Oct 7, 2022 - News

New album captures TSU's band's live energy

TSU's Aristocrat of Bands. Photo: Garrett Morris/courtesy of Tennessee State University

"The Urban Hymnal" explodes with energy from its opening notes.

  • The new album from Tennessee State University's Aristocrat of Bands is a 31-minute joyride that encapsulates Music City at its broad and boisterous best.

Why it matters: A quintessential Nashville institution, the AOB has performed at NFL halftime shows and the Rose Parade.

  • Band director Reginald McDonald tells Axios the recordings capture the electricity of their live performances in a way that could reach new heights.

Driving the news: McDonald says "The Urban Hymnal," which mostly features original tracks, was designed to pay tribute to two pillars of African American musical tradition: gospel and marching bands from historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs).

  • "The goal was for it to be something that was very, very entertaining, but very unique."

Zoom in: The album, released Sept. 23, was executive produced by AOB assistant director Larry Jenkins, McDonald and artists Dallas Austin, Sir the Baptist and Dubba-AA.

  • Its 10 tracks bob and weave through different styles and feature an array of artists, but the band of TSU students remains the central force.

What they're saying: "In certain moments, I used them as an orchestra," Sir the Baptist told WNXP. "I used them as a Motown band. I used them as a jazz band. They almost stepped into a different skin on every song."

The intrigue: TSU submitted "The Urban Hymnal" for Grammy consideration in the Best Gospel Roots Album category.

  • "Alright" puts the band in the middle of an inspirational morning groove.

Between the lines: McDonald hopes to harness the album's power as a fundraising tool. He says proceeds from downloads and streams will go toward constructing a new band room, complete with a recording studio and a performance space.

What's next: If you want to see the band in action, you can head to the TSU homecoming parade tomorrow.

  • They're also certain to keep performing at major events, McDonald says.
  • "Nothing big happens in the city of Nashville or the state of Tennessee without the Aristocrat of Bands."

How to listen: "The Urban Hymnal" is available for purchase or streaming online. Find it on streaming services by searching for Tennessee State University.


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