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Dezron Douglas and Brandee Younger address cultural issues from lockdown on Force Majeure

For the past few months, bassist Dezron Douglas and harpist Brandee Younger have dealt with the necessity of social distancing with their own kind of intimate gigs: a series of quietly uplifting performances streamed live through a shared microphone from their Manhattan apartment. Force Majeure collects a dozen of these songs along with brief, perceptive […]

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Papo Vázquez leads his Mighty Pirate Troubadours through an uplifting blend of jazz and Caribbean rhythms

Trombonist Papo Vázquez had plenty of reasons to feel reflective this past spring. He was about to record Breaking Cover, his tenth album under his own name, and he’d spent more than 40 years performing with some of New York’s top Latin ensembles, among them Jerry Gonzalez’s Fort Apache Band and the Fania All-Stars. The […]

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Paulette McWilliams’s A Woman’s Story shows why stars have always relied on her voice

In the early 1970s, singer Paulette McWilliams quit ascending Chicago R&B group Rufus and recommended that her friend, Chaka Khan, take over the lead spot. The decision benefited everyone, even (and arguably especially) McWilliams, who dodged the pitfalls of limelight while continuing to work constantly in music. By the time she relocated to Los Angeles […]

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The Awakening’s reissue of 1972’s Hear, Sense and Feel still uplifts through jazz and R&B

When the Awakening formed in the early 1970s, they combined veterans of Chicago’s R&B sessions and jazz players affiliated with the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians. The sextet drew on these diverse sources for its 1972 debut album, Hear, Sense and Feel, which is being reissued domestically this month as part of Real […]

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Heart of Soul

Soulsville, U.S.A.: The Story of Stax Records by Rob Bowman (Schirmer Books) In Rob Bowman’s recent history of Stax, Soulsville, U.S.A., the 1972 Wattstax music festival in LA stands as both a high point and the top of a long slide into the mud for the legendary Memphis record label. The event, which went off […]

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Philadelphia Stories

Various Artists The Philly Sound: Kenny Gamble, Leon Huff & the Story of Brotherly Love (1966-1976) (Epic/Legacy) Toward the end of the “Make It Funky” episode of the PBS rock ‘n’ roll history series, as dancers in widely unbuttoned shirts and skimpy gowns gyrate across a mid-70s club floor to Harold Melvin & the Blue […]