Reverend Shawn Amos & The Brotherhood – Blue Sky

 

Title: Blue Sky 
Artist: Reverend Shawn Amos & The Brotherhood 
Label: Put Together Music 
Formats: CD, LP, MP3 
Release date: April 17, 2020 

 

Self-proclaimed blues preacher Shawn Amos returns to his Americana, singer-songwriter roots on his latest album, Blue Sky.  Since his 2018 release, The Reverend Shawn Amos Breaks It Down, Amos shifted his home base to Texas and has been touring nonstop with a faithful band of compatriots. Designated The Brotherhood, this group includes drummer Brady Blade (Dave Matthews, Indigo Girls), bassist Christopher “CT” Thomas (Norah Jones, Macy Gray), and Amos’s longtime guitarist Chris “Doctor” Roberts. Collaborating with additional friends and family, Rev and The Brotherhood traverse spiritual and emotional territory littered with heartbreak, displacement and redemption.

Continue reading

Jonathan Barber & Vision Ahead – Legacy Holder

 

Title: Legacy Holder 
Artist: Jonathan Barber & Vision Ahead 
Label: Vision Ahead Music 
Formats: CD, Digital 
Release date: May 15, 2020 

 

Drummer, composer and bandleader Jonathan Barber has accomplished much in his young life. The 30-year-old Hartford, Connecticut native began performing gospel music at an early age at his family church, learning alongside his father who was also a drummer. He later studied at the University of Hartford’s Jackie McLean Institute of Jazz and went on to tour and record with artists such as Pat Metheny, Jeremy Pelt, Wallace Roney, Jennifer Holiday, and Harold Mabern. Shortly after Modern Drummer named Barber as the #1 Up-and-Coming Drummer of 2018, he released his debut album, Vision Ahead. Now Barber returns with his sophomore release, Legacy Holder, featuring his New York-based jazz quintet Vision Ahead.  

Continue reading

Alex Dixon – The Real McCoy

 

Title: The Real McCoy 
Artist: Alex Dixon 
Label: Dixon Landing Music 
Formats: CD, LP, Digital 
Release date:  March 24, 2020 

 

If electric Chicago blues is your bag, Alex Dixon’s The Real McCoy offers the real deal. The grandson of Willie Dixon, Alex represents the younger generation of Chicago blues royalty and carries on the family tradition as a talented producer, bassist, and pianist. His family also actively works to preserve the history of the genre in the Windy City through the Blues Heaven Foundation, located in the historic Chess Records building. Sharing his love of this history is precisely what Dixon set out to accomplish with his new project: “We were trying to go for authenticity, and I wanted to showcase some of the things that I learned from my grandfather and make the album I’ve always wanted to do.” Joining Dixon in this endeavor are two blues harpists – Sugar Blue and Steve Bell, son of famed harmonica wizard Cary Bell – and other assisting musicians including Lewis “Big Lew” Powell on vocals, Melvin Taylor and Gino Matteo on guitar, and Alvino Bennett on drums. 

Continue reading

Various Artists – At the Minstrel Show: Minstrel Routines from the Studio, 1894-1926

 

Title: At the Minstrel Show: Minstrel Routines from the Studio, 1894-1926 
Artist: Various 
Label: Archeophone 
Formats: CD, Digital 
Release date: March 13, 2020 

 

Those who have read Tim Brooks’ new book, The Blackface Minstrel Show in Mass Media: 20th Century Performances on Radio, Records, Film and Television, will no doubt be interested in this new release from Archeophone Records. The two disc set, At the Minstrel Showfeatures 51 selections recorded in the studio from 1894-1926 and represents the first compilation to deal authoritatively with the minstrel genre as a whole. While Brooks discussed most of these recordings at length in his book, he also penned an extensive essay and track-by-track liner notes in the 56-page illustrated booklet accompanying At the Minstrel ShowBefore delving further into the content, it should be noted that some of the performances on this set contain racially derogatory language. From a scholarly perspective, however, these recordings provide the earliest aural documentation for those studying the genre. 

Continue reading

Dom Flemons – Prospect Hill: The American Songster Omnibus

 

Title: Prospect Hill: The American Songster Omnibus 
Artist: Dom Flemons 
Label: Omnivore 
Format: 2-CD set, Digital 
Release date: February 28, 2020 

 

Multi-instrumentalist and music historian Don Flemons, otherwise known as “The American Songster” and co-founder of the Carolina Chocolate Drops, has become one of the foremost experts and practitioners of African American folk music traditions. Flemons garnered a Grammy nomination and multiple awards for his last solo project, Black Cowboys (2018). Now Flemons is offering his first compilation, Prospect Hill: The American Songster Omnibus, which includes his Prospect Hill solo album from 2014, the EP What Got Over originally released on vinyl as a 2015 Record Store Day premiumand a new collection of twelve previously unissued instrumental tracks he’s pulled together under the title The Drum Major Instinct. If you didn’t score copies of these records when they first dropped, you should definitely pick up this nicely packaged two-disc set with extensive liner notes by Flemons and Vania Kinard and evocative tintype photographs by Timothy Duffy.   

Continue reading

Nduduzo Makhathini – Modes of Communication: Letters from the Underworlds

 

Title:  Modes of Communication: Letters from the Underworlds 
Artist: Nduduzo Makhathini 
Label: Blue Note 
Formats: CD, Digital 
Release date: April 3, 2020 

 

A rising star on the international jazz scene, South African pianist and composer Nduduzo  Makhathini is a member of the band Shabaka and the Ancestors and was recently featured on the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra’s musical celebration, “The South African Songbook.”  Nduduzo makes his Blue Note recording debut this month with Modes of Communication: Letters from the Underworlds. The album is deeply rooted in the music and ritual practices of his homeland in KwaZulu Natal, with additional inspiration provided by legends of South African jazz including his mentor, the late Bheki Mseleku, and pianist Abdullah Ibraham. It was through Nduduzo’s exposure to American jazz pianist McCoy Tyner, however, that enabled him to develop a style of playing that “could mirror or evoke the way my people danced, sung, and spoke.” Retaining those nuances and connecting his improvisations to more profound elements of divination and healing, known as uBungoma, Nduduzo’s unique vision is communicated throughout the 11 original tracks. 

Continue reading

Chicago Yestet – Not There Yet

 

Title: Not There Yet 
Artist: Chicago Yestet 
Label: Tiddlywinks Music/Dist. CD Baby 
Formats: CD, Digital 
Release date: March 27, 2020 

 

Formed in 2008 by bandleader and trombonist Joel Adams, the 13-piece horn-heavy Chicago Yestet draws from a wide range of genres ranging from big bands of the ‘60s and ‘70s to the sharp-edged political-leaning soul of Donny Hathaway, James Brown, and Marvin Gaye. With the addition of vocalist Maggie Burrell and spoken word artist Keith Harris, the ensemble also incorporates contemporary hip hop influences and socially conscious messaging. On the group’s third release, Not There Yet, they perform eight highly original tracks composed or arranged by Adams, with lyrics contributed by the vocalists.  

Continue reading

The Session – Collusion

 

Title: Collusion 
Artist: The Session 
Label: Bubble Bath 
Formats: CD, Digital 
Release date: August 16, 2019 

 

Straight outta New Orleans, The Session is a jazz quartet of young musicians who were schooled by several of the city’s legendary elders, such as Ellis Marsalis, Germaine Bazzle, and Dr. John. While their focus is on more contemporary aspects of jazz, they respect the genre’s historical traditions, with various members performing regularly at Preservation Hall and with Jason Marsalis’ Vibraphone Quartet. The group’s third album, Collusion, was released just before Donald Trump was impeached by the U.S. House of Representatives and, as the title confirms, is the group’s most political statement to date. Throughout the 10 tracks, quartet members Steve Lands (trumpet), Jasen Weaver (bass), Andrew McGowan (piano), and Darrian Douglas (drums) explore their “politically-fueled reflections on our country’s current climate,” while also expanding their own range as they each contribute original tunes for the album. 

Continue reading

Omar – The Anthology

 

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, The Anthology, which includes hits from the past three decades along with a few lesser known and previously unreleased tracks. 

Continue reading

Sam Cooke – The Complete Keen Years: 1957-1960

 

Title: The Complete Keen Years: 1957-1960 
Artist: Sam Cooke 
Label: ABKCO 
Format: 5-CD Box Set, Digital 
Release date: February 7, 2020 

 

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.  

Continue reading

La Tanya Hall – Say Yes



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).

Continue reading

Moonlight Benjamin – Simido

 

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 women.”

Continue reading

Tim Brooks – The Blackface Minstrel Show in Mass Media

Title: The Blackface Minstrel Show in Mass Media: 20th Century Performances on Radio, Records, Film and Television
Author: Tim Brooks
Publisher: McFarland
Formats: Book (softcover, 290 pages), Kindle Ed.
Release date: November 15, 2019

 

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 phenomenon.”

Continue reading

Chineke! Orchestra & Chorus – Spark Catchers

 

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 Gamechanger Award 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.

Continue reading

Sheku Kanneh-Mason – Elgar

 

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.

Continue reading

The Meters – Gettin’ Funkier All The Time

 

Title: Gettin’ Funkier All The Time: Complete Josie/Reprise & Warner Recordings 1968-1977
Artist: The Meters
Label: SoulMusic/Cherry Red
Formats: 6-CD Box Set
Release date: January 24, 2020

 

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.

Continue reading

Various Artists – Jubilee Showcase

 

Title: Jubilee Showcase
Artist: Various
Label: Time-Life Music
Formats: Digital
Release date: January 17, 2020

 

Chicago was the birthplace of two of the earliest gospel music television series. The half hour syndicated show TV Gospel Time aired on NBC Sunday mornings from 1962-1965, and a 2-DVD set of selected programs was released in 2010 under the title Soul of the Church. Now, ten years later, Time-Life Music is releasing “36 raw, live performances” from the more famous Emmy® Award winning series, Jubilee Showcase. Created and hosted by Sid Ordower, a Jewish civil rights and labor activist, Jubilee Showcase aired on ABC’s Chicago affiliate, WLS Channel 7, from 1963 to 1984. These programs introduced gospel music and Black culture in general to a much broader audience during the peak years of the Civil Rights Movement.

Continue reading

Various Artists – You’re Not Gonna Hurt Me (A Valentine’s Day Kiss Off)

 

Title: You’re Not Gonna Hurt Me (A Valentine’s Day Kiss Off)
Artist: Various
Label: Perpetual / EMG
Format: Digital
Release date: January 31, 2020

 

Not feeling the love this Valentine’s Day? Are you experiencing a relationship that has gone sour? Let the sisters set you free! You’re Not Gonna Hurt Me was compiled “to empower women to kiss off those men that don’t treat them with the utmost respect they deserve.” Featuring 15 classic soul tracks “performed by powerful women with powerful voices delivering a powerful message,” this album “serves as a scathing anti-Valentine’s Day card.” Included are songs such as ‘You’re the Dog (I Do the Barking Myself)” by Irma Thomas, “Lot More of Me Leaving (Less of Me Coming Home)” by Ruth Brown, and “Divorce Decree” by Doris Duke, plus gems by lesser known artists like “I’m Moving On” by Chyvonne Scott and “Casanova (Your Playing Days Are Over)” by Ruby Andrews. All tracks have been newly re-mastered for this release.

Continue reading

Katherine Jolly – Preach Sister Preach

 

Title: Preach Sister Preach
Artist: Katherine Jolly
Label: Navona
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date: August 9, 2019

 

American soprano Katherine Jolly has graced many opera stages over the course of her budding career.  After winning the Metropolitan Opera National Council Grand Finale in 2006, she went on to perform with the New York City Opera, Houston Grand Opera, and Florida Grand Opera, among others. In concert repertoire, Jolly has taken the route of many lyric sopranos, specializing in the repertoire of Bach, Handel and Mozart. On her debut recording Preach Sister Preach, however, she selected three contemporary works by young American composers. The project was undertaken while Jolly was on the voice faculty at the IU Jacobs School of Music (JSOM), and was recorded on the stage of Auer Hall in 2018 and early 2019 by audio engineer D. James Tagg, who is also on the JSOM faculty. Continue reading