|Photo: William Semeraro|
Wednesday, December 30, 2020
Friday, December 25, 2020
There was a lot of very good-to-excellent music to listen to and write about this year; so much so, that I'll play catch-up through January 2021. Here's the rest of the recordings (in no particular order) I believe made this year so much better.
John Birks "Dizzy" Gillespie. Joining him are Dave Adewumi (trumpet), Matthew Stevens (guitar), Fabian Almazan (piano), Carmen Rothwell (bass), and Joey Baron (drums). While only two of the nine pieces are Gillespie compositions, one can hear the Master's influence throughout the album. To find out more and to purchase the recording, go to
Saturday, December 19, 2020
At the beginning of this year, many of us knew that we would have to suffer through the Presidential Election cycle, that the amount of money spent on Federal and State elections would reach epic heights, and the possibility of lies and half-truths flying through the air might rent this country asunder. We did, it did, but hardly anyone predicted that a deadly virus would kill so many people, close up so many businesses, turn cities into deserts, and touch so many families around the country and the world.
Here at the cusp of 2021, there are now vaccines to fight the virus beginning to be distributed around the world, there will be a new administration in Washington, D.C., and we will soon be able to venture outdoors to begin the process of healing our communities. On a personal note, my older sister passed in April and my wife's brother in September; like many older people, our family is spread around the country and we only see them on FaceTime or via ZOOM. Our friends suffer in the hospital and we cannot visit to help buoy their spirits. Even worse, unless we can go outside, there's no breaking of bread, no sharing of wine and desserts, no going to plays or concerts or galleries.
Yet, music remains a constant and 2020 was a sparkling time for Black American Music. Whereas many of the albums that topped the "Critics List" were recorded in 2019 or before, by the end of the year we were hearing music produced in the pandemic months. The spirit of creativity has not suffered even as so many musicians, who depend on live performances to pay the rent and feed their families, often have to apply for grants and gifts to stay afloat. As a reviewer, I am blessed with plenty of promotional CDs and audio files; artists appreciate reviews but the only money they will see form that are the royalties when the album is sold. Many of them have turned to Bandcamp, perhaps the fairest of all the music sellers in the world (the website's "First Fridays", a day when over 90% of the money paid for a music file or album goes directly to the artist)––you'll see links to the artist's Bandcamp page at the bottom of nearly all the albums in Step Tempest. Listen when you can, purchase what you can. Music brings hope, solace, awakens our senses and emotions, and makes our blood flow.
Below are albums that I reviewed this year and that stand out from the rest.https://cuneiformrecords.bandcamp.com/album/the-daily-biological.
Friday, December 18, 2020
Tuesday, December 15, 2020
As I write this post, yesterday (December 14) marked the beginning of the 12th year of "Step Tempest." This is post #1004 (that's a lot of albums although in the first five-six years, I write columns about live music in my home state of Connecticut)––I've slowed down over the past few years due to teaching and family responsibilities but I remain excited about Black Creative Music and its myriad creators as well as performers.
Each year, I have created a "Best of..." list which usually numbers in the 40s (hey, I hear a lot of good music) and 2020, despite its various challenges, has produced a plethora of outstanding. Instead of posting one giant list this year, I have broken it down to two editions. Mostly because 30% of my final list consists of large ensemble albums (minimum of eight members) and that's the most of any year since I began creating a list for CADENCE Magazine in the 1980s. Therefore, they get a column to themselves.
(In no particular order:
Felipe Salles Interconnections Ensemble – "The New Immigrant Experience: Music Inspired by Conversations with Dreamers" (Tapestry Records)
Thursday, December 3, 2020
As 2020 mercifully (or mercilessly, depending on conditions where you live) crawls to a close, albums are being released that were recorded in the Spring and Summer of this most unusual year. Since live venues have been shuttered around the world, many musicians and ensembles lost a major portion of their income. Some venues have reopened but, mostly, for streaming concerts; with the promise of several vaccines, one can only hope that Spring 2021 will be a renewed time for live music and theater.
In the meantime, multi-instrumentalist Chris Potter and trombonist Marshall Gilkes were able to create and record new music in the midst of the pandemic––a look at their respective albums is below as well as a fine new recording from L.A.N. Trio (recorded in November 2019).
|Photo: Dave Stapleton|
|CD back cover|