Black female bandleaders/vocalists heading the music parade

If you haven’t noticed, African American female bandleaders are enjoying tremendous success these days and getting plenty of attention via print, digital and social media, among other avenues. And the Twin Cities is in line to experience an abundance of talent in the weeks and months ahead.

Eight-time Grammy Award-winning R&B singer Anita Baker is coming to the Minnesota State Fair Grandstand on Sunday, August 26, for what’s billed as “An Evening with Anita Baker.” Do you have your ticket yet?

The three-octave-range singer is influenced by R&B, jazz, pop, gospel, and soul music. You can hear it all in her wide-ranging hits such as “Sweet Love,” “Caught Up in the Rapture,” “Body and Soul,” and “I Apologize,” among other popular songs.

As of late, fans will be happy to know, Baker has been working on a new album, Only Forever, to be released this fall by her label, Blue Note Records. If you caught her interview with Soledad O’Brien in May, then you know she kicked off her tour at Radio City Music Hall in New York City.

Anita Baker will be performing at the Minnesota State Fair Grandstand on August 26.
Photo courtesy of

During the talk, she mentioned her work with Don Was, Harvey Mason, Jr. and Nathan West. The new album features Snoop Dogg (a.k.a. Snoop Lion) on a love song and Tyrese. Baker also stated that she had taken a year off to take some time getting to know her audience.

As America continues its love affair with female vocalists, this is an especially great time to catch up with Baker and no doubt get to know some of the new material from the upcoming album.

Saxophonist Tia Fuller, who is the musical director for Esperanza Spalding’s Radio Music Society band, will release her own new album from Mack Avenue, Angelic Warrior, come September 25. Speaking of Spalding, the bassist and vocalist is set to return to the Twin Cities for a one-night-only gig at the State Theatre on September 30, which is a Dakota presentation. This is all good news for African American female bandleaders such as Fuller and Spalding.

Another African American bandleader of note, Cassandra Wilson, is finally making a return visit to the Twin Cities for two sets on two nights, October 14 and 15, at the Dakota. Fans can expect Wilson to perform new material from her most recent album from eOne Music, Another Country. Who will be in her band? No matter what, her sets will be well worth the price of the ticket.

In other news, get ready for an opportunity to see the young and in-demand bassist Ben Williams who plays with Pat Metheny’s Unity Band at the Dakota on September 4 and 5. He won first place in the International Thelonious Monk Bass Competition in 2009, and since then his career has blown up. His most current release from Concord Records is State of Art.

Mosaic Records is set to release previously unreleased material as the label celebrates what would have been the 90th birthday of Charles Mingus with a six-CD limited edition collection on September 18.


Robin James welcomes reader responses to