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
Following are additional albums released during May 2019—some will be reviewed in future issues of Black Grooves. Continue reading
Welcome to the May 2019 issue of Black Grooves, sponsored by the Indiana University Archives of African American Music and Culture. Our featured title this month is Rhiannon Giddens’ third solo album, there is no Other, which speaks to the practice of “othering people” for economic and political gain.
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.
Gospel music releases include Earl Bynum’s This Song’s For You, The Tommies Reunion (aka Thompson Community Singers) self-titled album, and Live on the East Coast from Florida sacred steel group The Lee Boys.
Wrapping up this issue is our list of April 2019 Black Music Releases of Note.
Following are additional albums released during April 2019—some will be reviewed in future issues of Black Grooves. Continue reading
Welcome to the April 2019 issue of Black Grooves, sponsored by the Indiana University Archives of African American Music and Culture. Our featured title this month is Marvin Gaye’s previously unreleased Tamla/Motown album, You’re the Man. This new expanded edition coincides with the 60th anniversary of the Motown label and Marvin Gaye’s 80th birthday.
In celebration of Jazz Appreciation Month and International Guitar Month we’re featuring a wide variety of new releases: Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah’s Ancestral Recall, Branford Marsalis Quartet’s Secret Between the Shadow & the Soul, Kendrick Scott Oracle’s A Wall Becomes a Bridge, Brent Birckhead’s debut album Birckhead, the Eric Dolphy 3-disc compilation Musical Prophet, the compilation On the Corner Live! that reimagines of the music of Miles Davis, Anu “The Giant” Sun’s multi-genre solo debut Sanguine Regum, emerging jazz vocalist Quiana Lynell’s debut A Little Love, the compilation A Day in the Life: Impressions of Pepper that reimagines the Beatles’ most famous album, the urban jazz release Bob Baldwin Presents Abbey Road and the Beatles, rising Cuban star Eme Alfonso’s Afro-Cuban jazz fusion album Voy, noted 7-string guitarist Ron Jackson’s Standards and Other Songs, an expanded edition of The Lightmen Plus One’s 1972 masterpiece Energy Control Center, and Basin Street Records’ 20th anniversary celebration Live at Little Gem Saloon.
Also featured this month is Mississippi blues guitarist Leo “Bud” Welch’s posthumous release The Angels in Heaven Done Signed My Name, and previously unissued live tracks from blues singer and slide guitarist Johnny Shines on The Blues Came Falling Down – Live 1973.
Wrapping up this issue is our list of March 2019 Black Music Releases of Note.
Following are additional albums released during March 2019—some will be reviewed in future issues of Black Grooves. Continue reading
Welcome to the March 2019 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.
Two notable debut projects include mezzo-soprano Marietta Simpson’s first solo release, Crooked Stick: Songs in a Strange Land, featuring acoustic arrangements of Negro spirituals, and Songs of Our Native Daughters from folk music supergroup Our Native Daughters.
Jazz releases this month include Catherine Russell’s Alone Together; the late Betty Carter’s The Music Never Stops featuring a previously unreleased live recording; UK saxophonist Camilla George’s The People Could Fly; Alicia Olatuja’s Songs from the Minds of Women; Vanessa Rubin’s exploration of the Tadd Dameron songbook on The Dream Is You; Ulysses Owens Jr.’s Songs of Freedom celebrating Nina Simone, Abbey Lincoln, and Joni Mitchell; the 12-piece UK collective Nubiyan Twist’s Jungle Run; and Jeanne Lee & Ran Blake’s The Newest Sound You Never Heard featuring previously unreleased recordings from the 1960s.
Also featured is Damien Sneed’s We Shall Overcome—a multi-genre celebration of the 35th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day; rising gospel star Casey J’s The Gathering; funk and soul diva Chaka Khan’s Hello Happiness; South African rapper Yugen Blakrok’s Anima Mysterium; Afro-Swedish singer Beldina’s Black & Blond; and reggae musician Rocky Dawuni’s Beats of Zion. Wrapping up this issue is our list of February 2019 Black Music Releases of Note.
Following are additional albums released during February 2019—some will be reviewed in future issues of Black Grooves. Continue reading
Welcome to the February 2019 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 different perspectives of Black life through music.
Jazz-oriented releases include Wadada Leo Smith’s Rosa Parks: Pure Love, an oratorio commemorating the civil rights icon; Mark Lomax’s 400: An Afrikan Epic is a suite marking the 400th anniversary of the beginning of the transatlantic slave trade; Marcus Strickland Twi-Life’s People of the Sun sonically traces the African Diaspora from the past to present; Vivian Sessoms’s Life is the first of a two-part project about the Black experience in America; Etienne Charles’ Carnival: The Sound of a People Vol. 1 celebrates the music of his native Trinidad; and Chicago bassist Pennal “PJ” Johnson combines genres on Pickup Groove.
Classical releases include two albums from Chicago’s Cedille Records: Rachel Barton Pine’s Blues Dialogues explores 12 works by Black composers that incorporate blues idioms; and Sisters in Song is the first collaboration between world-renowned American sopranos Alyson Cambridge and Nicole Cabell.
Gospel releases include the highly anticipated box set/hardcover book Gospel According to Malaco: Celebrating 75 Years of Gospel Music, Joshua’s Troop’s new album Another Chance, and Black from Christian rapper Mr. Del. Other rap releases include Chicago poet Mykele Deville’s Maintain, and Ice Cube’s Everythangs Corrupt.
Also included is the debut album Don’t Tread On We! from the black punk rock band The 1865; The Bookends from blues-rock guitar virtuoso Eric Gales; Siltane from Haitian/Creole artist Moonlight Benjamin; and Malian singer Salif Keita’s Un Autre Blanc that elevates awareness of the persecution of Africans with albinism.
Wrapping up this issue is our list of January 2019 Black Music Releases of Note.
Following are additional albums released during January 2019—some will be reviewed in future issues of Black Grooves. Continue reading
Welcome to the January 2019 issue of Black Grooves, sponsored by the Indiana University Archives of African American Music and Culture.
For our annual “winter blues” observance we’re highlighting five recent blues-based releases: Eric Bibb’s Global Griot featuring Malian musician Habib Koité and Senegalese kora master Solo Cissokho; Snooky Pryor’s All My Money Gone featuring previously unreleased studio and live recordings; The Prophet of Funky Texas Blues, aka Willie J. Laws Jr.’s Black Maria; Kenny “Blues Boss” Wayne’s Inspired by the Blues; an expanded reissue of Henry Townsend’s Mule; and Roscoe Robinson’s 90th birthday tribute Turn Right and Go Straight which combines blues, soul and gospel.
Also featured this month is Harbinger Records’ Sissle & Blake’s Shuffle Along of 1950 that draws from rare, one-of-a-kind acetate discs. And, since black-eyed peas are a New Year’s Day tradition, it seems fitting to include the Black Eyes Peas’ new album Masters of the Sun Vol 1.
Other new releases include Anderson .Paak’s Oxnard that channels ‘90s West Coast funk; the Detroit-based octet Will Sessions collab with soul singer Amp Fiddler on The One; Detroit techno pioneer Robert Hood’s first release in !K7’s highly acclaimed DJ-Kicks series; and rising country artist Kane Brown’s sophomore album Experiment. Wrapping up this issue is a review of the timely book from Indiana University Press, Black Lives Matter and Music: Protest, Intervention, Reflection, and our list of December Black Music Releases of Note.
Following are additional albums released during December 2018—some will be reviewed in future issues of Black Grooves. Continue reading
Welcome to the December 2018 Holiday Edition of Black Grooves, sponsored by the Indiana University Archives of African American Music and Culture.
In keeping with the season, we’re starting off with our list of the Best New Holiday Albums, featuring releases from PJ Morton, Cece Winans, John Legend, Aloe Blacc, After 7, and Motown Gospel artists.
Special editions and box sets include Stax ’68: A Memphis Story (5 CDs), The Jimi Hendrix Experience’ Electric Ladyland 50th Anniversary Deluxe Reissue (2 CDs + Bluray), John Tefteller’s 2019 Classic Blues Artwork from the 1920’s, vol. 16 (calendar + CD), Voices of Mississippi: Artists and Musicians Documented by William Ferris (3 CDs + DVD) and companion DVD The Early Films. Other sets reviewed in brief include The Chic Organization 1977-1979 (5 CDs), The Staple Singers’ For What It’s Worth, Complete Epic Recordings 1964-1968 (3 CDs), Art Ensemble of Chicago/Associated Ensembles (21 CDs), Complete Cuban Jam Sessions (5 CDs), and Al Green’s The Hi Records Singles Collection (3 CDs).
For the vinyl lover on your list, there’s Eccentric Soul: The Saru Label (2 LPs), gospel singer Theotis Taylor’s long lost debut album Something Within Me, the first ever reissue of It’s Nation Time – African Visionary Music on Motown’s Black Forum imprint, plus Maxwell’s Embrya 20th Anniversary Edition, and Jermaine Dupree Presents So So Def 25. Other new releases include The Garner Poems from Ohio group Mourning [A] Blkstar, Broken Politics from the eclectic Neneh Cherry, and two jazz albums— Flight by James Francies, and Lebroba from the trio Andrew Cyrille/Wadada Leo Smith/Bill Frisell.
If you’re looking for books to gift, we’re featuring three volumes of photography—Bruce W. Talamon’s Soul R&B Funk Photographs 1972-1982, Vikki Tobak’s Contact High: A Visual History of Hip-Hop, and Meredith Ochs’ Aretha: The Queen of Soul―A Life in Photographs. Or, if you prefer an inspirational autobiography, Tina Turner’s My Love Story.
Wrapping up this issue is our list of November 2018 Black Music Releases of Note.
Title: Voices of Mississippi: Artists and Musicians Documented by William Ferris
Format: Box set (book, 3 CDs, DVD)
Release date: June 1, 2018
Title: The Early Films of William Ferris, 1968-1975
Release date: November 2, 2018
Voices of Mississippi: Artists and Musicians Documented by William Ferris is an important addition to the documentation of Southern folklife, culture, and history. The box set includes a CD of blues field recordings, another CD of gospel field recordings, a disc of interviews and oral histories, a DVD with seven short documentary films (1972-1980), and a 120-page hardcover book edited by Ferris that includes transcriptions and annotations for all of the film and album recordings. A recently released companion DVD, The Early Films of William Ferris, 1968-1975, features rare footage of B.B. King and James “Son” Thomas. Both were produced by Dust-to-Digital in collaboration with the University of North Carolina, which holds the William R. Ferris Collection. Continue reading
Following are additional albums released during November 2018—some will be reviewed in future issues of Black Grooves. Continue reading
Welcome to the November 2018 issue of Black Grooves, sponsored by the Indiana University Archives of African American Music and Culture.
This month we’re featuring three new jazz releases including trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire’s Origami Harvest, drummer Makaya McCraven’s Universal Beings, and the eponymous debut album from Christian McBride’s New Jawn.
In honor of Bill Withers’ 80th birthday, two artists have released tributes to the legendary singer-songwriter: José James’ Lean On Me and Anthony David’s Hello Like Before: The Songs of Bill Withers. The late soul singer Charles Bradley is remembered on the posthumous release Black Velvet, while the late Ohio funk musician Roger Troutman is honored on Zapp VII Roger & Friends.
Broadway star Capathia Jenkins and composer Louis Rosen offer their new project Phenomenal Woman: The Maya Angelou Songs, while baritone Thomas Hampson’s Songs From Chicago features works by composers Florence Price, Margaret Bonds, and John Alden Carpenter—all based on poems by Langston Hughes. Gospel music releases include Brent Jones’ Open Your Mouth and Say Something and the Soweto Gospel Choir’s Freedom.
Alternative rock and blues projects include Blood Orange’s Negro Swan, Black Joe Lewis’ The Difference Between Me and You, and Cedric Burnside’s Benton County Relic. Rap albums include Masta Ace & Marco Polo’s A Breukelen Story, and the self-titled release from Ill Doots that blends funk, jazz and hip hop. Wrapping up this issue is the Burkina Faso group Baba Commandant & the Mandingo Band’s Siri Ba Kele and our list of October Black Music Releases of Note.
Following are additional albums released during October 2018—some will be reviewed in future issues of Black Grooves.
Jazz releases include mezzo soprano Alicia Hall Moran’s genre blending classical/jazz project Here Today, Judith Lorick’s Second Time Around with the Eric Reed Trio, drummer Tosin Aribisala’s Áfríkà Rising, and two Grant Green compilations from Resonance Records—Slick! Live at Oil Can Harry’s and Funk in France: From Paris to Antibes 1969-1970.
For this month’s gospel music selections were looking in our own backyard with releases from two Indianapolis-based artists—Judah Band’s sophomore album Gone Fishin’ and Tyscot Records’ own Bishop Leonard Scott’s praise and worship album Jesus Love Legacy. R&B/soul releases include Unstoppable by Candi Staton and Free Me from Burundian soul singer J.P. Bimeni & The Black Belts.
Albums with a Caribbean tie include legendary reggae group Black Uhuru’s new release As the World Turns, the collaboration of reggae musician Winston McAnuff and French accordionist Fixi on Big Brothers, French-Guadeloupian trio Delgres’ debut album Mo Jodi, Snarky Puppy spin-off group Bokanté with the Metropole Orkest on What Heat (featuring Guadeloupian vocalist Malika Tirolien), plus Bokanté member and lap/pedal steel guitarist Roosevelt Collier’s ‘dirty funk’ solo debut Exit 16.
Wrapping up this issue is the Screamin’ Jay Hawkins compilation, Are YOU one of Jay’s Kids? – The Complete Bizzare Sessions 1990-1994, and our list of September 2018 Black Music Releases of Note.
Following are additional albums released during September 2018—some will be reviewed in future issues of Black Grooves.
This month we’re featuring Product of Our Souls: The Sound and Sway of James Reese Europe’s Society Orchestra—the earliest mainstream recordings of an African American dance band—in an authoritative package from Archeophone Records. In honor of Gospel Music Heritage Month, there are two new compilations from the Gospel Friend label: the two-CD Soul Don’t Worry! Black Gospel During the Civil Rights Era 1953-1967, and the tribute to Ohio gospel artist and composer Prof. Harold Boggs, Lord Give Me Strength.
New jazz releases include Cécile McLorin Salvant’s forthcoming album The Window, the Snarky Puppy affiliated group Ghost-Note’s Swagism, American steel pan player Jonathan Scales’ Pillar with his group Fourchestra, jazz flutist/composer Nicole Mitchell’s Maroon Cloud, the vocal group Take 6’s Iconic, Marcus Miller’s Laid Black (with a guest appearance by Take 6), and Diana Purim & Eyedentity’s exploration of Brazilian jazz/trip hop, Many Bodies, One Mind.
Rock-oriented releases include Corey Glover’s new supergroup Ultraphonix’s debut Original Human Music, punk legend Jean Beauvoir’s Rock Masterpieces Vol. 1, and Sean Ardoin’s Kreole Rock and Soul. Portland, Oregon’s Ural Thomas & The Pain confirm it is The Right Time for old-school R&B, “Queen of the Blues” Shemekia Copeland offers America’s Child, boogie woogie pianist Errol Dixon releases the 1973 live recording Midnight Train, and Delmark Records marks the label’s 65th anniversary with Tribute.
Wrapping up this issue is the late Australian indigenous musician Gurrumul’s final release and orchestral collaboration Djarimirri: Child of the Rainbow, Ugandan flutist Samite’s music of Resilience, and our list of August 2018 Black Music Releases of Note.
Following are additional albums released during August 2018—some will be reviewed in future issues of Black Grooves.
This month we’re featuring the release of 4 Banjo Songs, 1891-1897 by Charles A. Ashbury, likely the earliest extant banjo recordings by an African American artist. We’re also reviewing Music for Film by composer Terence Blanchard, known for his collaborations with director Spike Lee including the forthcoming film BlacKkKlansman.
New releases include projects from two Gulf Coast soul/funk bands—Say Yeah!! Live at the Blue Nile from the New Orleans-based Waterseed and Everything Here by Houston’s The Suffers—plus the self-titled debut from the American-Ugandan rap duo Nsimbi, the R&B/House music fusion of Oregon’s Chanti Darling on RNB Vol. 1, and Chicago harmonica player Russ Green’s debut album City Soul.
Other reissue projects include Winston Jarrett and The Righteous Flames’ reggae classic Jonestown, legendary pianist Erroll Garner’s Nightconcert and the compilation of 20th Century Singles (1973- 1979) by Barry White’s Love Unlimited Orchestra.
Wrapping up this issue is our list of July 2018 Black Music Releases of Note.
Artist: Love Unlimited Orchestra
Label: Mercury/20th Century
Formats: CD, LP
Release Date: June 15, 2018
There’s something about luscious string instruments that bring out the best that music has to offer. Know thy history. When the Drifters shifted from Clyde McPhatter to Ben E. King, they ushered in a new sound with string instruments. The Sound of Philadelphia was also string heavy with the help of the Salsoul Orchestra. When Barry White made his debut, some thought, “Who is this Isaac Hayes sound alike?” Ah, not so fast to judge. Radio jocks used to refer to White as ‘the maestro.’ What’s a maestro? A master in art. A composer, conductor or music teacher.
Barry White was indeed all that and beyond. After he unveiled his female trio, Love Unlimited, he was the brains behind a forty piece orchestra called, what else, the Love Unlimited Orchestra. Besides backing up White and his trio, other famous artists got their breaks from LUO including Kenny G, Lee Ritenour, Wah Wah Watson, and Ray Parker Jr.
Now, 20th Century Records has just released a two disc “best of” compilation from LUO, spanning the years 1973 to 1979.
Disc one opens up with “Love’s Theme.” Why not! It was their biggest hit and put them on the map. Barry White’s fingers are all over just about every single. “Rhapsody in White” starts off like “Love’s Theme” but then fools you—it’s way more upbeat. “Barry’s Theme,” named after guess who, is LUO paying homage to the maestro. White appears vocally on “Baby Blues,” giving us that often imitated delivery.
Disc two gets into disco. “Brazilian Love Song” makes one want to do the hustle. Speaking of Isaac Hayes, LUO also covers the “Theme from Shaft,” but their version is a little more up tempo, and Barry White has no cameo like Hayes on the original.
Love Unlimited Orchestra’s 20th Century Singles (1973 -1979) is for the lover. It’s close your eyes and relax music. However you choose to listen, it’s great to see LUO’s work get more attention.
Reviewed by Eddie Bowman
Welcome to the July 2018 Summer Rocks issue of Black Grooves. This month we’re looking at the many permutations of Black rock, from the psychedelic riffs on Dug Pinnick’s Tribute To Jimi (Often Imitated But Never Duplicated); to the socially conscious songs of Fantastic Negrito on Please Don’t Be Dead and Bettye Lavette’s Bob Dylan tribute Things Have Changed; to the British blues rock collaboration on Buddy Guy’s The Blues Is Alive and Well; to the multi-faceted fusions of the Stanley Clarke Band’s The Message, Shuggie Otis’s Inter-Fusion, and Serpentwithfeet’s Soil; to the folk rock of AHI’s In Our Time and the countrified soul of Priscilla Renea’s Coloured; to the black metal of Zeal and Ardor’s Stranger Fruit; and last but not least, the foundational rock and roll on The Ballads of Fats Domino.
Seminal jazz releases this month include Kamasi Washington’s two-disc Heaven and Earth and Dr. Michael White’s Tricentennial Rag honoring New Orlean’s 300th birthday. Yet another tribute album is Lurrie Bell & the Bell Dynasty’s Tribute to Carey Bell, featuring the four accomplished sons of the legendary Chicago blues harpist.
Also featured is gospel singer Javen’s latest album, Grace; the collaboration connecting Sengalese kora master Diali Cissokho and North Carolina band Kaira Ba on Routes; Lamont Dozier’s Reimagination of tracks previously written for other artists; and the Little Freddie King compilation Fried Rice & Chicken featuring his best tracks from the Orlean’s label. Wrapping up this issue is our list of June 2018 Releases of Note in all genres.
Title: Heaven and Earth
Artist: Kamasi Washington
Label: Young Turks
Release Date: June 22, 2018
Formats: CD, LP, Digital
While technically his third release as a leader, Kamasi Washington’s newest record, Heaven and Earth, is the second in an extra-long play format. The double album, like 2015’s The Epic, stretches well over 2 ½ hours across two CDs (the LP version is 4 discs with an additional hidden inside the centerfold, giving listeners a compelling version to purchase this one on vinyl). While Washington certainly has much to say, this album doesn’t feel long-winded. His excellent band keeps things interesting for the entire 2 hours and 24 minutes of Heaven and Earth’s sonic exploration.
Washington is a marvelous player, but his talents of composition and orchestration are what lie at the heart of this album—the music is orchestral, improvisational, and undeniably hip all at once. It’s no wonder that he and the crew of musicians he regularly works with, including his crack rhythm section of the Bruner brothers (bassist Stephen AKA “Thundercat” and drummer Ronald Jr.), are first-call musicians for sessions and production work.
It is possible to say that Washington has grown as a composer while also acknowledging that his previous full-length was released by a fully-formed artist. While The Epic spanned much musical territory, Heaven and Earth demonstrates skillful use of musical contrast within tracks as well as on a tune-to-tune basis. Washington’s music works on many levels—for instance, the album’s foreshadowing opener, “Fists of Fury,” is about righteous indignation. The track’s vintage orchestral sound would easily be at home in the title sequence of a neo-western or kung fu movie, but also features a blazing doubletime piano solo incorporating very hip jazz harmonic and rhythmic vocabulary.
“The Invincible Youth” begins with a roiling Ornette Coleman-esque introduction and then evolves into a synth-jazz odyssey, while “Testify” is a poetic slow jam that would not be out of place on a ‘70s Stevie Wonder album. “Street Fighter Mas” is a funky tune on which Washington really stretches out on his sax; “Journey,” on the other hand, is a sparsely arranged jazz hymn. “The Space Traveler’s Lullaby” perhaps best captures Washington’s maximalism—it’s a fully fleshed-out orchestral work that stretches to 10 minutes in a swirling collection of textures, colors, and harmonies that might make orchestral and cinematic composers jealous.
Even though Heaven and Earth pushes 3 hours, it’s not dull for a single second. The album’s gargantuan musical scope allows it to earn its title, as Washington takes his listeners through its many twists and turns with an unparalleled sense of taste. Certainly worth the celestial journey, this epic album that features a great deal of greatly complex music. Like a good book, Heaven and Earth can’t be digested in one sitting, but it is good enough to explore again and again.
Reviewed by Matthew Alley
Following are additional albums released during June 2018—some will be reviewed in future issues of Black Grooves.
Blues, Folk, Country
Angelique Francis: Kissed by the Blues (digital)
Charles Lloyd & The Marvels & Lucinda Williams: Vanished Gardens (Capitol/Blue Note)
John Brim: Detroit to Chicago – Tough Blues of John Brim 1950-1956 (Jasmine)
Lonnie Johnson: Blues Stay Away From Me: Selected Singles 1947-1953 (Jasmine)
Various: Voices of Mississippi: Artists and Musicians Documented by William Ferris (Dust to Digital)
Various: Tribute – Celebration of Delmark’s 65th Anniversary (Delmark)
Various: Rough Guide to Hokum Blues (World Music Network)
Audra McDonald/NewYork Philharmonic: Sing Happy (Decca Gold)
Gurrumul: Djarimirri (Child of the Rainbow) (Skinnyfish Music)
Kukuruz Quartet: Julius Eastman Piano Interpretations (Intakt)
Comedy, Spoken Word
Michael Brooks: Watch This (Wasted Robot)
Funk, Rock, Pop, Electronic
Ashtani: Space, Fire, and Someone (Collective Clearing Frequencies)
Benin City: Last Night (Moshi Moshi)
Big Freedia: 3rd Ward Bounce EP (Asylum)
DJ Spooky: Presents Phantom Dancehall (VP)
Emilie Nana: The Reign of Obsolete Technology EP (BBE)
Magic Drum Orchestra: DNA of Rhythm (Tru Thoughts)
Yuno: Moodie (Sub Pop)
Cortney Richardson: DO It Again (digital)
Cory Ard: The Blackout (digital)
Edwin Hawkins Singers: The Buddah Collection (Retroworld)
Fred Hammond: Best of (RCA Inspiration)
God’s Chosen: S/T (digital) (Dream)
Jasmine Murray: Fearless (Fair Trade)
Lecrae & Zaytoven: Let the Trap Say Amen (digital) (Reach)
Lexi: Just Listen (Motown Gospel)
Na-Tree-Sha: One Step Closer (digital) (WePush Worldwide)
Steven Malcolm: Second City Part 2 EP (Word Ent)
Theotis Taylor: Something Within Me (Big Legal Mess)
Wardlaw Brothers: Stand There (New Day Ent.)
Abra Cadabra: Feature Boy EP (No Problem)
Dumi RIGHT: Doing It the Right Way (pH Music)
Jupiter & Okwess: Kin Sonic (Everloving)
Mike Nyoni & Born Free: My Own Thing (Now Again)
Nsimbi: S/T (Imara)
Pierre Sandwidi: Le Troubadour De La Savane, 1978/1982 (Born Bad)
Professor Rhythm: Professor 3 (Awesome Tapes From Africa)
Samba Toure: Wande (Glitterbeat)
Various: Listen All Around – Golden Age of Central and East African Music (Dust to Digital)
Various: Disques Debs International An Island Story – Biguine, Afro Latin & Musique Antillaise 1960-1972 (Strut)
Adam & Kizzie: Book Of Eedo Vol. 3: Threedo (Ropeadope)
Binker & Moses: Alive in the East (Gearbox)
Black Art Jazz Collective: Armor of Pride (Highnote)
Buster Williams: Audacity (Smoke Sessions)
Byron Miller: Gift Psychobass2 (Byron Miller Studio)
Cyrille Aimée: Live (Mack Ave.)
Dayramir Gonzalez: Grand Concourse (Machat)
Eddie Daniels: Heart of Brazil (Resonance)
Emanative: Earth (Jazzman)
Geoffrey Keezer ft. Gillian Margot: On My Way To You (DL Media)
Gregory Generet & Richard Johnson: Two of a Kind (Afar Music)
Hungry March Band: Running Through with the Sadness (Imaginator)
Javier Santiago: Phoenix (Ropeadope)
JD Allen: Love Stone (Savant)
John Coltrane: Both Directions at Once: The Lost Album (Impulse!)
Justin Brown: Nyeusi (digital) (Biophilia)
Kobie Watkins Grouptet: Movement (Origin)
Kris Brownlee: Breathe Night Sessions (Megawave)
Marcus Miller: Laid Black (Blue Note)
Mark Kavuma: Kavuna (Ubuntu Music)
Matthew Lux’s Communication Arts Quartet: Contra/Fact (Astral Spirits)
PJ Morgan: Transparency Project (1DMV Music Group)
R+R=NOW: Collagically Speaking (Blue Note)
Robert E. Person: Classic Covers (digital)
Shamie Royston: Beautiful Liar (Sunnyside)
Sullivan Fortner: Moments Preserved (Impulse!)
Tiffany Austin: Unbroken (Con Alma Music)
Tosin Aribisala: Afrika Rising (Ropeadope)
Water Seed: Say Yeah!! Live at the Blue Nile (Water Seed Music)
Cuban Beats All Stars: Levantate (Timba)
Dos Santos: Logos (International Anthem)
Harold Lopez-Nussa: Un Día Cualquiera (Mack Ave.)
Ali Shaheed Muhammad & Adrian Younge: The Midnight Hour (Linear Labs)
Danie Ocean Band: Love Won’t Let Me Fail (Winding Way)
Dee Brown: Remembering You (Innervision)
Jorja Smith: Lost & Found (FAMM)
Kadhja Bonet: Childqueen (Fat Possum)
Kenny Latimore: Never Too Busy: The Anthology (Soulmusic)
Kirkland Project: We Shall Overcome (digital)
Love Unlimited: Singles 1972-75 (Mercury)
Love Unlimited Orchestra: 20th Century Records Singles 1973-79 (Mercury)
Neyo: Good Man (Motown)
Pat Powell: About Time (digital) (Bamboozle Music)
The Beginning of the End: Funky Nassau: Definitive Collection (Strut)
Tower of Power: Soul Side of Town (Artistry Music)
Vicktor Taiwò: Joy Comes in Spirit (Innovative Leisure)
Rap, Hip Hop
Canibus: Full Spectrum Dominance (ThatsHipHop)
03 Greedo: God Level (Alamo)
Allan Kingdom: Peanut Butter Prince (digital) (First Gen.)
Cool-Aid: BRWN (Akashik )
Black Thought: Streams of Thought, Vol. 1 (digital) (Human Re Sources)
Bump J: I Don’t Feel Rehabilitated (Goon Squad Ent.)
Chief Keef: Ottopsy EP (digital) (RBC)
Dizzy Wright: Don’t Tell Me It Can’t Be Done (digital EP)
DJ Harrison: Stashboxxx (Ropeadope)
Drake: Scorpion (digital) (Republic)
E-40: Gift of Gab (digital)
Eligh: Last House on the Block (Empire)
Freddie Gibbs: Freddie (digital) (Empire)
Freeway: Think Free (digital) (Roc Nation)
Gorillaz: The Now Now (Parlophone)
Gunplay: Active (digital)(Empire)
IAMDDB: Flight Mode Vol. 4 (digital) (Union IV)
Stalin: Tears of Joy 2 (Livewire)
Jacquees: 4275 (digital) (Cash Money)
Jay Rock: Redemption (Top Dawg/Interscope)
Jedi Mind Tricks: The Bridge & the Abyss (Enemy Soil)
Kanye West: Ye (digital) (Def Jam)
Kanye West & Kid Cudi: Kids See Ghosts (digital) (Def Jam)
Lil Scrappy: Confident (X-Ray)
Locksmith & Apollo Brown: No Question (Mello Music Group)
Michael Christmas: Role Model (Fool’s Gold)
Migos & DJ Smoke: Migology (Wagram)
Mo Cash: Closest Man 2 God (digital)
Nas: Nasir (digital)
nobigdyl: Solar (Capital Christian)
Phresher: PH (digital) (Empire)
Ras Kass: Van Gogh (digital)
Rico Nasty: Nasty (digital)(Atlantic)
Slum Village: Lost Scrolls 2 (Ne’Astra Music Group)
The Carters: Everything Is Love (digital) (Tidal)
Trae That Truth: 48 Hours Later (ABN)
Various: Superfly (Soundtrack) (Epic)
Various: Uncle Drew (Soundtrack) (RCA)
Various: Boombox 3: Early Independent Hip Hop, Electro & Disco Rap (Soul jazz)
Various: Don’t Get Caught (Soundtrack)(Shot)
Various: Jermaine Dupri Presents So So Def 25 (Sony)
Waka Flocka Flame: Salute Me Or Shoot Me 4 (Bricksquad)
Youngboy Never Broke Again: Until Death Call My Name: Reloaded (digital)
Alborosie: Unbreakable: Alborosie Meets The Wailers United (VP)
Culture: Remembering Joseph Hill (VPAL Music)
Jah9: Field Trip (digital) (VP)
Rebelution: Free Rein (Easy Star)
Welcome to the June 2018 issue of Black Grooves, sponsored by the Indiana University Archives of African American Music and Culture.
What better way to open our African American Music Appreciate Month edition than new releases from two legendary groups. On their first album in 20 years, The Last Poets’ continue their tradition of setting politically charged poetry to music on Understand What Black Is. For funk fans, Medicaid Fraud Dogg is the first new release in 38 years from George Clinton’s Parliament, reinvigorated through a line-up of young musicians.
Featured jazz releases include the programmatic suite Pictures at an African Exhibition from Darryl Yokley ‘s Sound Reformation, and the self-titled debut album from the UK genre-blending group Orcastratum.
Sacred and classical offerings include Keith “Wonderboy” Johnson’s 13th album Keep Pushin’, young South Carolina native Kelontae Gavin’s debut album The Higher Experience, the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir’s live recording I Am Reminded, the choral group Gloriae Dei Cantores’ recording of God’s Trombones based on the poems of James Weldon Johnson, and the debut album Inspiration from Royal Wedding cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason.
Other featured releases include Ayibobo from Haitian musician Paul Beaubrun, the EP One Time from the swing-inspired electronic music duo Ginkgoa, Book of Ryan from rapper Royce da 5’9”, Love in Wartime from Americana duo Birds of Chicago, Wishes & Wants from soul singer Shirley Davis & The Silverbacks, and the latest Ben Harper & Charlie Musselwhite collab, No Mercy In This Land.
Wrapping up this issue is our list of May 2018 Releases of Note.
Title: Understand What Black Is
Artist: The Last Poets
Formats: CD, Digital
Release Date: May 19, 2018
Before Sugar Hill Gang released “Rappers Delight” in 1979, marking the first hip hop record in history, there was The Last Poets. The Harlem-based group performed politically charged poetry over a musical backing of bebop, funk, and demonstrative solo percussion. Along with other famous poets such as Gil Scott-Heron, The Last Poets laid the “ground work” of the hip hop genre. They branded their art as “Jazzoerty,” a combination of music and spoken word that worked together simultaneously.
The Last Poets were and are a highly politically engaged group. “The Original Last Poets” were formed May 19, 1968 in Harlem’s Marcus Garvey Park. They chose May 19th as a way to commemorate the assassination of Malcolm X, three years prior. Because their personal ideology was more in line with Malcolm X’s approach to civil rights, May 19 would became both their founding date and a political statement that continues to drive their music and spoken word art.
Understand What Black Is marks the 50th anniversary of The Last Poets and is the first project they have released in 20 years. The reggae driven album, courtesy of Brit producers Nostalgia 77 and Prince Fatty and percussionist Baba Donn Babatunde, is fused with messages that pertain to the state of black people in America, both in the past and as it relates to the present. Group members Abiodun Oyewole and Umar Bin Hassan celebrate blackness while also providing political, philosophical, and religious perspectives on issues with being black in America and within the diaspora. “Understand What Black is….the breath you breathe….the sweat from your brow…Black is love…Black is humanity…the source from which all things come.” These are words from the title track, setting the tone for what is to come.
“Rain of Terror” is one of the most politically charged poems on the album, where Abiodun Oyewole accuses America of being a terrorist—“being mean and nasty to those who treated him kind.” He goes on to talk about the violent nature of America and its treatment of black people and the outside world. “Though shall not kill…that’s not a part of the American dream, because to kill is a thrill they love to show on the TV screen.” This line in the poem harkens to the ways in which black people have been abused on live television during the evening news almost as if it were a normal and acceptable mode of television performance. It is not unlike America to use the death of black bodies as entertainment. This was a form of entertainment in communities in the rural South during the early 1900’s, where white Americans would bring their families to picnic like settings to watch the hanging and public shaming of Negro bodies. Oyewole’s critique on America is that at its root, the country is violent. During a time when fingers are often being pointed toward Islamic countries as being politically, economically and socially corrupt, The Last Poets beg the question, “Is America not guilty of being these things for the last 400 years until the present day?”
“How many Bullets” is a poem that speaks to the ways in which black people have endured despite the violence they have encountered in America and within the diaspora. “Took my drum, broke my hands, yanked my roots up right out of the land and rattled my soul with Jesus.” This track represents the resilience of black people in the face of trauma. Despite being stripped of their religion, their home land, their drums, and their ancestral tongue, black people both retained self and created new identity. Oyewole speaks to both the idea of retention and creation through his discussion about death, viewed through an African rooted lense, where life and death are fluid and not separated. “They shot Malcolm and all they did was multiply his power…they show King and black folks got stronger by the hour.” He also questions the use of religion, particularly Christianity, viewing it as a tool to keep black people in line both during and post- slavery.
“Is there anything not sacred anymore…freedom, justice, honesty…All being devoured by Western imitations of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is drowning out the tears of deception.” On “We Must Be Sacred,” Umar Bin Hassan speaks to the ways in which our world is shifting and changing into an evil place where love and tenderness are becoming taboo topics instead of practice. He claims that we love the product but we don’t care about the person who has created the work, nor do we listen and/or interrogate the things they say. He questions if we are too far gone to be able to elicit real change. He does not, however, claim defeat. “The phoenix will come from the flames this time, there will be no ashes to ashes. Love must be there when the Dust clears.” People must try to begin to love one another again and practice tenderness. However time is not a power so tender that “we could wipe this savage onslaught from our minds.”
The Last Poets conclude their album with the “The Music.” Oyewole celebrates the black creators of music with the line, “I am the music, the sound of life all round.” He furthers his Afro-centric ideology with the line, “I gave the world song,” which connects all things in life, including music, to Africa’s historical past. “I come from mother Africa where music is how we speak… the drum is my heart beat.” He then goes on to praise African American musical influences, which permeate around the globe. However, as Hassan asks in “We Must Be Sacred,” are people engaging the music and the culture or just buying into the product at face value, not caring about the creators?
Reviewed by Bobbie E. Davis Jr.
Following are additional albums released during May 2018—some will be reviewed in future issues of Black Grooves.
Blues, Folk, Country
Charles A. Asbury: 4 Banjo Songs, 1891-1897 (Archeophone)
Larry Garner: Live At The Tivoli (Weinerworld)
Lurrie Bell & the Bell Dynasty: Tribute To Carey Bell (Delmark)
Memphis Minnie: Killer Diller Blues (Wolf)
Odetta: The Albums Collection 1954-62 (Acrobat)
Funk, Rock, Pop, Electronic
Ben LaMar Gay: Downtown Castles Can Never Block the Sun
Big Sam’s Funky Nation: Songs in the Key of Funk
Brownout: Fear of a Brown Planet (Fat Beats)
Dug Pinnick: Tribute To Jimi (Rat Pak)
Emily Johnson: Open Your Heart EP (Tarpan)
Free Radicals: No State Solution
Joan Armatrading: Not Too Far Away (BMG)
Mndsgn: Wanna Be Your Man (Stones Throw)
Nuex: Affextus EP (digital)
Sudan Archives: Sink (Stones Throw)
Welshly Arms: No Place Is Home (Republic)
C-Micah: Reverence (4 Streams Media)
Dee Black: Flight Club (HISstory Music Group)
Jabari Johnson: Day of Redemption (Light)
Jackie Hill Perry: Crescendo (Fair Trade/Columbia)
Jason Nelson: The Answer (RCA)
Morgan Minsk: Praise
Phil Thompson: My Worship (digital)
3MA: Anarouz (Six Degrees)
Fatoumata Diawara: Fenfo (Something To Say) (Shanachie)
Molly Tigre: S/T
Ntoni Denti d’Oro: Cape Verde (Ocaora Radio France)
Alex Conde: Originas (Ropeadope/Uprising)
Allen Harris: The Genius of Eddie Jefferson (Resilience Music)
Cameron Graves: Planetary Prince: Eternal Survival EP (Mack Ave)
Christian Sands: Reach Further EP (digital) (Mack Ave)
Curtis Haywood: Summer Breeze (Smooth Sounds Ent.)
Dana Murray & Manifesto: Negro Manifesto (Ropeadope)
Dave McMurray: Music is Life (Blue Note)
Diana Purim & Eyedentity: Many Bodies, One Mind
Eddie Harris: Listen Here: Very Best of (Varese Sarabande)
Eddie Henderson: Be Cool (Smoke Sessions)
Fred Hersch Trio: Live in Europe (Pametto)
Freelance: Yes Today (Revive Music Group)
Gerald Albright: 30 (Bright Music)
Grant Green: Slick! – Live at Oil Can Harry’s (Resonance)
Grant Green: Funk In France: Paris to Antibes (Resonance)
Henry Threadgill: Double Up, Plays Double Up Plus (Pi)
Henry Threadgill: Dirt. And More Dirt (Pi)
Hugh Masekela: 66-’76 (3 CDs) (Wrasse)
Jeff Denson: Outside My Window (Ridgeway)
Joey Alexander: Eclipse
Jonathan Barber: Vision Ahead
Joshua Redman: Still Dreaming (Nonesuch)
Jowee Omicil: Love Matters! (Jazz Village)
Kamaal Williams: Return (Black Focus)
Kenny Barron Quintet: Concentric Circles (Blue Note)
McClenty Hunter Jr.: Groove Hunter (Strikezone)
Shirley Horn: With Friends (Verve)
Thomas Bramerie Trio: Side Stories (Jazz Eleven)
Tia Fuller: Diamond Cut (Mack Ave.)
Tim Warfield: Jazzland (Criss Cross)
Ghost-Note: Swagism (Ropeadope)
Abiah: Abiah Sings Nina (Madoh Music Group)
Billy Preston: Live in Central Park New York 1973 (Mega Dodo)
Bobbye Doll Johnson: When a Woman’s Had Enough (Aviara Music)
Cecily: Songs of Love and Freedom (Harmonious Grits, LLC)
Charles Bradley: Living on Soul (DVD) (The Orchard)
Corneille: Love & Soul (Wagram Music)
Fats Domino: The Ballads Of Fats Domino (Bear Family)
Jeffrey Osborne: Worth It All (Mack Ave.)
K. Avett: Lioness
KaraJishi: Realm EP
Lamont Dozier: Reimagination (Goldenlane)
Leon Bridges: Good Thing (Columbia)
N’Dambi and All Cows Eat Grass: Air Castle EP (Alpha Pup)
Nicola Conte & Spiritual Galaxy: Let Your Light Shine On (MPS)
Otis Redding: Dock of the Bay Sessions (Atlantic)
Screamin’ Jay Hawkins: Are You One Of Jay’s Kids? (Manifesto)
Shirley Ellis: Three Six Nine! – Best Of (Ace)
Sonta: In My Feelings (Machine Ent. Group)
Temptations: All the Time (Ume)
Rap, Hip Hop
A$AP Rocky: Testing (RCA)
Aaron Cole: Virginia Boy (Gotee)
Ace Hood: Trust the Process II: Undefeated (digital) (Empire)
Bali Baby: Baylor Swift (digital) (Twin)
Big Scoob: Duality (digital) (Strange Music)
Camp Lo: Candy Land Xpress – The Mixtape (Cleopatra)
City Girls: Period (digital)
Dynospectrum: S/T (20th anniv. Vinyl ed.) (Rhymesayers)
Guru: Jazzmatazz Vol. 1 (25th Anniv. Ed.) (Ume Urban Legends)
Joey Cool: S/T (Strange Music)
Junglepussy: JP3 (digital)
Kyle: Light of Mine (Atlantic)
Lil Baby: Harder Than Ever (digital) (Quality Control Music)
Mars Jackson: Good Days Never Last Forever (Misra)
Meyhem Lauren: Glass (SRFSCHL)
Nav: Reckless (XO/Republic)
Nick Grant: Dreamin’ Out Loud (digital) (Epic)
Pawz One & Robin Da Landlord: Sell Me A Dream (Below System)
Philthy Rich: N.E.R.N.L. 4 (Empire)
Planet Asia: Mansa Musa (X-Ray)
Playboi Carti: Die Lit (digital) (Interscope)
Pusha T: Daytona (digital) (Def Jam)
Rae Sremmurd: SR3MM (digital) (Interscope)
Saweetie: High Maintenance (Warner Bros.)
Stalley: Tell the Truth Shame the Devil, Vol. 3 (digital)
Styles P (The LOX): G-Host (The Phantom Ent.)
Suspect: Still Loading (digital) (Rinse)
Tee Grizzley: Activated (digital) (300 Ent.)
Tobe Nwigwe: The Originals (digital)
YFN Lucci: Ray Ray from Summerhill (Think It’s A Game)
Zaytoven: Trapholizay (digital) (UMG)
Kabaka Pyramid: Kontraband (Bebble Rock)
Kingly T: Got It All (digital)
Linval Thompson: Dub Landing Vols. 1 & 2 (Greensleeves)
Mad Professor: Electro Dubclubbing (Ariwa Sounds)
U-Roy: Talking Roots (Ariwa Sounds)
Ziggy Marley: Rebellion Rises (Tuff Gong)
Welcome to the May 2018 issue of Black Grooves, sponsored by the Indiana University Archives of African American Music and Culture.
This month’s releases are related to concepts associated with spring—invigoration and innovation—bringing to light new voices and collaborations that foster hope and discovery.
Four featured debut albums are grounded within soul, rock and reggae. The newly formed Zig Zag Power Trio (Vernon Reid, Will Calhoun & Melvin Gibbs) presents the rock fusion project Woodstock Sessions Vol. 9. Deva Mahal—the talented daughter of jazz icon Taj Mahal—shows her individuality on Run Deep. Starchild & The New Romantic’s Language features the artistry of Bryndon Cook, and Fort Lauderdale’s Army Gideon offers reggae rock fusion on Forsake Not.
Jazz releases are bountiful. Words to Love by Houston drummer and composer Reggie Quinerly is a vocal jazz album featuring Melanie Charles and Milton Suggs; Don Braden’s Earth Wind and Wonder is a jazz saxophonist’s exploration of the Earth, Wind & Fire and Stevie Wonder songbooks; Miles Davis & John Coltrane: Final Tour is a 4-CD set featuring their final performances together during a 1960 European tour; and Idris Ackamoor & The Pyramids’ An Angel Fell is a spiritual jazz album exploring global themes such as catastrophic climate change and racism.
International offerings root themselves in novel collaborations. Playing for Change: Listen to the Music brings together 210 musicians from 25 different countries for the goal of unifying today’s oft-divided societies, and the seven-piece South African afropsychedelic band BCUC (Bantu Continua Uhuru Consciousness) blends indigenous musical traditions with social commentary on modern Africa on its album Emakhosini.
This month’s featured rap and soul artists include Los Angeles-based rapper Murs, who bares his soul on A Strange Journey Into the Unimaginable, and the veteran Chicago soul band Bumpus, offering Way Down Deep, their first release in over a decade. Gospel and R&B sow the seeds for this month’s reissues. Sister Sledge: An Introduction is a new “best-of” compilation featuring the four iconic sisters from Philadelphia, and Gotta Serve Somebody – The Gospel Songs of Bob Dylan is a DVD reissue documenting the making of the Grammy nominated album of the same name.
Wrapping up this issue is our compilation of April Releases of Note.