Enter the Dynasty
Dontae Winslow & Winslow Dynasty (Ransom)
Winslow, the trumpet-playing West Baltimore native and School for the Arts/Peabody grad, keeps impressive company. He’s appeared on Saturday Night Live and The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon as a member of Justin Timberlake’s band, worked with Jay-Z and Dr. Dre, and toured with the likes of Jill Scott and Lauryn Hill. Here, he steps into the spotlight and brings some of his impressive friends along for a rambunctious ride. The Roots drummer Questlove and trumpeter Roy Hargrove help make “Summer Cookout” a sublime, D’Angelo-like jam, keyboard legend Chick Corea brings jazz fluidity to the anthemic “Chrysalis,” and drummer/fellow Baltimorean Dennis Chambers gives “Drinks On Me” its propulsive thump. But no one overshadows Winslow, who plays with gritty elegance on “2304 West North Ave” and “Baltimore CrabCakes,” or his wife, Mashica, whose soaring vocal makes “Chrysalis” so buoyant.
Mt. Royal (Bella Union)
Katrina Ford continues to amaze, as a singer with immense talent and the sort of restless and relentless creativity that piques interest and renews it. After singing with local outfits Big in Japan and Celebration, she turns up here——with a few Big in Japan cohorts in tow——for a six-song EP that’s as feisty and forceful as anything she’s ever done. Though not as intense as Celebration’s psychedelic, polyrhythmic swirl, these songs have a power all their own, a primal stomp that conjures images of hands in the air and feet in the coals of some mythic fire. In that respect, Ford brings to mind Nick Cave at his unhinged best, as she stokes her muse and exhorts everyone within earshot to join her. It’s both exhilarating and enchanting, especially on the majestic opener “Missing Reward” and “What’s on My Grave,” which slow burns to a frenzied, completely satisfying finish.
My Brother Is Isaac
My Name is Gideon (self-released)
One of the best concerts I’ve seen in the past 12 months took place in my living room. It happened because a dear friend asked me to host a house concert for her dear friend, Gideon Irving, a New York-based performer in the midst of a cross-country tour. When I asked what sort of music he played, I got a reply along the lines of, “Banjo. . .with singing. . .some stories. . .and magic.” To me, that sounded like a potentially cringe-and-squirm-inducing evening. But I agreed to do it and am glad I did. A deft, perfectly executed performance, Irving’s show mixed storytelling, Mandy Patinkin-esque belting (must be in the genes; Patinkin is Irving’s father), Penn & Teller-like cheekiness, Sufjan Stevens’s amiable folksiness, and a plucky DIY ethos. The effect was magical, and this CD, infused with that same spirit thanks to tunes like “Sixteen” and “13,000 Miles” (parts I and II), is well worth your time. And if someone ever invites you to a Gideon Irving house concert, drop whatever you’re doing and go.