messages.

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Kahil El’Zabar – America the Beautiful

 

Title: America the Beautiful 
Artist: Kahil El’Zabar
Label: Spiritmuse
Formts: CD, LP, Digital
Release date: October 23, 2020

 

Chicago musician and composer Kahil El’Zabar, former chairman of the legendary AACM (Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians) collective, is also known as a pioneer of spiritual jazz. A master multi-percussionist and instrumentalist, El’Zabar founded the Ethnic Heritage Ensemble in 1973, the Ritual Trio a decade later, and other ensembles including JUBA Collective, the Kahil El’Zabar Quartet, and more recently the Ethnics featuring Nona Hendryx. His new release, Kahil El’Zabar’s America the Beautiful, was inspired by music he scored for Daryl Roberts’s award-winning three-part documentary series, America the Beautiful (2007-2014). Joining El’Zabar on these selections are a number of notable Chicago musicians, including cellist Tomeka Reid, trumpeter Corey Wilkes, alto saxophonist Dennis Winslett, and the late baritone saxophonist Hamiet Bluiett, to whom this recording is dedicated.

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Alonzo Demetrius – Live from the Prison Nation

 

Title: Live from the Prison Nation
Artist: Alonzo Demetrius
Label: Onyx Productions
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date: October 16, 2020

 

On his debut album, Live from the Prison Nation, trumpeter Alonzo Demetrius strives for an educational as well as a musical experience. Expressing a sense of urgency, he hopes to inspire listeners into taking action against the Prison Industrial Complex (PIC). A recent graduate of the Berklee Global Jazz Institute Masters Program, Demetrius conceived of this project while taking classes that dealt with the social and political significance of activism for musicians. His website not only delves into the thoughts behind each track, but also offers ‘conversation starters’ that provide discussion questions and workshops to facilitate the development of community action plans. Backing him on this project is his band, The Ego, featuring tenor saxophonist Yesseh Furaha-Ali, pianist Daniel Abraham Jr., bassist Benjamin Jephta, and drummer Brian Richburg Jr.

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Edward Simon – 25 Years

 

Title: 25 Years
Artist: Edward Simon
Label: Ridgeway Records
Formats: CD, Digital  
Release date: October 9, 2020

 

In celebration of a quarter century of inventive and trailblazing music, Venezuelan-born pianist, composer and bandleader Edward Simon has released two-disc career retrospective 25 Years. This project is a collection that celebrates his 50th birthday, featuring tracks from thirteen of Simon’s albums that span from 1995-2018. Featuring collaborations with members of the SFJAZZ Collective and other brilliant musicians such as tenor saxophonist Mark Turner, altoist David Binney, bassists Scott Colley, John Patitucci and Ben Street, drummers Brian Blade and Adam Cruz, and vocalists Luciana Souza, Lucia Polito, Genevieve Artadi, and Gretchen Parlato, this is a self-curated album that uses jazz to reflect the variety of musical styles that Simon has grown comfortable with over his career, from Latin American folk and popular idioms to Afro-Latin rhythms and European classical forms.

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Lafayette Gilchrist – Now

 

Title: Now
Artist: Lafayette Gilchrist
Label: Lafayette Gilchrist Music
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date: October 2, 2020

 

Baltimore-based composer and jazz pianist Lafayette Gilchrist offers a new double album, Now, that’s brimming over with his signature genre-spanning tunes. Though his recordings over the past decade have featured larger ensembles, for this project Gilchrist returns to the more intimate trio format with bassist Herman Burney and drummer Eric Kennedy. Addressing topics that range from the state of race relations and daily struggles faced by many within and beyond the city of Baltimore, to the more romantic aspects of love and life, the music reaches deep into the heart and soul of the community and the nation as a whole.

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Aaron Burnett & the Big Machine – Jupiter Conjunct

 

Title: Jupiter Conjunct
Artist: Aaron Burnett & the Big Machine
Label: Fresh Sound New Talent
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date: November 6, 2020

 

From Aaron Burnett & the Big Machine comes Jupiter Conjunct, a follow up to their 2019 album Anomaly. Drawing on hip-hop and electronica influences, this album pushes the sound of jazz along the trajectory of other current artists like bassist and vocalist Esperanza Spalding, who is a featured guest on this project. Led by Burnett on saxophone, the group consists of trumpeter Adam O’Farrill, keyboardist Carlos Homs, bassist Nick Jozwiak, drummer Kush Abadey, and Joel Ross on vibraphone.

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