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Vocal Jazz - To be released November 13, 2020 | Verve

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Vocal Jazz - To be released October 2, 2020 | Verve

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Vocal Jazz - Released September 25, 2020 | Verve

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Vocal Jazz - Released September 25, 2020 | Verve

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Film Soundtracks - Released September 18, 2020 | Verve

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Vocal Jazz - Released September 11, 2020 | Verve

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Vocal Jazz - Released September 11, 2020 | Verve

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Soul - Released August 28, 2020 | Verve

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Singer Bettye LaVette has made a career of overcoming adversity, bad timing and cruel music business vagaries. And so who better, at a time when America is reckoning with privilege and inequality, to bring fresh pathos and pique to the ever-powerful anti-lynching call, "Strange Fruit." On Blackbirds, she slowly climbs the mountain that is Billie Holiday's most famous number in a spare rendition—just piano chords, electric guitar notes and brushes on the snare—that allows her to linger on every word. The socially relevant timing of her latest collection is sustained by the title track, LaVette's very personalized interpretation of Paul McCartney's folk hymn to America's racial infamy that she first unveiled in 2010 at the Hollywood Bowl. Once advised that learning to sing standards would make her eternally employable—and unaware that her song selection on Blackbirds would meet the current moment with such force—LaVette, whose career was relaunched in the aughts with a series of albums on the Anti label, decided with this album to tackle tunes from the Great American Songbook most closely associated with great African-American female singers like Ruth Brown, Nancy Wilson and the aforementioned Billie Holiday. She wastes no time laying out her guiding principles in the opener, "I Hold No Grudge," a number first heard on Nina Simone's High Priestess of Soul album: "I hold no grudge/ Deep inside me there's no regrets/ But a gal who's been forgotten may forgive/ But never once forget." With a vocal instrument that's grown creakier but also wiser with age, LaVette adds layers of stylized reflection—as well as bursts of rascally spirit—to this cabaret-like set of mostly downbeat ballads. Produced by drummer Steve Jordan (who helmed her previous album Things Have Changed), and working with a quintet that features multi-talented guitarist Smokey Hormel (Beck, Johnny Cash, Tom Waits), Blackbirds was recorded at Brooklyn Recording by engineer Dave O'Donnell who unerringly captures the timbre and subtle inflections of LaVette's emphatic singing. The mood lightens for a moment in a keyboard-led version of Lil' Green's sexy "Romance in the Dark," before easing into the unavoidably heart-wrenching "Drinking Again," one of Dinah Washington's signature numbers where the sharp rasp of LaVette's voice accentuates the song's poignance. A shrewd stylist climbing inside songs to discover, decry and universalize. © Robert Baird/Qobuz
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Soul - Released August 28, 2020 | Verve

Bettye LaVette took a long time to achieve the success she deserved (and one could reasonably argue she still deserves to be much more famous than she is), in large part because she's hard to pin down stylistically. She's a performer in the tradition of the great Southern soul singers of the '60s, she sings with the fearless emotional depth of a blues artist, and she's willing to linger over a song, investigating its musical and lyrical peaks and valleys, with the thoughtful curiosity of a jazz artist. LaVette clearly doesn't worry about genre, as she's far more concerned with her music than where it's filed, and 2020's Blackbirds is another great example of what she does and how well she does it. Like most of LaVette's albums since her mid-2000s rediscovery, Blackbirds is a themed effort, mostly made up of songs previously recorded by African-American female artists (with the exception of her transformative cover of the Beatles' "Blackbird"), and the set list suggests her smarts in choosing her material is on a par with her skills in front of the microphone. LaVette is one of the finest interpretive singers of her generation, with remarkable instincts about where to take a song, and Blackbirds is absolutely up to her high standards. Producer Steve Jordan (who also plays drums) has given her a band that's supportive without stepping on her performances, and she tackles the songs with an assurance that comes with experience. Anyone who tries to sing "Strange Fruit" is either brave or foolish, given that Billie Holiday's 1939 recording remains the gold standard for that song; LaVette is no fool, and there's an undertow of bitter defiance boiling beneath the surface that not only gives it a fresh accent but emphasizes how unfortunately timely the lyrics are in 2020. On Blackbirds, she also honors Ruth Brown, Nina Simone, and Etta Jones, among others, not by following the lead of the previous recordings of these tunes, but by taking what she's learned from other gifted artists and investing it into her own interpretations that lend the music new life and energy. If you believed there was nothing much left to be discovered in covering the Beatles, listen to the take of "Blackbird" that closes this LP and be amazed at how LaVette turns it into a deeply individual message of strength and survival. The R&B and Top 40 charts weren't quite ready for Bettye LaVette in the '60s and '70s and probably still aren't. However, now that she's earned her reputation as a great American vocalist, Blackbirds is proof that she's not resting on her reputation, and hearing her explore the architecture of a great song is a rare treat to be valued. © Mark Deming /TiVo
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Vocal Jazz - Released August 21, 2020 | Verve

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Jazz - Released July 17, 2020 | Verve

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Life is simple math – as the years go by, unfortunately, the legends from the golden age of jazz become rarer. That’s why it’s important to cherish the time we have left with them on earth and in recording studios; to hear their stories one last time, listen to them play and enjoy a legacy that will soon be just a memory cast in wax. Until his last breath on January 19, 2020, Jimmy Heath was among the last of these jazz giants to remain – although he stood at only five foot, two inches! Just one month after he passed away at the age of 93, the saxophonist from Philadelphia had enough time to write Love Letter, released by Verve Records. The worthy heir of Charlie Parker who was nicknamed ‘Little Bird’ had been a sideman on more than a hundred albums and has worked with the likes of Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, Chet Baker, Clifford Brown, Kenny Dorham, Milt Jackson and a few dozen others; his career would trounce that of any jazz musician. Joining him for this final recording are pianist Kenny Barron, guitarist Russell Malone, vibraphonist Monte Croft, double bassist David Wong and drummer Lewis Nash, as well as Cécile McLorin Salvant, Gregory Porter and Wynton Marsalis, who feature as guests. Heath’s intimate playing is simply exquisite in the ballads, which are the main focus of Love Letter. His instrument, steeped in so much history from all his encounters, delivers a pure and captivating sound and becomes the voice of a narrative that hypnotizes the audience and captures their full attention from start to finish. The prime example of this is From Upper Neighbors Suite, the ballad which opens this endearing, moving and simply beautiful album. © Marc Zisman/Qobuz
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Jazz - Released June 26, 2020 | Verve

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R&B - Released June 26, 2020 | Verve

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Pop - Released June 21, 2020 | Verve

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R&B - Released June 12, 2020 | Verve

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Jazz - Released June 12, 2020 | Verve

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Pop - Released May 27, 2020 | Verve

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Film Soundtracks - Released March 13, 2020 | Verve

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Jazz - Released January 31, 2020 | Verve

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At the risk of sounding like a doddery old relative, it’s important to remember that Joey Alexander will one day become an adult. Except on the day of the release of Warna, his fourth (yes, fourth) studio album, this talented young prodigy will ONLY be 16! Born in Bali in 2003, Alexander lived in Jakarta between the ages of 8 and 10 before moving to New York in 2014, where he experienced the most meteoric career rise a jazz musician has ever seen. Commended by masters of the calibre of Herbie Hancock and Wynton Marsalis, he released three impeccable studio albums, published on Motema: My Favorite Things in 2015, Countdown in 2016 and Eclipse in 2018, all veritably impressive jazz albums and not just flukes. Marking his entry in the prestigious Verve roster, Warna is just as impressive. Present by his side (since the beginning) is double bassist Larry Grenadier, with Kendrick Scott on the drums and, on certain tracks, Venezuelan percussionist Luisito Quintero and flautist Anne Drummond. In Bahasa, the language of his native Indonesia, warna means colour: his expressive piano certainly isn’t lacking any. You can almost hear his transition into adulthood through his fingers. Always under Hancock’s influence when playing, Joey Alexander has penned all the tracks here, with the exception of covers of Joe Henderson (Inner Urge) and Sting (Fragile): proof of his talents as a composer, an area not always mastered by his colleagues. All in all, he’s on the way up. © Clotilde Maréchal/Qobuz
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Jazz - Released January 10, 2020 | Verve

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