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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Cory Henry – Something To Say

 

Title: Something To Say
Artist: Cory Henry
Label: Culture Collective
Formats: Digital
Release date: October 30, 2020

 

Singer, composer, producer and multi-instrumentalist Cory Henry has released his much anticipated studio album, Something To Say. Produced by Henry himself, the album wonderfully expresses Henry’s wide variety of musical talents in each of its eleven tracks, which tackle subjects ranging from love and breakups to injustices and the effects of being emotionally drained, resulting in a project that artistically reflects the climate of the world today. “I feel good because all of the songs came together and they mean something to me,” Henry humbly advises, “so I hope they mean something to other people.”

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Aloe Blacc – All Love Everything

 

Title: All Love Everything
Artist: Aloe Blacc
Label: BMG Rights
Formats: CD, Digital  
Release date: June 25, 2020

 

Platinum-selling singer, songwriter, producer, and activist Aloe Blacc has released his fifth and latest studio album, All Love Everything. Full of warm, nostalgic sounds, soulful vocals, and an inspiring chorus, Blacc delivers heartfelt, yet grounded, melodies that pull the listener into emotions of love, loss, and many of the in-betweens.

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Roots And Tings – All of This

 

Title: All of This
Artist: Roots And Tings
Label: Truth’s Sound
Formats: Digital, Limited ed. 45s
Release date: August 21, 2020

 

Combining elements of dancehall, reggae, soul and hip-hop in a subversive genre that they call Revolutionary Culture Music, Roots And Tings is a new project of Lateef the Truth Speaker (Blackalicious, Lytrix, Quannum), acclaimed DJ-producer Jah Yzer, and multi-talented musician Winstrong. Speaking about their new project, Winstrong describes Roots and Tings as “a community of curious souls with a generous goal to engage with each other through the stories told.”

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Songhoy Blues – Optimisme

 

Title: Optimisme
Artist: Songhoy Blues
Label: Fat Possum
Format: CD, LP, Digital
Release Date: October 23, 2020

 

Hailing from Mali, the African rock band Songhoy Blues has returned with their highly anticipated third album, a response to their homeland’s corrupt and oppressive political system. Entitled Optimisme, French for optimism, the album reflects the group’s desire to impact the world around them in tangible and positive ways through their music.

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Benin’s Star Feminine Band

 

Title: Star Feminine Band
Artist: Star Feminine Band
Label: Born Bad
Format: Digital
Release Date: November 13, 2020

 

You wouldn’t know it by listening, but the girls of Star Feminine Band had never touched a guitar or drumkit before meeting in 2016. Brought together by a local radio call out offering free music training, the girls, ranging in ages from 10 through 17, use music to channel feelings about equality and empowerment in a male-dominated society.

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Elder Charles Beck – Your Man of Faith

 

Title: Your Man of Faith
Artist: Elder Charles Beck
Label: Gospel Friend/dist. City Hall Records
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date: November 20, 2020

 

Elder Charles D. Beck, born in 1902 in Mobile, Alabama, was a self-taught musician who covered a variety of instruments including drums, trumpet, saxophone, vibes, piano, and organ. A member of the large African American Pentecostal denomination, Church of God in Christ, he was influenced by the performance style of another well-known church member, the early gospel singer and pianist Arizona Dranes. After cutting his first recordings on the OKeh label in 1930 (a year after Dranes’ final OKeh session), Beck became an ordained COGIC minister and briefly moved to Chicago, where he met Thomas A. Dorsey, before permanently relocating to Buffalo, New York. Known as the singing evangelist and one of the most accomplished sanctified musicians of his generation, Beck released many recordings and also spread the gospel far and wide through weekly radio broadcasts of his sermons and live performances at churches across the U.S.

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Welcome to the October 2020 Issue

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

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.

Rap and hip hop selections include Sa-Roc’s debut album, The Sharecropper’s Daughter; new socially conscious projects from two of the most politically charged rappers of the ‘80s and ‘90s—Paris’ Safe Space Invader and Public Enemy’s What You Gonna Do When the Grid Goes Down—and the Free Radicals compilation White Power Outage Volume 1.

Gospel music selections include the Chicago Mass Choir’s My Soul Says Yes and The Last Shall Be First: the JCR Records Story Volume 1, a compilation of Memphis area gospel recordings from the 1970s.

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.

Wrapping up this issue is our compilation of September 2020 Black Music Releases of Note.

Gregg August – Dialogues on Race

 

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.

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Teodross Avery – Harlem Stories: The Music of Thelonious Monk

 

Title: Harlem Stories: The Music of Thelonious Monk
Artist: Teodross Avery
Label: WJ3
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date: September 18, 2020

 

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.

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Charles McPherson – Jazz Dance Suites

 

Title: Jazz Dance Suites
Artist: Charles McPherson
Label: Chazz Mack Music
Formats: CD, Digital  
Release date: September 25, 2020

 

Distinguished alto saxophonist, composer and bandleader Charles 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.

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Cindy Blackman Santana – Give the Drummer Some

 

Title: Give the Drummer Some
Artist: Cindy Blackman Santana
Label: Copperline
Formats: CD, LP, Digital
Release date: September 18, 2020

 

Virtuoso 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.

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Sa-Roc – The Sharecropper’s Daughter

 

Title: The Sharecropper’s Daughter  
Artist: Sa-Roc
Label: Rhymesayers Entertainment
Formats: CD, LP, Digital
Release date: August 12, 2020

 

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.

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Paris – Safe Space Invader

 

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 limits.

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Public Enemy – What You Gonna Do When the Grid Goes Down

 

Title: What You Gonna Do When the Grid Goes Down
Artist: Public Enemy
Label: Def Jam
Formats: CD, LP, Digital
Release date: September 25, 2020

 

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.

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Free Radicals – White Power Outage Volume 1

 

Title: White Power Outage Volume 1
Artist: Free Radicals
Label: RWE
Format: Digital
Release Date: September 15, 2020

 

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.

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The War And Treaty – Hearts Town

 

Title: Hearts Town
Artist: The War And Treaty
Label: Rounder
Formats: CD, LP, Digital
Release Date: August 14, 2020

 

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.

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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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