By Kira Grunenberg | Published March 2022
Nikara Presents Black Wall Street doesn’t project its versatility and creative range through scholarly jazz arrangements or covers chasing perfectionism. Instead, it offers original music converged around a stylistically fluid foundation.
Nikara Warren makes stories the priority — those meant to celebrate and honor Black accomplishment — embracing whatever voices, sounds, effects, performative approaches or lyrics best serve their deliveries.
On “Mona Lisa,” that includes Warren spotlighting her sister, Be.Be, whose brokenhearted laments are simultaneously blunt and emotively gentle. While Be.Be’s gracefully flowing vocals soften the blow of reality, the angular and dynamically intense synth that follows Be.Be acts almost like an external manifestation of her implied, but never vocalized, emotional pain.
“Thick Girls” is well-suited as one of the more jazz-decisive tracks. It’s also one of two tracks featuring Warren’s grandfather, Kenny Barron. Meant to champion body-positivity, the track as a whole flies by.
Warren looks to the cutting clarity of rap to describe the unwavering prejudices outlined in “Run Ricky,” while the gender challenges presented in “Womb Woes” are preemptively met with the spoken conviction of late New York Congressional Representative Shirley Chisholm. Black Wall Street isn’t a record of jazz shaped by truths. It’s a record of truths shaped by jazz.
Nikara Presents Black Wall Street: Corey’s Theme; Heather Grey (BK Gritty); Run Ricky; Mona Lisa; Womb Woes; Persistence; Thick Girls; Corey’s Theme #3; Ms. Mimi’s Fried Chicken; MonaLisa. (52:45)
Personnel: Nikara Warren, vibraphone; Kenny Barron, piano (2, 7); Paul “bae.bro” Wilson, keyboards; Hailey Niswanger, tenor saxophone; Stephen “Khemestry” Fowler, trumpet; Be.Be. (4), Melanie JB Charles (10), vocals; Parker McAllister, bass; Corey Sanchez, guitar; David Frazier Jr., drums, sampling.
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