Angie Stone likes to distance herself from R & B megastar D’Angelo in interviews, but she can’t completely erase the connection: although they’re no longer an item, they have a child together and have cowritten songs, including “Everyday,” from Stone’s terrific debut album, Black Diamond (Arista). Like D’Angelo, Stone has worked up an innovative mix of hip-hop and live instrumentation that fits neatly into what New York Times writer Ben Ratliff has called the “natural soul” movement. Next to her ex, or Lauryn Hill or Erykah Badu or the Roots, she comes off as understated, but she’s as distinctive as any of them. She’s paid her dues many times over, first with the hip-hop group Sequence and the soul trio Vertical Hold, then as a songwriter for the likes of Mary J. Blige and Solo; she even played saxophone with Lenny Kravitz. This experience makes Black Diamond sound deeply considered: Stone refuses to abuse her powerful, husky alto the way most new-jill swingsters do, never trying to win you over with fancy curlicues or quivering vibrato, and her songs gleam with steely independence. The protagonists want love and commitment, but they won’t take shit from anyone to get it. The album’s producers, who include Ali Shaheed Muhammad of A Tribe Called Quest, aren’t shy about using programmed beats and samples, but warm electric piano and softly plucked guitars dominate, giving the music an undeniably organic feel that should be enhanced when Stone appears with a full band. Friday, 9 PM, House of Blues, 329 N. Dearborn; 312-923-2000 or 312-559-1212.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Ruven Afanador.