Friday, August 28, 2020

New Music Releases: Vibes Alive, Bluenotes ft. Sugarbear, Raphaël Pannier / Miguel Zenón

Vibes Alive - Vibrasonic 

The winds have brought change to life as we knew it. “New” and “different” have taken over virtually every aspect of daily living and that extends to music as well. Leading with vibraphone and guitar as instrumental voices, Vibes Alive’s ( recently released “Vibrasonic” sounds different. The pairing creates a “different” soundscape than what is typically heard in contemporary jazz, yet the album is being received by radio programmers and record reviewers as a welcome bit of “new.”  “Vibrasonic” is the third album from the duo consisting of vibraphonist Dirk Richter and guitarist Randall Crissman (an Emmy nominated composer), who wrote and produced the collection. As on their previous recordings, they are joined by GRAMMY-winning fusion keyboardist Jeff Lorber who brought in an A-list rhythm section (drummer Vinnie Colaiuta, bassist Jimmy Johnson and percussionist Luis Conte) to construct the tracks. 

Bluenotes ft. Sugarbear - Never Too Late 

Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes were one of the dynamic groups that came out of Gamble and Huff’s Sound of Philadelphia and went on to become one of the most popular acts of the 1970s. Through the inspiration of longtime member Larry Brown and the mutual verbal agreement with Trudy Melvin and Oliva Melvin, talented vocalists Arthur Aiken, Frank E. Lee, Sonny King and Roger Banks carried on the longstanding tradition of excellence. “The Legendary Bluenotes” now consist of Sugarbear Aikens, Addison King, Darrell R. Bentley and the aforementioned Mr. Lee. The Legendary Bluenotes have teamed up with the iconic Philly soul music producer Butch Ingram in support of the Black Lives Matter movement to release the inspiring single "Never Too Late," to amplify the voices of the righteous protesters in the streets and to stand with them in solidarity - and all others around the world fighting for racial justice and a better world. It's never too late to stand up and be heard. 

Raphaël Pannier / Miguel Zenón - Faune 

With musical direction by one of Pannier’s key mentors, MacArthur recipient and alto saxophonist Miguel Zenón, Faune presents a sequence of the drummer’s vibrant originals along with unique interpretations of French classical works and American jazz standards. Zenón has long been recognized for his work bridging his Puerto Rican roots with modern jazz, and his phenomenal balancing of tradition and modernity. Like his mentor, Pannier also links two traditions, French classical and American jazz, in startlingly innovative ways. “This album really does bring together my two worlds: my European upbringing and early classical studies with my American life and jazz education,” Pannier says. “In this, it has been such an honor to work with Miguel Zenón, a real hero of mine for the way he has melded his Puerto Rican roots and Latin traditions with socially conscious modern jazz.” 

New Music Releases: The BritFunk Association, Ron Ellison, Jaga Jazzist

The BritFunk Association - Lifted 

“Lifted” is the second album from The BritFunk Association, a band which includes founder and original members of Hi Tension, Light of the World, Beggar & Co and Incognito. Thirteen original tracks that maintain the early jazz funk influences of early Kool & The Gang, Blackbyrds, Cameo, Brass Construction and other heavy hitters of the genre. A collections of new songs with some funky grooves, joyful vocals and instrumental solo prowess. The band have a number of national chart records between them, giving rise to live shows that highlights the range of material that they now share on stage creating vibrant live performances. They will be back on the road after lockdown in support of this and their previous album “Full Circle”. 

Ron Ellison – Listen  

Ron Ellison's new single "Listen" is an enchantingly soulful single, is now available in stores and on all music platforms. An extremely talented soulful singer originally from Chicago, Ron Ellison became associated with the Philly Soul scene as the studio voice for the legendary Delfonics and as part of the Om-Ni Philly Legends group. Currently based out of San Francisco, Ellison has opened shows for Smokey Robinson, The Zapp Band and The SOS Band. He recently went into the studio with long-time Philly Soul producer Butch Ingram and is back with a brand-new single, a captivating soulful tune simply titled "Listen.” 

Jaga Jazzist - Pyramid 

Jaga Jazzist have always had a somewhat spiritual sounding name, but this album might be the first to really deliver on that promise – a set of long tracks that unfold openly in a mix of electronic elements and more jazz-based touches – tunes that really take the right amount of time and space to find their sound, then really soar off into the boundless sonic territory! Lars Horntveth is at the core – handling a range of guitars, keyboards, vibes, and saxes – and he also wrote and arranged the album – but there's lots of other contributions on horns and added keyboards, and a bit of vocals from a few members too, although the set is a mostly instrumental affair overall. Titles include "Spiral Era", "Tomita", "The Shrine", and "Apex". ~ Dusty Groove 

New Music Releases: Kenny Washington, Nyah Grace, Dan Pitt

Kenny Washington – What’s The Hurry 

For Kenny Washington fans across the country and around the world, it’s about time that this admired vocalist is releasing his first studio album. Aptly titled, WHAT’S THE HURRY comprises Washington’s impressive renditions of standards from the Great American Songbook. The tunes are delivered with a burnished, warm voice that has garnered legions of fans for this accomplished yet humble artist, of whom Wynton Marsalis has said, “I love this man! He’s a consummate professional, with impeccable intonation. He’s a real improviser who brings depth to everything he does. We all love Kenny. If you love music, you’ve got to love Kenny!” Washington performs around Europe and Asia. He’s made several appearances at Jazz at Lincoln Center, and in 2013, he performed a featured role with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Pulitzer Prize-winning oratorio Blood on the Fields.  Kenny Washington is one of the most sensitive interpreters of jazz standards. His warm tone, fluid swing, spot on intonation, and intimate, conversational approach to lyrics have earned him the sobriquet “the Superman of the Bay Area jazz scene” by the San Francisco Chronicle. 

Nyah Grace - Honey-Coloured 

18-year-old Nyah Grace grew up on her grandparents’ farm in Oregon, but now she’s a budding UK-based neo-soul/jazz star releasing her soul-stirring debut HONEY-COLOURED. The collection is driven by her romantic storytelling and hip, sensual and deeply intimate collaborations in England with producers Steve Chrisanthou and Michael Kwesi Graves. Chrisanthou was Grammy nominated for his similarly elegant work with Corinne Bailey Rae, who adds her inimitable vocals to the hit track, “My Sista Told Me.” Sultry, heartfelt and world wise beyond her years, Nyah has earned comparisons to Alicia Keys and Billie Holiday – but you may hear a bit of the other Billie… Eilish, on a few beautiful occasions. 

Dan Pitt - Monochrome 

Monochrome is the experimental solo guitar album of guitarist Dan Pitt. It features spontaneous compositions, improvisations and sketches that captures a broad range of styles and sounds from jazz and folk to avant-garde and rock/metal. Pitt combines various combinations of acoustic and electric guitars with electronics and sampler phrases to create a wide array of sounds on the instrument that can be described as atmospheric yet raw and unfiltered. Pitt is a guitarist, composer and improviser currently based in Toronto, Canada. Along with his formal education in music, Dan has an impressive 10 year background of private studies under the guidance of notable musicians such as Bob Shields, David Restivo, Geoff Young, Andrew Downing, Brad Shepik, Tony Malaby, Ben Monder and David Torn. Dan performs regularly throughout Toronto in a variety of music genres and ensembles. He leads his own creative improv group, Dan Pitt Trio, which features bassist Alex Fournier and drummer Nick Fraser. Dan has performed across Canada and in New York City with musicians such as Pat Collins, David Braid, Terry Promane, Andrew Downing, Dave Young, Lina Allemano, Tim Berne, Michael Attias and Michael Formanek. Dan also appears on recordings with Canadian groups including Harrison Vetro's Northern Ranger, The Hamilton All Star Jazz Band and the University of Toronto 12tet. 

New Music Releases: Average White Band, Charles Tollier, Antonio Adolfo

Average White Band - Average White Band Anthology (5CD set) 

A really well-done collection of tracks by the Average White Band – one that not only includes most of their funky classics, but also focuses on heavily sampled cuts, and then presents rare 7" and 12" single versions – as well as some rarities and live material too! The inclusion of all those extra bits make the whole thing way more than just a "hits" package – as the whole thing is still essential, even if you own many of the group's classic records – and the set is a book-styled package, with memories on the music from Hamish Stuart and Alan Gorrie. CD1 features The Classics – titles that include "Cut The Cake", "Star & The Ghetto", "Work To Do", "Pick Up The Pieces", "Feel No Fret", "School Boy Crush", "Put It Where You want It", "Whatcha Gonna Do For Me", and many others. CD2 and CD3 feature heavily-sampled tracks – including "Got The Love", "Sweet & Sour", "Person To Person", "Big City Lights", "Back In 67", "Daddy's All Gone", "If I Ever Lose This Heaven", "Get It Up For Love", "For You For Love", "Love Of Your Own", "Digging Deeper", "Love Your Life", "I Can't Just Give You Up", "TLC", and other cuts too. CD4 features 7" and 12" versions, plus early takes on tunes too – including "Reach Out (first version)", "Pick Up The Pieces (early version)", "Queen Of My Soul (7")", "How Can You Go Home", "Cut The Cake (7" edit)", "Your Love Is A Miracle (7" edit)", "How Sweet Can You Get (12" version)", "Walk On By (12" version)", "The Jugglers (first version)", and "Let's Go Round Again (12" version)". CD5 features rarities and live material – including "McEwan's Export", "In The Beginning", "This World Has Music", "White Water Dreams", "Kiss Me", "Miss Sun", "Love Won't Get In The Way", "Pick Up The Pieces (live)", "Heard It Through The Grapevine (live)", and "Wasn't I Your Friend". 73 tracks in all! ~ Dusty Groove 

Charles Tolliver - Connect 

A stunner of a set from legendary trumpeter Charles Tolliver – and a record that shows that he's lost none of his brilliance since the years of his 70s recordings for the Strata East label! The format here is a bit like those – long tracks by a small group, with an outward appearance of familiarity – but a clearly resonant sense of individuality right from the very first note! All tracks are originals by Charles, and have that soaring quality that's always made him one of the most righteous talents in jazz – working with a group here that features Jesse Davis on alto, Keith Brown on piano, Buster Williams on bass, and Lenny White on drums. The group's also joined by the great Binker Moses on tenor on two tracks – and titles include "Suspicion", "Copasetic", "Emperor March", and "Blue Soul". ~ Dusty Groove 

Antonio Adolpfo – BruMa: Celebrating Milton Nascimento 

Antonio Adolfo is one of the premier pianists, composers, and arrangers to emerge from Brazil. A multi-Latin Grammy and Grammy nominee, Adolfo is an internationally recognized Latin jazz star. A prolific recording artist, Adolfo is now releasing BruMa: Celebrating Milton Nascimento. After over 50 years of friendship and admiration, Antonio Adolfo has decided it was finally time to dedicate an album to Milton Nascimento. “His compositions broke traditional harmonic and rhythmic patterns, with his modalism and some natural odd rhythmic meters, all in a spontaneous, intuitive and natural way,” says Adolfo. Although Adolfo admires Nascimento’s beautiful melodies and interesting harmonies, he is an artist with his own vision and approach. He brings something new and different to each of these compositions. With his lush, soulful arrangements, Antonio Adolfo has taken Milton Nascimento’s music and made it truly his own. BruMa: Celebrating Milton Nascimento is more than an homage to the famous composer. It is a beautiful, artistic statement from a prolific and formidable composer/arranger and a renowned keyboardist in his own right.

Thursday, August 27, 2020

New Music Releases: Homero Alvatez, CeeLo Green, Horace Tapscott

Homero Alvatez Sep7ett  

This is the new project from the composer and guitar player Homero Alvarez who now spreads his wings and releases a first EP with new composed music. A great septet of well known musicians from the Swedish jazz scene. The group includes the following line up. Homero Alvarez – guitars, Karl Olandersson - trumpet, Karin Hammar - trombone, Arnold Rodriguez - piano, Juan Patricio Mendoza – bass, Ola Bothzén – drums, and Andreas Ekstedt – percussion.  Homero Alvarez earlier works has been together with many different Brazilian vocalists in the Swedish jazz scene as Rafa Oliveira Group, Deise Andrade and Simone Moreno. He also formed the samba jazz quartet Latin the Mood who released three albums. The Brazilian rhythms are still represented with both baião and samba rythms in up-tempo beats but there is also bigger space for the arrangments and solists. 

CeeLo - CeeLo Green Is Thomas Callaway 

A fantastic new chapter in the career of CeeLo Green – reemerging here as an old school southern soul singer, with a vibe that's in the best legacy of Al Green and some of the underground talents of his generation! The set was recorded in Nashville, produced by Dan Auerbach, and has a nicely laidback vibe throughout – not smooth soul, but a back-to-basics approach that's more basic than Cee-Lo ever had at the start – with a very strong focus on the strength of his vocals, without any too-pop or hip hop production in the mix. Titles include "You Gotta Do It All", "Doin It All Together", "The Way", "Thinking Out Loud", "Lead Me", "Little Mama", "I Wonder How Love Feels", and "People Watching". ~ Dusty Groove 

Horace Tarscott - The Giant Is Awakened (Black Vinyl Edition) LP 

Horace Tapscott fathered two groups crucial to the flowering of modern jazz in the Los Angeles area, the Pan Afrikan Peoples Arkestra (or P.A.P.A.; the name is an homage to Tapscott’s predecessor and peer, Sun Ra), which eventually became part of a larger umbrella organization, Union of God’s Musicians and Artists Ascension (UGMAA). Out of UGMAA came a host of LA-bred musicians, singers, and poets, including Arthur Blythe (who goes by Black Arthur Blythe on this recording), Stanley Crouch (who wrote the original liner notes), David Murray, and Butch Morris among other luminaries. So Tapscott’s 1969 debut record, aptly entitled The Giant Is Awakened, was and is a big deal indeed for modern West Coast jazz…we reissued this previously in a neon green vinyl pressing that sold out in a heartbeat, but this time we’ve pressed it in black vinyl knowing that a lot of jazz fans prefer that format. 

Eugene McDaniels Outlaw LP

Eugene “Gene” McDaniels first broke through in the early ‘60s with pop soul hits like “A Hundred Pounds of Clay.” But that was a different time...and a different man. By the time McDaniels recorded his 1970 album Outlaw, he had re-christened himself “the left rev mc d” and penned the soul-jazz protest anthem “Compared to What,” first recorded in 1966 by Les McCann and turned into a standard by McCann and saxophonist Eddie Harris on their 1969 album Swiss Movement.  

Indeed, the front cover of Outlaw left no doubt as to the radicalization of McDaniels’ politics. As Pat Thomas puts it in the liner notes that we have added to this reissue, “One sees Middle America’s worst nightmare coming to life. There’s the badass Reverend Lee himself holding a bible. Righteous Susan Jane in a jean jacket and black French resistance turtleneck is wielding a machine gun, and McDaniels’ then-wife Ramona appears as a soul sister with cross your heart Viva Zapata! ammo belts. In the forefront is a large human skull, just in case you didn’t already get the message.”  

The Nixon White House sure got the message; legend has it that the administration was so offended by the lyrics to “Silent Majority” (“Silent Majority is calling out loud to you and me from Arlington Cemetery”) that either Spiro Agnew or Nixon’s Chief of Staff personally called Atlantic, asking them to stop working with McDaniels. Politics aside, Outlaw offers a heady blend of soul, jazz, folk, and rock grooves played by Ron Carter, Eric Weissberg, and Hugh McCracken among others, with legendary producer Joel Dorn at the controls and cult favorite William S. Fischer operating as Musical Director. Oft-sampled, and never more relevant, Real Gone’s 50th anniversary release of Outlaw comes in a neon red vinyl pressing limited to 700 copies. And those liner notes we mentioned previously? They come with some pithy McDaniels quotes that confirm his revolutionary fervor remained unquenched till his death in 2011. 

"Good Thang" feat. Kim Dawson, the latest from Alan Evans' Crushed Velvet and The Velveteers

An upbeat fusion of soul and funk, featuring live instrumentation, is on full display in Crushed Velvet and the Velveteers' new single, "Good Thang." Founded by multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, sound engineer and producer, Alan Evans—who is also the co-founder of acclaimed jazz fusion trio, Soulive—Crushed Velvet and the Velveteers the self-proclaimed guitar player "alter ego" for Evans. 

Filled with a star-studded group of funk and jazz musicians, the track features vocalist Kim Dawson (Matador Soul Sounds, Pimps of Joytime) along with Evans’ musical cohorts Darby Wolf (DJ Williams Shots Fired, Rubblebucket) on organ, Pete Aleksi (Curtis Mayflower) playing 2nd guitar, Brian “BT” Thomas (Akashic Record, BT ALC Big Band) on trombone, Alex Lee-Clark (ALC Funktet, BT ALC Big Band) on trumpet, Tucker Antell (BT ALC Big Band) on alto and tenor saxophones and Jared Sims (BT ALC Big Band) on baritone saxophone. 

“Crushed Velvet and the Velveteers is all about spontaneous creation for me and the very creative friends I get to call on to be a part of it. 'Good Thang' is a perfect example," remarks Evans. "Initially I went into the studio, picked up the guitar and let whatever I was feeling come out without worrying about what kind of song it was." He continues, "Before I knew it, I had a really great feeling bed of bass, drums and guitar laid down. From there, I asked my great friends Darby, Pete, Brian, Alex, Tucker, Jarad and Kim to take what I started and record exactly what inspired them to play. That is the best part of making music for me, creating something that will inspire people." 

Crushed Velvet and the Velveteers is the alter ego of multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, studio engineer, and producer, Alan Evans, who is also co-founder of the band Soulive. In 2008, while Soulive was on break from touring, Alan spent most of his time recording and mixing bands from around the world in his Western Massachusetts recording studio. On his days off, he would go into the studio and play guitar, yielding a collection of songs that he did not feel were songs for Soulive or those he wanted to release under his own name. Crushed Velvet is for Evans' guitar player alter ego.  

New Music Releases: Brian Bromberg, Paul Brown, Jana Herzen / Charnett Moffett

Brian Bromberg – Bromberg Plays Hendrix 

Brian Bromberg presents a digital remastered and remixed version of his surprising 10-song collection of guitar legend Jimi Hendrix’s hits, which was recorded without the use of a single guitar. In fact, it is just Bromberg and Vinnie Colaiuta on the album. “If it is not drums, then all the instruments you hear are me," Bromberg says. "This project is not a gimmick; it’s very musical and real. It’s all about the music for me.” This new 2020 Remix and Remastered version includes one bonus track written by Bromberg as a dedication to the guitar legend, simply titled "Jimi." 

Paul Brown -  Ones Upon A Time 

Producing dozens of #1 hits for himself and countless Smooth Jazz greats, Paul Brown has helped define the genre’s sensual and grooving aesthetic over the past three decades. Putting a fresh spin on the traditional “greatest hits” concept, the two-time Grammy winning guitarist/composer’s cleverly titled latest album Ones Upon A Time offers exhilarating re-imaginings of classic tracks he originally produced for everyone from Boney James and Larry Carlton to Kirk Whalum and George Benson. In addition to focusing the lead melodies on his inimitable, blues-inflected electric guitarisma, he offers some hip new arrangements and colorful sonic details which take the tunes to another level. On hand to help Brown re-create the magic are Euge Groove, Rick Braun, Gregg Karukas, Richard Elliot, DW3, Darren Rahn and Jeff Ryan. ~ 

Jana Herzen / Charnett Moffett - 'Round The World 

Singer, songwriter, guitarist and Motema label founder Jana Herzen and renowned bassist Charnett Moffett are true jazz legends in their own right. Yet their latest collaboration ROUND THE WORLD so artfully blends soul sensitivity and quirky originality in its acoustic arrangements, it could just as easily be considered alt-pop or modern folk. The collection is a spirited, twist and turn filled extension of the duo’s 12-year creative partnership that includes an initial duo project in 2012 and touring together. Intuitive in their breezy yet sometimes off the beaten path arrangements, they blend graceful and jaunty re-imaginings of classics by The Beatles, Men at Work, Kermit the Frog, Roberta Flack and Maria Muldaur with heartfelt, easy grooving originals that fit snugly and seamlessly amidst the more familiar fare.   ~ 

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Saxophonist Nubya Garcia Releases her debut album SOURCE

Multi award-winning saxophonist and composer Nubya Garcia is back with her much anticipated debut album, SOURCE. Her first release on Concord Records, under the iconic Concord Jazz imprint, SOURCE is due for release on August 2020. The album is produced by Garcia in collaboration with the celebrated producer Kwes (Nerija, Bobby Womack, Solange). Garcia returns with Joe Armon-Jones (keys), Daniel Casimir (bass) and Sam Jones (drums).

The album follows her 2018 self-released EP, WHEN WE ARE, the title track of which was described as “effervescent” by The New York Times and named one of NPR’s Best Songs of 2018. Her debut EP, NUBYA’s 5IVE, released in 2017, was hailed as “exceptional” by The Vinyl Factory and sold out on vinyl within 24 hours. In 2018, Garcia also featured on five of the nine tracks on WE OUT HERE, the Brownswood compilation project celebrating London’s young and exciting jazz scene. She won the Jazz FM Breakthrough Act of the Year Award and the Sky Arts Breakthrough Act of the Year Award in 2018, and the Jazz FM UK Jazz Act of the Year Award in 2019.

A collection of sonic mantras to live by, SOURCE is a deeply personal offering in which Garcia maps cartographies around the coordinate points of her identity, her family histories, grief, afro-diasporic connections and collectivism. SOURCE is fundamentally about getting grounded within yourself, so that you can be present with others. It's about a realization of personal and collective power: the evolution of the saxophonist’s values as she re-connects with herself, her roots and her community. Garcia digs deep to present an album with a global outlook: from London to Bogota, Caura to Georgetown, it's a record drawing inspiration from the many places Garcia calls home.

Garcia’s erudite blend of broken beat, soul, dub-step, afro-diasporic sounds - from cumbia to calypso expands further on this record, all whilst never losing her deep jazz foundation. The album takes as much inspiration from Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter as it does from Flying Lotus, Calypso Rose, Mala and Nidia Góngora. SOURCE is about a radical, relentless belief in our capacity to surmount the individual and collective challenges we face now, and those to come.

The record opens with Pace, a purposeful composition, the track swings between spatial quietude and intense peaks, which Garcia likens to crashing waves. The track's relentlessness mimics the hustle and hyper productivity of modern life, a mode of living that can leave us collectively “very isolated and disconnected from ourselves and each other”, Garcia says. As an antidote, Garcia wanted “to think about what makes each of us joyful, what things we personally reach towards to feel grounded.” Moments of rest on the record are “like sweeping your hands for stillness before you go back out again, on whatever journey you’re on.” The irony of the track’s title and intentions aren’t lost on Garcia in the midst of this pandemic - it's a track about reassessing her own values, something the uncertainty of the current moment demands we all do.

Where Pace is about an internal sense of grounding, with its steady, questing solos and capacious grooves, The Message Continues is about taking root in the stories and experiences of our elders. Garcia hones in on the importance of learning about and passing on stories from the past, so that knowledge isn’t forgotten.

The album’s title track, Source, arrives reworked in steamy dub overtones, blending together reggae, jazz and myriad sounds from her youth. The sweltering heat generated in the track’s basslines and Garcia’s militant sax place the track as a paean to personal power. It's a theme that carries over into Together is a Beautiful Place To Be, a soaring ballad dedicated to her late stepfather. Dancing on the outer edges of soul and gospel, it’s a meditative space, a wake of sorts, set to high hat soft blows, a delicate accompaniment from Sheila Maurice-Grey and Joe Armon-Jones’ gentle keys. “I miss him,” Garcia reflects. “I’m thankful that I got to say goodbye. When I take my experiences out of the song, it’s about being with your family, your people and your community.”

Stand With Each Other is built on serpentine nyabinghi grooves. Here, Garcia is joined by Kokoroko’s Richie Sievwright, Cassie Kinoshi and Sheila Maurice-Grey on standout vocals recalling classic reggae harmonies from the likes of the Wailers and The Congos: “I love the three of them singing so much, the blend is like for a really long time - I wanted the vocals to sound like a classic Lover’s Rock tune and they nailed it,” Garcia shared. It’s a celebration of collectivism, particularly of women: Garcia wants to celebrate the incredible artists she’s in community with, and at the same time, wants the industry to move beyond viewing artists only in terms of their genders: “I'm more than a woman. And I'm not the only woman [on the scene],’ she shares.

On La cumbia está llamando, the lyrics say it all: ‘'the cumbia is calling me.’ Last year with the British Council, and alongside other members of the London Jazz Scene, Garcia spent a week in Colombia where she first met multi-instrumentalist Diana San Miguel of La Perla, a young trio celebrating the nation’s traditional music. Garcia was so enamored that she went back this past winter, soaking in the sounds across her travels through Cali, Bogotá (where the track was recorded at the renowned Mambo Negro studios), and Timbiquí.

Curious to know more about her family’s lives and histories, Before Us: In Demerara & Caura follows deep dive excavations into Garcia’s family histories. Musically, Garcia draws from a rich web of Guyanese folk songs and carnival culture both in London and the Caribbean. Through the track, it's an attempt to honor those experiences, and to attend to the alienation she feels from distant homelands.

Anchored on Daniel Casimir’s pliable bass and the haunting control of Chicagoan vocalist Akenya, the album’s closer Boundless Beings, in Garcia’s words, sums up the sentiment of the album. A dystopian anti-ballad, it’s a testament to personal triumph. It brings to mind the erotic - in Audre Lorde’s definition - as a mode of survival, one that is generative not only for each of us personally, but each other and the planet - all concerns that Garcia shares. It's about radical, relentless belief in our capacity to surmount the individual and collective challenges we face now, and those to come.

Garcia studied under pianist Nikki Yeoh at Camden Music, before joining Gary Crosby’s Tomorrow’s Warriors in her late teens and completed her training at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music. She is a member of the contemporary septet, Nerija, and has toured extensively internationally, playing venues and festivals across Latin America, Asia, Europe, Australia, and the United States. Garcia’s reputation as a DJ is also burgeoning; she currently helms a hit radio residency on NTS and plays a growing number of live sets across Europe.

Guitarist Blake Aaron releases “Color and Passion”

Torrential rain poured on the dark and dismal day that Southern Californians were ordered to shelter in place last March due to the coronavirus. Despite the unsettling time, Billboard chart-topping contemporary jazz guitarist Blake Aaron sat down to write a song to communicate hope. Using a tropical soca rhythm and infused with bright energy and joy, “Daylight” is Aaron’s newest single moving up the Billboard chart from the forthcoming “Color and Passion,” his sixth album that drops September 18 on Innervision Records.

“‘Daylight’ was written on and inspired by the day the coronavirus was officially declared a pandemic. It’s a song completely opposite of that rainy, dreary day written with the hope that we would soon see ‘daylight.’ The coronavirus has brought more pain to more people for much longer than we possibly could have imagined. ‘Daylight’ represents my musical hope and celebration of a new day for all of us,” said Aaron, who produced eight tracks, wrote seven songs and co-wrote three tunes for “Color and Passion.”

“Color and Passion” is Aaron’s first collection since 2015’s “Soul Stories,” and like that outing, half of the new album is made up of hit singles that were released over the last few years along with some newly completed cuts, many of which bode to be issued as singles. Two singles from “Color and Passion,” the melodically rich “Fall For You” and “Groovers and Shakers,” a duet written and produced with hitmaking saxophonist Darren Rahn, went No. 1 on the Billboard chart. Invigorating and illumined by a horn section, “Vivid” climbed into Billboard’s top 10 as did “Drive,” another propulsive collaboration with Rahn that was the No. 1 song of 2019 on the Radiowave chart.

In addition to featuring Rahn, Aaron spotlights several more Billboard chart-toppers on “Color and Passion.” He wrote the exhilarating “Sunday Strut” with guitarist Adam Hawley, a song graced by urban-jazz icon Najee on tenor and soprano saxophones. The album closes with a Latin percussive treatment of Stevie Wonder’s anthemic classic “Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing” that includes Kim Scott’s impassioned flute engaging in a dalliance with Aaron’s fiery electric guitar.

Virtually every song on “Color and Passion” sounds like a single because of Aaron’s innate ability to write ensnaring hooks that he animates with dexterous and technically-astute guitarwork along with an assortment of first-call musicians, the likes of which include bassists Darryl Williams, Hussain Jiffry and Mel Brown; drummers Tony Moore and Eric Valentine; keyboardists-pianists Rob Mullins, Tateng Katindig and Mike Whittaker; horn players and arrangers David Mann, Lee Thornburg and Scott Martin; and strings arranger Craig Sharmat.

“I’ve never been a believer in throwaway album cuts, so I write every song on my CDs with the hopes of it having a good shot at being a radio single. I’ve been lucky because I’ve had quite a few radio singles from both ‘Soul Stories’ and ‘Color and Passion.’ My radio promoter jokes that my albums are like greatest hits CDs even before they’re released.”
Aaron’s catalogue has consistently explored a wide range of musical styles – jazz, R&B, pop, Latin, Caribbean, funk, fusion and rock - and writing and recording over an extended period of time perhaps enhances the diversity heard on “Color and Passion.”

“‘Color and Passion’ refers to the way I see the wonderful and beautiful vast array of different styles and moods of music as colors, how those colors represent different paths, twists and turns on the journey through life, and the passion I have always had for and expressed through my music that hopefully shines through in my playing style, especially on songs like the title track,” said Aaron, who then got introspective.

“Having such a love for so many diverse musical styles and experiences has been mostly a blessing, but also slightly a curse. It’s been a blessing because I have never been bored and have been on this amazing journey both musically and personally that continues to unfold with new and exciting adventures. It has slightly been a curse because I may have gotten to where I was going with my music and my personal life a little faster without so many twists, turns and detours in the road.”

Releasing a new album during this uncertain time is not easy. All of Aaron’s supporting concert dates have been canceled or postponed for the time being. But he remains an eternal optimist and purposely closed “Color and Passion” offering a note of optimism.
“I must admit the one good thing for me that came out this terrible coronavirus situation was it allowed me to focus and finally finish ‘Color and Passion.’ I ended the album with Stevie Wonder’s uplifting and joyful ‘Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing’ because that is the last feeling and encouraging impression I want listeners to take with them. I hope this album provides a musical glimmer of hope and belief that we will get through this together.”

New Music Releases: Barbara Lynn, Milton Nascimento, Manfredo Fest

Barbara Lynn - Atlantic Years – 1968 to 1973 (180 gram pressing)

A killer collection of Barbara Lynn's records for Atlantic – a set that includes many of her 45-only tracks, which weren't on her full album for the label – plus one song that was only first issued in recent years! Lynn's a real standout in 60s soul music – a singer with a style that's as deep and personal as any of the best southern soul artists of the time, but also a way of putting over a tune that's maybe even more forthright and confident – partly because Barbara composed a good deal of her own material! A good deal of the work was produced by Huey P Meux in Mississippi – with a vibe that's both different from more familiar southern styles of the time, and even some of Huey's later material in the 70s – one more quality that really makes the work sound quite fresh. A few more tracks were recorded by the great Spooner Oldham – who brings in some sweet Muscle Shoals elements – and titles include the unreleased "Soul Deep", plus "This Is The Thanks I Get", "He Ain't Gonna Do Right", "You Make Me So Hot", "You'll Lose A Good Thing", "I'm A One Man Woman", "Sufferin City", "Maybe We Can Slip Away", "You're Gonna See A Lot More Of My Leavin", "You're Too Hot To Hold", and "Nice & Easy". ~ Dusty Groove

Milton Nascimento - Último Trem

With the success of Maria Maria in 1976 behind them, Nascimento reunited with his writing partner Fernando Brant in 1980 to produce another ballet, Ultimo Trem (Last Train). This time, they chose to tackle a more contemporarily relevant subject, the impact of the closure of a train line that connected certain towns and cities in the North East of Minas Gerais to the coast. Featuring much of the same all-star line-up as Maria Maria – including legendary Brazilian musicians Naná Vasconcelos, João Donato, Paulinho Jobim and members of Som Imaginário, like Maria Maria, the album holds what Milton himself considers to be the definitive versions of some of his most beloved tracks, including 'Saídas E Bandeiras' and 'Ponte de Areia'.

Manfredo Fest – Brazillian Dorian Dream

Legally blind from birth, Brazilian keyboard player, composer and bandleader Manfredo Fest learnt to read music in braille and began studying classical music at a young age. By 17 he had fallen in love with jazz (particularly the music of fellow blind pianist George Shearing) before becoming swept up in Rio’s emergent bossa nova movement in the sixties. Moving to the States in 1967 where he would go on to work with fellow countryman Sergio Mendes, Fest recorded and self-released Brazilian Dorian Dream in 1976, enlisting Thomas Kini  (bass), Alejo Poveda (drums, percussion) and Roberta Davis (vocals).Like a turbo-powered, intergalactic elevator ride, Brazilian Dorian Dream builds on the principle of the modal diatonic scales of the Dorian mode, with influences of Brazilian rhythms, North American jazz and funk, and music of the European baroque and romantic era. The coming together of these intergenerational and intercontinental styles coupled with Fest’s visionary use of the Fender Rhodes, Clavinet, Arp and Moog synthesizers (plus a whole load of effects units), makes for an album light years ahead of its time. Manfredo passed away in Florida in 1999, and his music never quite reached the audiences it deserved. Due to the independent nature and limited run of the original release, Brazilian Dorian Dream has to this day remained almost impossible to find on vinyl. Far Out Recordings is making this masterpiece available to new audiences with a remastered vinyl, CD and digital reissue in 2020.

New Music Releases: Esther Phillips, Tom Ranier, Marki Fields

Esther Phillips - Brand New Day: The Lenox, Atlantic, & Roulette Recordings (5CD set)

A fantastic collection of work from the legendary Esther Phillips – one of the most distinct voices in soul music, captured here during some key moments in her career! The box is huge – and begins with a full CD of tracks from Esther's initial years on Lenox Records – a label that helped her mature from "Little Esther Phillips", as a girl R&B singer in the 50s – to the much more mature artist she'd become on CTI/Kudu in the 70s! The set features 20 Lenox tracks – the first a stunning set of country soul material that makes Esther one of the first female artists to take on the work, followed by rare singles and a few duets with Big Al Downing. Next are 77 more tracks from Phillips' years at Atlantic Records – material that initially takes off from the Lenox material, then moves into a really great range of styles – sometimes jazzy and sophisticated, sometimes rootsy and bluesy, sometimes a bit more deep soul too – including some live material that really shows the power she could pack at the time. In between the Atlantic cuts, are also nestled 6 more numbers recorded for Roulette Records in 1969 – especially rare tracks that have a slightly different approach – and which are a key part of the set here, along with some other unreleased material. Stunning – the first time Esther's ever gotten such wonderful treatment – a big box set with detained notes too! ~ Dusty Groove

Tom Ranier – This Way

Pianist, clarinetist, multi-woodwinds player, and composer Tom Rainer, one of Southern California’s finest improvisers, is releasing This Way, his first recording as a leader in 14 years. Ranier is a highly sought-after studio musician, performing regularly at the Grammys, Oscars, Emmys, and Golden Globes. He has also recorded for artists such as Terry Gibbs, Joe Pass, Buddy DeFranco, Barbra Streisand, and Plácido Domingo, among many others. On THIS WAY, Ranier displays the remarkable range of his musical talents. He composed six of the eight tunes on the disc, and he plays the piano and synthesizer, as well as soprano, alto, tenor and baritone saxes. He is equally versatile on the Bb, bass, and contra-alto clarinets. Ranier’s music is so compelling because he is a storyteller with a strong visual sense. “You don’t need words to convey ideas or emotions. Like the visual arts, music tells stories through images,” says Ranier. This Way has been a long time coming. As Ranier notes, “Every recording is a snapshot in time of where the artist is right at that moment. This album is the culmination of all my experiences and musical influences over the last 15 or so years.” Accompanied by some of the finest musicians in Southern California, all of whom are first-call studio musicians with extensive recording experience, the music on This Way is rich and complex, yet eminently accessible and thoroughly enjoyable.

Marki Fields – Caught Up

A rising star on the Philly Soul scene, vocalist Marki Fields has been making a name for herself since her discovery by legendary Philly Soul producer and Society Hill chief Butch Ingram, who has put Marki's unique talent to work in the studio on several Society Hill releases. Marki garnered rave reviews for her duet with Society Hill label mate Donnie Tatum on their updating of Maxwell's smash hit "Ascension (Don't Ever Wonder)" and for Marki's beautiful rendition of Stevie Wonder's 1984 chart-topper "Overjoyed." Marki was picked as one of the featured vocalists at a recent Phyllis Hyman tribute and she has made appearances all over the Northeast, wowing audiences with her authentic Philly soul sound. Ingram decided it was time that Marki exposed her talents to a wider audience and invited her into the studio to record her long overdue full-length album debut, appropriately titled "Caught Up." Enlisting the help of the Society Hill Orchestra and the Ingram Brothers band, Marki does justice to the Philly Soul sound with an awesome collection of hand-picked songs, hand-picked. Featured on the full-length is a bonus extended mix of Marki's critically acclaimed take on Maxwell's "Ascension (Don't Ever Wonder)" and also includes a sensational duet with Donnie Tatum, updating Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes' "Hope That We Can Be Together Soon." Blessed with a unique vocal style and a strong connection to soul music of the past, Marki Fields is destined to bring the new sound of Philly Soul into the future.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

New Music Releases: Sylvia Bennett, Deon Yates, Alfredo Balcacer

Sylvia Bennett - This Love Is Real 

Years after discovering her, jazz legend Lionel Hampton exclaimed of Sylvia Bennett, “Man, that lady can sing! Her magic gets to the ears and the hearts of the audience.” The extraordinary, multi-talented Grammy nominated vocalist does just that once again on her exceptional new album This Love Is Real. To the delight of Smooth Jazz fans, Bennett has been part of the genre for much of the new millennium, recording hits with Paul Brown and Rick Braun. Recent smashes featuring Nathan East and Arturo Sandoval lay the buoyant foundation of the new collection produced by Hal S. Batt, which finds Bennett artfully swinging from playful and whimsical to passionate and sensual as she brings smooth grooves and Latin-tinged twists to her all-time favorite subject… love! ~ 

Deon Yates - Quintastic 

Nearly 10 years after being named runner-up in the Capital Jazz Challenge, that launched his exciting and prolific career as a Smooth Jazz artist, Detroit-bred saxophonist Deon Yates is feeling more than great, he's feeling Quintastic. The socially trending title of his 5th solo album literally means “a person aged 50 or more and is still attractive and successful.” That timeless magnetism, relentless hooks and intense, horn-sizzling energy are the driving forces that propelled the title track onto the Groove Jazz Top 100 Smooth Jazz Songs of 2019! Featuring guest producers Chris "Big Dog" Davis, Jackiem Joyner and Darren Rahn, the current single, "In The Moment," features producer, vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Nathan Mitchell! ~  

Alfredo Balcacer – 9 Paredes 

After the successful release of his debut album, “Suspended Sea,” Alfredo Balcacer joins forces once again with his Sinergia Group. This new collaboration with artists Henry Rensch, Madison George, Otoniel Nicolas (Latin GRAMMY winner & GRAMMY nominee), Yakiv Tsvietinskyi, Caleb Elzinga and Rufus Ferguson was brought to life through a combination of video calls and long-distance recording sessions. Alfredo’s composition incorporates rhythms from his native Dominican Republic, setting the stage for Nicolas’ world-class percussive touch while preserving Dominican heritage across the arrangement. This single was mixed and co-produced by award-winning, GRAMMY nominated engineer JV Olivier at VIBRAR Studios and mastered by the great John Webber at AIR Studios in London, UK.

Monday, August 24, 2020


APKÁ! (with capital letters and an exclamation point), the fifth album from São Paulo’s Céu, consolidates the journey of the singer and composer’s career up to this point. A hot, minimalist record, which brings together sonic, thematic, musical and conceptual extremes, the new album reveals an artist passing through the musical trips made on previous records while eventually leaving her chrysalis, transformed into a new composer and interpreter, ready to start a new phase of her career.  

The album’s title comes from Céu’s youngest child Antonino, a word shouted by the one year old to express complete satisfaction. Smiling & happy, Céu’s son with producer and drummer Pupillo, shouts the strange, made-up word to show that he is happy with everything from a meal to a game. It’s a mixture of excitement and gratitude. In its own way, APKÁ! does just that – in the form of music. 

APKÁ! features the same team that worked on Céu’s celebrated previous studio album Tropix. French musician Hervé Salters, from the band General Elektriks, repeats his role as co-producer and keyboardist, as well as long-time bassist and faithful accomplice Lucas Martins and Pupillo on drums, programming and co-production. Guitarist Pedro Sá, completes the quartet that accompanies Céu on almost all of the new album’s tracks. 

Bill Frisell - Keep Your Eyes Open

Acclaimed guitarist Bill Frisell has released “Keep Your Eyes Open,” the second single to be revealed from his forthcoming album Valentine featuring his trio with bassist Thomas Morgan and drummer Rudy Royston. “Keep Your Eyes Open,” which originally appeared on Frisell’s 1997 album Nashville, is accompanied by a new video by Monica Jane Frisell. Valentine was released by Blue Note Records on August 14, and is available for pre-order now on vinyl, CD, and digital formats. 

Produced by his longtime collaborator Lee Townsend and recorded by Tucker Martine at Flora Recording in Portland, Oregon, Valentine is a 13-song set that mixes Frisell originals new and old, jazz standards, traditional songs, and covers. The album explores the creative freedom of the trio format and the profound relationship that exists between these three musicians after years of touring. 

DownBeat awarded Valentine a 5-star “Masterpiece” rating in their August issue, with reviewer J.D. Considine writing “Even though the selections on Valentine hail from a range of styles the performances represent jazz playing at its most sublime,” and praising how the trio “consistently and strikingly play as one, voices intertwined, completing phrases as if sharing a single thought.” 

Guitar World called the album’s lead single “We Shall Overcome” “about as beautiful an instrumental as you’ll ever hear. Frisell’s leads are nothing short of a work of art, letting the powerful melody take up as much space as it needs.” In JazzTimes’ July/August cover feature on the guitarist, Mac Randall calls Valentine “a Frisellian mix of down-home and moody, abstract and endearingly direct.” 

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Ready Or Not – Thom Bell’s Philly Soul Arrangements & Productions 1965-1978

Along with Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, Thom Bell was one of the three people responsible for The Sound Of Philadelphia, a lush, orchestrated take on soul music that dominated the charts in the early to mid-70s. Using the most unusual instrumentation – harpsichords, French horns, sitars – Bell’s arrangements built the careers of the Delfonics and the Stylistics, and reinvented acts as varied as the Spinners, Dionne Warwick and Johnny Mathis. 

The distinctive sound of a Thom Bell arrangement is largely down to an upbringing devoid of R&B. Growing up in a middle-class Philadelphia household, he was playing piano, drums and flugelhorn by the time he was nine. “We didn’t have any radio or anything, we were trained classical musicians,” says Bell. “From when I was five ’til I was 17, I studied two or three hours a day. First thing I heard on the radio was Little Anthony & the Imperials’ ‘Tears On My Pillow’. I thought, What kind of music is this? This is nice music!”  

He became a singer in a duo with Kenny Gamble. A year later the duo expanded to a five-piece, Kenny Gamble & the Romeos, and started to pick up work as session musicians at Philadelphia’s hot Cameo and Parkway labels. It was another Little Anthony & the Imperials hit, ‘I’m On The Outside (Looking In)’, that inspired him in 1964. “[Writer and producer] Teddy Randazzo, he was my leader – ‘Outside Looking In’, ‘Hurt So Bad’ … now we’re talking. I never got to meet Teddy Randazzo, and I’m sorry about that. Randazzo and Bacharach, those were my leaders. They tuned me in to what I was listening to in a more modernistic way.” 

Cameo-Parkway eventually gave Gamble, Bell and Leon Huff (Bell’s replacement in the Romeos) more of a free hand, resulting in some beautiful 45s for Eddie Holman, the Orlons, Dee Dee Sharp and the Delfonics that helped to foment the lush, atmospheric Philadelphia sound. When the label folded in 1967, Bell took the Delfonics with him, and when the group moved on a few years later, he began to work with the Stylistics and then the Spinners, creating even bigger hits. Throughout these years, he kept a close-knit team around him, and the lyricist he worked with the most was Linda Creed. They worked together for nine years – when she died in 1986, aged 37, he was at her side.  

As a writer, producer and arranger, Thom Bell’s originality and the quality of his work deserves the same acclaim as that heaped on Nile Rodgers or Burt Bacharach. He prefers to stay in the shadows, though, and over the years has allowed Gamble and Huff to take the Philly soul limelight. Still, when he talks about his work, there’s an acknowledgment of lucky breaks but there is no false modesty. “Some people were like ‘Are all these strings necessary, why don’t you make regular R&B?’ Because I’m not R&B. I make music. Nobody else is in my brain but me, which is why some of the things I think about are crazy – I hear oboes, and bassoons, and English horns. But I’m lucky, I cross styles. I was enthusiated. Not enthused, enthusiated. I had my own language, and I was able to do what I wanted to do.” 

Includes tracks by Archie Bell & The Drells, The Orlons, The Delfonics, Lesley Gore, Connie Stevens, Three Degrees, Jerry Butler, Dee Dee Sharpe, Dusty Springfield, The Courtship, The Stylistics, The O'Jays, Ronnie Dyson, The Intruders, Johnny Mathis, MFSB, Teddy Pendergrass, Laura Nyro & Labelle, Dionne Warwick, and The Spinners.

Ambrose Akinmusire - On The Tender Spot Of Every Calloused Moment

The first note you hear on Ambrose Akinmusire’s fifth studio album on the tender spot of every calloused moment is his own—a somber yet vibrant tone that conveys jazz and the blues in equal measure. In years past, this wouldn’t be the case; Akinmusire is a bandleader who foregrounds collective improvisation. So to hear him take the lead on “Tide of Hyacinth” is a bold leap: Akinmusire not only asserts himself as one of the best trumpeters in the world, he’s using his voice to dissect the complexity of black life in America. Yet he isn’t trying to summon gloom, he’s unpacking it all. Through his trumpet comes the breath of a black man who’s seen the best and worst of the country, and harnesses it into 49 minutes of gorgeous, shape-shifting art.  

But that isn’t surprising if you’ve followed him to this point. on the tender spot of every calloused moment is the latest in a rich assembly of music he’s released, each album drawn from very real emotions and instances in his life. Where 2018’s Origami Harvest was a study in contrasts, on the tender spot is a study of the blues in a contemporary context. It continues a theme first established on his first Blue Note album, 2011’s When The Heart Emerges Glistening: On that cover, he has short hair and a cleanly shaven face. For this one, he has locks, facial hair, and a black hooded sweatshirt. “In a way, I was thinking about this as a sequel to my first record [on the label],” Akinmusire says. “I’m returning to the landmarks in my first album.”  

Akinmusire grew up in North Oakland in the 1980s, in what he has called a “very black, culturally rich” neighborhood. After living in New York for 10 years and Los Angeles for three, he moved back to his hometown in 2016 and noticed how much it had changed. It simply wasn’t the same Oakland. But it’s the same thing in historically black cities throughout the U.S.; in places like Oakland, Brooklyn, and Washington, D.C., natives are being priced out of their homes due to rising rent. What’s left are new neighbors with no sense of the communities that preceded them. Akinmusire is speaking to that, to coming back home and feeling like a stranger in the place you grew up, where the newcomers see your black skin and assume you’re the one who doesn’t belong.  

While on the tender spot scans as jazz, there’s a prevalent blues woven within the LP. It’s in the moonlit melancholy of “Yessss” and the gentle lullaby of “Cynical sideliners,” which, Akinmusire says, is a tongue-in-cheek ode to haters. Over light electric piano, vocalist Genevieve Artadi assures you it’s going to be fine—you’re the brave one; pay no attention to the naysayers. “You are you and they are they,” she sings. “You’ll be brave and they’ll be safe.” Then there’s a song like “reset (quiet victories & celebrated defeats),” a spacious and haunting procession doubling as a trumpet solo. Scant drums and piano chords fill the background; a complex sorrow permeates the mix. While creating this album, Akinmusire says he wrestled with conveying what the blues looks like in modern times: “The blues is about resilience.”  

Much like his previous work, on the tender spot unpacks the feeling of “otherness” and what that means in a country with such a fraught racial history. In that way, it resembles Origami Harvest and 2014’s the imagined savior is far easier to paint. But where those records seethed, this one simmers; Akinmusire examines the past with pondering eyes and not a furrowed brow.  

Indeed, on the tender spot navigates what it means to simply exist as a black person in America. Alongside drummer Justin Brown, pianist Sam Harris and upright bassist Harish Raghavan—bandmates for over a decade—Akinmusire delves into the internal strife of every person made to think they’re inferior. In a land where political leaders cater to the 1% and justice is reserved for fairer skin, there might be a notion to give up and make yourself smaller to fit in. Akinmusire is rebuking that notion: You don’t have to code-switch or conform to their rules. “You can be yourself and still be successful,” he says. “You don’t have to dance for people if you don’t want to dance.”  

On the tender spot also eulogizes another great jazz trumpeter, Roy Hargrove, who died of cardiac arrest in 2018. In the late-1990s and early-2000s, Hargrove was a link between jazz, hip-hop and soul, and appeared on pivotal records by D’Angelo, Common and Erykah Badu while forming his own sonic hybrid. Hargrove’s death rattled the jazz community and Akinmusire himself. “I don’t think I would be alive if I hadn’t met him when I did,” he tweeted at the time. “I am extremely grateful I got to tell him as a grown man to his face.” In turn, the song “Roy,” which draws from the Baptist hymn The Lord’s Prayer, is an almost three-minute reflection near the album’s end. The song feels funereal—equally mournful and optimistic. “Roy was my dude!” Akinmusire says. “We’ve had so many different ways of relating from the age of 15 to 35.” 

It all leads to the album’s chilling closer, “Hooded procession (read the names aloud),” which extends Akinmusire’s tradition of remembering the fallen. On When the Heart Emerges Glistening, he had “My Name is Oscar.” On the imagined savior he had “Rollcall For Those Absent,” where a child reads the names aloud: Amadou Diallo, Wendell Allen, Trayvon Martin and Timothy Russell, among others. On Origami’s “the lingering velocity of the dead’s ambitions,” the tribute was implied: In lieu of names being rattled off, the music itself expressed grief. The same goes for “Hooded procession,” where Akinmusire’s sullen keys land exquisitely. As it unfolds, the instrumental track begs for a new set of names to be spoken. That it doesn’t have words and still resonates is the trumpeter’s greatest asset: Across this and other albums, he’s able to say powerful things without saying anything at all. 


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