Javier Nero – Freedom

 

Title: Freedom
Artist: Javier Nero
Label: Outside In Music
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date: August 7, 2020

 

The winner of multiple prestigious jazz trombone competitions and recipient of a Ph.D. from Frost School of Music at the University of Miami, Dr. Javier Nero appears more than ready to present his debut solo album, Freedom. The title, he explains, reflects the very essence of jazz, as well as “the beauty that can be created by learning from and appreciating disparate cultures.” Nero draws upon his own multi-cultural ancestry and extensive training as a jazz and classical musician, as well as his experience as a member of the Haitian band Klass, to seamlessly incorporate elements of multiple genres across the 12 tracks of the album. Joining Nero in the ensemble are Tom Kelley (sax/flute), Melvin Butler (tenor/soprano sax), Jean Caze (trumpet/flugelhorn), Tal Cohen (piano), Dion Kerr (bass) and Aaron Kimmel (drums).

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Derrick Hodge – Color of Noize

 

Title: Color of Noize
Artist: Derrick Hodge
Label: Blue Note
Formats: CD, MP3
Release date: June 26, 2020

 

Bassist and composer Derrick Hodge has worked with some of the best, performing on GRAMMY award winning albums by Robert Glasper (as a founding member of the Robert Glasper Experiment) and Terence Blanchard, producing projects with Quincy Jones, and writing/recording with a wide range of other artists across multiple genres, from Kanye West, Q-Tip, and Andre 3000 to Jill Scott, Sade, and Kirk Franklin. Hodge’s innovative arrangements also played an essential role in the powerful performances by Nas and Maxwell with the National Symphony Orchestra, and Common with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Now, on his latest project and his third release for Blue Note Records, Hodge seeks to bridge the divide between urban, jazz and classical music with his new concept album, Color of Noize.

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Derrick Gardner & the Big dig! Band – Still I Rise

 

Title: Still I Rise
Artist: Derrick Gardner & the Big dig! Band
Label: Impact Jazz
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date: July 10, 2020

 

Trumpeter Derrick Gardner has gathered together friends and family to form a new ensemble that makes its debut on his latest release, Still I Rise. Christened the Big dig! Band, after co-leader Steve Kirby’s bi-monthly jazz publication dig! magazine, the 18-piece big band performs contemporary music composed and arranged by Gardner while retaining the classic feel of the swing era. In addition to Derrick, an alumnus of the Count Basie Orchestra and the Harry Connick Jr. Big Band, the group also features his brother, trombonist Vincent Gardner, who currently serves as artistic director of the Jazz Houston Orchestra. Other world class musicians from across North America include saxophonists Mark Gross (Duke Ellington Orchestra), Greg Gatien, Rob Dixon, Tristan Martinuson and Ken Gold; trumpeters Bijon Watson (Gerald Wilson Jazz Orchestra), Jeff Johnson, Curtis Taylor and Andrew Littleford; trombonists Joel Green, Anthony Bryson and Bill Green; with pianist Zen Zadravec, bassist Luke Sellick, guitarist Kasey Kurtz and drummer Curtis Nowosad heading up the rhythm section.

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Mike Burton – Walk With Me

 

Title: Walk With Me
Artist: Mike Burton
Label: Mike Burton Co.
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date: August 14th, 2020

 

A native of Jackson, Mississippi, saxophonist Michael Burton‘s affinity for music was nurtured at an early age by his mother, a singer with the Mississippi Mass Choir, and father, a tenor saxophonist. Burton honed his craft at Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music under the tutelage of the renowned David Baker, and as a member of the IU Soul Revue, an ensemble that examines and performs Black popular music. Since completing his master’s degree in Jazz Studies, Burton has toured with major artists ranging from Mary J. Blige, Jill Scott, Patti LaBelle and Anita Baker to New Edition, PJ Morton, and blues singer Willie Clayton. He has also played keyboards and saxophone on many of Tyler Perry’s stage and film productions. Burton’s vast experience is reflected in his third studio album, Walk With Me. Co-produced by Burton and Atlanta-based multi-instrumentalist Jelani Jackson, the album features collaborations from artists such as PJ Morton, Sho Baraka, Jeff Bradshaw, Melvin Jones, Len’i McKinney and Paula Champion.

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Maceo Parker – Soul Food: Cooking with Maceo

 

Title: Soul Food: Cooking with Maceo
Artist: Maceo Parker
Label: The Funk Garage
Formats: CD, LP, Digital
Release date: July 10, 2020

 

Saxophone legend Maceo Parker returns with his first album in eight years, Soul Food: Cooking with Maceo. Parker is best known for his work with the James Brown band and later with Parliament/Funkadelic. Although his solo recordings date back to the 1960s and 1970s, his current solo career really begins with the release of the Roots Revisited album in 1990.

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Fantastic Negrito – Have You Lost Your Mind Yet?

 

Title: Have You Lost Your Mind Yet?
Artist: Fantastic Negrito 
Label: Cooking Vinyl
Formats: CD, LP, Digital
Release date: July 17, 2020

 

GRAMMY award winning artist Fantastic Negrito has returned with his new album, Have You Lost Your Mind Yet?  While the Oakland native’s 2018 release, Please Don’t Be Dead, focused on songs that embrace love and unity, the musical framework for his new project more closely mirrors the pressing issues in the current social, economic and political climate. Using his signature rock-soul style, he presents timely topics such as the benefits of communication, particularly during the pandemic, when so many are battling with or recovering from mental illness. Negrito believes that if we talk more openly about what’s happening in our lives, we can work toward finding healing within our communities by eliminating isolation.

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L.A. Salami – The Cause of Doubt & a Reason to Have Faith

 

Title: The Cause of Doubt & a Reason to Have Faith
Artist: L.A. Salami
Label: Sunday Best
Format: CD, LP, Digital
Release Date: July 17, 2020

 

Described as classy rap, street-poet blues and fierce folk, the music of London artist L.A. Salami creates a truly unique and always evocative experience. Born Lookman Adekunle Salami, L.A. Salami began writing poetry from an early age, a hobby which eventually blossomed into writing poetic lyrics with acoustic-oriented instrumental backing. On his most recent album, The Cause of Doubt & a Reason to Have Faith, Salami ventures into more experimental ground as he draws on everything from ‘90s hip-hop and rap to psychedelic folk and proto-punk of the ‘60s.

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Austin Musicians for Transformative Justice – No More Silence, Vol. 2

Title: No More Silence, Vol. 2 
Artist: Austin Musicians for Transformative Justice 
Label: Bandcamp 
Format: Digital 
Release Date: July 3, 2020 

As a part of the city of Austin, Texas’ response to the recent deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and countless black lives lost to police brutality, Austin Musicians for Transformative Justice was founded by Kate Robberson and Ley Line. On No More Silence, Vol. 2, the project brings together over 30 Austin-based artists who use their music to contribute to the conversation around social justice and Black Lives Matter. 

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Billy Ocean – One World

 

Title: One World
Artist: Billy Ocean
Label: Sony  
Formats: CD, Digital   
Release date: September 4, 2020 

 

GRAMMY Award-winning singer Billy Ocean has released his first new original album in ten years. On One World, he reunites with producer Barry Eastmond, who was responsible for some of his biggest hits, including “When the Going Gets Tough” and “Love Zone.” This release follows a spectacular few years for Ocean. In 2018, the Trinidadian-British R&B singer-songwriter was awarded the Ivor Novello Award for International Achievement in recognition of his international success and the enduring popularity of his music. More recently, he was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s 2020 New Year Honors list for his contributions to music. Additionally, his iconic music videos have all been restored from original tapes and released in HD. All of the excitement surrounding his long due recognition can be felt in One World.

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Laraaji – Sun Piano

 

Title: Sun Piano
Artist: Laraaji
Label: All Saints
Formats: CD, LP, Digital
Release date: July 17, 2020

 

Long before he became known as a pioneering Afro-Transcendentalist and ambient music icon, Laraaji (aka Edward Larry Gordon) spent his youth playing gospel music in a New Jersey church. After majoring in piano and composition at Howard University in the 1960s, Laraaji’s journey led to stints as a busker, mystic, laughter meditation practitioner, and leader of the fusion band The Winds of Change, before finding his true calling as a multi-instrumentalist performer and composer of “space age soul hymns” and “cosmic zither jams.” His 1980 release, Ambient 3: Day of Radiance, on Brian Eno’s renown Ambient series, brought significant international exposure. Over the past forty years, Laraaji has primarily continued in the same vein, releasing a large body of recordings to facilitate meditation and spiritual awakening. His latest project, however, is a significant departure. On Sun Piano, Laraaji comes full circle, returning to church to record a series of more classical and jazz-oriented solo piano miniatures.

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Brandy – b7

 

Title: b7
Artist: Brandy
Label: eOne
Formats: CD, Digital   
Release date: July 31, 2020 

 

After nearly eight years since her last album, GRAMMY Award-winning singer/songwriter Brandy has released her long awaited seventh studio album, b7. Despite the lengthy period of time between projects, Brandy has consistently been active in the R&B scene, creating tracks like “I Wanna Be Down” and “Ascension,” as well as being featured in a plethora of other artist’s songs and breaking the internet with her recent Brandy vs Monica Verzuz Battle. This exposure has gone a long way toward helping Brandy hone her truly unique sound and style, as well as a high level of production expertise. Her colorful, yet restrained, 15-track project, which she executively produced with assistance from DJ Camper and the late LaShawn Daniels, is truly the culmination of her musical and life experiences to date.

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Adeline – Intérimes

 

Title: Intérimes
Artist: Adeline
Label: Self-released
Formats: Digital  
Release date: July 10, 2020

 

Soulful and sultry vocalist, bassist and producer Adeline has released her highly anticipated sophomore project, Intérimes, a collection of seven songs that incorporates the sounds and styles of R&B, soul and funk. The title of the French-Caribbean artist’s release is a mash-up of the French words “intérim” (the time in between) and “rime” (French for rhyme), noting that each track captures a specific mood as a day turns into night. The project is completely self-produced, allowing Adeline to create music that perfectly complements her style. “Producing my own music is when I feel most complete artistically. Everyone’s process is the best process as long as it’s true to them. Producing is just the way that I love to make music. And the biggest part of it is that it’s fun!”

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Teyana Taylor – The Album

 

Title: The Album
Artist: Teyana Taylor
Label: G.O.O.D. / Def Jam
Formats: Digital  
Release date: June 19, 2020

 

Dancer/choreographer, actress, model, and R&B superstar Teyana Taylor has released her long awaited and highly anticipated third studio album, The Album. With a host of producers, including Taylor herself, this album truly showcases her personality, sexuality and vulnerabilities that lie under her persona. The Album features collaborations from a plethora of artists, such as Rick Ross, Erykah Badu, Quavo, Kehlani, Missy Elliott, Future, Big Sean, Ms. Lauryn Hill, King Combs, Davido, and Taylor’s husband and daughter, Iman Shumpert and Junie.

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Frank Bey – All My Dues Are Paid

 

Title: All My Dues Are Paid 
Artist: Frank Bey 
Label: Nola Blue  
Formats: CD, Digital 
Release date: January 17, 2020  

 

Georgia native Frank Bey’s recent release, All My Dues Are Paid, is another example of how the blues continues to hang on as a viable genre, even in the year 2020. Bey began singing professionally at the age of four with the gospel group the Rising Sons, which including a brother and two cousins. At 17 he opened for Otis Redding. In the early ‘70s he was a member of the radical funk group Moorish Vanguard, who were supposed to record for James Brown’s label, but the deal fell through. Disillusioned with the music business, Bey didn’t sing for another 17 years. Yet he was “rediscovered” by a blues fan who was blown away by the depth and emotional power of Bey’s voice, which led to a late-career resurgence similar to that of the late Sharon Jones. His new album takes on an especially poignant meaning since Bey passed away on June 7th, 2020, from kidney disease.  

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Chris Jasper – For the Love of You

 

Title: For the Love of You  
Artist: Chris Jasper 
Label: Gold City 
Formats: CD, MP3 
Release date: June 1, 2020 

 

Keyboardist, songwriter, and Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award winner Chris Jasper has had a very extensive and successful career, recording 12 albums as a member of the Isley Brothers, in addition to 16 self-produced solo albums. Jasper has now taken a step back to reflect on some of the greatest compositions he wrote for the Isley Brothers from 1973-1983 in his most recent solo album, For the Love of You. This project is comprised of some of the group’s biggest hits, such as “I Once Had Your Love,” “Go For What You Know,” and the title track “For the Love of You,” a smooth and romantic rendition of the original mid-tempo track. The album also contains covers of R&B and pop classics including Sam Cooke’s “Nothing Can Change This Love,” Marvin Gaye’s “God Is Love,” Van Morrison’s “Have I Told You Lately,” Billy Preston’s “You Are So Beautiful,” and Diane Warren’s “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing.”  

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Les Frères Smith – Mutation

 

Title: Mutation 
Artist: Les Frères Smith 
Label: Amour&Son 
Format: CD, LP, Digital 
Release Date: May 22, 2020 

 

Hailing from Paris, Les Frères Smith is an 11-piece Afrobeat group that has been making hypnotic, funky music for two decades now. In their most recent album, Mutation, the group crosses the styles of highlife, funk, and Ethio-jazz while incorporating cultural nods to countries throughout Africa and the Middle East. This new release is similar to the group’s previous two albums in many ways: each is funky, danceable, and pays tribute to the roots of the Afrobeat tradition. 

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Ghetto Kumbé’s New Self-Titled Release

 

Title: Ghetto Kumbé
Artist: Ghetto Kumbé
Label: ZZK Records
Format: CD, LP, Digital
Release Date: July 31, 2020

 

Hailing from Colombia’s Caribbean coast, the threesome of Ghetto Kumbé infuse the traditional music of their home with futuristic electronic touches. The group’s self-titled debut album, released on Latin American electronic label ZZK, chronicles a tale of love, loss, and revolution.

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Summer 2020 Black Music Releases of Note

Following are additional albums released during June, July and August 2020 across multiple genres—some will be reviewed in future issues of Black Grooves.

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Welcome to the June 2020 Issue

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. 

Additional jazz albums include composer/trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire’s on the tender spot of every calloused moment; the collaboration of Damu the Fudgemunk, Archie Shepp and Raw Poetic on Ocean Bridges; and composer/bassist Michael Olatuja’s Lagos Pepper Soup

Other new releases include Wendy Moten’s first country album, I’ve Got You Covered; R&B artist Kehlani’s It Was Good Until it Wasn’tMoses Sumney’s genre defying double album Grae; contemporary gospel artist Deitrick Haddon’s TIME (Truth Is My Energy); Goldman Thibodeaux & Lawtell Playboys’ La Danse à St. Ann’s that draws from a century of Creole and Cajun musical traditions; the New Orleans group Junko Beat’s sophomore album Satirifunk; and the collaboration between the Afro-Caribbean group Chouk Bwa and Brussels-based duo The Ångströmers on Vodou Alé

Two reissues are also highlighted: Camille Yarbrough’s 1975 release, The Iron Pot Cooker, based on the West African griot tradition; and Celebrated, 1895 -1896a compilation of very early, very rare recordings by the Unique Quartette, a pioneering African American vocal group.   

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

Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis – Black, Brown, and Beige

 

Title: Black, Brown, and Beige  
Artist: Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis 
Label: Blue Engine  
Formats: Digital  
Release Date: March 6, 2020  

 

Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra captures and invokes the spirit of Duke Ellington with their release of Ellington’s masterwork, Black, Brown and Beige. The album is a live recording from a performance at the Rose Theater in 2018 with special guests Brianna Thomas (voice) and Eli Bishop (violin). Originally composed for the first of Ellington’s annual concerts in Carnegie Hall and premiered on January 23, 1943, the epic work is considered a seminal musical composition of the 20th century and in Ellington’s words, “is a parallel to the history of the American Negro.” While some parts of the suite were revised and recorded by Ellington after the premiere, the full-length version of the 1943 concert was not released until 1977, three years after his death. Now the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis imbues new life into Ellington’s jazz symphony with a modern interpretation of the complete work that’s full of creative colors and intensities.   

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Michael R. Jackson – A Strange Loop (Original Cast Recording)

 

Title: A Strange Loop (Original Cast Recording) 
Artist: Michael R. Jackson (composer/lyricist) 
Label: Yellow Sound 
Formats: CD, Digital 
Release date: September 27, 2019 

 

Last month, Michael R. Jackson’s A Strange Loop was honored with the tenth Pulitzer Prize for Drama ever awarded to a musical. Described as a meditation on universal human fears and insecurities, A Strange Loop is clearly not your average musical. Based on cognitive scientist Douglas Hofstaedter’s philosophical idea of “the self as merely a collection of meaningless symbols mirroring back on their own essences in repetition until death” (from the liner notes), the musical is a self-referential exploration of Jackson’s experiences in New York striving to become a respected musical theater writer, struggling with his inner contradictions and what it means to be a fat, black, queer writer.  

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Mourning [A] BLKstar – The Cycle

 

Title: The Cycle 
Artist: Mourning [A] BLKstar 
Label: Don Giovanni 
Formats: Limited ed. CD, LP, Digital 
Release date: May 5, 2020 

 

The Cleveland, Ohio-based funk and soul collective Mourning [A] BLKstar is a “multi-generational, gender and genre non-conforming amalgam of Black Culture dedicated to servicing the stories and songs of the apocalyptic diaspora.” Boldly confronting themes of racism, oppression, and injustice, the group’s albums reflect the reality of living in a world that is all too frequently hostile to people of color. Their previous release, The Garner Poems (2018)was a eulogy to Eric Garner and the many other victims of police brutality past and present. M[A]B’s new double album, The Cycle, is yet another epic and thought-provoking addition to the group’s catalog. Set as an 18 movement song cycle featuring vocalists James Longs, Kyle Kidd and LaToya Kent, the group envisions the work as “a humble addition to the long legacy of James Baldwin’s adage of the artist as witness.” 

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Ambrose Akinmusire – on the tender spot of every calloused moment

 

Title: on the tender spot of every calloused moment 
Artist: Ambrose Akinmusire 
Label: Blue Note 
Formats: CD, Digital, LP  
Release date: June 5, 2020 

 

Trumpeter and composer Ambrose Akinmusire is known for extending the margins of jazz, presenting sonically diverse albums that reflect upon the complexity of Black life in America. Such was the case with his 2018 release, Origami Harvest, which deftly wove together genres and socially conscious themes. Akinmusire describes his new release, on the tender spot of every calloused moment, as a quartet album “that studies the blues in a contemporary context.” Though primarily a jazz musician, Akinmusire adeptly taps into the blues of life in America, blowing through his trumpet with “the breath of a black man who’s seen the best and worst of the country.” Accompanying Akinmusire on this project, which features eleven of his highly original compositions, are his long-time bandmates: pianist Sam Harris, bassist Harish Raghavan, and drummer Justin Brown. 

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Damu the Fudgemunk, Archie Shepp & Raw Poetic – Ocean Bridges

 

Title: Ocean Bridges 
Artist: Damu the Fudgemunk, Archie Shepp & Raw Poetic 
Label: Redefinition 
Formats: Digital (via Bandcamp), LP (tba) 
Release date: May 22, 2020 

 

One of the most intriguing projects of the year, Ocean Bridges is a collaboration between Washington, DC hip hop artists/producers Damu the Fudgemunk (aka Earl Davis) and MC Raw Poetic (aka Jason Moore), and Moore’s uncle, the illustrious jazz elder Archie Shepp. The album’s title signifies “a re-establishing of the connection between young and old in their general community.” As Moore explains: “I began writing down the parts in my head that could tell a story, a Black American story, that would expand across the ages, a story from my grandfather to my uncle, from my mother to me. We bridged the gaps of time, culture and struggle and made an album I always dreamt of—Ocean Bridges.” Entirely improvised, the eleven tracks also bridge genres, creatively blending live music and spoken word, jazz and hip hop in a manner that maintains the spontaneity of their vision. 

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