GRAMMY awards recognition for numerous Latin and North American artists

— Features —

The GRAMMY awards announced their 2020 nominees last week, shortly prior to the announcement of the winners at the 20th annual Latin GRAMMY awards. On North American soil, R&B vocalist, writer and multi-instrumentalist PJ Morton became the first artist in history to be nominated in the ‘Best R&B album’ category for three consecutive years — an incredible achievement which caps off many hard years of work for the New Orleans-born musician.

Elsewhere, in the Latin GRAMMYs, a combination of Brazilian and Cuban legends, and Spanish contemporary artist Rosalía swept up the awards. Rosalía’s outstanding album El Mal Querer won in no fewer than four categories, while Cuban pianist and bandleader Chucho Valdés won ‘best latin jazz/jazz album’ for Jazz Batá 2, and Gilberto Gil won best ‘best Musica Popular Brasileira album’ for his LP, Ok Ok Ok. Another great of Brazilian music, Hermeto Pascoal, was the recipient of ‘best Portugese language roots album’ for Hermeto Pascoal E Sua Visão Original Do Forró – his dedication to the forró genre.

Find the full list of nominees and winners via the respective links.

Repeat Listen: Soweto Kinch – The Black Peril

Following its ambitious live premiere at EartH in Dalston — which involved an 18-piece band, string quartet, film footage and dancers — saxophonist and MC Soweto Kinch has revealed the studio version of his 24-track, era-spanning jazz suite, The Black Peril. Studying the race riots of a century ago, which took place during a period of housing shortages and job market saturation in Britain, following the first world war and so-called ‘British imperial century’ before it, Kinch hones in on the uneasy socio-political environment of the time. While his rhymes and poetry reflect the racism, hardships and uncertainty that prevented communities from witnessing a deeper post-war cohesion, the project, from a more distant perspective, can be seen as celebration of a century’s worth of music development within the African diaspora: thinking about the dawning of the jazz age during U.S. prohibition and the rising prominence of blues and gospel music — plus their many off-shoots — from that point onward.

The significant and layered concept asks a lot of its creator, but Kinch rises to the challenge and executes with conviction. From his opening poetic refrain: “It’s red terror, black peril, fever time”, he lays out a clear narrative, that perfectly balances the need to be informative and factual, yet artistic and enjoyable. With free jazz introduction, to a fast-paced and free, almost stride-like but more dark and dissonant piano sequence, to an authentic New Orleans-style jazz passage that almost immediately bursts into life with a heavy hip-hop groove; Kinch expertly moves between styles and soundscapes, maintaining coherence and creating an evocative collage of sounds to reflect the depth of the album’s theme.

Riot Music, with its banjo, clarinet and muted trumpet intro, is an immediate highlight — the band flipping the style with a slick groove for Soweto to latch onto, as he spits about “riots in the music hall”, conveying a wealth of information about the tone and intent of the project. Other highlights include the jaunty, New Orleans-style Liberation Rag, with its incredible passage of improvisation that snaps effortlessly into a luxuriant section of big band arpeggios and chunky horn chords. The awesome sax solo on Homecoming, with its nods to Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, and the lovely rhythm and counter melodies of Sirens, extend the stylistic breadth, accomplished writing and playing even further.

With this inventive, ambitious and eye-opening piece of work, Soweto Kinch has succeeded just as Akala and Shabaka Hutchings have: telling a captivating story from an original angle, with a strong historical basis and narrative informed by the legacy of empire, colonial attitudes and racism, as well as the impact of war, migrations and politics on people in many countries. At a time when jazz artists are predominantly exploring ideas within contemporary jazz, he has looked back to the jazz age — a broad history of jazz for that matter — and brought so many ideas and styles into a cohesive and modern-sounding record.

New sounds and visuals:

Manchester-based producer Kill Miami has dropped a new track entitled No Go. Featuring Colombia rapper Dukus, Octavian collaborator L3, and Jay Nahge, an up-and-coming vocalist from Trinidad – it is laden with tuneful hooks, strong bars and a tasty 140 BPM, consisting of reversed strings and programmed drum machines. Check it out below.

Well known for his own peculiar music videos, Mac Demarco hopped into the directors chair for the new Iggy Pop video, accompanying his collaborative track with Leron Thomas, entitled SONALI. As Jaco-esque bass harmonics multiply, we’re introduced to two anguidae-like characters: one of whom is waiting to see the other. As he rushes home, he gets stuck in traffic, and breaks free from the tedium by playing his saxophone…over the trumpet solo. Mad, eccentric, bizarre, but weirdly watchable.

Punk rock outfit Iguana Death Cult released a series of live sessions for innovative leisure this week. Shot in 4:3 aspect and with a vintage quality to the colour and motion, they’re the super-cool work of director Thomas William Fister and camera-op Flip Kwakkel. Check out the awesome bright lights below.

The day is always improved with an injection of wisdom and sweetness from reggae artist Jah9. Test out our theory with her new video for Ma’at (Every Man), a roots cut with soaring melodies, poignant dub poetry and springy energy.

Polish jazz outfit Piotr Damasiewicz & Power of the Horns Ensemble have released a new track entitled Billy, dedicated to the veteran jazz saxophonist, Billy Harper. While Harper is perhaps best known for his highly-sought after 1973 solo album, Capra Black, and role in American jazz supergroup The Cookers, it was his collaborations with Piotr Wojtasik in the nineties and noughties that cemented him in trumpeter Damasiewicz’s mind, especially the 1996 album Quest. Check out the track below.

Tommy Perman’s reworking of Modern Studies’ of Welcome Strangers is comfortably one of the most intriguing electronic music projects of the year. As such, an alternative version from the project is most welcome! The new version of Spectral Cannon is accompanied by a visualiser, and the comments from Perman read: ‘I made numerous versions of each idea. Most were rejected as I am a very harsh critic of my own work. A year or so elapsed from the making of the record and this version of Spectral Cannon shimmered and thundered its way back into my memory. I listened back and thought it could be appreciated by other ears.’