Paul Moravec’s Sanctuary Road: An Oratorio Based on the Writings of William Still

 

Title: Sanctuary Road
Artist: Oratorio Society of New York; Kent Tritle, cond.
Label: Naxos American Classics series (8.559884)
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date: January 10, 2020

 

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 Railroad by 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.

Continue reading

Christian McBride – The Movement Revisited: A Musical Portrait of Four Icons

 

Title: The Movement Revisited: A Musical Portrait of Four Icons
Artist: Christian McBride
Label: Mack Avenue
Formats: CD, MP3
Release date: February 7, 2020

 

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.

Continue reading

Bound for the Promised Land: Songs and Words of Equality and Freedom

 

Title: Bound for the Promised Land: Songs and Words of Equality and Freedom   
Artist: Various
Label: Albany
Formats: CD, Digital
Release Date: January 10, 2020

 

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.

Continue reading

Ben Williams – I AM A MAN

 

Title: I AM A MAN
Artist: Ben Williams
Label: Rainbow Blonde
Formats: CD, LP, Digital
Release date: February 7, 2020

 

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.

Continue reading

Will Boyd – Freedom, Soul, Jazz

 

Title: Freedom, Soul, Jazz
Artist: Will Boyd
Label: Dist. CD Baby
Formats: CD, LP, Digital
Release date: July 12, 2019

 

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.

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

Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis – The Music of Wayne Shorter

 

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

 

Wayne 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.

Continue reading

John Bailey – Can You Imagine?

 

Title: Can You Imagine?
Artist: John Bailey
Label: Freedom Road
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date: January 20, 2020

 

Can You Imagine? is the second album from New York trumpeter John 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.

Continue reading

Jeremy Pelt – The Art of Intimacy, Vol. 1

 

Title: The Art of Intimacy, Vol. 1
Artist: Jeremy Pelt
Label: HighNote
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date: January 24, 2020

 

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!

Continue reading

Delfeayo Marsalis & Uptown Jazz Orchestra – Jazz Party

 

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).

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

Mortimer – Fight The Fight

 

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.

Continue reading

Renee Spearman – I Love Him

 

Title: I Love Him
Artist: Renee Spearman
Label: JDI
Formats: CD, Digital
Release Date: June 7, 2019

 

Billboard-charting gospel singer/songwriter/producer Renee Spearman has worked in the gospel music recording industry for over three decades and continues to champion her genre. After “standing in the shadows” for many years as a background vocalist for numerous popular music artists including Gladys Knight and Yolanda Adams, Spearman’s solo career took off in 2012 with the release of her successful debut album, Whoa to Wow!, which reached #4 on the Billboard gospel album charts. Her recent release, I Love Him, is yet another career highlight.

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

Les Amazones d’Afrique – Amazones Power

 

Title: Amazones Power
Artist: Les Amazones d’Afrique
Label: Real World
Formats: CD, Vinyl, Digital
Release Date: January 24, 2020

 

The pan-African supergroup Les Amazones d’Afrique are back with Amazones Power, the sequel to their widely acclaimed 2017 debut, Republique Amazone. Formed in 2014 by three Malian music stars and social change activists, the group has been known for their fearless confrontation of women’s oppression and inquality through music. On Amazones Power, Les Amazones d’Afrique brings together 16 talented West African musicians that are committed to feminist activism.

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

The String Queens Self-Titled Debut

 

Title: The String Queens
Artist: The String Queens
Label: Self-released
Format: Digital
Release date: November 25, 2019

 

Renowned for their genre spanning repertoire, the Washington, D.C. based trio The String Queens have been changing the ways audiences engage with classical music. The three women—Kendall Isadore (violin), Dawn Johnson (viola), and Élise Cuffy (cello)—are “school teachers by day and concert performers by night” who have a strong commitment to artistic integrity and music education. Though they might not yet be a household name, you have likely heard TSQ backing artists such as Solange, Janelle Monae, and Jennifer Hudson, as well as Aloe Blacc on his recent video of “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing,” filmed on the grounds of Monticello. The trio has also been featured on concert stages around the world, including Carnegie Hall, The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Royal Festival Hall, and Shanghai Grand Theatre. Continue reading