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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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).

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The Soul Rebels – Poetry in Motion

 

Title: Poetry in Motion
Artist: The Soul Rebels
Label: Rebelution Music Group/Artistry Music/ Mack Avenue
Formats: CD, LP, Digital
Release date: October 25, 2019

 

New Orleans based ensemble The Soul Rebels was formed in the early ‘90s by drum majors from HBCUs such as Southern, Grambling, and Texas Southern University. Percussionists Derrick Moss and Lumar LeBlanc, who first met as members of Harold Dejan’s Young Olympia Brass Band, decided they wanted to play the rap music they were hearing on the radio while also respecting the long tradition of the New Orleans brass bands and marching bands they had played in growing up. Now an eight member brass/jazz/hip hop powerhouse, The Soul Rebels include LeBlanc (snare drum) and Moss (bass drum), in addition to Marcus Hubbard (trumpet), Erion Williams (saxophone), Paul Robertson (trombone), Julian Gosin (trumpet and MC), Manuel Perkins Jr. (sousaphone) and Corey Peyton (trombone and MC). For their latest album, Poetry in Motion, The Soul Rebels started with the premise “no genre is off limits for us,” and concluded with twelve tracks that sound contemporary and hip. Their New Orleans rhythms and Black college band attitude combined with rap lyrics and rhymes will make you move your feet and get out of your seat. Continue reading

Vincent Herring, Bobby Watson & Gary Bartz – Bird at 100

 

Title: Bird at 100
Artists: Vincent Herring, Bobby Watson, Gary Bartz
Label: Smoke Sessions
Formats: CD, Digital
Release Date: November 29, 2019

 

Saxophone legends Vincent Herring, Bobby Watson, and Gary Bartz present a tribute to Charlie Parker with their new release Bird at 100, which marks the 100 year anniversary of Charlie Parker’s birthday. Described as an “alto saxophone summit,” the album is a homage to the musical legacy left by Parker and contains a compilation of Parker’s tunes, popular standards, and new compositions. Recorded live over three days in late August and early September 2019 at the Smoke Jazz & Supper Club in New York City, the rhythm section features members of Herring’s regular quartet: David Kikoski (piano), Yasushi Nakamura (bass), and Carl Allen (drums). Continue reading

Kenyatta Beasley Septet – Frank Foster Songbook

 

Title: Frank Foster Songbook
Artist: Kenyatta Beasley Septet
Label: Art Vs Transit
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date: August 9, 2019

 

Trumpeter and composer Kenyatta Beasley’s tribute album, Frank Foster Songbook, celebrates his late mentor, the noted tenor and soprano saxophonist, composer and arranger Frank Benjamin Foster III. Recorded live over the course of two evenings at Brooklyn’s Jazz 966 club in 2013, this two-disc album captures the dynamic musical interactions between Beasley and his ensemble with guest appearances by Wynton Marsalis (trumpet), Mark Whitfield (guitar), Carla Cook (vocals), and Eric Wyatt (tenor saxophone). Beasley includes eleven songs covering a wide range of Foster’s original compositions. Continue reading

New Holiday Albums: The Best of 2019

That special time of year has come around again, filling everyone with holiday cheer. But nothing has the ability to spread Christmas spirit quite like music does. Following are brief reviews of what we believe to be the best holiday albums so far this year, featuring releases from Keb’ Mo’, Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, The McCrary Sisters, Elijah Blake, Jonathan Butler, and Mariah Carey. We hope these selections provide the perfect soundtrack for everyone’s holiday season. Continue reading

Nat King Cole – Hittin’ the Ramp: The Early Years (1936-1943)

 

Title: Hittin’ the Ramp: The Early Years (1936-1943)
Artist: Nat King Cole
Label: Resonance
Formats: 7-CD box set, 10-LP box set, Digital
Release date: November 1, 2019

 

I could open this review with a clinical statement: This set presents virtually all of Nat Cole’s earliest recordings prior to his long association with Capitol Records, a relationship that provided the foundation to establish his wide recognition as one of the most important vocalists in the tradition of the Great American Songbook. Yet, I prefer a more emotionally connected view: Hittin’ the Ramp presents Nat King Cole’s earliest recordings, showing how he discovered, step by step, a pathway that permitted his remarkable talents to be heard and loved by a worldwide audience. Both views are correct, but only the second reflects the challenges a talented African American artist faced in building a reputation and, with it, the economic base necessary to support a sustainable full time career during the WWII era. Continue reading

The Fred Hersch Trio – 10 Years / 6 Discs

 

Title: 10 Years / 6 Discs
Artist: The Fred Hersch Trio
Label: Palmetto Records
Formats: 6-CD Box Set, Digital
Release date: October 18, 2019

 

Palmetto’s new box set celebrates the 10-year anniversary of the acclaimed Fred Hersch Trio, featuring renowned jazz pianist and composer Fred Hersch with bassist John Hébert and drummer Eric McPherson. Though Hersch’s originals are prominent throughout this set, tracks also feature a deep exploration of compositions by jazz luminaries such as Thelonious Monk, Wayne Shorter, and Jaki Byard. The set includes all five albums released by the label: Whirl (2010), the two-disc Alive at the Vanguard (2012), Floating (2014), Sunday Night at the Vanguard (2016), and Live in Europe (2018). Additionally, an accompanying booklet features liner notes written by Hersch and a forward by award-winning author and jazz historian Ted Gioia. On the whole, 10 Years / 6 Discs is an enjoyable set for jazz lovers, and a great introduction to listeners unfamiliar with Hersch’s artistry. Continue reading

Miles Davis Quintet – The Legendary Prestige Quintet Sessions

 

Title: The Legendary Prestige Quintet Sessions
Artist: Miles Davis Quintet
Label: Craft
Format: 6 LP Box Set
Release date: November 8, 2019

 

In celebration of the 70th anniversary of Prestige Records, Craft has released a new 6 LP box geared towards jazz fans and vinyl collectors. The Legendary Prestige Quintet Sessions includes, in chronological order, the quintet’s 1955-56 sessions with Rudy Van Gelder that resulted in five classic albums: The New Miles Davis Quintet (their 1956 debut), Cookin’ (1957), Relaxin’ (1958), Workin’ (1959), and Steamin’ (1961). Though the six disc vinyl set was originally released in 2006, this new box ups the ante with a bonus disc featuring with audio from radio and TV appearances by the group, including a 1955 guest spot on The Tonight Show with Steve Allen, plus a 20-page hardcover book with new liner notes by jazz historian Bob Blumenthal.

Jerome Jennings – Solidarity

 

Title: Solidarity
Artist: Jerome Jennings
Label: Iola/dist. CD Baby
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date; November 8, 2019

 

Jazz drummer Jerome Jennings highlights his compositional skills on his latest release, Solidarity, marking his second album as a leader. This groundbreaking project focuses on the experiences of African American women, who he explains have “traditionally been the conscience of the country.” In his view, “solidarity means…being present, not walking away. Being an ally, in a very overt way. ‘I got you. I hear you. I’m with you.’”  Jennings turns this laser sharp focus on injustices faced by women from all walks of life, as well as those who have made a significant difference through various movements such as Black Lives Matter, #MeToo, Civil Rights, and more. Joining him on this quest is his core unit—Josh Evens (trumpet), Stacy Dillard (tenor and soprano sax), Andrae Murchinson (trombone), Zaccai Curtis (piano), and Christian McBride (bass) —along with a number of special guests. Continue reading

London Afrobeat Collective – Humans

 

Title: Humans
Artist: London Afrobeat Collective
Format: CD, LP, Digital
Label: London Afrobeat Productions
Release Date: October 25, 2019

 

Following their popular 2015 release Food Chain that earned them glowing reviews and widespread radio support, London Afrobeat Collective has released their newest album, Humans. The collective is formed of nine members who hail from England, Congo, Italy, France, Argentina, and New Zealand, and their music reflects the varied cultural backgrounds of their members. LAC is known for their eclectic sound that draws on funk, jazz, rock, and dub paired with socially conscious lyricism and their latest project is no departure from this. Continue reading

November 2019 Black Music Releases of Note

Following are additional albums released during November 2019 across multiple genres—some will be reviewed in future issues of Black Grooves. Continue reading