For music to have a lasting impact, it must, to quote Walt Whitman, contain multitudes; it should look beyond time and place and never cease to speak. When Stefany Calembert—the executive producer of this two-disc collection from a wide variety of Black artists—conceived of the project, she looked to “give Black lives a voice and to listen to what they have to say in 2021.” That means, of course, addressing the ongoing sin of racism, but Black Lives: From Generation to Generation does more than that; this is potent music that should continue to stand alone many years from now.
Twenty-five composers and dozens of musicians appear on the collection, young and old, from several countries. They slot into categories ranging from hip-hop to soul, funk, jazz, and various fusions. Malian singer-composer Cheick Tidiane Seck leads off with “Sanga Bô,” whose title translates to “Highlight the Success”; he serves up an instantaneously funky groove crossed with West African traditional polyrhythm and rocks it hard. American saxophonist Immanuel Wilkins follows with the ethereal, free-flowing “Praying,” confirming the compilation’s pan-global approach and ambitious, inclusive reach.
The Belgian Calembert’s husband, bassist Reggie Washington, is among the other featured artists, teamed with the operatic voice of Alicia Hall Moran and DJ Grazzhoppa on the seriously deep “Walk,” one of several highlights. Twin brothers E.J. and Marcus Strickland (drummer and saxophonist, respectively), turn up with separate tracks on disc two, which also features “Dreaming of Freedom…For Tony,” a sonically rich workout led by the Guadeloupe-born saxophonist Jacques Schwarz-Bart, as well as superlative tracks from Martinique, South Africa, and elsewhere.
Taken in as a continuously unfolding experience—the best way to hear it—Black Lives succeeds in giving voice to many of divergent origins, each sharing a universal vision of hope and harmony.