Title: No Beginning No End 2 Artist: José James Label: Rainbow Blonde Formats: CD, LP, Digital Release date: March 6, 2020
José James’ No Beginning No End 2, a sequel to his 2013 Blue Note debut album, resurrects the eclecticism audiences first fell in love with. Back then, the singer-songwriter was transitioning from Verve Records to Blue Note, and the new release finds James shifting to his own Rainbow Blonde label. ”There’s this beautiful cycle that’s happening again,” James explains. “This essence of it is what I wanted to get back — the idea of courage, freedom, real quality music that’s made without boundaries but still had a cohesive quality. That’s what I did on the first (No Beginning No End), and this one feels the same way.” With No Beginning No End 2, James pays homage to a multitude of musicians who inspired him.
Title: The Anthology Artist: Omar Label: Freestyle Format: CD, Digital Release date: January 31, 2020
London-born neo-soul singer Omar Lye-Fook MBE, known as the “Godfather of UK Soul,” has now been recording for 35 years. A musical prodigy, by the age of five he was learning to play the drums from his studio musician father and went on to study other percussion instruments as well as piano, trumpet and bass guitar, eventually matriculating at the Guildhall School of Music. Omar’s debut single, “Mr. Postman,” was released on his father’s Kongo label in 1985, and his debut album, There’s Nothing Like This, followed in 1990. From that point forward Omar’s career took off, and before long he was recognized not only as a uniquely talented singer and multi-instrumentalist fluent in multiple genres, but also as a composer, arranger, and producer. All of Omar’s talents are showcased on his new two-disc set, TheAnthology, which includes hits from the past three decades along with a few lesser known and previously unreleased tracks.
Title: We No Be Machine Artist: ONIPA Label: Strut Formats: CD, LP, Digital Release Date: March 20, 2020
In Akan, the ancient language of the Ashanti people of Ghana, ONIPA means “human.” The Ghanaian group’s debut album adheres closely to this meaning with the title We No Be Machine. Formed through a collaboration between longtime friends K.O.G. and Tom Excell, the London-based duo is bringing African-inspired grooves to European and American audiences.
After six extremely successful years as lead singer of the influential gospel quartet, the Soul Stirrers, Sam Cooke left the group in 1957 to embark on a solo career. Becoming one of the first gospel stars to go pop, Cooke’s gospelized-pop template paved the way for soul music. Just six weeks after recording his final session with the Soul Stirrers, Cooke released his first single under his own name, “You Send Me.” Not only did he manage to crossover on his first attempt, he took the pop music world by storm while also landing at #1 on the R&B charts. Over the next three years, Cooke released a quick succession of albums on the Keen label. All are faithfully remastered and reproduced with original album covers in this 5-CD box set, which includes excellent liner notes by Michael Corcoran, rare photos from the Keen archives, and complete session details.
Welcome to the March 2020 issue of Black Grooves, sponsored by the Indiana University Archives of African American Music and Culture. In honor of Women’s History Month, we’re highlighting new releases from female artists across multiple genres and countries.
Virtuosic saxophonist Lakecia Benjamin offers a powerful tribute to Alice and John Coltrane on her newest release Pursuance: The Coltranes; singer/pianist and Prince protégé Kandace Springs honors some of the greatest female vocalists of all time on The Women Who Raised Me; Syleena Johnson offers a timely, soulful ode to womanhood on Woman; jazz vocalist Lulu Fall reflects upon her African heritage on Between Two Worlds; pianist Judith Olson introduces the classical compositions of a noted jazz musician on Urban Counterpoint: The Piano Music of Ed Bland; jazz vocalist La Tanya Hall explores a wide range of musical gems on Say Yes; and Haitian songstress Moonlight Benjamin offers her latest fusion of rock and Afro-Caribbean music on Simido.
Title: Pursuance: The Coltranes Artist: Lakecia Benjamin Label: Ropeadope Formats: CD, Digital Release Date: March 27, 2020
saxophonist Lakecia Benjamin offers a powerful homage to two
major jazz figures, Alice Coltrane and John Coltrane, on her newest release Pursuance: The Coltranes. Though her
first two albums as a bandleader, Retox(2012) and Rise Up (2018), draw heavily upon soul and
funk influences, Pursuance showcases Benjamin’s versatile performance of
seminal jazz works from the Coltranes’ repertoire. Covering multiple musical
periods across the album’s 13-tracks, Benjamin is supported by a phenomenal multi-generational
line-up of over forty artists, including Ron Carter, Gary Bartz, Regina Carter,
Jazzmeia Horn, and Brandee Younger, among others. Legendary jazz bassist Reggie
Workman, a member of the John Coltrane Quartet in the early 1960s, co-produced
the project and is also a featured guest.
Singer and pianist Kandace Springs, an up and coming jazz and soul inspired artist, was praised by her late mentor, Prince, who claimed she has a “voice that can melt snow.” That’s just what we need as winter recedes, and Springs doesn’t disappoint on her sophomore release, The Women Who Raised Me. Produced by Grammy Award winning producer Larry Klein, the album is a rich and complex tapestry that travels back and forth across a century of music, using modern production to bend a conglomerate of songs and musical ideas into a new genre while also honoring dozens of the greatest female vocalists of all time.
Title: Woman Artist: Syleena Johnson Label: eOne Music Formats: Digital Release Date: January 31, 2020
Johnson’s new album, Woman, is
a timely, soulful ode to womanhood as well as a call to action wrapped in deep
reflection. Opening with “Woman (intro),” Johnson positions this brief spoken
introduction as a centering track that grounds listeners in the journey of
empowerment they are about to embark on. Additionally, she guides us through
each track with lyrics that illuminate the common threads of strength,
resilience, and healing that tie women together.
Title: Between Two Worlds Artist: Lulu Fall Label: Ropeadope Format: CD, Digital Release Date: November 8, 2019
Lulu Fall isn’t your typical jazz vocalist – she’s a formally trained singer with a hand in musical theatre productions as well as more traditional musical projects. Her identity as the child of Sengalese and Cameroonian parents – and the resulting inner turmoil of not being American enough for her American peers and not African enough for her African family – is evident in her newest album, Between Two Worlds.
Urban Counterpoint: The Piano Music of Ed Bland is the second release of the music of the late Chicago composer Ed Bland by Cambria Master Recordings. Bland’s instrumental compositions were the focus of an earlier album, Urban Classical: The Music of Ed Bland (1994). However, the focus of Urban Counterpoint is on Bland’s piano works. Performed and interpreted by pianist Judith Olson, the album explores his genre-blending compositions which incorporate “a broad range of textures and diverse rhythms” from the early 20th-century Western European music canon as well as jazz, gospel, and West African rhythms.
Title: Say Yes Artist: La Tanya Hall Label: Blue Canoe Formats: CD, Digital Release date: November 8, 2019
Versatile jazz vocalist La
Tanya Hall began her career touring with the great Harry Belafonte and has since
collaborated with other black music icons including Diana Ross, Quincy Jones,
Aretha Franklin, and Patti Labelle. Hall is perhaps best known, however, for
her work with Bobby McFerrin. In addition to guest appearances on McFerrin’s recent
albums, Hall has been a member of his 12-voice ensemble Voicestra since 2002
where she became adept at performing concerts where “everything is totally
improvised.” These skills are clearly displayed on Hall’s latest project, Say Yes, backed by Andy Milne (piano) &
Unison Trio (with bassist John Herbert and drummer Clarence Penn).
Title: Simido Artist: Moonlight Benjamin Label: Ma Casa Formats: CD, Digital Release date: February 21, 2020
Haiti’s high priestess of voodoo rock and roll,
Moonlight Benjamin, returns with her latest release, Simido. As with
her previous breakout album, Siltane, the lead vocalist performs primarily
in her native Creole language, with lyrics that always delve deep into the soul
of Haitian culture. Now based in France, Benjamin strives to honor her roots
and harness the spiritual power of her homeland. At the same time, she expresses
concern that as a woman, she must constantly affirm her existence and command
respect. As she states, “It is, unfortunately, an eternal battle for us who are
Title: No Risk, No Reward Artist: Isaac Carree Label: Shanachie Ent. Formats: CD, Digital Release date: March 20, 2020
After a seven year hiatus, Isaac Carree has finally
released a new solo project, No Risk, No
Reward. According to Carree, the title of the album echoes his mantra: “If
you never take risk, you will never get the ultimate reward.” So far Carree’s
“no risk, no reward” behavior has landed him at #1 on Gospel Billboard and
Gospel Radio charts multiple times, and his new release is likely to follow
this path to the top of the charts.
Title: Testify Artist: Reverend John Lee Hooker Jr. Label: Steppin’ Stone Formats: CD, Digital Release date: February 14, 2020
John Lee Hooker Jr. grew up in Detroit, Michigan as the son of one of the greatest blues music icons in the world, the late and the great John Lee Hooker (1917-2001). As a bluesman, Rev. Hooker traveled the world performing with musical artists such as B.B. King, Snoop Dogg, Taj Mahal, Lenny Kravitz, Z.Z. Top, Buddy Guy and the late Etta James. After a long and successful career in secular music, Hooker became an ordained minister and is now singing a different tune—the tune of gospel—wrapped in his signature soulful blues sound.
Documentarian Stanley Nelson re-introduces us to the late and great jazz trumpeter extraordinaire Miles Davis on the album Music From and Inspired by “Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool,”a Film by Stanley Nelson. Davis’ extensive music career spanned over forty years, culminating in eight Grammy Awards, over thirty Grammy nominations, over fifty albums, plus collaborations with major jazz luminaries such as Billy Eckstine, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Art Blakey, John Coltrane, and Wayne Shorter, among many others. Using spoken and musical selections from the Grammy-nominated soundtrack from his documentary, Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool, Nelson provides a concise musical account of Davis’ evolution. Listeners have an opportunity to reflect on his seminal recordings, beginning in the late 1940s all the way to his mid-1980s comeback with Tutu (1986), while soundbites interspersed between tracks by music icons such as Herbie Hancock, Jimmy Heath, Gil Evans, Carlos Santana, and Marcus Miller further illuminate Davis’ career.
Title: In the Key of Joy Artist: Sérgio Mendes Label: Concord Formats: CD, LP, Digital Release date: February 21, 2020
Several names come to mind when discussing the early
progenitors of bossa nova and Latin-pop music, but one individual stands out
for his musical contributions. That individual is none other than composer,
arranger, vocalist, and pianist extraordinaire Sérgio Mendes. Known for his
“infectious spirit of joy” and his style that blends together “classic
Brazilian, jazz, and pop sounds,” Mendes’ albums and collaborations have always
been at the cutting-edge of Latin music.
Tim Brooks, author of the award winning tome Lost
Sounds: Blacks and the Birth of the Recording Industry, 1890-1919
(2004), draws upon his decades of experience as a media researcher and recorded
sound historian for his latest book, The Blackface Minstrel Show in Mass
Media. Tracing the shift from staged minstrel performances in the 19th
century to the silver screen, airwaves and turntables of the 20th
century, Brooks explores the second fifty-plus years of this “strange American
Welcome to the February 2020 issue of Black Grooves, sponsored by the Indiana University Archives of African American Music and Culture. In honor of Black History Month, we’re featuring projects that explore the Black experience, from Emancipation to the Civil Rights Movement to the present.
Additional classical recordings include London-based Chineke! Orchestra’s Spark Catchers featuring works by six of the UK’s leading Black and minority ethnic composers, and British cello sensation Sheku Kanneh-Mason’s new release, Elgar. Additional jazz recordings include Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis’s tribute to The Music of Wayne Shorter, and John Bailey’s Can You Imagine?, commemorating Dizzy Gillespie’s 1964 campaign for president.
Paul Moravec’s 2017
oratorio, Sanctuary Road, is a
modern take on the classical oratorio form, portraying stories from the
Underground Railroad rather than Biblical content. The libretto by Mark
Campbell interprets slave narratives collected and published in 1872 in The Underground Railroadby William Still (1821–1902) of Philadelphia, a “conductor” who aided many
fugitive slaves including his older brother. Some of the song texts are
literal, as when Still interviews an escapee he has sheltered, but at other
times more poetic, consisting of single words or phrases joined together to
portray the collective experience of the enslaved who escaped to
freedom. The oratorio’s title, however, was inspired
by the modern concept of “Sanctuary City,” bringing contemporary resonance to
the composition. The sixteen movement work for five soloists, chorus and
orchestra was commissioned by Jody Spellun, a member
of the Oratorio Society
of New York, and this live recording captures the
world premiere performance at Carnegie Hall by the OSNY Chorus and Orchestra
under the baton of Kent Tritle.
Christian McBride’s The Movement Revisited: A Musical Portrait of Four Icons is a tribute to four renowned African Americans: Rosa Parks, Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali, and Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King. Jr. According to McBride, this album is meant as “a clear-eyed yet optimistic look at where our society has come from and where it is hopefully headed.” The four narrators who portray these icons include poet and author Sonia Sanchez as Rosa Parks, actor Wendell Pierce as Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., actor Vondie Curtis-Hall as Malcolm X, and actor Dion Graham as Muhammad Ali. They are supported by a phenomenal cast of vocalists and instrumentalists such as Alicia Olatuja (vocals), Steve Wilson (saxophone), Freddie Hendricks (trumpet), Terreon Gully (drums), among many others. These artists coalesce into a spectacular fusion of jazz, gospel, funk, and Afro-Cuban rhythms.
The songs and spoken excerpts that comprise Bound for the Promised Land: Songs and Words of Equality and Freedom were performed live during the Atlanta Music Festival in 2016 at Ebenezer Baptist Church and Glenn Memorial Auditorium at Emory University. The Atlanta Music Festival was first created in 1910 after the Atlanta Race Riots and revived in 2001 by Pastor Dwight Andrews. The purpose of the festival at its inception was to introduce the world to renowned African American concert musicians. The music featured on Bound for the Promised Land does not disappoint and holds true to the original mission of the festival, with works by Dorothy Rudd Moore, T. J. Anderson, Duke Ellington, John Carter and Adolphus Hailstork. Guest artists include the late soprano Jessye Norman, who performs on four songs, tenor Timothy B. Miller, and narrators Taylor Branch and Rev. Robert M. Franklin, Jr.
Acclaimed Grammy-winning bassist, composer and bandleader Ben Williams’ newest album, I AM A MAN, is a sociopolitically charged project that strives to “show the world the complexity of our humanity as Black American men.” With help from producer and sound designer Brian Bender, the album boasts a humid and hazy sound that recalls neo-soul albums released by The Roots, Erykah Badu, Bilal, and D’Angelo. Williams sings lead on the majority of songs, in addition to playing the electric and acoustic bass. Joining him is an amazing lineup comprised of keyboardist Kris Bowers, guitarist David Rosenthal, tenor saxophonist and bass clarinetist Marcus Strickland, percussionist Bendji Allonce, trumpeter Kenyon Harrold, flutist Anne Drummond, and drummers Jamire Williams and Justin Brown.
Saxophonist, composer and band leader Will Boyd pays tribute to spirituals, hymns, and
freedom songs on his album, Freedom,
Soul, Jazz. The project was released to coincide with Juneteenth celebrations,
which are holidays observed among Black communities as a de facto independence day
commemorating the abolition of slavery and a first step toward inclusion in the
greater American dream. Regarding his motivation for the project, Boyd
explained, “I wanted to do my part to move the movement forward,”
referring to the advancement of Black people in a post slavery society.