Time for some newly released music. This is perhaps the most eclectic Best of What’s New installment to date, including afrobeat, indie pop folk, rock and jazz. Yes, more jazz, though it does have some singing. All of the featured albums came out yesterday (February 5). Let’s get to it!
Femi Kuti & Made Kuti/Stop the Hate
Femi Kuti is a Nigerian afrobeat and jazz musician born in London and raised in Lagos. According to his website, Before Femi was his own bandleader, he started playing saxophone in his father — Fela Kuti’s — band, Egypt 80, in 1979, where he learned the ins and outs of performing with a legend. [Fela Kuti, a Nigerian multi-instrumentalist, composer and political activist, is considered to be a pioneer of afrobeat.] In 1984, Femi had no choice but to fulfill his destiny after Fela was arrested at the Lagos airport just before the start of a U.S. tour and Femi was asked to be the frontman of his father’s band instead of cancelling the shows. In 1986, Femi created his own band, called Positive Force, which quickly gained notoriety as a formidable group in Afrobeat music. Over the next 30 years, Femi would amass worldwide acclaim as an ambassador of this righteous music and many humanitarian organizations. Positive Force is still at the forefront of the Afrobeat movement, expanding the music’s vocabulary by adding hints of punk and hip-hop to the sound, while maintaining its traditional roots and political message. This track, Stop the Hate, is from Legacy +, which combines two new albums: Stop the Hate by Femi Kuti and For(e)ward by his son Made Kuti. The groove of this music is infectious.
Hayley Williams/First Thing to Go
Hayley Williams, who was born and raised in Mississippi, is a singer-songwriter and musician. She’s best known as lead vocalist and keyboarder of Paramore, a rock band from Franklin, Tenn. she co-founded in 2004. According to her profile on Apple Music, Williams was already signed to Atlantic Records as a solo pop artist at age 15 before she insisted on going in an edgier alt-rock direction with her high-school pals in tow. As Paramore became fixtures on the mid-2000s Warped Tour circuit, Williams represented an orange-haired beacon for girls looking to elbow their way into the predominantly male mosh pit that was the pop-punk scene…Outside the band, Williams has crowd-surfed far away from her punk roots. After releasing two EPs, Petals for Armor I and Petals for Armor II, in February and April 2020, respectively, her first full-length solo album Petals for Armor appeared in May 2020. It combines songs from the EPs with some new tracks. First Thing to Go is the opener of Williams’ new sophomore release FLOWERS for VASES/decansos. She wrote and recorded the entire album by herself at her home in Nashville. I like the stripped back approach.
Foo Fighters/Making a Fire
While it’s safe to assume Foo Fighters need no introduction to most readers, admittedly, I know next to nothing about this rock band from Seattle, other than it’s fronted by former Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl who is the band’s lead vocalist, guitarist and primary songwriter. I also previously heard a song or two. I didn’t realize Foo Fighters have been around for more than 25 years. In addition to Grohl, the current line-up includes Pat Smear (guitar), Chris Shiflett (guitar), Rami Jaffee (keyboards), Nate Mendel (bass) and Taylor Hawkins (drums). Except for Jaffee who joined in 2017, all other members of the band have played together for more than 15 years. Making a Fire, credited to Foo Fighters, is the opener of the band’s new and 10th studio album Medicine at Midnight.
Archie Shepp & Jason Moran/Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child
I’d to wrap things up with new jazz by saxophone player Archie Shepp who teamed up with Jason Moran, a jazz pianist, for a new album titled Let My People Go. Both of these artists are entirely new to me. Shepp, who is 83 years old, has been active since 1960. Over his 60-year-plus career, he has been on close to 100 records and played with Cecil Taylor, John Coltrane, Dave Burrell, Chet Baker and Frank Zappa, among others. Forty-six-year-old Jason Moran recorded his debut album Soundtrack to Human Motion in 1999 and has since released 14 additional albums as a bandleader. He has also been a sideman for Steve Coleman, Bunky Green, Charles Lloyd and Greg Osby, among others. Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child is the opener of the above noted Let My People Go. It starts with very relaxing piano and saxophone music before Sheep starts singing at about 5:17 into the tune, which based on the description of the YouTube clip is a “negro spiritual” by an unknown writer. Just beautiful to listen to and also fascinating to watch these two artists from different generations.
Sources: Wikipedia; Femi Kuti website; Apple Music; YouTube