It’s safe to say that most of us have already gone through the rounds of hearing Edward Elgar’s number one hit while sitting through boring and occasionally not so boring speeches. I’m willing to bet that a few of your Instagram accounts have already been populated by pictures that have headlines that read “Beach Day! #Turnup.” Six months of 2014 have flown by and it’s hard to imagine that dreaded polar vortex on the top of year when we’re all surrounded by air conditioners running around the clock. To commemorate – or commiserate, depending on how your year has been going so far – the first 45 minutes of 2014 coming to a close, I am giving you six albums that have blared through my Beyerdynamics throughout these past six months. And yes, the “45 minutes of 2014” was a football (soccer) reference since it is a World Cup year.
Takuya Kuroda’s Blue Note Records debut signaled a creative shift in the trumpeter’s career. While Six Aces – Kuroda’s 2012 release – and his long-standing association with José James showed the trumpeter’s knack for playing to a backbeat, Rising Son is Kuroda’s first album purely dedicated to a groove and backbeat aesthetic. Helping Kuroda achieve dat’ fonk are Corey King (trombone), Kris Bowers (keys), Solomon Dorsey (bass), and Nate Smith (drums). In addition to the main quintet, José James, the album’s producer, makes an appearance for Kuroda’s version of the Roy Ayers classic, “Everybody Loves the Sunshine.” Guitarist extraordinaire Lionel Loueke is also listed as a guest as he lends his talent on Kuroda’s original, “Afro Blues,” which is not to be confused with Mongo Santamaria’s “Afro Blue.”
Out of the six albums in this list, The Imagined Savior is Far Easier to Paint is probably the hardest to digest. Ambrose Akinmusire’s (pronounced ah-kin-MOO-sir-ee) second Blue Note LP is not an album that you jog to casually or something that you play around the apartment while cleaning your roommate’s dishes. Akinmusire’s 2014 release demands the listener’s attention as the trumpeter explores topics from the Cyntoia Brown trial in “Ceaseless Inexhaustible Child (cyntoia brown)” to John W. Bubbles in “Bubbles (john william sublett).” Joining Akinmusire in The Imagined Savior is Far Easier to Paint are Walter Smith III (sax), Sam Harris (piano), Charles Altura (guitar), Harish Raghavan (bass), Justin Brown (drums) as well as special appearances from Theo Bleckman, Becca Stevens, and Cold Specks.
A quick watch of the video from Kris Bowers’ album release party should be enough to prompt anyone who hasn’t still picked up Heroes + Misfit to get a copy. But for all the magnificent musical contributions that Bowers, Casey Benjamin (sax), Kenneth Whalum III (sax), Adam Agati (guitar), Burniss Earl Travis II (bass), Jamire Williams (drums), and vocalists Julia Easterlin, José James, and Chris Turner make on the album, the heart of Misfits + Heroes can be tied to how Bowers feels about his generation. “I want people to have some kind of immediate response to it – whether it makes them feel good, or makes them feel sad, or makes them think about things,” confessed Bowers. “I want this music to help people – especially people of my generation – realize the potential and the power that is inside of them. I want it to be an optimistic look at their unlimited possibilities.” Whether on or off the bandstand, Bowers is definitely our hero.
It’s a staggering to think that José James was able to release a full-length album while producing Takuya Kuroda’s, lending his voice on Kris Bowers’, and maintaing a very busy tour schedule. What’s more impressive was James’ commitment to his ever-evolving voice. James flipped the script on everybody who was expecting the singer to release an album that followed closer to his Blue Note Records debut, No Beginning No End. While tracks like “U R The 1” and his cover of Al Green‘s “Simply Beautiful” still give fans that R&B flavor that they’ve grown accustomed to, the majority of While You Were Sleeping‘s sonic landscape takes place elsewhere. Rocking alongside James on While You Were Sleeping are Kris Bowers (keys), Brad Allen Williams (guitar), Solomon Dorsey (bass), Richard Spaven (drums) as well as special appearances from trumpeter Takuya Kuroda and singer-songwriter Becca Stevens.
Not to be that kid from high school who would brag about all the cool parties that s/he went to, but Mark de Clive-Lowe’s album release party was amazing. With the exception of Igmar Thomas (trumpet) and James Genus (bass), the musicians on stage with MdCL were also some of the ones that contributed on MdCL’s album. Nia Andrews (vocals), Tivon Pennicott (sax), John Robinson (vocals), and Nate Smith (drums) were all present for CHURCH the album release party as well as CHURCH the album. As noted in a previous interview, CHURCH the album is a true representation of the actual show. This means that even if you weren’t at the party over the weekend, you can still pick up a copy of the record and have your own party in the privacy of your own home. Honestly, most of us at Revive stayed at home and listened to records in our room instead of partying during high school anyway.
No album was as eagerly anticipated as Taylor McFerrin’s Brainfeeder debut, Early Riser. McFerrin’s 2014 release offers a slew of amazing guests including Robert Glaser, Thundercat, Marcus Gilmore, Hiatus Kaiyote’s Nai Palm, Emily King, and his father, Bobby McFerrin. While every LP is in this list is an album that you can just press play from the first track then not hit anything else again (unless of course it’s rewind to re-geek-out over a track), Early Riser is one of those albums with an arc so perfect it’s more like a circle because the last track nicely leads into the top of the album.
Did we miss your favorite album of 2014 so far? Do you simply think this list is as garbage as England’s winless World Cup performance? Voice your opinions, concerns, and questions in the message boards.