WBGO's #NowPlaying Picks New music recommendations from WBGO 88.3
WBGO's #NowPlaying Picks

WBGO's #NowPlaying Picks

New music recommendations from WBGO 88.3
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Esperanza Spalding — the vocalist, bassist and composer hailed by NPR Music, with just a touch of hyperbole, as The 21st Century's Jazz Genius — believes a song can be a salve, in an almost literal sense. Her forthcoming album Songwrights Apothecary Lab (due out on Sept. 24) comes out of a project she conceived with a self-made community of musicians, music therapists, cognitive scientists, ethnomusicologists and healers. She calls the songs on this album "formwelas," imbuing each with magical properties. "Formwela 10," out today, is one of her more enchanting spells: a shape-shifting chamber invention that ponders the question of what we ask of one another (or take, without asking) in the course of romantic exchange. "I didn't know / How deep some feelings can go," she sings. "And you can really do some damage down there / In the soul of another." It's a gentle self-admonishment, more wistful than withering, with a clear investment in the possibility of positive change.

Mack Avenue Records II, LLC. YouTube

Facts, it can often seem nowadays, aren't what they used to be. That probably wasn't part of the rationale when tenor saxophonist Joshua Redman applied that title to this tune, recorded during the sessions for his excellent 2018 album Still Dreaming. And yet the idea of several fragmentary points of view is born out in the way that Redman's angular melody entwines with a countermelody by Ron Miles on cornet, as bassist Scott Colley and drummer Brian Blade percolate the groove. The song, which fully captivates without an improvised solo, appears on the forthcoming Relief: A Benefit for the Jazz Foundation of America's Musicians' Emergency Fund, alongside tracks by Charles Lloyd, Herbie Hancock and Cécile McLorin Salvant. In that sense, Redman's outtake fulfilled its noblest purpose — and if that isn't quite a fact, it should hold up as truth.

Edition Records YouTube

Groove is foundational for Nate Smith, a brilliant drummer known for holding it down with everyone from Brittany Howard to Dave Holland to Van Hunt. On the first single from Kinfolk 2: See the Birds, Smith rocks an odd-metered funk beat behind two guest vocalists — Kokayi, who raps the verses, and Michael Mayo, who sings the chorus. The song is a note of encouragement to a younger self. (Don't miss Jaleel Shaw's alto saxophone solo, after a clever metric modulation.) That this music proudly defies classification is only natural — it's a core part of Smith's message.

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Vibration is always critical for Melvin Gibbs, whose electric bass has motored everyone from Ronald Shannon Jackson to Rollins Band. His new EP, 4 + 1 equals 5 for May 25, was made in response to the energies he sensed at a site of pilgrimage — the Minneapolis intersection where George Floyd died under the knee of a police officer, just over a year ago. "Message from the Streets" suggests a suite in miniature: Kokayi's indignant poetic invocation (over a haunting synth drone) leads to Gibbs' electric bass solo (in a plaintive blues mode). The beat arrives — sampled handclaps, then trap rhythm — as Kokayi returns, rapping with grim resolve. A music video shows Gibbs as a visiting griot in George Floyd Square, interspersed with footage from protests and police bodycams. It underscores a point: This music is an attempt to bear witness, and its considerable power comes from the ground up.