Welcome to the June 2020 issue of Black Grooves, sponsored by the Indiana University Archives of African American Music and Culture. Please join us in our celebration of African American Music Appreciation Month, originally established by President Jimmy Carter in 1979, as we pay tribute to the monumental achievements of Black artists across all genres.
This month’s features include the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis in a live recording of Duke Ellington’s masterpiece, Black, Brown & Beige; the original cast recording of A Strange Loop, a musical by Michael R. Jackson that was recently honored with a Pulitzer Prize for Drama; and the Ohio-based funk and soul collective Mourning [A] BLKstar’s new double album, The Cycle, addressing the reality of living in a world that is all too frequently hostile to people of color.
Two reissues are also highlighted: Camille Yarbrough’s 1975 release, The Iron Pot Cooker, based on the West African griot tradition; and Celebrated, 1895 -1896, a compilation of very early, very rare recordings by the Unique Quartette, a pioneering African American vocal group.
This month we’re celebrating the 50th anniversary of the great horn-driven funk band Tower of Power with a review of their 30th album, Step Up.
In the category of string music, we’re featuring African American fiddler Jake Blount’s first solo album, Spider Tales, and the album L.E.S. Douze Volume 2 from Le String Noise, a group featuring fiddler and vocalist Louis Michot of Lost Bayou Ramblers, violinists Pauline Kim and Conrad Harris of String Noise, and cellist and vocalist Leyla McCalla, of the Carolina Chocolate Drops and Our Native Daughters.
Jazz releases include drummer Jonathan Barber’s sophomore album, Legacy Holder; tenor saxophonist Walter Smith III & guitarist Matthew Stevens follow-up project, In Common 2; the Spanish Harlem Orchestra’s Latin Jazz Project; the Ruthie Foster Big Band’s Live at the Paramount; and the Brooklyn-based jazz-world music ensemble AJOYO’s sophomore album War Chant.
Blues releases include Reverend Shawn Amos & The Brotherhood’s Blue Sky, and a celebration of Chicago electric blues with Alex Dixon (son of Willie Dixon) on The Real McCoy.
Those who have read Tim Brooks’ new book, The Blackface Minstrel Show in Mass Media: 20th Century Performances on Radio, Records, Film and Television, will no doubt be interested in this new release from Archeophone Records. The two disc set, At the Minstrel Show, features 51 selections recorded in the studio from 1894-1926 and represents the first compilation to deal authoritatively with the minstrel genre as a whole. While Brooks discussed most of these recordings at length in his book, he also penned an extensive essay and track-by-track liner notes in the 56-page illustrated booklet accompanying At the Minstrel Show. Before delving further into the content, it should be noted that some of the performances on this set contain racially derogatory language. From a scholarly perspective, however, these recordings provide the earliest aural documentation for those studying the genre.
Welcome to the April 2020 issue of Black Grooves, sponsored by the Indiana University Archives of African American Music and Culture. We believe it is more important than ever to support artists during this critical period as livelihoods are jeopardized due to the pandemic. Though our workflow has also been disrupted and we do not have access to some of the new releases we planned to feature, we hope the music included in this issue will lift spirits and provide entertainment while the majority of the country is sheltering at home.
Welcome to the March 2020 issue of Black Grooves, sponsored by the Indiana University Archives of African American Music and Culture. In honor of Women’s History Month, we’re highlighting new releases from female artists across multiple genres and countries.
Virtuosic saxophonist Lakecia Benjamin offers a powerful tribute to Alice and John Coltrane on her newest release Pursuance: The Coltranes; singer/pianist and Prince protégé Kandace Springs honors some of the greatest female vocalists of all time on The Women Who Raised Me; Syleena Johnson offers a timely, soulful ode to womanhood on Woman; jazz vocalist Lulu Fall reflects upon her African heritage on Between Two Worlds; pianist Judith Olson introduces the classical compositions of a noted jazz musician on Urban Counterpoint: The Piano Music of Ed Bland; jazz vocalist La Tanya Hall explores a wide range of musical gems on Say Yes; and Haitian songstress Moonlight Benjamin offers her latest fusion of rock and Afro-Caribbean music on Simido.
Tim Brooks, author of the award winning tome Lost
Sounds: Blacks and the Birth of the Recording Industry, 1890-1919
(2004), draws upon his decades of experience as a media researcher and recorded
sound historian for his latest book, The Blackface Minstrel Show in Mass
Media. Tracing the shift from staged minstrel performances in the 19th
century to the silver screen, airwaves and turntables of the 20th
century, Brooks explores the second fifty-plus years of this “strange American
Welcome to the February 2020 issue of Black Grooves, sponsored by the Indiana University Archives of African American Music and Culture. In honor of Black History Month, we’re featuring projects that explore the Black experience, from Emancipation to the Civil Rights Movement to the present.
Additional classical recordings include London-based Chineke! Orchestra’s Spark Catchers featuring works by six of the UK’s leading Black and minority ethnic composers, and British cello sensation Sheku Kanneh-Mason’s new release, Elgar. Additional jazz recordings include Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis’s tribute to The Music of Wayne Shorter, and John Bailey’s Can You Imagine?, commemorating Dizzy Gillespie’s 1964 campaign for president.
Classical releases include soprano Katherine Jolly’s Preach Sister Preach featuring the works of three young American composers, and the Washington, DC based ensemble The String Queens with their self-titled debut EP. Jazz releases include two tribute albums: saxophonists Vincent Herring, Bobby Watson, Gary Bartz on Bird at 100 celebrating the centennial of Charlie Bird Parker, and trumpeter Kenyatta Beasley’s Frank Foster Songbook celebrating the late saxophonist and composer.
In keeping with the season, we’re starting off with our list of the Best New Holiday Albums, featuring releases from Keb’ Mo’, Ne-Yo, Wynton Marsalis & Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, The McCrary Sisters, Elijah Blake, Jonathan Butler, and Mariah Carey.
Under the category of R&B, soul, rock and funk there’s Rissi Palmer’s uplifting Revival, Calvin Richardson’s smooth R&B vocals on Gold Dust, Living Colour vocalist Cory Glover’s collaboration with Stevie D Torn from the Pages, and the New York funk group Hornē Electric Band’s self-titled debut.
In the spirit of Thanksgiving, Homeless Oakland Heart, released to coincide with World Homeless Day, offers a collection of songs and stories recorded live on the streets of Oakland with all proceeds going to the Coalition for the Homeless. Wrapping up this issue is our comprehensive list of October 2019 Black Music Releases of Note.
This month’s jazz selections include Ramsey Lewis & the Urban Knights seventh album VII, the Chick Corea Trio’s Trilogy 2, and the Louisiana-based Lilli Lewis Project’s multi-genre album We Belong. Gospel releases include John P. Kee’sI Made It Out and a new compilation, Jewell Gospel Trio: Many Little Angels in the Band, featuring a 1950s gospel girl group that included a teenage Candi Staton.
Our featured projects this month are Black Swans, a compilation featuring some of the rarest recordings of African American concert artists from the early 20th century, and My Mind Set Me Free: The House Guests Meet the Complete Strangers featuring early 1970s recordings by Bootsy and Phelps “Catfish” Collins along with other members of the rhythm section that famously backed James Brown (The J.B.’s), George Clinton (Funkadelic), and Bootsy Collins (Bootsy’s Rubber Band).
This month we’re featuring albums that represent the many permutations of rock, from the Black rock power trio Hundred Watt Heart (ft. “Captain” Kirk Douglas of The Roots) on Turbulent Times, to the three volume 20th Anniversary Mixtapes: Groiddest Schizznits from Burnt Sugar The Arkestra Chamber, to the roots of rock and roll on the Bear Family compilation Little Junior Parker Rocks, to the desert rock of Malian artist Oumar Konate on I Love You Inna, to the rocking zydeco of Dwayne Dopsie on Bon Ton. Also included in this line-up are a slew of debut albums from up and coming bands: Made In Pieces from the UK’s six piece collective Pieces of a Man; self-titled releases from Austin’s Black Pumas and New York rock and soul group John The Martyr; the solo side project Nothing to Say from Alan Evans (Soulive); Believe from self-proclaimed punk empress Cole Williams; Samsara from the Austin band Los Coast; and Cousin From Another Planet from Aaron Whitby featuring Martha Redbone, Lisa Fischer and Tamar Kali.
Welcome to the June 2019 issue of Black Grooves, sponsored by the Indiana University Archives of African American Music and Culture. This month we’re celebrating the 40th anniversary of African American Music Appreciation Month, originally designated Black Music Month by President Jimmy Carter in 1979. In our efforts to preserve and promote the legacy of Black music, we’re featuring new releases across multiple genres by artists both new and iconic.
In 1969, the iconic Stax Records’ intense undertaking to rebuild its brand as an independent label culminated in the release of 27 albums and 30 singles in just a handful of months. This period in the Memphis label’s history is known as the “Soul Explosion.” During Black Music Month, Craft Records will be commemorating the 50th anniversary of this achievement with a “Made in Memphis” reissue campaign, including the original Soul Explosion compilation album, back on vinyl for the first time since 1969. The two-disc set features a number of rare bonus tracks from the Bar-Kays, Eddie Floyd, and the lesser known Ollie & The Nightingales.Continue reading →
New R&B/soul music releases include albums from both veterans and rising stars: the O’Jays’ first studio album in 15 years, The Last Word; Durand Jones & The Indications sophomore album American Love Call; Memphis band Southern Avenue’s sophomore album Keep On; British singer/songwriter/cellist Ayanna Witter-Johnson’s classical-infused Road Runner; and Canadian soul star Tanika Charles’ The Gumption.
Rolling Stones’ back-up singer Bernard Fowler presents Inside Out, featuring covers of classic and lesser known Stone’s songs in a spoken word style, and the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra offers the tribute album Songs: The Music of Allen Toussaint.