August Greene - August Greene (2018)

August Greene
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August GreeneAugust Greene

From the book of wise old sayings: What goes around comes around.  This certainly applies to musicians who collaborate with other musicians, building on their artistic goals in the studio and personal friendships outside the studio.  Before they know it, they are already locked in to support other artists’ projects on a greater frenquency.  Then further down the road, the inevitable happens -- a super group is born. 

August GreeneAugust Greene

From the book of wise old sayings: What goes around comes around.  This certainly applies to musicians who collaborate with other musicians, building on their artistic goals in the studio and personal friendships outside the studio.  Before they know it, they are already locked in to support other artists’ projects on a greater frenquency.  Then further down the road, the inevitable happens -- a super group is born. 

For at least two decades, rapper Common has utilized drummer/percussionist Karieem Riggins as one of his go-to production gurus.  And the R&B/jazz kaleidoscope and hit album entitled Black Radio brought producer/keyboardist Robert Glasper to mass urban market attention, along with many of his closest musical comrades, including - who else - Common. But certainly a defining moment for this band of friends was “Letter To The Free,” an intense observation of racial injustice for the soundtrack 13th, which scored an Emmy for Common, with a piercing, sonic soundtrack provided by Glasper and Riggins.

After all the years of musical connections between this gifted trio, the debut self-titled and self-released full-length from the collective August Greene finally takes shape.  Undoubtedly, all that past experience within this special bonding helped mesh their impressive musicality, frosted with a mesmerizing jazz hip-hop canvas incorporating supporting vocalists, including R&B veteran Brandy and composer/pianist Samora Pinderhughes. "As we go into the well of the black pool of genius" unapologetically introduces August Greene’s mission statement. 

Common emphatically celebrates the achievements of Barack Obama’s eight years in the President’s chair on “Black Kennedy,” envisioning living amongst black royalty. In a mix of classical and electronica, “Practice” breaks down Common’s spiritual viewpoint: “A divine adrenaline and I’ma sin again/Forgiveness is a synonym for ‘live and live again’,” while Pinderhughes lends a calm vibe to the chorus. “Fly Away” delivers Common’s personal reflections of the could of…would of…should of, from relationships to career. Drum and bass and R&B clash for “The Time,” a nod to the minds of persistent dreamers: “Opps and opulence/Pops said confidence/Glocks and consciousness/Sounds of black optimists.” And the funk-slanted “No Apologies” speaks for itself on the state of survival: “Unapologetic, no stopping me philosophy/A man, I wasn't told how to be/In some ways, hip-hop fathered me/Pops said anything is possible.” 

While Common receives plenty of lead time infusing his philosophical, relevant vision on life within black culture, Glasper and Riggins’ simple yet complex orchestrations that anchor August Greene are just as much in the forefront.  For instance, “Aya” evolves into a futuristic jazz excursion centering on Glasper’s piano softly tinkling amid Riggins’ skipping snare drums, and “Swisha Suite,” propelled by intricate percussive backdrop, pinches of African flair and a hypnotizing jazz canvas. 

But despite the strong original offerings on August Greene’s debut, the only cover piece, “Optimistic,” steals the show.  This Sounds of Blackness crossover hit from 1991 upholds the faithfulness of the original version with powerhouse Ann Nesby, yet works just as effectively with Brandy’s earthy vocals and constant reminders to “keep our eyes on the prize.” 

“Supergroups” get that name for a reason, and on their debut, the members of August Greene prove that the term is properly used on them, with the result truly being the worthy sum of its parts. Strongly Recommended.

By Peggy Oliver

 
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