Rance Allen Group returns with 25th project on Oct. 28

allenThe Rance Allen Group will release its 25th album and third live project “Live From San Francisco Bay” (Tyscot Records) on October 28. The group pioneered the fusion of R&B-styled rhythms with spiritual and message music themes in the 1970s. It’s a winning style that has won them fans as varied as American Idol’s Randy Jackson and ’80s rockers Huey Lewis & the News. The 11-song set “Live from San Francisco Bay” was recorded live at the Richmond Memorial Auditorium.

“The theme really is to be encouraged in a very kind of depressed time,” says Rance Allen, who sees parallels between today’s social climate and that of when his group was formed during the Civil Rights and Vietnam eras.  “It’s a time of unusual stress with all of the killings going on, the political mess that’s going on and there’s just so many people who have just moved away from trusting God and believing in Jesus Christ. Our job of encouraging and uplifting will never be done. We’ll have to keep working on this until the Lord comes to take us home.”

The project features new songs such as the first radio single “All Day Long,” the ballad “My Delight” (led by Steve Allen), the quartet-styled stomper ‘Hold On” and the soulful tune “Vessel” (led by Paul Porter).

The group also brings back B-sides from past albums and gives them new arrangements such as the old school soul of “Like a Good Neighbor” and the funk of  “I’m Not Givin’ Up Givin’ Out Givin’ Givin’ In” that is lead by Tom Allen. The group provides some dance-floor rhythms with songs such as “Got Me Dancin’,” “Can’t Give Up (The Groove)” and “Victory Dance.” The collection is rounded out with fan favorites such as the group’s signature songs  “Miracle Worker” and “Something About the Name of Jesus.”

The Rance Allen Group was formed in 1965 in Monroe, Mich., as a self-contained band. In 1972, they signed to Stax Records’ Gospel Truth subsidiary, where they recorded a series of gritty gospel songs that won them main-stage tours with R&B headliners such as Isaac Hayes and Barry White. The group has been recording ever since and was honored with the BMI Trailblazer Award in 2008.

Drummer Nate Smith chronicles personal experiences on debut album

smithNate Smith‘s visceral, instinctive, and deep-rooted style of drumming has already established him as a key piece in reinvigorating the international jazz scene, and now his rising career reaches a new benchmark with the release of his bandleader debut, KINFOLK: Postcards from Everywhere (Feb. 3, 2017 via Ropeadope Records). Much like his diverse and ample resume (which includes esteemed leading lights such as Dave Holland, Chris Potter, Ravi Coltrane, José James, Somi, and Patricia Barber, among others), this album sees Smith fusing his original modern jazz compositions with R&B, pop, and hip-hop.
This leader debut shows Smith at the helm of a core ensemble consisting of pianist and keyboardist Kris Bowers, guitarist Jeremy Most, alto and soprano saxophonist Jaleel Shaw, electric bassist Fima Ephron, and singer/lyricist Amma Whatt, with Michael Mayo on backing vocals. The lineup expands on several cuts with the inclusion of several illustrious guests: saxophonist Chris Potter, bassist Dave Holland, guitarists Lionel Loueke and Adam Rogers, and vocalist Gretchen Parlato.
KINFOLK is about the musical family that I’ve put together,” Smith said in a recent news release. “All core members of the band have very unique and specific points of view.”
He reinforces the idea of family by composing tunes that touch upon his childhood: such is the case with the jovial “Morning and Allison,” whose title partly invokes Allison Drive, the street on which Smith grew up. The song stars Whatt serenading idyllic recollections of a child enjoying a bright, fun-filled Sunday morning.
Smith recorded his parents – Lettie and Theodore Smith – talking about their respective parents on the mesmerizing interludes “Mom” and “Dad.” On the former, Smith’s mother tells how her father migrated from Virginia to Detroit and was drafted into U.S. Army, then later returned to Virginia where he bought the family a house. The latter provides a vehicle for Theodore to recall how his own father tirelessly worked at Navy shipyard in Norfolk, Virginia during the Jim Crow era without getting proper financial compensation or promotion until decades later.
“I think of these stories as snapshots that ultimately gave shape to the Black American experience into which I was born, which ultimately informs this music,” Smith said. He stressed the significance of having his father on the disc: Theodore Smith passed away in March 2015.
“He never got a chance to hear the music or the band,” Smith said.
Because Smith didn’t come strictly from the formal matriculation of music studies as so many of his jazz contemporaries did, he lovingly describes his approach to drumming as “unrefined,” which in turns helps him distinguish his voice. He did, however, earned his bachelor’s degree in 1997 in media arts and design from James Madison University. While he was still in college, the legendary singer Betty Carter recruited him for her world-acclaimed Jazz Ahead program.
Smith said that the visual arts discipline he studied in college definitely seeps into his compositions.
“I love great movies and images. I’ve always had a deep interest in composing for film,” he said. “For this project, there is something very cinematic about the way that I conceived this record. That’s why it was so important for me to cast the right characters in terms of musicians. They bring to life the themes of family, nostalgia and identity that define this music.”
Ultimately, Smith likens the songs on KINFOLK to film vignettes sequenced together to tell a greater story about the unfolding journey of a working artist. This music represents snapshots from that voyage – these songs are the postcards from everywhere along the winding road.

Nina Simone’s years celebrated with vinyl album remasters

ninaFrom 1964 to 1967, the extraordinary Nina Simone released seven albums on Philips Records, further establishing her peerless artistic expression and singular voice. During this exceptional purple patch, she recorded some of her best and most important work of her career, much of it fuelled by the Civil Rights Movement and the turmoil of 1960s America. In conjunction with their 60th anniversary this year, Verve will celebrate the genius of Simone, the supernaturally gifted singer, pianist and prolific songwriter, and her incredible mid-’60s run with the release of her entire Philips catalog on vinyl.
Released earlier this summer as a box set titled The Philips Years, the seven LPs — Nina Simone in Concert (’64), Broadway-Blues-Ballads (’64), I Put a Spell on You (’65), Pastel Blues (’65), Let It All Out (’66), Wild Is the Wind (’66) and High Priestess of Soul (’67) — will be available individually on Friday, Sept. 30 on heavyweight 180 gram vinyl in facsimiles of the original sleeve art. The vinyl masters for the long-out-of-print titles were cut at Abbey Road using high-resolution audio transfers direct from the analog master tapes and are all in stereo. This marks the first time that Broadway-Blues-Ballads and Let It All Out have been made available on vinyl since their original release. A celebration of Simone’s remarkable talents, these albums contain many of the songs that Simone’s legacy is built upon not only such well-known cuts as “I Put a Spell on You” and “Feeling Good,” but also “Wild Is the Wind,” a song that David Bowie would memorably cover, and Simone’s version of Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit.”
Since her death in 2003, Simone’s influence, significance and cultural relevance has only grown, especially most recently as issues of race, police brutality and civil rights are once again at the forefront of the cultural conversation. The Netflix feature documentary, What Happened, Miss Simone? — which just won the 2016 Emmy for Outstanding Documentary this month — has helped shine a new light on Simone’s immense talents and fearless activism, resulting in a new generation discovering her timeless music and indelible impact. Of her Philips years, NPR drew parallels to the present: “In a time when issues of race and gender are reverberating with a newfound volatility reminiscent of the 1960s — the decade in which Simone forged her reputation as a politically provocative entertainer — Nina’s concerts and recordings feel like urgent bulletins from a brooding heart and a troubled land.”
In 1964, Simone embarked on a new stage of her career. Her rejection by the Philadelphia-based Curtis Institute of Music; time spent as a pianist in an Atlantic City nightclub; her jazz, gospel, pop and classical influences — all these had fused to make her one of the most complex, fascinating and talented artists of the decade. Simone released her debut album in 1958, but when she signed to Philips in 1964 at the age of 31, her creative output was about to dovetail with the Civil Rights movement — notably coinciding with the Civil Rights Act Of 1964, which outlawed discrimination based on race, color, gender, religious affiliation or nationality. It’s fitting, then, that the first album she released on Philips, 1964’s Nina Simone in Concert, captured some of Simone’s most committed Civil Rights-era material, including her explosive rendition of “Mississippi Goddam.” But this three-year period also saw her satisfy her relentlessly questing muse, with collections that focused on Broadway showtunes (Broadway-Blues-Ballads), pop material (I Put A Spell on You) and more, showing the full range of Simone’s talents.

Cuba-based jazz artist Harold López-Nussa debuts first release in U.S.

cuba

Photo Credit: Eduardo Rawdriguez

“El Viaje (The Journey),” the title track of Cuban pianist and composer Harold López-Nussa’s debut release on Mack Avenue Records, seems to sway gently like a boat in the water – as if readying for a voyage or returning to port after arrival – trumpet and voices whispering memories. This scene aptly describes López-Nussa’s experiences of traveling throughout the world, yet always finding his way back to his hometown of Havana, Cuba. This journey of body and spirit has led simultaneously to a musical exploration where he visits various genres and ideas while staying true to his foundational roots.

The release of López-Nussa’s music stateside is a significant postscript to President Obama’s recent trip to Havana. The conservatory-trained pianist is the first Cuba-based musician (he has dual citizenship in both Cuba and France) to release an album internationally since the lifting of many of the restrictions associated with the longstanding trade embargo. States Mack Avenue Records President Denny Stilwell in a recent news release, “Harold follows in the modern day tradition of exemplary Cuban pianists who have recorded and toured internationally. We feel he is an emerging artist with immense creative potential to breakthrough.”

El Viaje features The Harold López-Nussa Trio with younger brother Ruy Adrián López-Nussa on drums and percussion and from Senegal, Alune Wade on bass and vocals. This trio is augmented on certain tracks with guests including his father Ruy Francisco López-Nussa on drums, Mayquel González on trumpet and flugelhorn, and Dreiser Durruthy and Adel González on percussion.

López-Nussa, who collaborated with Wade on the 2015 album Havana-Paris-Dakar, said: “Having a non-Cuban musician on this recording speaks to our contact with other cultures. Especially with African culture, which is so far from ours geographically and yet so close. Every time we play, I believe we enter into a journey we are creating,” he says, speaking from his home in Havana.

“Ever since I was a kid, since I began to study piano, music, I have tried; I have searched for that journey of the mind, always traveling with music. I remember that I started playing ‘El Viaje’ while on tour as a way of feeling closer to home, and when I’m here, it’s also a way for my mind to travel.”

López-Nussa has moved with ease between the classical, popular and jazz music worlds. A quick look at his experiences reveal a recording of Heitor Villa-Lobos´ “Fourth Piano Concerto” with Cuba’s National Symphony Orchestra (2003) but also winning the First Prize and Audience Prize of the Jazz Solo Piano Competition at the Montreux Jazz Festival, Switzerland, in 2005. He was part of projects as diverse as Ninety Miles (a recording with David Sánchez, Christian Scott and Stefon Harris) and Esencial (an album of compositions by revered Cuban classical guitarist, composer and conductor Leo Brouwer), both in 2011.

As for his popular music and on-the-job training, he was part of projects such as the Cuba volume of Rhythms del Mundo, which paired him with veterans from Buena Vista Social Club and he spent three years in the touring band of singer Omara Portuondo, an opportunity he calls “a blessing.” He has distilled all those experiences not only into a rich, personal style, as a player and composer, but it infused López-Nussa with an engaging attitude about making and sharing music.

Charles Jenkins’ solo project reinforces positive thinking

jenkinsBillboard Magazine chart-topping recording artist Charles Jenkins is stepping out of his musical pulpit with his first solo album “Think About These Things” (Inspired People), an urban mainstream set that hits store shelves and digital platforms on Friday.

Jenkins is best know for some of the biggest gospel hits in the last five years – “Awesome” (22 weeks) and “War” (5 weeks) with Fellowship Chicago.

The 10-track “Think About These Things” was produced by Jenkins and Grammy Award winning producer Warryn Campbell (Kanye West, Alicia Keys, Mary Mary). The album is full of motivating messages Jenkins calls #positiveair.

“I wanted to lift people up with a different sound and spread some #positiveair on the radio airwaves,” says Jenkins in a recent news release. “There’s so much bad news, negativity, violence and hopelessness in the world right now that we just wanted to send out some encouragement and remind everyone that they can win and be upbeat in this thing called life.”

The first radio single is the hypnotically catchy “Winning.” The uplifting anthem of hope and determination was the second most added song on the Urban Adult Contemporary radio the week of its release. Jenkins’ other thought-provoking songs have inspired a casual wear clothing line that can be viewed at www.inspiredpeopleclothing.com.

Songstress Kenia reunites with former bandmates on new project

Photo Credit: Layne Anderson

Photo Credit: Layne Anderson

For many jazz fans in the 1980s and ’90s, Kenia’s singing was the gateway to contemporary Brazilian jazz and pop. She stood out from her compatriots because of her intimate, smooth vocals-subtle yet soulful-and her finesse with both American standards and Brazilian material. On We Go (to be released in August) will entice a new generation of listeners, as it showcases Kenia at the top of her form with a seductive, polished vocal phrasing. The intriguing repertoire includes songs co-written by Kenia and the Brazilian songwriting legends Ivan Lins and Antonio Adolfo.

The singer, born Kenia Acioly, grew up in Rio de Janeiro and moved to the U.S. in 1980. She made her recording debut as the featured vocalist on trumpeter Claudio Roditi’s Red on Red, produced by the legendary Creed Taylor, the producer of “Desafinado” and “The Girl from Ipanema.” Kenia established herself as one of the most popular Brazilian vocalists in the U.S. with her MCA solo debut Initial Thrill (1987) and Distant Horizon (1988), both of which gained substantial radio airplay, and were followed by well-received albums with Denon. On these releases, Kenia sang in English and Portuguese and freely mixed composers like Harold Arlen and Stevie Wonder, Djavan and Toninho Horta.

On We Go boasts standards by big names (Gershwin, Lennon and McCartney), works by lesser known contemporary composers (Romero Lubambo, Luis Simas and others) and songs written for Kenia by Adolfo and Lins.

Paul Socolow plays bass and Mark Soskin handles keyboards on the new album, with Sandro Albert on guitar, Lucas Ashby on percussion and Adriano Santos on drums. Guitarist Romero Lubambo and harmonicist Hendrik Meurkens make notable guest appearances.

The album came about, recalls Kenia in a recent news release, when she “reconnected with Socolow and Soskin, who were the original members of my very first band, Pau-Brazil, and played on her first two albums. When we met again after nearly two decades, it just felt so right that I couldn’t resist the urge to do another project with them.”

For more information on Kenia, go to KeniaLive.com.

 

Mitch’s Product Review: Purex plus Clorox 2 Detergent

PurexplusClorox2Detergent_OriginalFreshPurex was kind to send a sample of their Purex plus Clorox 2 detergent, which is specially formulated with Clorox 2 stain-fighting enzymes to remove the toughest stains. Works with all washing machines, including High-Efficiency (HE).

I used it to wash a stain out of a favorite T-shirt I wore. It’s pretty effective, considering you have to pretreat stains by applying some detergent directly to stains and rub into fabric. Available in grocery stories everywhere.

For more information, check out this page.

“The Purex brand provided me with a sample of Purex plus Clorox 2 detergent in exchange for a product review. However, all the opinions expressed here are my own.”

Plans unfold for the 100th anniversary celebration honoring Charlie Christian

Mark Temple, chairman of the Charlie Christian Festival committee

Mark Temple, chairman of the Charlie Christian Festival committee

In a recent new release, Mark Temple, chairman of the Charlie Christian Festival committee, revealed that plans are going well for the 100th Anniversary celebration of the late Charlie Christian and his legacy. Temple said the Deep Deuce Business Association is collaborating with Black Liberated Arts Center, Inc., festival sponsor. to create a memorable experience for Oklahoma and that will attract music lovers from around the world.

The event, to be held June 2 to 5, 2016, near the Deep Deuce area will have a number of special surprises including an appearance of the only remaining guitar that Charlie Christian owned. There will be special moments such as a brief memorial at or near Calvary Baptist Church in Oklahoma City where Christian’s funeral was held and a New Orleans style festival parade. As always, there will be plenty of family type engagement activities right along with good food, good fun and great music.

Musical artist, visual artists as well as food and non-food vendors who wish to participate should call (405) 524-3800 or visit the website at www.charliechristianmusicfestival.com Selection of musicians will begin near the end of April.

“The 100th celebration only comes once in a lifetime, so our intent is to make this festival stand out as no other festival has,” Temple concluded. The event is funded in part by BancFirst, the Oklahoma Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts. Sponsorships are still available by calling (405) 524-3800.

Drummer Herlin Riley moves in ‘new direction’ with project

rileySince coming of age in the nurturing environment of a very musical family and a distinguished bloodline of drummers, New Orleans native Herlin Riley emerged from that most creative era of all things rhythmic in the late ’70s and early ’80s, to enliven the ensembles of such influential and demanding improvisers as pianist Ahmad Jamal and trumpeter Wynton Marsalis through his commanding yet elegant rhythmic presence. His authoritative style of melodic percussion is deeply imbued in the fertile creative soil of the Crescent City, encompassing as it does the entire length and breadth of America’s ongoing musical journey.
Now the release of his debut recording for Mack Avenue Records, Riley’s New Direction (available on Feb. 12) is an engaging, wide-ranging recital that distills a lifetime of experience into a swinging body of new music that defines what a big tent the music of New Orleans has always represented stylistically and spiritually.
This joyous cultural amalgam of Afro-Cuban, jazz and blues speak not just to Riley’s command of all things swinging — from the formative days of Sidney Bechet and Louis Armstrong — but which evoke, what for want of a better term we might call “the pocket” — those deeply dancing grooves that have nurtured parallel streams of rhythm & blues and funk in the tradition of such great Crescent City drummers as Vernel Fournier, Earl Palmer, Ziggy Modeliste and Idris Muhammad.
“You see,” Riley explains, “New Direction  reflects a personal transition from being a musical associate with the likes of Ahmad and Wynton, to functioning in a leadership capacity, both as a bandleader and a composer. Like Art Blakey, I’m trying to maintain a certain exuberance by using all younger musicians, while helping them develop their own voices. So many great musicians and drummers have come out of New Orleans, and that really defines my personal legacy; I’m standing on the shoulders of giants. But I’ve been playing drums since I was three years old; so, while the title New Direction may suggest new bottles, this is surely some well-aged wine.
“As a boy growing up in New Orleans, way before you heard that big bass drum in the street parades, you could feel it coming from four or five blocks away, and it would literally beckon you to come on down to the street, check out this music, and participate in it. On ‘Connection to Congo Square’ I quote the ‘Reveille’ in my intro. It reflects the melodic nature of how I tune my tom toms and is also a symbolic call to arms, for all the cats from the different neighborhoods to gather ‘round, and participate in this celebration, this collective dialog.”
Well-traveled listeners might hear echoes of Dizzy Gillespie and Chano Pozo in the Afro-Cuban celebrations of “The Crossbar” and “Connection To Congo Square.” The down and dirty groove of “Harlem Shuffle” suggests a connection to Benny Golson’s venerable “Killer Joe,” while the title tune (in the person of guest guitarist Mark Whitfield) evokes echoes of George Benson and those classic hard bop and grooving CTI sessions of yesteryear.
So when Riley and his band reference iconic elements of the jazz tradition, listeners might very well smile contentedly in recognition of audible gems with which they are conversant. Nevertheless, throughout New Direction, Riley and company also essay a very personal, original rhythmic signature on visceral, dancing arrangements such as “The Big Banana,” “Herlin’s Hurdle” and “Hiccup Smooth.” As Riley explains it, “in everything I play, there’s some reference from my own personal experience, and while it may not be explicit, it’s all underneath there somewhere.

Mitch’s Muse spotlight: Artist and filmmaker David Lynch on Artsy

David Lynch

David Lynch

If you’re a lover of art, feel free to view and browse the David Lynch page. As specified on his Artsy page, considered among the top living American filmmakers, David Lynch is revered for his singular, mind-bending vision of reality that both entrances and disturbs viewers. Among his best-known feature-length films are Eraserhead (1977); The Elephant Man (1980), a critical and commercial success that launched his career; and Blue Velvet (1986). His famed television series, the surrealistic murder mystery Twin Peaks (1990–91), has been credited with redefining the possibilities of the medium. Lynch is also a painter, singer-songwriter, and avid practitioner of and advocate for transcendental meditation. His work is lush, dark, and often shot through with violence.

Describing his creative process, he once said: “I used to go to well-lit diners, because in a well-lit diner I could sit and think and daydream and I could go to dark places knowing that I could surface in a well-lit, safe place.”

Artsy’s mission is to make all the world’s art accessible to anyone with an Internet connection. For more information, go to https://www.artsy.net.