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.
Title: Spark Catchers Artist: Chineke! Orchestra & Chorus Label: NMC Formats: CD, Digital Release date: January 17, 2020
Royal Academy of Music professor and double
bassist Chi-chi Nwanoku
has a laudable mission: championing change and celebrating diversity in
classical music. Through her Chineke!
Foundation, Nwanoku nurtures new
generations of talent by commissioning works and supporting music education
programs including a youth orchestra. Her flagship group, the Chineke! Orchestra, was founded in 2015 and is comprised of Black and Minority Ethnic
(BME) classical musicians working in the UK and Europe. The orchestra recently
won the inaugural Royal Philharmonic Society
for filling the stage with BME artists, drawing a far more diverse audience to
concert halls, and “restoring BME composers past and present to their rightful
place amongst those we regularly revere.” These achievements are showcased on
the Chineke! Orchestra’s latest album, Spark Catchers. Featuring works by six of the UK’s
leading BME composers, the performances (except where otherwise noted) are led
by African American conductor Anthony Parnther, music director of the
Southeast Symphony in Los Angeles and the San Bernardino Symphony Orchestra.
Title: Elgar Artist: Sheku Kanneh-Mason, London Symphony Orchestra Label: Decca Classics Formats: CD, LP, Digital Release date: January 10, 2020
London-born cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason rose to prominence in the UK after winning the BBC Young Musician Award in 2016 and received international attention for his performance at the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle in 2018. A member of the remarkably talented Kanneh-Mason family, 20-year-old Sheku has often performed with his six brothers and sisters, all classically trained musicians between the ages of 10-23. His debut album,Inspiration, was released in 2016 on the prestigious Decca Classics label (his sister, pianist Isata Kanneh-Mason, is also signed to Decca). On his sophomore album, Elgar, Sheku performs Elgar’s Cello Concerto in E Minor, Op. 85 with the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Sir Simon Rattle, plus several short chamber pieces by Elgar and other composers. As a testament to the number of people inspired by the young musician, Elgar is already a best seller, making Kanneh-Mason the first classical musician to break into the Top 10 of the UK album charts in over 30 years, a position currently shared with grime star Stormzy.
Title: The Music of Wayne Shorter Artists: Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis, Wayne Shorter Label: Blue Engine Formats: CD, Digital Release Date: January 31, 2020
Shorter, one of the most prominent saxophonists and musical figures of our
time, hardly needs an introduction. He is an 11-time Grammy Award winner,
Lifetime Achievement Award recipient, and holds an extensive discography which
includes over twenty albums as a bandleader.
For this special album, Shorter teams up with the Jazz at Lincoln Center
Orchestra led by Wynton Marsalis to present The Music of Wayne Shorter.
Title: Can You Imagine? Artist: John Bailey Label: Freedom Road Formats: CD, Digital Release date: January 20, 2020
You Imagine? is the second album from New York
Bailey, who conceptualized the project around
one of the fantastical “what ifs” of jazz: What if Dizzy Gillespie won his
unlikely and somewhat jesting bid for president in 1964? What if Dizzy had made
Miles Davis head of the CIA and Duke Ellington the Secretary of State? Would
we, as a nation, be more compassionate and empathetic to our fellow humans?
Though the campaign may have been in jest, Dizzy raised serious issues on the
campaign trail during one of the most volatile periods of the Civil Rights Movement.
The Art of Intimacy, Vol. 1 is the perfect album for Valentine’s Day season. Jazz trumpeter Jeremy Pelt takes us on a journey through songs expressing tenderness and endearment, while also performing less commonly known standards with his trio. Accompanied by pianist George Cables and bassist Peter Washington, Pelt “pours some old wine into new bottles” as he explores romantic classics like “Always on My Mind” and “I’ll Never Stop Loving You,” and sentiments of love on songs like “I’ve Just Seen Her,” “I’ll Never Stop Loving You,” and “While You Are Gone.” Also included is Pelt’s original composition “Love Is Simple,” and “Little Girl Blue,” a song mostly associated with Nina Simone’s 1958 debut album. Jazz journalist Michael J. West writes, “the snapshot on display here makes no bones about its terms of engagement…If Pelt and company are successful, this music might have you practicing the art of intimacy on your own.” The Art of Intimacy, Vol. 1 is a must have for all you lovers out there!
Title: Jazz Party Artist: Delfeayo Marsalis & Uptown Jazz Orchestra Label: Troubadour Jass Formats: CD, Digital Release date: February 7, 2020
Prominent jazz trombonist Delfeayo Marsalis returns with his seventh studio album, Jazz Party, featuring his electrifying Uptown Jazz Orchestra (UJO). Arriving three years after Marsalis’ Kalamazoo (2017) and UJO’s Make America Great Again! (2016), Jazz Party weaves together “modernized twists on New Orleans songbook gems and musical traditions, and swinging, groove-infused homages to the contributions of modern jazz masters.” The album includes original compositions and arrangements by Marsalis and others, while portraying the high-spirited character of UJO’s live performances at the Snug Harbor in New Orleans. Also featured are guest artists such as vocalist Tonya Boyd-Cannon (semi-finalist on The Voice), drummer Joe Dyson Jr., pianist Kyle Roussel, and saxophonist Roger Lewis (original member of UJO and co-founder of the Dirty Dozen Brass).
Released just in time for Mardi Gras, this new box set
celebrates the kings of New Orleans funk, otherwise known as The Meters. Featuring guitarist Leo Nocentelli, bassist
George Porter, Jr., keyboardist/vocalist Art Neville, and drummer Joseph
“Zigaboo” Modeliste, The Meters combined street rhythms with second line vibe
and fatback drums to create their own unique, laidback style. Compared to James
Brown’s hard driving, frenetic performances, The Meters just let the good times
roll through the Big Easy accompanied by a funky backbeat. Produced by SoulMusic’s
David Nathan, Gettin’ Funkier All The Time takes listeners on a journey
through The Meter’s eight studio albums recorded between 1968-1977, their non-album
singles and bonus tracks issued on previous
compilations, plus a few surprises thrown in like beads along the parade route.
In other words, this set has it all.
Title: Fight The Fight Artist: Mortimer Label: Easy Star Records Format: CD, LP, Digital Release Date: November 15, 2019
Kingston, Jamaica native Mortimer’s Fight the Fight has already made a
splash in the reggae world, debuting at #3 on the Billboard Reggae Chart and at
#1 on the iTunes Reggae Chart. The six track EP, made in collaboration with
Grammy-nominated producer Winta James, is a masterpiece of live musicianship
featuring top-notch production and emotive lyricism.