Album: Really From
Artist: Really From
Release Date: March 12, 2021
Label: Topshelf Records
- “Try Lingual”
- “I’m From Here”
- “In the Spaces”
This Boston-based band gets its name from the question asked of its mixed-race members, “Where are you really from?” The lyrics explore identity and social awareness, set to music that is virtuosic and eclectic. In one album you can hear jazz fusion, aggressive indie rock, and acoustic singer-songwriter styles seamlessly blended. The Pitchfork review of this album is very insistent on calling Really From’s style as emo and “math rock,” a genre I’m pretty sure they just made up. But whatever the style, I know that I really like it.
99% Invisible :: The Real Book
How a book of pirated sheet music became a must have for students in jazz music programs.
Throughline :: Policing in America
A history of police in America and how it has served the purposes of white supremacy.
Unf*cking the Republic :: Mass Incarceration: The War on Drugs
A profanity-laden summary of the work Michelle Alexander and others have done to detail how increased policing and imprisonment is being used to infringe the rights of Black Americans.
Running Tally of Podcast of the Week Awards for 2021
Album: Three Little Words
Artist: Dominique Fils-Aime
Release Date: February 12, 2021
Label: Ensoul Records
Thoughts: Dominique Fils-Aimé, a vocalist from Quebec, explores the sounds of soul music with hints of jazz on her third album. The songs draw on influences from Do-Wop and classic Motown to more recent performers like Amy Winehouse. Lyrically the songs celebrate Black history and music and the ongoing struggle for liberation. Everything seems to be arranged and produced to perfection. Really the only flaw to the album is that it ends with an unnecessary cover of “Stand By Me.” If you like beautiful vocals and souljazz arrangements, this album is for you.
Album: Dialectic Soul
Artist: Asher Gamedze
Release Date: July 10, 2020
Label: On the Corner
I don’t know much about jazz, but I know what I like. South African drummer Asher Gamedze draws on free jazz and Black liberation traditions of the 1960s and 70s and fuses them with contemporary jazz and protest music. The standout track “siyabulela,” a slow tune with vocals by Nono Nkoane cuts to the soul.
Album: National Freedom
Artist: Lonnie Holley
Release Date: July 3, 2020
- Like Hell Broke Away
- Do T Rocker
Lonnie Holley of Alabama works in many art disciplines, visual media and sculpture, as well as experimental blues music. This album collects music recorded in a 2014 session. His music is rooted in blues with his gravelly vocals reminiscent of Howlin’ Wolf but his performance draws on the improvisation of jazz (particularly on the 11-minute final track “So Many Rivers (The First Time)”). The result is oft-time weird, but not inscrutable, and evocative of deep human emotions.
Artist: Tony Allen, Hugh Masekela
Release Date: March 20, 2020
Label: World Circuit
- Agbada Boudou
- Never (Lagos Never Gonna Be the Same)
- We’ve Landed
Tony Allen was a drummer from Nigeria who was key in defining the genre of Afrobeat when working with Fela Kuti’s Africa ’70 band. In 2010, he collaborated with the equally legendary South African trumpeter Hugh Masekela on the sessions that would lead to this album. Masekela died in 2018. Allen completed the sessions with some of London’s top jazz artists.
Allen died on April 30, just a little over a month after this album’s release, so it stands as a memorial to him as well. Nevertheless, it is a joyous recording as the title proclaims. I don’t have the language and experience to adequately describe Afrobeat and jazz, but I like what I hear. Most of the album is instrumental, with exceptions like “Never (Lagos Never Gonna Be the Same),” a tribute to Fela Kuti. In the music you can hear the freedom and friendship of two great artists pushing one another to greater heights. It’s also a very crisp recording where each instrument resonates richly and deeply.
This is a terrific album and makes me want to dive into the back catalog of both artists.
Release Date: March 29, 2019
- Lawrence of California
Thoughts: Mekons are an original UK punk rock band from the 1970s who remain fresh and relevant 40 years later. The folk rock/punk rock sound of Deserted is reminiscent of Billy Bragg, and is inspired by the landscapes of Joshua Tree National Park.
Album: Gnomes and Badgers
Artist: Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe
Release Date: March 8, 2019
- What if You Knew
- Millvale, PA
- Something Sweet
- Smart Boy
Thoughts: I heard this playing in a coffee shop and through the magic of Shazam, I learned about a new band. The album is an excellent collection of funk/jazz fusion from a former member of Lenny Kravitz’s backing band (so basically it’s the good part of Lenny Kravitz music without the bad part of Lenny Kravitz music).
Album: The Seduction of Kansas
Release Date: April 5, 2019
- The Seduction of Kansas
- Good Time Charlie
- I’m Clean
- 68 Screen
A punk rock epic that draws inspiration from a book by Thomas Frank? Yes, please!
Album: Heaven and Earth
Artist: Kamasi Washington
Release Date: June 22, 2018
Favorite Tracks: “Fists of Fury,” “One of One,” “The Space Travelers Lullaby,” “Vi Lua Vi Sol,” “Journey,” and “Will You Sing.”
I feel like I really don’t have the knowledge and vocabulary to review jazz. Of course you could probably argue that for my rock and pop reviews too. But the new album by the tenor saxophonist, bandleader, and composer from Los Angeles, Kamasi Washington, seems a significant addition to the jazz ouevre. Washington and co record epic tracks of epic length in two parts of an hour each, with the sound veering from cinematic scores to psychedelic rock to funk to symphonic fantasia.
Related Post: Album Review: Harmony of Difference by Kamasi Washington
Album: Roza Cruz
Artist: La Mecánica Popular
Release Date: April 13, 2018
It’s hard to describe the music on La Mecánica Popular’s album Roza Cruz. I think it sounds like psychedelic Latin jazz, NPR describes it as “Radical Afro-Latin Futurism,” and the band’s own website says they are a “Brooklyn-based Afro-Latin group” and that “their sound is steeped in 1970s’-era Salsa Dura, yet incorporates a heavy dose of modern gadgets – a unique blend of processed Peruvian-style guitar licks & experimental sounds, synths, and textures.” However one describes it, the five instrumental tracks on this album are a treat for the ears.
Hot songs spinning in my ears over the past month.
Courtney Barnett – “Nameless, Faceless”
Femi Kuti – “One People One World”
Jorge Elbrecht – “Here Lies (Feat. Tamaryn)”
Orquesta Akokan– “Mambo Rapidito”
Khruangbin – “Maria También”
Hollie Cook – “Stay Alive”