10 Albums You Need to Know: February 2020

A jazz legend’s 80th-birthday celebration; an exploration of the concepts around dreaming; a guitar hero’s much-anticipated new studio project. All this and more on our list of the ten albums out this month that you need to know about.

 

Christian McBride, The Movement Revisited: A Musical Portrait of Four Icons (Mack Avenue)

Release date: February 7

The Movement Revisited: A Musical Portrait of Four Icons is a sweeping four-part suite by bassist/composer Christian McBride. The work conveys the struggle of the Civil Rights Movement through the words and writings of four of its icons. A 20-years-in-the-making project, the piece was written for big band, small group and gospel choir. It also features four narrators, interpreting the roles of the four icons: Sonia Sanchez as Rosa Parks, Wendell Pierce as Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Vondie Curtis-Hall as Malcolm X and Dion Graham as Muhammad Ali.

 

Kat Edmonson, Dreamers Do (Spinnerette)

Release date: February 7

Texas-born vintage pop and jazz singer/songwriter Kat Edmonson explores the various concepts around dreaming on her fifth album, Dreamers Do. Her new LP, which follows the self-released and critically acclaimed Old Fashioned Gal from 2018, takes place over the course of one single night, with interludes between songs to indicate different points in this nocturnal journey. It also compiles Edmonson’s oneiric original compositions with reimagined Disney songs and timeless classics, arranged in the style of jazz, world music and chamber pop.

 

Makaya McCraven, We’re New Again (XL)

Release Date: February 7

Multi-instrumentalist/producer Makaya McCraven’s We’re New Again reimagines I’m New Here, the final studio album of legendary singer/songwriter Gil Scott-Heron. I’m New Here was originally released in 2010, a year prior to Scott-Heron’s death. It produced by Richard Russell of XL Recordings, the same label that is releasing We’re New Again, which was recorded by McCraven in his Chicago home studio and draws on his electronic, sample-based approach to production, fusing it with improvised live musicianship.

 

Sammy Miller and the Congregation, Leaving Egypt (self-released)

Release date: February 7

Sammy Miller and the Congregation, led by GRAMMY-nominated drummer Sammy Miller, is a seven-piece ensemble of former Juilliard students eager to escape the sometimes insular feeling of jazz to try something all their own. On Leaving Egypt, their nine-song self-released debut album, they showcase their charismatic and adventurous music, defined by virtuosic musicianship, familiar melodies and rollicking rhythms. Drawing on a century of American songs, Leaving Egypt also helps spread the band’s message on the power of community and inclusive ideals with its joy and vitality.

 

Carla Bley, Andy Sheppard, Steve Swallow, Life Goes On (ECM)

Release date: February 14

Legendary pianist/composer Carla Bley leads her longtime trio with saxophonist Andy Sheppard and bassist Steve Swallow on their third ECM release, Life Goes On. Her compositions on this album take the form of three suites – one of which is inspired by a U.S. president’s first observation on entering the Oval Office – traversing a wide range of moods and emotions, from the deeply reflective to the darkly witty. Recorded in Lugano, Switzerland, and produced by Manfred Eicher, Life Goes On testifies to the unique collective sound of the trio and follows the acclaimed Trios (2013) and Anando El Tiempo (2016).

 

Charles Lloyd, 8 Kindred Spirits (Live from the Lobero) (Blue Note)

Release date: February 14

Charles Lloyd celebrated his 80th birthday at Santa Barbara’s Lobero Theatre last March and this special concert is documented on a new album, 8 Kindred Spirits, featuring the saxophone great alongside guitarist Julian Lage, pianist Gerald Clayton, bassist Reuben Rogers and drummer Eric Harland, plus special guests Booker T. Jones and Don Was. 8 Kindred Spirits is also released in a limited edition set, documenting the show on 3-LPs, 2-CDs and a DVD, plus a 96-page hardcover book and two photo prints commemorating the first eight decades of Lloyd’s remarkable journey.

 

Pat Metheny, From This Place (Nonesuch)

Release date: February 21

Multi-GRAMMY-winning guitarist/composer Pat Metheny returns with his first album of new material since 2014. From This Place features ten brand new compositions and his touring band of the last years, with pianist Gwilym Simcock, bassist Linda May Han Oh and longtime drummer Antonio Sanchez. It also features The Hollywood Studio Symphony Orchestra conducted by Joel McNeely, lending a cinematic soundscape to the project, plus special guest appearances from vocalist Meshell Ndegeocello, harmonica player Gregoire Maret and percussionist Luis Conte.

 

Kassa Overall, I Think I’m Good (Brownswood)

Release date: February 28

Musician/producer Kassa Overall confronts his personal experience with mental illness on his second full-length outing, I Think I’m Good. “I want to show the world that mentally sensitive people are the innovators of our society,” he explains via a statement, “and hopefully set a new standard that includes a healthy way of life and embracing our unique perspective on reality.” Musically, I Think I’m Good finds Overall expressing his fluency in the languages of jazz and hip-hop, dissolving the boundaries between the two genres. It also features cameos from activist Angela Davis as well as artists including Theo Croker, J. Hoard and Melanie Charles.

 

Warren Wolf, Reincarnation (Mack Avenue)

Release date: February 28

Reincarnation marks an artistic rebirth for Warren Wolf, one of the foremost bop vibraphonists of his generation. Drawing on the R&B and soul music that was the soundtrack of his formative years, the LP is a celebration of life and Wolf sums it up as “an album of love and feel-good music.” Each track was also inspired by his life and personal history, and performed with a band mixing scene veterans and rising stars, with plenty of room for soloists to stretch out. Famed DJ Marcellus “Bassman” Shepard plays the role of emcee, his baritone voice also providing Reincarnation with a radio-style intro and outro.

 

Wolfgang Haffner, Kind of Tango (ACT)

Release date: February 28

Acclaimed German drummer Wolfgang Haffner explores the drama and propulsion of the Argentinian tango from his personal jazz perspective on Kind of Tango. “Rhythm is the essence of tango,” he explains via a statement, “plus catchy melodies which can be developed – and there’s so much emotion in it too.” The album features original compositions by Haffner and his band members, plus version of works by Astor Piazzolla, the bandoneon great who revolutionized the genre and coined the term “nuevo tango.” It is also the third installment in his acclaimed Kind of… series, released via ACT.

Featured photo of Kassa Overall by Aren Johnson.

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