Eddie Thomas was one of Chicago’s greatest music promoters, and he might’ve been the most humble. While his name is linked in more ways than one to Curtis Mayfield’s, throughout the 1960s and 1970s he guided myriad R&B and disco artists through the process of making records and getting them played. When I talked to […]
Black cartoonists from Chicago are featured in a new book and included in a new exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago.
After saxophonist Archie Shepp became known in the 1960s as a fierce musical and political voice in what was then called the avant-garde, he charted a different path. In 1977, Shepp recorded a collection of traditional spirituals (and one jazz standard) in a duet session with pianist Horace Parlan titled Goin’ Home, which is as […]
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 […]
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 […]
On his new album, Molecular, Brooklyn saxophonist James Brandon Lewis showcases a vision that’s both microscopic and immense. In the liner notes he describes a compositional model that draws inspiration from the structural components of DNA, comparing the shape of the music to a double helix: “Within a single melodic line emerges a counter line […]
Dayna Stephens’s melodic feel and versatility have made the New York-based saxophonist a key player in a wide range of ensembles. Veteran pianist Kenny Barron and inventive Australian bassist and composer Linda Oh are two of many who have relied on Stephens’s warm tone. His compositions, which comprise the bulk of his ten albums as […]
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 […]
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 […]
Chicago funk superhero Captain Sky releases his first album in 40 years—and this time his mission includes mentoring Black teenagers on the south side.
Danielle Beverly’s Dusty Groove: The Sound of Transition tells intimate stories about our deep connection to music.
The new compilation No Other Love shines a light on a self-reliant strain of midwest gospel that’s survived outside the mainstream for more than 50 years.
For two decades, a short stretch of Michigan Avenue hosted a concentration of creative entrepreneurship whose influence on Black popular music is still felt today.
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 […]
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 […]