New album captures TSU's band's live energy
"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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