The 21Soul Sessions | Philly

The Philly gig is getting hotter by the month; last week’s show with The Lady Alma and Matt Cappy was filled with an eclectic mix of fans and friends. With respect for Women’s History Month, 21Soul has an impeccable and powerful lineup for March; a double bill featuring Stephanie McKay and Ursula Rucker. Join the mailing list for notifications, and for now we’ll leave you with a preview from these powerful performers. The first is old school Ropeadope with Ursula guesting on Jazzanova’s In Between, and the second is Stephanie performing recently at Sofar NYC. Enjoy, and come on out and see us on March 14th.

Mark de Clive Lowe | Heritage

Heritage is the idea of transmitting from the past to the future - knowing more about who we are and where we’re going by understanding where we come from. It’s about identity and one’s place in the world,” muses pianist and electronics wizard Mark de Clive-Lowe. For the half-Japanese half-New Zealander who calls Los Angeles home, his latest musical offering, Heritage, is a deeply personal exploration of his ancestry and cultural roots.

“I was raised bi-culturally and as time goes on, the more I appreciate how much I owe to my roots. Japan is my spiritual and ancestral home - the connection I feel there is so visceral and has shaped much of my life, largely without me even being fully aware of its influence. This music is me openly embracing and interpreting what Japan means, feels like and sounds like to me.

Leaning into the moods and textures of Japan’s folkloric mythology and culture in tandem with his already nuanced blend of jazz, live electronics and sampling, de Clive-Lowe takes us on a culture-rich journey through his own sonic imagination, seamlessly fusing genres and blurring the lines between technology and live musicianship.

A New Year | Anu Sun

Producer and frequent Robert Glasper collaborator Anu Sun debuts KAEPtain Amerikkka, the first single from his forthcoming album Sanguine Regum. Affectionately known as “Anu The Giant,” Anu has a physical stature that compliments his tremendous place in the music game. Aside from being a staple in New York City’s live music scene, his recent credits include work on the Grammy Award winning motion picture soundtrack Miles Ahead and work on his partner Robert Glasper’s Grammy nominated Black Radio 2 album. Anu has also worked intimately on projects of music legends Johnny Cash and Miles Davis. In KAEPtain Amerikkka Anu addresses the present quandary of the African American while raising a firm fist of support for controversial football star-turned activist Colin Kaepernick.

‘Why must you hate and degrade us / Try all you want, you can’t wreck us’, Anu raps with conviction. KAEPtain Amerikkka is a genre-merging, socially conscious tune that seamlessly melds Hip-Hop, Trap and Rock vibes into a single ground rattling composition.


New Music | Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah

“All forms of expression in sound are valid, as all people are… this is the mantra of Ancestral Recall.”

Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah sets the tone for his new project - Ancestral Recall - with this powerful statement. In his mission to unify cultural voices and tear down the sonic and social constructs that separate based on race, class, and culture, Adjuah asserts music has historically been disseminated to people with harmony and melody prioritized over rhythm. The value distinction leads to harmful hierarchal sentiments and perpetuates the view that cultures who prioritize harmony and melody are more nuanced and sophisticated than those who prioritize rhythm. It is an inaccurate portrayal. 

Ancestral Recall looks to excavate and update hidden histories in sound by displaying a sonic tapestry that illuminates the har-melodic movements found within rhythm, rendering previous contexts baseless, Adjuah explains: "In its inception, Ancestral Recall was built as a map to de-colonialize sound; to challenge previously held misconceptions about some cultures of music; to codify a new folkloric tradition and begin the work of creating a national set of rhythms; rhythms rooted in the synergy between West African, First Nation, African Diaspora/Caribbean rhythms and their marriage to rhythmic templates found in trap music, alt-rock, and other modern forms. It is time we created a sound that dispels singular narratives of entire peoples and looks to finally represent the wealth of narratives found throughout the American experience. One that shows that all forms of expression in sound are valid, as all people are." The goal is to connect people in one understanding rather than dividing them by definition.

The music of Ancestral Recall focuses the mind. As the ear adjusts to the shifting tapestries of rhythm, Adjuah stands firm in the mix, heralding the histories of rhythm and song. Walking hand-in-hand with listeners through his and their musical histories, clearing the way for a new reading of what all musical futures can become. Ancestral Recall is an album that might easily be misunderstood in its own time, but will certainly be seen as a moment in history that marked a momentous shift in musical and perhaps social understanding.  

New Music | Nathan Paul & The Admirables

The son of a pastor in Cleveland Ohio, Nathan-Paul learned from his father that life was about relationships, and he demonstrated this every day in church. He began his musical journey, like many, singing in the choir, and when it came time for an instrument he went to the music store with his father, choosing the trumpet but leaving with a saxophone. The elder had prayed for a son who played sax, you see.

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Nathan-Paul finds it impossible to hide his creative mind. Making noise constantly as a baby, and to this day talking out his ideas constantly, Nathan-Paul calls himself an introvert. In this way one can see clearly that he is a transmitter of sorts; a human radio show with little filtration. His tuning is for real, as he translates the ideas into music that exists purely for our enjoyment and benefit. He writes what he feels, improvising all the time. He acknowledges the influence that the greats have had on him - Charlie Parker, Sonny Rollins, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Louis Armstrong - but he does not consider himself a Jazz musician. He is here to get us moving, to invite us all to hear what he is hearing, to feel what he is feeling, to share in the absolute joy that music brings.

Nathan-Paul’s prolific output will be felt all year at Ropeadope, starting off with an ear and hip-catching single titled Catch Me If You Can by Nathan-Paul & The Admirables. Catch Me if You Can is quirky, it’s funky, and intense. Raw energetic solos blast over Michael Ode’s unrelenting power house drums, with a group chant and a hype man at the end. Matthew DeRubertis’ bass reaches deep and vibrates the inner core with some serious low end. The voices invite you to join in, like it’s a party. Nathan-Paul and Tommy Lehman’s horns are at the edge of control in the best way possible. The sax and trumpet have a blend, a spirit to that evokes a mixture of pure joy and teenage mischief.

We doubt we can catch the man, but we cannot help but try.



New Music | RC & The Gritz

RC Williams has traveled the world with an impressive list of musicians, from Erykah Badu to Snoop, from Roy Hargrove to Mos Def. For 13 years he has held down the DFW Jam Sessions in Dallas; a spot that has nurtured many artists and become an incubator for new styles and cross collaborations. It was at these jam sessions that Snarky Puppy bonded with the likes of Sput Searight, Bobby Sparks, and Shaun Martin - and that is just one example. RC Williams was born and raised in Dallas, trained at the renowned magnet school Booker T Washington High, and brought up in a broad community of dedicated and caring musicians.  A member of the the Grammy winning gospel group God’s Property, RC Williams carries the ethic of ‘each one teach one’ forward in a powerful way.

RC & The Gritz can often be seen backing Erykah Badu, so the groove is familiar to many. Their 2015 release, The Feel, was met with eager ears by press and fans alike. While some of his peers express their chops in a big way, RC expresses a certain feel, a vibe of comfort and direct accessibility. This is music to groove to, and it confers a sense of cool on all who can hear.

The Fire Brigade has arrived

We are proud to welcome the first Emmy winner to the Ropeadope family! Michael Whalen is a prolific composer, with hundreds of credits in TV, film, and commercial music. Michael is such a bundle of positive energy it is easy to se how standup comedy is also included in his credits. He brings fresh energy to the scene, with a broad base of musical understanding. From his DC roots with an obligatory love of Go-go, to his passion for Jazz fusion, funk and soul, Michael has finally completed the album he knew he was destined to make. And he brings the heat, with none other than Snarky Puppy’s Michael League on the bass and the great Vinnie Colaiuta on the kit. His new album is (sort of) self titled: Michael Whalen & The Fire Brigade hits on March 1st, with preorder starting…today! There is a time to sit back and marvel at the accomplished players, and there is a time to just get up and dance. This is both of those times.

New Music | Doobie Powell

Born and raised in Hartford Connecticut, H. Doobie Powell was brought up in the Gospel circuit with a variety of influences from family and community. His father, Hubert Powell Sr., traveled with the legendary Richard Groove Holmes and formed the band Wood, Brass, and Steel featuring a young Doug Wimbish. This is the band that ultimately became The Sugar Hill Gang in the early years of Hip-Hop. In 1979 Hubert Sr. returned to his Gospel roots and infused what he had learned on the road into Gospel. His mother was a vocalist, and both are pastors, so music and church are inseparable in Doobie’s foundation, as is the desire to fuse genres and experiment.

As Doobie grew up, playing drums on the road with his father as early as 9 years old, he continued his restless search to express the music in his heart. In school his ‘peers’ were listening to the popular music of the day, with the usual level of social segregation in place. Doobie was the unique young one, listening to Steely Dan and a variety of Gospel, Jazz, and Funk. As he traveled with Church groups he met some key cats from other places, and he found his way to work with top level artists like Kim Burrell, Harry Connick Jr, Musiq Soulchild, Robert Glasper, and many more. His friendship with Robert Sput Searight led to his new full length album, Finding Myself Again, set for release on March 8th, 2018, with the lead single Just Do It leading the way on January 25th.

The message is clear; whatever you have been through, whatever challenges you might face, you have but one choice: to find beauty and move forward. In Doobie’s case he took a hard look at his situation and accepted the reality, choosing to find that beauty, press on, and bring words and music of joy and positivity to the world.

‘My approach is to encourage people; there is still a reason for your life and there is still possibility’ (Doobie Powell)

New Music | RoSaway

Infinity Gritty is at it again, this time with the curiously interesting duo of Stéphane Avellaneda and Rachel Ombredane. Known together as RoSaway, the couple hail from Paris France and bring a unique sound to the world. Stef comes from the blues, touring the world with Serbian guitarist Ana Popovic. Rachel immersed herself in study at The Sorbonne and The Vocal Academy. Their sound is a blend of vintage sounds and electro-pop beats, with Rachel’s timeless and exotic vocal style. Their new project, Stranger, is due out right here on February 15.

New Music | Duncan Eagles

Last year’s release from Ollie Howell was sublime and powerful, so it was a no brainer when band member and saxophonist Duncan Eagles hit us up about his solo project. Classically trained on piano, Duncan picked up the sax at 16 and has only looked forward. His new studio album is titled Citizen, a reference to his feeling of inclusion in a global society. The vibe is relaxed as the album opens, and soon builds in complexity as Duncan tells his story on the sax with clarity and feeling. The band brings seemingly effortless communication as the compositions flow like water across the countryside. Citizen hits on February 15th, preorder right here.

21Soul | The Soul Of The 21st Century

If you aren’t hip to what we are doing at 21Soul, take a little trip with us as we interview artists on The Station Tapes podcast, generally mess around (with the cameras rolling) on Ropeadope TV, and premiere live music videos from a variety of world class artists. We’re happy when you go out and stream, but please do subscribe and stay up on the stories behind the music.

Unity is the Answer

As each day passes, we ask ourselves what we can and should do with this growing community of artists, activists, musical ambassadors to the world. How can we be of more service to them, and how can we connect them to more humans to lift everyone up in these challenging times? Last year, Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah, with The Centennial Trilogy, addressed the concept of race as a social construct, seeking to break down barriers by finding commonality in music. As we look over the landscape of Ropeadope past and present we find the persistent question of genre wherever we look, and it occurs to us that genre is quite the same; a construct designed to divide people into groups. While there have been great movements around genres in the past, the future is about breaking down these divisions and finding Unity with fellow humans.

And so the path forward is charted for us: everything we do will be about tearing down the concept of genre and bringing people to a common place based on the simple enjoyment and community found through music. From our release schedule, to our stories, to our live events over at 21Soul, we will weave the tale of that which brings us together, rather than that which divides us. In essence, to exist without walls, for they are simply a construct.

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The 21Soul Sessions

We’ve been having a blast up here in Philly-town, with a monthly residency hosted by RC Williams and a rotating cast of Ropeadope family players and local artists hitting the stage. Tonight we step it up a notch, bringing together three very unique styles with an eye on unity among the crowd. It’s like tasting varietals in the vineyard, with a heavy groove. Come out and meet new friends who are united through the love of music. Tune in here soon for news of The 21Soul Sessions spreading to your city in 2019.

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The King Is Dead | Long Live The King

Is everybody buckled up? OK then, let’s GO. Ropeadope is beginning our 20th year in this here creative space turned blood sport called the music business, and we’re coming out swinging yet again. All year we’ll be announcing special events to celebrate the fact that we’re still in the ring, with concerts in Philly, New York, Montreal, and many more cities. We’ll be cueing up some special radio shows covering the vast collection of music that we have released, and we’re dropping new capsules of the legendary Ropeadope clothing line. To top that off we’ve got more than 40 releases cued up from some well known cats and some young guns: Anu Sun, Mark de Clive-Lowe, Doobie Powell, Duncan Eagles, RoSaway, Vivian Sessoms, Michael Whalen and The Fire Brigade, RC & The Gritz, and many more.

This is all about an ending and a new beginning as we declare the ‘record label’ a thing of the past and press on with renewed support for independent artists and new media initiatives under the 21Soul Media brand. Get it?: 20 Years and then 21Soul. We’ll have stories to tell in print, podcast, and video format, and live music popping up all over the globe as we transform into your favorite music network.

Where to start? Subscribe on Youtube and Mixcloud, and tune in here as we roll forward.

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Twenty Nineteen

And so we bid farewell to 2018, a year of struggle amid serious changes in our world. A year of bearing witness to the truth of what we’ve done to our planet, how our system of ‘civilization’ continues to oppress and marginalize the thinkers and the dreamers, and how art and music continues to transform suffering into beauty. For every tragic news story, for every dumbass tweet, there is someone bringing joy and beauty to the world. And this is what we must embrace, we must cling to it as if it is our only hope. Triumph is sweet, but until the battle is won we will continue to cultivate the music and the music makers. And so we respond in kind to the powerful, to the gatekeepers, to the tech overlords, to the powerful ‘elite’ - we will press on with renewed energy. We will not yield to petty use of power, but will draw on the universal power within and live as if this is OUR world, for truly it is.

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2018 Countdown | Eddie Palmieri

Rather than interfering, here is Mr. Palmieri’s description of his second Salsa album of 2018, Mi Luz Mayor:

'Here I present to you the music that my late wife, Iraida, and I enjoyed in our youth.  I would play this music in our home often, during the holidays and on special occasions.  We would dance to this music, but there were also times where the music spoke for us.  Music was the constant force that touched our hearts and would heal any wounds that life sent our way. Ultimately, these songs represent our love story.  Selecting each composition and writing new music helped me work through my grief after she passed away in 2014.  Because this music is in her honor, everything from start to finish had to be of the highest caliber, and I am proud to say that it is just that.

The music is a reflection of the profound respect, admiration and impact both Rene Hernández and Ray Santos have had on my musical life.  Their arranging skills show careful study and the diligence I endeavor to carry over into my own arrangements.  It is the platform from which I rarely move, where the historical integrity of the Cuban structures are preserved and expounded upon – that is the excitement that drives my creative process.   The music also embodies the contributions and arranging talent of Jose Madera – I truly believe he is an inspiration to the next generation of arrangers.

As for the musicians…I am surrounded by Chiefs, each a master of their own instrument.  I am incredibly grateful to all the musicians that are on this recording and of course, the special guests, Mr. Carlos Santana, Mr. Gilberto Santa Rosa and La Voz del Caribe, Herman Olivera.'

2018 Countdown | Yasmine Kyd

From Onde Music in France comes the new album from Paris based singer/songwriter Yasmine Kyd. Already in heavy rotation with enthusiastic support from UK and European publications, Showtime clearly shows Kyd’s full understanding of the roots of Jazz, Hip=Hop, and Soul. The album is both personal and worldly, as Yasmine tells stories with her songs; one of the challenges of life and the need to embrace them with optimism, another about a young gymnast and the emotions of practice. Yasmine Kyd is a storyteller, with soul.

2018 Countdown | Whose Hat Is This

Rad X Rad: Bright Dog Red reviews Whose Hat Is This?

From silence comes joyful madness. Seemingly from nothing, Whose Hat is This? creates intensely alluring barrages of sound, replete with soloing, wicked grooves, spontaneous riffs, and lyrical wordsmithing. This recording, marked by striking musicianship, deft ensemble play, and sharp wit, reflects the status of the individual members of Whose Hat is This? some of the most distinct voices in contemporary improvised rock and jazz. Whose Hat is This? features bassist Tim Lefebvre (David Bowie, TTB), saxophonist Kebbi Williams (Outkast), and drummers JJ Johnson (John Mayer) and Tyler "Falcon" Greenwell (Col. Bruce Hampton). We couldn’t stop spinning this one, thinking we had indeed found kindred spirits in Whose Hat is This?.

(Joe Pignato, Bright Dog Red)

2018 Countdown | Troker

Once again Ropeadope Sur brings the finest, and this band is no exception. Troker hails from Guadalajara and counts early Ropeadope artists DJ Logic and John Medeski as influences that started their band. The create a powerful groove and weave in elements of fusion, rock, and traditional Mexican mariachi. Troker’s sound travels between the sublime and dangerous, all in seconds, giving you the feel of reckless abandon and comfort in the groove. Their new album, Imperfecto, takes you on a journey inside the mind and outside the real world.

2018 Countdown | Robi Botos

Leaving his native home of Hungary and entering Canada, It was not long before Robi Botos was in the tutelage of the great Oscar Peterson. And it was not long after that Mr. Peterson congratulated him on his chops but urged him to speak in his own voice rather than emulate the greats. And so he did, finding critical acclaim as one of the most diverse multi instrumentalists of his generation, winning many awards including a JUNO. A vocal advocate of his heritage among the Romani, Robi continues to include the style of Romani music in his playing and compositions. 2018 marked the worldwide release of Old Soul, with his core band Seamus Blake, Larnell Lewis, and Mike Downes along with special guests Lionel Loueke, Ingrid Jensen, and Cory Henry. Listen in on the full Robi Botos story on The Station Tapes by 21Soul.