Reviews from SoulTracks on Sun Music are the highly rated music releases by artists played on the 24/7 and On-Demand streams.
|Cécile McLorin Salvant - Dreams and Daggers
One of my favorite videos hit my Facebook feed in early July, and it involved one of my favorite singers, Cecile McLorin Salvant. Salvant and her pianist Aaron Diehl were among the passengers jammed up at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris. They could have stood in line and waited, but there was a piano, and with Salvant’s lovely voice, the two had everything they needed for an impromptu concert.
Salvant sat on the floor with her back up against the wall, dressed in traveling clothes - pink cardigan, navy scarf, black jeans and her signature white glasses –and sang “Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most” with Diehl accompanying her on the 88s. The scene, which somebody recorded with their mobile phone, is a reminder that jazz is a music best heard live whether the audience is at Dizzy’s Coca-Club at the Lincoln Center, an airport terminal in France or, in the case of Dreams and Daggers, the Grammy winner’s first live album, the Village Vanguard and the DiMenna Center in New York. Read more...
|Will Downing - Soul Survivor
There’s something about being a proven and ‘seasoned’ performer. Just as wine usually gets better with age and folks don’t become old by becoming fools (again, that’s usually), artists don’t remain relevant for decades unless they’re getting the job done. With the only constant being change, the irony performers face over the years is maintaining their uniqueness without becoming stale as their styles evolve. Will Downing, one of the enduring musical talents on both jazz and soul’s ‘short list,’ has been adept at this----for two decades and some change. So Downing’s choice to entitle his latest collection Soul Survivor is a valid one. Read more...
|Anthony Brown & group TherAPy - A Long Way From Sunday
Sometimes my curiosity arises as to what worship leaders choose to name their backing ensembles, and if there is a lasting significance towards their ministry. In this instance, Anthony Brown dubbed the name, Answered Prayer, for a collective of fellow college students. Eventually, Brown changed the name over to group therAPy, inspired from Brown’s relationship with musician/producer Warryn Campbell and the capitalized AP paying homage to the previous group name, Answered Prayer. Little did Brown realize that group therAPy would end up being more than just a name, considering their therapeutic, tight bonding on and off stage after the unexpected passing of a group member. Read more...
|The Isley Brothers and Santana - Power of Peace
My initial reaction to learning about the Here I Am project, where Ronald Isley teamed with Burt Bacharach to sing lush arrangements of tunes from the Bacharach-Hal David songbook, was surprise. Of course, initial reactions, as is often the case with those type of first takes, don’t fully consider the history of Ronald Isley or the Isley Brothers. Throughout that band’s creative period in the early and mid-1970s, the Isley Brothers often plucked tunes associated with singer/songwriters of that period and reimagined them – often giving the cuts second lives – as funk infused soul numbers. Todd Rundgren's “Hello, It’s Me,” and Crosby, Stills and Nash’s “Love the One You’re With” both got the treatment, as did Seals and Croft’s “Summer Breeze.” Read more...
|Calvin Richardson - All or Nothing
The Womack family has been in the news in the past year. Binky, the son of Curtis Womack, released a record after years behind the scenes. His father, Curtis, passed away earlier this year, leaving his eldest uncle Friendly as the last surviving member of the singing siblings that has been making music collectively and individually for more than 60 years.
Though not related by blood, Calvin Richardson has a body of work that makes him this generation’s closet link to the singers from the 60s and 70s such as Sam Cooke, Otis Redding and especially Bobby Womack. Richardson released a cover album of Bobby Womack songs 2009, and his gravelly baritone makes him ideally suited to take on “Woman’s Gotta Have It,” and the tunes on that record. Read more...
|Jazzmeia Horn - A Social Call
With an assured maturity and vocal confidence far beyond her years, the young singer Jazzmeia Horn arrives with her debut recording A Social Call, an album that reveals a talent ready to take its place alongside the best headlining vocalists of today. Its ten tracks—performed with an all-star acoustic lineup—bristle with a bracing sense of clarity: clarity in Horn’s voice (itself a strong and remarkably supple instrument); clarity in the heady range of vocal legends who have shaped her (from Sarah Vaughan to Rachelle Ferrell); and clarity in the vital message of social uplift and the glowing optimism she conveys through her music. Read more...
|Maysa - Love Is A Battlefield
Ah, the covers album. A lot of folks’ eyes go into emoji mode at the very mention of the genre. The perception is that artists go there for two reasons – either they fresh out of ideas and they’re trying to create some buzz by consulting the Motown, Stax or (and) the Great American Songbook canon, or an artist might be at the top of his or her game and covering the songs that they grew up loving or perhaps even inspired them to become a singer is a labor of love.
Maysa Leak, based on the quality of her solo work, her status as Incognito’s best known and loved vocalist, and her reputation as a much in demand duet partner, plants her firmly in the latter category. Maysa could probably lend her distinctive dusky alto to melodic renditions of the Yellow Pages and still land a Readers’ Choice Award. Read more...
|The Baylor Project – The Journey
There are many kinds of journeys traveled over the 11 tracks of The Baylors’ The Journey, both explicit and implied. The most obvious is the project’s journey across a range of genres that Nicholas Payton calls Black American Music or BAM, from jazz to gospel and R&B to world, each getting center stage treatment and each expertly handled by musicians without obvious limits. And, while there is a notable absence of funk and hip hop, some of those sensibilities too are still present in the audacity and boldness of drummer Marcus Baylor’s aggressive approach to the drum, a sound in his hands that sometimes teeters on the edge of chaos, but is skillfully kept peering just over the cliff’s edge. For her part, singing in higher registers and exercising a wider palette of timbres and tones than we’ve ever heard from her in recordings, Jean Baylor is utterly unrecognizable as the former half of the ‘90s duo, Zhané, a transformation that takes the vocalist from great to outstanding. This too is part of the journey traversed, as both mature artists explore who they are now while giving a dutiful nod on the title track to whom they’d been and how far they’ve come. The Baylor Project’s The Journey is one you’ll want to pack for and join. Read more...