Shout for Joy: Spiritual Christmas

Title: Shout for Joy: Spiritual Christmas

Artists: Barbara Hendricks

Label: Arte Verum/Allegro

Formats: CD, MP3

Release date:  November 18, 2010

Barbara Hendricks, the American-born soprano who is now a citizen of Sweden, just released her second holiday album, Shout for Joy: Spiritual Christmas, on her own Arte Verum label (EMI released Barbara Hendricks Sings Christmas Favourites in 1995).  On standards such as “Joy to the World,” “Stille Nacht,” and “Ave Maria” she is accompanied variously by the Drottningholm Quartet and the Drottningholm Barockensemble.   Other featured musicians include guitarist Mats Bergstöm, organist Björn Gäfvert, and Harald Pettersson, who specializes in Swedish folk instruments and provides interesting accompaniments to “What Child Is This?,” “Coventry Carol,” and “Sussex Carol.”  Hendricks also performs a selection of spirituals including “Rise Up, Shepherd, and Follow,” “Shout for Joy,” and “Oh Jerusalem.”  Overall, Shout for Joy contains an eclectic blend of classical and traditional holiday music.

Posted by Brenda Nelson-Strauss

Recordings from the African Diaspora

Title: Recordings from the African Diaspora

Artist: New Black Music Repertory Ensemble

Label:  Albany

Format:  CD

Catalog No.:  ALB 1200

Release date: August 8, 2010

Recordings from the African Diaspora includes two works composed by the noted African American composers Mary D. Watkins and Olly W. Wilson, performed by the New Black Music Repertory Ensemble. Both were commissioned—Five Movements in Color in 1993 by the Camellia Symphony Orchestra and Of Visions and Truth: A Song Cycle in 1989 by the Center for Black Music Research for the Black Music Repertory Ensemble—and are modern representations of African Diasporic musical elements presented within a sonically orchestral musical setting.

Five Movements in Color, by Mary D. Watkins, is an instrumental piece consisting of individual movements that create slightly different sonic atmospheres utilizing strings, mixed percussion, xylophone, woodwinds, piano and brass. One of the most common musical elements within this particular work is the introduction of small gestures in a fashion that creates conversations between instruments within the piece.  The first movement, “Once Upon a Time” specifically quotes African musical elements through the use of African drums and polyrhythmic layering within the mixed percussion. “Soul of Remembrance” sheds light on a different aspect, creating a sonic image of a march that could be attributed to civil disobedience marches or simply to the struggle of African Americans within America. This element is created through a slower paced presentation, where strings serve as the dominant instrument supported mainly in climax by brass instruments.  This climax immediately fades into a more solemn atmosphere initially introduced in the beginning of the movement.  The third movement, as indicated by its title “Playful Jazzy”, showcases jazz influences most obviously through jazz founded rhythmic combinations as well as what can be perceived as improvised trumpet solos. “Slow Burn” returns to a slower paced representation with the reintroduction of the African drum.  It is in this particular movement that the instrument palette is enhanced with the introduction of flugelhorn, piano, and harp creating a sonic environment that can not only be perceived as African influenced, but can also make connections to other cultures as well.  The last movement, “Drive By Runner,” reintroduces the strings as a prominent instrument with other woodwinds entering in a supportive manner.  The element of gestural, musical conversation between instruments, returns here as a more obvious and prominent compositional decision, specifically as a tool to generate climax within the piece.

In contrast to Watkin’s composition, Olly Wilson’s Of Visions and Truth: A Song Cycle is primarily vocally driven.  This work consists of four songs—“I’ve Been ‘Buked,” “Mama’s Little Brown Baby,” “Ikef” (a setting of Henry Dumas’ poem of the same name), and “If We Must Die”—separated by two instrumental interludes.  Interlude I is more striking, utilizing horns, strings, and percussion in order to emphasize attacks and rhythmic pulses while Interlude II is slower with an elongated melody.  The first movement of the piece is a contemporary setting of the spiritual “I’ve Been ‘Buked,” featuring an elongation of the melodic contour of the original spiritual as well as the placement and displacement of pieces of the melody and verses of the song amongst instrumental accompaniment. “Lullaby” makes use of non-lexical vocables followed by the singing of the lullaby “Mama’s Little Brown Baby,” evolving over sparse instrumental accompaniment. “Ikef,”  like Watkins’ “Playful Jazzy,” incorporates some jazz influenced rhythmic elements presented alongside the quotation of the plantation song “Shortenin’ Bread.”  The voice is the driving force of this movement, placed in a manner that allows for the perception of the voice leading the instrumental accompaniment.  Following “Interlude II” is the final movement, “If We Must Die,” which incorporates the conversational element between instrumentals with accents by piano and strings.  This movement is metrically flexible with sharp and instrumental entrances leading to the climactic moment in which the vocals layer the last two lines of the piece in two different vocal registers, presented with two different rhythmic patterns.  This climactic point is reached with the settling of these two vocal registers in harmony, followed by the proclamation “If We Must Die,” and concluding with a horn and percussion attack.

Recorded Music of the African Diaspora brings together two representations of musical elements influenced and presented in an orchestral medium, composed by two African American composers.  Bringing together African, African American as well as European musical elements is successfully executed in this representation of recorded music of the African Diaspora.

Reviewed by Christina Harrison

Die schöne Müllerin

Title: Die schöne Müllerin

Artist:  Barbara Hendricks, voice; Roland Pöntinen, piano

Label:  Arte Verum

Catalog No.:  ARV-008

Formats :  CD/DVD; MP3

Release Date:  May 11, 2010

African-American soprano Barbara Hendricks has never been afraid to forge her own path:  from obtaining undergraduate degrees in math and chemistry before obtaining a music degree from Juilliard, to relocating to Europe and obtaining Swedish citizenship, to working as a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, she has shown a passion for her broad interests and the conviction to pursue them.  Her performance repertoire spans opera, jazz, and chamber music, and in 2007 she founded her own label, Arte Verum, to record vocal recital repertoire and allow herself (and other artists on the label) more control over their artistic endeavors.

Hendricks’s newest release on Arte Verum reflects her self-directed tendencies.  Accompanied by pianist Roland Pöntinen, Hendricks sings Franz Schubert’s Die schöne Müllerin, D795 (1823), a 20-lied cycle setting poetic texts by Wilhelm Müller.  Though Schubert’s many lieder have been staples of Hendricks’s recital repertoire for decades, this album marks her first recording of a complete song cycle; moreover, Hendricks challenges the vocal tradition in selecting Die schöne Müllerin, a cycle typically sung by male singers.  In her liner notes, Hendricks writes that she was convinced of the emotional universality of the cycle that transcends the need for a male performer: “Schubert painted his harmonies and melodies onto the canvas of the words in such a natural way and I felt that my great task was to match his simplicity.  I wanted to sing them in a way that allowed that perfect marriage of music and text to flow as naturally as speech.”   Her performance here does justice to this goal, her voice conveying warmth, sorrow, excitement, and despair, while Pöntinen’s sensitive playing allows the piano to participate in the narrative and paint emotional landscapes.

The deluxe edition includes substantial liner notes on Schubert and Die schöne Müllerin by Jean-Marc Geidel.  It also includes a bonus DVD containing interviews in French and English with Hendricks and two of her collaborators, pianist Love Derwinger and lighting designer Ulf Englund, discussing their approach to performing Schubert’s Winterreise, D911 (1827), during their 2009 Swedish concert tour.  It also includes live excerpts of Hendricks performing Winterreise, another cycle traditionally performed by male singers (Hendricks is planning to release a recording of the complete Winterreise in 2011.)  While the CD alone offers a fine recording of one of Schubert’s most beloved cycles, the DVD offers tantalizing glimpses of a fuller sensory journey that Hendricks and her collaborators create in live performance, enough to hope, perhaps, for a full-length video release at some point.

Reviewed by Ann Shaffer

Dear Mrs. Parks

Title:  Dear Mrs. Parks

Composer:  Hannibal Lokumbe

Artists:  Detroit Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Thomas Wilkins

Label:  Naxos
Catalog No.: 8.559668

Format: CD

Release date:  December 15, 2009

Hannibal Lokumbe is a classical composer and jazz trumpeter also known by his first name only. In his classical compositions, Hannibal isn’t looking to enlarge the sound of jazz among the Western orchestra in order to create a concert entertainment but to compose music that celebrates the African American experience on its own terms, and in a wholly serious manner. His previous effort, African Portraits (Chicago Symphony Orchestra conducted by Daniel Barenboim, 1995) was released by Nonesuch with much fanfare but was ultimately criticized for eclecticism and over ambitiousness.

Dear Mrs. Parks was a 2005 commission from the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and, if anything, the eclecticism is held in check.  Although the instrumental forces are still very large– with four soloists, two choruses and an expanded orchestra with an added battery of percussion– this work has a very singular purpose in mind.  The oratorio in ten movements  is based on Hannibal’s own text in the form of letters addressed to Mrs. Rosa Parks from four different characters, portrayed by soloists Janice Chandler-Eteme, Jevetta Steele, Kevin Deas and child soprano Taylor Gardner. The chorus fulfills numerous functions– interacting with the soloists, hovering as angels in the background or assuming the foreground role of the vox populi. The music is often very still and focuses on supporting the texts, though it comes alive with rich and riotous percussion in movements such as “For We Have Walked the Streets of Babylon” and “Like Luminous Rain.”

Overall, the character of the music is not particularly jazzy but has a strong African flavor, based in modes, utilizing drones and employing an underlying rhythmic funkiness. This Naxos recording is edited together from the premiere performances at Orchestra Hall in Detroit in March 2009, and the audience is certainly present and quite involved; vigorous applause is heard at the end of livelier movements. In Dear Mrs. Parks, Hannibal has achieved the serious statement that he has sought to make in a standard concert work -music that enjoys a kind of contextual integrity yet still contains enough splash to captivate a predominantly African American audience and to bring them into the concert hall. Certainly this is readily apparent from the recording, where the approval from the crowd is most enthusiastic.

Read more about the work at the Naxos blog.

Reviewed by David “Uncle Dave” Lewis

Quincy Porter Complete Viola Works

Title:  Quincy Porter: Complete Viola Works

Artist:  Eliesha Nelson

Label:  Dorian sono luminus

Catalog No.:  DSL-90911

Format:  CD; MP3

Release Date:  Sept. 29, 2009


The music of American composer Quincy Porter, a younger contemporary of Charles Ives, is perhaps less familiar to classical audiences than it deserves to be.  Like Ives, Porter grew up in Connecticut and studied composition with Horatio Parker at Yale; but unlike his more famous colleague, Porter took on a full-time musical career as a composer, performer (on violin and viola), and educator.   After graduating from Yale in 1921, he studied composition at the Schola Cantorum in Paris, then in New York with Ernst Bloch and Vincent d’Indy, finally returning to Paris in 1928 on a three-year Guggenheim Fellowship to compose in earnest.  Throughout his career, he taught music theory and composition at several prestigious American schools, including the Cleveland Institute of Music, Vassar College, the New England Conservatory (of which he was dean and later director), and finally Yale.

Porter continued to compose actively during his years of professorship, winning the 1954 Pulitzer for his Concerto Concertante for two pianos and orchestra; his greatest works were perhaps his nine string quartets, which Howard Boatwright has described as “one of the most substantial, and very likely permanent, additions to the repertoire contributed by any composer of Porter’s generation.”1 Porter’s musical style was at once modern and accessible, often featuring long scalar melodic passages over occasionally dissonant accompaniments, and always written with an ear for the idioms of the particular instruments called for in any given piece.

Porter’s works for viola, then, are perhaps his most lovingly written, in the idiom of his own instrument.  Cleveland Orchestra violist Eliesha Nelson chose wisely when programming this recording; not only are Porter’s chamber works long overdue for fresh recordings, but this collection allows the viola to shine as a solo instrument and duet partner.  The crowning piece on this album is the Concerto for Viola and Orchestra from 1948, a neoclassical gem that alternates virtuosic passagework with elegant lyricism.  The smaller chamber works offer plenty of engaging moments, however, particularly the Suite for Viola Alone (1930), Blues Lointains for Viola and Piano (1928), and the intimately entwined Duo for Violin and Viola (1954).

Following is a “film noir” performance of Blues Lointains (courtesy of Dorian Recordings):

Nelson’s playing is warm and graceful, accommodating the technically virtuosic sections and the more lyrical ones with equal ease.  Douglas Roth provides sensitive counterpoint as Nelson’s duet partner in the Duo for Viola and Harp (1957); but the unsung hero of this recording is John McLaughlin Williams, who conducts the Northwest Sinfonia in the Concerto, then doubles as accompanist and duet partner on piano, harpsichord, and violin in nearly all of the other works.  Overall, this album is a fine exploration of little-known twentieth-century viola repertoire, a deserving revival of the chamber music of a respected American composer, and an introduction to some very skilled performers.

Following is a Q & A with Eliesha Nelson and John McLaughlin Williams (courtesy of Dorian Recordings):

1 Howard Boatwright, “Quincy Porter (1897-1966)”, Perspectives in New Music 5 (Spring-Summer 1967), 163.

Reviewed by Ann Shaffer

Revolutionary Rhythm

Title:  Revolutionary Rhythm

Artist:   Jade Simmons

Label:  E1 (formerly Koch International)

Catalog No.: KIC-CD-7760

Format: CD

Release Date:  March 24, 2009

Jade Simmons wears her contrasting identities like a coat of arms, challenging the assumptions of what each identity should be or do.  Young black women aren’t supposed to like classical music; beauty pageant queens (Simmons was Miss Illinois and first runner-up for Miss America in 2000) aren’t supposed to be persons of real substance or significant talent; classical musicians aren’t supposed to intersect with popular music, or have time for such non-musical pursuits as teen suicide prevention (Simmons’s pageant charity platform) or high fashion (she designs her own concert gowns.)

Rather than shrug off such externally-imposed expectations, Simmons confronts them directly in her public persona, web presence, and recordings, crafting a vision of a youthful future for classical music.  Technology plays no small role in this endeavor.  Like many popular artists (but perhaps not so many classical ones), she’s on Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace, building a grassroots network of fans among classical buffs and youth alike; and lest you question her rank in the classical realm, it’s worth noting that she was asked to host the first online broadcast of this year’s Van Cliburn International Piano Competition.

This constellation (or revolution, as Simmons would have it) of identity, genre, and technology is evident throughout her new release, Revolutionary Rhythm. The album as a whole is the first installment of what Simmons calls The Rhythm Project, dedicated to exploring the rhythmic and percussive qualities of the piano.  It comprises four contemporary piano pieces: Russell Pinkston’s TaleSpin (2000) for piano and pre-recorded electronics; Samuel Barber’s Piano Sonata, Op. 26 (1949); John Corigliano’s Etude Fantasy for Piano (1976); and three of Daniel Bernard Roumain‘s Hip-Hop Studies & Etudes (2006). 

TaleSpin combines the repetitive gestures of post-minimalism with electronic sound and dancelike rhythmic motives; as an album-opener, it has enough energy to catch a listener’s ear without sounding alienating.  The Barber sonata represents Barber’s foray into modernist techniques such as serialism, while still infused with Barber’s typical lush harmonies, and Simmons interprets its formidable fugue movement as a series of jazzy syncopations.  Corigliano’s Etude Fantasy, a lesser-known work, stands as a breath of stillness in the midst of the other pieces’ busier rhythms, as Simmons gives its stark left-hand-only opening plenty of space and deliberation.  Finally, DBR’s amalgam of hip hop beats and classical virtuosity in the Hip-Hop Studies & Etudes seems to herald one future for classical music:  it doesn’t sound like classical music trying to ape hip-hop, or vice versa, but suggests a more elegant fusion of the two, crafted by artists who understand both.  Although the piece was originally scored for solo instrument or ensemble, Simmons’s solo piano rendition includes pre-recorded hip hop beats laid under her piano lines (when she performs it live, she uses a loop pedal to self-accompany.)

Simmons’s technical skill and interpretive abilities shine throughout this album, making Revolutionary Rhythm not only a cohesive and interesting group of contemporary pieces, but a promising first step for an artist with a vision of where she wants to go.

Following is a YouTube clip of Jade Simmons talking about the pieces on the album:

Posted by Ann Shaffer


Jessye Norman: A Portrait (Decca, April 2008).

The in-depth interviews combined with thirteen staged performances should delight any fan of opera and Jesse Norman. According to other sites, the “staged performances” are actually lip-synched for this production, a sample of which can be found here.

Africa Unite. (Palm Pictures, Feb. 2008)

Finally available on DVD, Africa Unite is a concert documentary filmed in 2005 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, during the 60th anniversary celebration of the birth of Bob Marley. Featuring performances by three generations of the Marley family, the film is also sprinkled with archival footage and interviews.

Jazz Icons, Series 3 (Naxos, Sept. 2008)

The latest release in the Jazz Icon series, this box set includes 8 DVDs featuring Lionel Hampton, Oscar Peterson, Sonny Rollins, Cannonball Adderley, Bill Evans, Nina Simone and Rahsaan Roland Kirk. The source of the footage is European television programs that aired between 1958 and 1975. The DVDs are also sold separately.

Experience Hendrix. (Image Entertainment, August 2008)

Enjoy two star-studded tribute concerts, one filmed in Seattle and the other in San Diego, celebrating the legendary Black rock guitarist Jimi Hendrix. Featured artists include blues guitarists Buddy Guy and Hubert Sumlin, along with Robert Randolph, Living Colour’s Vernon Reid, and many others. Billy Cox and the recently deceased Mitch Mitchell, of the Jimi Hendrix Experience, also contribute to the mix.

Classical Music

Barbara Hendricks, Henry Purcell, Georg Friedrich Haendel: Endless Pleasure (Arte Verum, January 2008)

American soprano and humanitarian Barbara Hendricks partners with the Drottningholms Barockensemble for this recording of English Baroque songs and theatrical music by Purcell and Händel.  While the Purcell selections tend towards his songs and incidental theater music, including “Music for a While” and “From rosie bow’rs,” Hendricks does not fail to include the inevitable recit-aria combo “Ah! Belinda / When I am Laid” from Purcell’s only full opera, Dido and Aeneas. The Händel selections, by contrast, draw entirely from dramatic works such as Giulio Cesare and Semele, as well as a lengthy instrumental dance suite from his ballet Terpsichore, which showcases the conductorless Barockensemble’s lively performance.

Carl MaultsBy, Eye of the Sparrow (Albany Records, February 2008)

Composer and conductor Carl MaultsBy leads the Rejoiceensemble! and the St. Bart’s Senior Girls Choristers in this recording of two of MaultsBy’s choral works, Eye of the Sparrow and The View From the Mountain, as well as his arrangements of several traditional spirituals including “Kum Ba Ya”, “Swing Down Chariot”, and the medley “Hold On.”  Eye of the Sparrow was composed in 2005 as a tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr., while The View From the Mountain (2007) commemorates both Dr. King and his late widow, Coretta Scott King.  MaultsBy’s classical training, combined with the gospel and spiritual traditions at the heart of these works, yields intricately crafted works that are thoroughly contemporary while acknowledging their roots in tradition.

Anthony Davis, Amistad (New World Records, October 2008)

Anthony Davis’s opera Amistad (completed, ironically, the same year as the Steven Spielberg film of the same title and subject) is now released in a full length recording, drawn from the Lyric Opera of Chicago’s world premiere performances in December 1997. Though not stated in the liner notes, the length of this CD suggests that it may incorporate the significant revisions made for the work’s performance at the 2008 Spoleto Festival.  With a libretto by Thulani Davis, the opera retells the story of the 1839 slave rebellion on the Spanish slave ship La Amistad, and the slaves’ subsequent arrival and struggle for freedom in America.  Anthony Davis’s music fuses Western classical avant-garde approaches with post-minimalist techniques, jazz and gospel traditions, and east Asian elements, to create a sound drawn from many cultures but representative of none.

Patmore Lewis, Rillito River Project (You-Entertainment, June 2008)

Patmore Lewis, composer and violinist with the Metropolitan Opera, spearheads this fundraiser album for the Rillito River Project, a non-profit organization dedicated to implementing the arts in raising awareness of the effects of climate change in the American Southwest (Arizona’s Rillito River now stands dry during part of the year.)  The cornerstone of the album is Lewis’s ambient composition Elemental Flow, which evokes the landscape and musical cultures of the Arizona desert through violin, drums, synthesizers, and field recordings of the desert environment.  The rest of the album features Lewis as soloist on violin sonatas by Richard Strauss and Alan Seidler, as well as Karol Szymanowski’s La Fontaine d’Arethuse.

Lecolion Washington, Legacy: Works for Bassoon by African-American Composers (Albany Records, August 2008)

This album offers an unusual collection of classical bassoon works by African American composers, collected and recorded by Lecolion Washington, professor of bassoon at University of Memphis and a member of the Memphis Woodwind Quintet.  Few of these works are well known, even among bassoonists, and represent compositional approaches of the twentieth century from composers such as Ed Bland, Adolphus Hailstork, and Ulysses Kay (nephew of jazz bandleader King Oliver) and the twenty-first century, with Gary Powell Nash and Daniel Bernard Roumain.  The three William Grant Still pieces are song transcriptions rather than original compositions for bassoon, but serve as a necessary homage to the first great African American classical composer.

Posted by Ann Shaffer

Notable Holiday CDs

This Christmas– Aretha Franklin (DMI Records)

Fifty years into her career, the Queen of Soul has released her first dedicated Christmas album.  (An earlier collection, 2006’s Joy to the World, was merely a compilation of existing material cobbled together from various older releases.)  Released in an exclusive deal with Borders booksellers, This Christmas Aretha focuses on less commercial aspects of the holidays: faith, family, fun (of the grown-up variety), and, of course, food.  Plenty of the standard old chestnuts appear here (“Silent Night,” “Ave Maria”), but the more gospel-infused offerings (“The Lord Will Make a Way,” “One Night With the King”) make for more interesting spiritual fare.  Franklin’s earthiness and humor shine through on two tracks in particular:  the title track “This Christmas,” a soulful duet with her son Edward, in which she frets about burning her collard greens and swearing off chitlins, then teasingly interjects comments such as “Eddie, you mustn’t upstage your mama with those high notes!”; and her recitation of “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas,” rewritten as a decidedly adult parable best listened to once the kids have been tucked away to dream of sugar plums.  The holiday standards on this album are perhaps more pedestrian and less vibrant than might be hoped from Aretha Franklin, but overall, This Christmas Aretha is a solid holiday offering with some rich and funny moments.

It’s Christmas– Ledisi (Verve Forecast)

While Aretha upheld tradition with her Christmas classics, New Orleans-born jazz and soul diva Ledisi treads new ground on her holiday album.  It’s Christmas features equal parts covers and original songs, the latter offering a welcome alternative to the glut of commercial standards heard all season long.  Of the album’s covers, only three are holiday standards, and Ledisi breathes fresh life into them:  “Children Go Where I Send Thee” becomes an earthy blues jam, while “Silent Night” is transformed into a cool jazz meditation.  The other covers are less overplayed-though still familiar-Motown and jazz classics, as well as an ecstatic cover of “What a Wonderful World.”  All in all, It’s Christmas is a fine contribution that’s even worth listening to after the tree comes down.

A Night Before Christmas– Spyro Gyra (Heads Up International)

Spyro Gyra‘s A Night Before Christmas received a Grammy nomination this week for Best Pop Instrumental Album.  Their signature light jazz-pop sound pervades this album, rendering the holiday tunes breezy, cool, and less sugar-coated than most other versions of these songs.  Not all of the album is instrumental-“Baby It’s Cold Outside” keeps to tradition with its conversational vocal duet by Bonny B and Janis Siegel, while Bonny B’s scatting and a cappella vocal fireworks pep up “The Christmas Song.”  This is the soundtrack for a holiday cocktail party-chic, sophisticated, and grownup.

This Christmas– Imani Winds (Koch International Classics)

Imani Winds lend holiday music a classical touch with their album This Christmas. While many of the arrangements are tinged with just enough jazz and Latin influence to avoid sounding staid, all of the tracks on this album are familiar chestnuts, both religious and commercial.  That said, their renditions of “Carol of the Bells” and “I Saw Three Ships” are lively and interesting, their “Jingle Bells” sounds like a grand joke, and they go heavy on the swing and blue notes in a Gershwinesque arrangement of “Go Tell It On the Mountain.”  There’s not much that’s new or unexpected on this album, but it delivers classics in fine form.

Jingle All the Way– Béla Fleck & the Flecktones (Rounder)

Stiff competition for Spyro Gyra, Béla Fleck’s Jingle All the Way has also been nominated for the Grammy for Best Pop Instrumental Album.  Clocking in at a whopping seventeen tracks, this album stays true to the Flecktones‘ quirky but virtuosic jazz-bluegrass fusion style while drawing on a broader repertoire of holiday music than any of the other albums reviewed here.  Jingle takes on classical music with excerpts from Bach’s Christmas oratorio and Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker; Christmas carol standards such as “Silent Night” and “O Come All Ye Faithful”; commercial classics such as Mel Torme’s “The Christmas Song” and Leroy Anderson’s “Sleigh Ride”; pop tunes from Vince Guaraldi’s “Linus and Lucy” to Joni Mitchell’s “River”; and even a nod to Jewish tradition with the Klezmer-inspired “Hanukah Waltz.”  Fleck’s arrangements are ever inventive, and occasionally plain weird, but always engaging- and the fabulous Wooten brothers (bass virtuoso Victor and percussionist Roy “Future Man”) contribute their considerable chops.  Jingle All the Way is fun enough for kids, complex enough for adults, and probably the best holiday album of the season.

Posted by Ann Shaffer

Singin’ Sepia

Title: Singin’ Sepia
Artists: Tania León, comp.; Various performers
Label: Bridge Records
Catalog No.: 9231
Release date: March 4, 2008

If one had to use a single word word to describe Tania León’s music it would have to be “movement”: movement found in the tempo and rhythmic figures, movement between musical lines, and movement between contrasting timbres and textures. Movement is a salient feature in the works presented in Singin’ Sepia, an accurate representation of León’s compositional style and pallet. As a young musician in Cuba, León listened to traditional and popular dance music, and collaborated with popular music and jazz performers and composers such as Paquito D’Rivera. After moving to New York City she started her professional career in the U.S., working with dance companies and co-founding the Dance Theater of Harlem. Thus it comes as no surprise that movement is such an important feature in her works.

One should not, however, expect to hear replicas of Cuban clave and guguanco patterns, or quotes of jazz and soul melodies in León’s music. León extracts the essence from these musical traditions and uses this essence as part of her compositional pallet, which includes atonality, pointillist techniques, interlocking rhythms, ostinati, extended instrumental and vocal techniques, and electro-acoustic elements. León mixes the familiar with the unfamiliar, meeting and exceeding the listener’s expectations. Due to the variety of compositional techniques and styles León’s music defies categorization, and she would not have it any other way. As mentioned by Jason Stanyek in the accompanying liner notes, “avoiding reductive categorizations has become León’s trademark.” Her stance on categories and labels extends from her works to her personal life and background, refusing to be labeled Afro-Cuban, Cuban-American, or any other hyphenated term. In León’s words, she is a citizen of the world, and she is inspired by diverse musical cultures.

León’s works are also the result of the dialogue between composer and performer. Most were commissioned by a performer or an ensemble, so León created these works with specific performers in mind. In fact, three of the six pieces recorded for this album were recorded by the artists who commissioned them (“Bailarín,” “Singin’ Sepia,” and “Axon”). Her style appeals to performers of new music from diverse backgrounds, such as David Starobin (guitarist and executive producer of Bridge Records), Tony Arnold (soprano), and Mari Kimura (electro-acoustic music composer and violinist).

The title work of the album, Singin’ Sepia, also shows León’s penchant for working with texts by contemporary poets, in this case Rita Dove. The work is a set of five songs for soprano, violin, clarinet and four-hand piano. León’s writing for each instrument (including the voice) consists of both idiomatic and extended techniques, producing five virtuosic parts that need to be perfectly synchronized in order to convey the contrasts between stillness and movement, and the interlocking rhythmic figures that create subtle, evanescent moments of groove. The performance offered in the album goes beyond presenting and achieving these moments, and delivers a nuanced and emotional rendition of León’s work.

Those of us familiar with León’s compositions will also find delight in her use of pre-recorded materials in “Axon,” for violin and interactive computer. In this work she quotes sections from “Batey” and “A la par” to construct the soundtrack with which violinist Mari Kimura (who commissioned the work) interacts.

Singin’ Sepia shows León’s flexibility and ability to compose for a variety of performing forces, ensembles and combination of instruments (“Horizons” was written for a full orchestra, while “Satiné” was written for two pianists), therefore the listener should not expect continuity in performing forces from piece to piece. The album is a sample of León’s style, which would be difficult to present in concert to a live audience. However, the idea of movement, whether it is actual movement, its anticipation or interruption, cuts across all of the works presented in the album, and every piece is characterized by her ample use of a wide variety of musical styles and compositional techniques.

Posted by Marysol Quevedo

Christine Brewer Sings

Title: Christine Brewer Sings Songs by Wagner, Wolf, Britten and John Carter
Artists: Christine Brewer, soprano; Robert Vignoles, piano
Label: Wigmore Hall Live
Catalog No.: 22
Release date: 2008

This disc is not exclusively devoted to African American music; one will note the presence of German arch-romantics Richard Wagner, Hugo Wolf and Anglo composer Benjamin Britten in the title, all gentlemen who rather obviously do not qualify. Nevertheless, this disc includes the second recording of a highly satisfying and historically pivotal song cycle, entitled “Cantata,” by St. Louis based African American composer John Carter.

Not much is known about Carter; he was born in 1937 and his death date is variously listed as having been anywhere between 1981 and 1989. His musical output appears to have been mainly vocal as the few compositions that have heretofore been recorded are either choral, or as in this instance, in the genre of classical art song. “Cantata” was composed in 1963—the peak year of the Civil Rights Movement—and ostensibly appears to be a typical collection of arrangements of traditional black spirituals into an art song format. However, anyone expecting settings along lines of what was germane to Harry Burleigh, Lawrence Brown or Roland Hayes will not find that in “Cantata,” as these are not conservative sacred settings. Carter was on the same page with twentieth century musical techniques, and his spiritual settings are highly individual, challenging, compelling and at times quite dissonant.

When it comes to the Civil Rights Movement of 1963 and its relation to music—apart from the ubiquitous folk hymn “We Shall Overcome”—there is a range which can be roughly described as running between Sam Cooke’s “A Change is Gonna Come” to the work of free jazz artists like John Coltrane. Carter’s song cycle does not represent an ambitious, and admittedly courageous, undertaking from an otherwise commercial artist, nor does it work from a basis of deep emotional sorrow and anger as does a piece like Coltrane’s “Alabama.” The cycle encapsulates mixed feelings of fear, elation, struggle, self-determination and self-sacrifice—some of the moods no doubt experienced on the ground by participants in the Civil Rights Movement, though composed in an equally brave manner that would not have found wide sympathy among Carter’s peers in 1963. “Cantata” is highly unusual in that it was both written with the future in mind and succeeds in accurately documenting the atmosphere of the Civil Rights Movement in 1963 that would not have gone down in any other way; it is both heroic and anti-heroic.

Brewer’s performance is singled out as it so good—it demonstrates that a performer need not necessarily be African American to sing African American art songs well, and that bodes well for the literature itself in terms of its potential outreach. Brewer is a native of St. Louis and maintains strong ties with that community; otherwise it is unlikely that she would ever have come in contact with Carter’s “Cantata.” Brewer also contributes a fine reading of Hall Johnson’s setting of “A City Called Heaven” in the encore section of this live performance.

Posted by Uncle Dave Lewis


sing_to_the_sun.jpgSing to the Sun – Alvin Singleton (Albany TROY902)
Albany released a new CD last February devoted to Alvin Singleton, a former Composer-in-Residence with both the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Detroit Symphony Orchestra. Featured are five of his chamber works, including the title track sung by Spivey Hall Children’s Choir, along with works for solo flute (performed by Sara Vargas-Barritt), clarinet quartet, clarinet and piano (with David Shifrin and Anne-Marie McDermott) and vibraphone and piano.

hailstork_symphonies.jpgSymphonies Nos. 2 & 3 Adolphus Hailstork (Naxos)
Adolphus Hailstork, Professor of Music and Eminent Scholar at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, has composed numerous works for chorus, solo voice, various chamber ensembles, band, and orchestra, as well an opera. Hailstork’s Second Symphony (commissioned and premiered by the Detroit Symphony in 1999) and his recently composed Third Symphony are performed here by the Grand Rapids Symphony under the direction of David Lockington.

surprise.jpgSurprise Measha Brueggergosman (Deutsche Grammophon)
A wonderful selection of cabaret songs by William Bolcom, Arnold Schoenberg and Erik Satie, artfully sung by the dynamic Canadian soprano Measha Brueggergosman. These are the world-premiere recordings of Bolcom’s newly orchestrated songs.

singers_to_remember.jpgSingers to Remember: Oratorio and Lieder – Marion Anderson (Dutton/Vocalion, UK)
This new release out of the UK focuses on Marion Anderson’s lesser known performances of German oratorios and lieder, from recordings originally issued between 1946 and 1955. Includes selections from Bach’s St. Matthew Passion, St. John Passion, Weihnachtsoratorium, and Cantata No. 112; excerpts from Handel’s Messiah, Elijah and Paulus; as well as various Schubert lieder.

coleridge_taylor.jpgColeridge-Taylor: Piano Quintet; Clarinet Quintet – Nash Ensemble (Hyperion, UK)
An essential recording that actually includes three works by the 19th century British Anglo-African composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor: the Piano Quintet in G minor Op.1, composed in 1893; the Clarinet Quintet in F sharp minor Op.10, composed in 1896; and also the Ballade in C minor for violin and piano Op.73, composed in (1907). To the best of my knowledge, no other recordings of the quintets are currently available.

orchestral_works.jpgOrchestral Works – Ulysses Kay (Albany TROY961)
The first major release devoted to Ulysses Kay, one of America‘s leading black composers, who passed away in 1995. Included is The Quiet One, one of the first major film scores by a Black composer; Three Pieces After Blake for Soprano and Orchestra, performed by Janet Hopkins with the Metropolitan Philharmonic Orchestra, Kevin Scott, conductor; and Aulos for Flute and Chamber Orchestra, featuring flutist Melanie Valencia.

Posted by Brenda Nelson-Strauss


DBR.jpgTitle: etudes4violin&electronix
Artist: Daniel Bernard Roumain
Label: Thirsty Ear
Catalog No.: 700435717923 (UPC)
Date: 2007

Haitian-American composer/violinist Daniel Bernard Roumain (otherwise known as DBR) is enjoying considerable success these days, thanks to his unique, experimental style which fuses classical, jazz, electronica, world music, hip hop and other elements of contemporary black popular music. Always on the move with a schedule that would seem to leave little room for composing, DBR frequently collaborates with the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company, performs as a solo violinist, serves as artist-in-residence and guest lecturer at various institutions, and tours with his band DBR & The Mission, a nine member chamber group comprised of an amplified string quartet, drum kit, keyboards, DJ and laptops. His latest projects include his fifth evening-length solo show “One Loss Plus” for violin, video and chamber ensemble scheduled for a mid-November debut at BAM’s Next Wave Festival; “We March,” a concerto for guitar and orchestra premiered in Denver last March with the Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra; and “Tuscaloosa Meditations,” commissioned by the University of Alabama to commemorate the “stand in the school house door” incident between Gov. George Wallace and African-American students, which premiered in April.

Etudes4violin&electronix, DBR’s fourth album (and his first release on the Thirsty Ear label), provides an overview of his compositional style. Unfortunately, none of his larger works are represented (no doubt due to monetary issues). Instead, we’re treated to a variety of chamber performances, all featuring DBR on violin (and other instruments ranging from keyboards to keys) in collaboration with various composers, including Philip Glass, Ryuichi Sakamoto, and Peter Gordon.

The most interesting tracks on the CD highlight DBR’s electronica leanings, realized through his collaborations with DJ Spooky and DJ Scientific (aka Christian A. Davis). In the opening number, “black man singing,” DBR’s plaintive violin solo soars over a driving beat interspersed with electronic effects and improvisational flute solos contributed by Peter Gordon. The third track, “resonance,” continues the give and take between DJ Spooky’s beats and synth loops. “Fayetteville,” co-written and performed with DJ Scientific, should appeal to a younger generation grounded in electronica. Here DBR’s violin loops around synths, bass and beats in a brief but satisfying quest for dominance (click here to view a live performance of the work at Yale). DBR and DJ Scientific frequently perform together in works such as “Sonata for Violin and Turntable” and “A Civil Rights Reader,” each providing a virtuosic demonstration of the possibilities that exist through the combination of acoustic instruments with turntables, mixers, and laptops.

The remaining tracks on the CD (actually the majority) showcase DBR’s minimalist leanings. Philip Glass provides the piano accompaniment in “Metamorphosis” which comes across as a New Age meditation, though in my opinion DBR’s violin does not have sufficient depth of tone to adequately sustain the melodic line. The two duets with Japanese composer/pianist Ryuichi Sakamoto are the most satisfying. Sakamoto first came to prominence in the 1970s with his Japanese synth techno trio Yellow Magic Orchestra, and later delved into the acid house and techno movements. His piano clusters and minimalist loops provide the perfect backdrop for DBR in the contemplative “The Need to Follow,” while “The Need to Be” offers a shimmering interplay between piano and violin before branching off into extended solos.

Etudes4violin&electronix is highly recommended for anyone interested in exploring the intersection of technology with classically-oriented music. As DBR states in the liner notes, “I create, arrange, order, modify and amplify varying, separate sonic elements into a unified, meaningful whole.” This album proves that he has reached this goal, stretching the aural landscape in a most satisfying manner which leaves me yearning for an opportunity to experience a live performance.

Posted by Brenda Nelson-Strauss

Lost Sounds

lost.jpgTitle: Lost Sounds: Blacks and the Birth of the Recording Industry, 1891-1922
Artists: Various
Label: Archeophone Records
Catalog No.: ARCH 1005
Date: 2005

I hope that all of you are familiar with the fabulous book by Tim Brooks, Lost Sounds: Blacks and the Birth of the Recording Industry, 1891-1922, published in 2004 by the University of Illinois Press as part of their Music in American Life series (now available in a paperback edition). The 634 page tome, the result of more than thirty years of scholarship, not only details the role of black artists and their commercial recording activities, but offers fascinating biographies that are meticulously researched with abundant footnotes.

In his Introduction, Brooks discussed how many of these historic recordings have been inaccessible to students and scholars because of stringent U.S. copyright laws. As Brooks explains, “Not only can present-day record companies decline to reissue this material themselves, but they can—and do—prevent others from doing so by legal action or by demanding exorbitant fees.” We can be grateful, then, that Brooks decided to take matters into his own hands. Working with Illinois-based Archeophone Records, a company specializing in acoustic-era reissues, a 2 CD set was released late in 2005 as a companion to the book and recently received a 2007 Grammy Award for Best Historical Album.

With 54 tracks by 43 artists (and over 2 ½ hours of music), Lost Sounds provides numerous early recorded examples of spirituals, minstrel & vaudeville songs, art music, rags, jazz, and blues performances by Black composers and musicians. Many of these recordings were meticulously transferred from wax cylinders, some of which are extremely rare and quite fragile, preserved largely through the efforts of private collectors. Included are a number of vocal quartet performances by groups such as the Dinwiddie Colored Quartet, Polk Miller’s Old South Quartette, the Fisk University Jubilee Quartet, and the Tuskegee Institute Singers, as well as lesser known ensembles. George W. Johnson, the first Black recording artist (who merits four chapters in the book), performs his most famous work, “The Whistling Coon.” Other notable tracks include Booker T. Washington giving a portion of his Atlanta Exposition speech, the Afro-American Folk Song Singers and the Right Quintette performing works by Will Marion Cook, art songs performed by Roland Hayes and Florence Cole-Talbert, and R. Nathaniel Dett and Clarence Cameron White playing their own compositions. The set concludes on the brink of the Jazz Age with the “Darktown Strutters’ Ball” as played by Jim Europe’s [i.e., James Reese Europe] 369th U.S. Infantry “Hell Fighters” Band, “Camp Meeting Blues” with Ford Dabney’s Band, and the “St. Louis Blues” by W.C. Handy’s Memphis Blues Band.

The CD is accompanied by extensive program notes (60 p.) by Tim Brooks and David Giovannoni, which provide detailed information about the performers and original sources. If you want to hear more about Brooks’ research, including some fascinating stories about these early recording artists, an interview from the public radio program “The Story with Dick Gordon” is now available online.

Archeophone has issued other CDs that compliment Lost Sounds, including Monarchs of Minstrelsy (2006), three volumes devoted to early African American recording star Bert Williams (2001-2004), and their most recent effort, King Oliver: Off the Record- The Complete 1923 Jazz Band Recordings (2006). A complete catalog is available through their website. These CDs are “must haves” for every research library.

Posted by Brenda Nelson-Strauss

24 Negro Melodies

sc-t.jpgTitle: Samuel Coleridge-Taylor: 24 Negro Melodies
Artist: David Shaffer-Gottschalk, piano
Label: Albany Records
Catalog No.: TROY930-31
Date: 2007

“What Brahms has done for the Hungarian folk-music, Dvorak for the Bohemian, and Grieg for the Norwegian, I have tried to do for these Negro Melodies.”

The British composer, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, succeeded in preserving, uplifting and celebrating the music of Africans and African-Americans, just as his contemporaries did for their respective heritages. Coleridge-Taylor lived from 1875 to 1912, during the tail end of a “nationalist” movement in music. Composers across Europe and Russia sought to revitalize and glorify the folk songs, musical ideas and motifs associated with their nations’ people and history. A few other composers along this vein were Dvořák and Janáček in Czechoslovakia, Grieg in Norway, Sibelius in Finland, Albéniz in Spain, Mussorgsky and Rimsky-Korsakov in Russia, and Coleridge-Taylor’s own teacher, Charles Villiers Stanford in Great Britain. Through this mighty conglomerate of artists we can understand the beauty and struggle of peoples far away from us in time and distance.

The culture of Africans and African-Americans is particularly rich in music. The toils and victories of these peoples have been carefully traced, through an oral tradition of song–a tradition with which Coleridge-Taylor was intimately familiar. This music encouraged farmers to labor all day in scorching heat, it helped a community to mourn its dead, it taught children to rise above their circumstances, it expressed deep praise and devotion to one’s Maker. Music united slaves and gave strength to their weary and abused bodies, keeping the eyes and heart on freedom’s promise. Music helped men sweating away in adjacent fields to know they weren’t alone in the battle. Music held hidden meanings that helped many outsmart their masters and escape. No words could express the pain, hope and joy of these peoples, but song united them in understanding.

Coleridge-Taylor chose 24 of these melodies to explore and celebrate as had not been done before. Covering a large range of geography–Southeast Africa, South Africa, West Africa, the West Indies, and America–the 24 melodies also cover a range of emotion and purpose. Coleridge-Taylor’s theme and variation setting of each helps us to meditate on the idea each song was created to express. His command of form, harmony, texture, and timbre is evident in pieces that stand on their own, needing no prior explanation of the original melody. A harmonic language reminiscent of Brahms, and the pianism of Liszt reflect rigorous training at the Royal Academy of Music in London, where Coleridge-Taylor enrolled as a 15-year-old. Alongside peers such as Gustav Holst and Ralph Vaughn Williams, so much did Coleridge-Taylor excel that his music was performed publicly, as a student.

For these melodies, Coleridge-Taylor has chosen a clear setting of each; every track begins with an unambiguous statement of the melody, followed by variations that develop in complexity, and wind down to a simple restatement. Many octave doublings of the melody, simple but rapid arpeggiations, and a clear tonal center to each piece give the album a traditional, classical and sometimes hymn like feel. Liberal use of chromaticism and modal mixture, however, maintain interest and showcase Coleridge-Taylor’s creativity. Tracks such as “Warrior’s Song” use modal mixture similarly to Brahms, adding a fresh, yet dark element to the song. In pieces such as “Many Thousand Gone,” the thick texture, rolled chords and use of the lower register bring Liszt to mind, in his dense and overtly dramatic style. Coleridge-Taylor adds a lighter touch with pieces such as “Going Up,” arranged almost as a parlor song. Others, such as “Deep River,” are hymn like in their sincerity and reverence.

While each piece displays remarkable ingenuity on the composer’s part, the album in its entirety can feel a bit repetitive in sound and style. Perhaps the pieces were intended to be heard and contemplated one or two at a time, rather than 24 at once; the heightened sense of drama prevalent throughout each piece loses its effect when there are few sections that aren’t grandiose. The overall effect is slightly theatrical, perhaps because the instrument chosen for the recording is not one that produces delicate sounds well. The pianist, David Shaffer-Gottschalk, clearly has an excellent command of the instrument and an impressively clear tone. The effect of the album, however, could be stronger if he reserved the sweeping drama for a few key moments.

Other pieces of Coleridge-Taylor’s to look for are the 1898 “Ballade in A Minor” and “Hiawatha’s Wedding Feast,” both of which received excellent critical acclaim, and placed the composer in a position of prominence and influence. An overview of his works and select discography can be found at as well as in the biography The Hiawatha Man: The Life & Work of Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, by Geoffrey Self (Scolar Press, 1995).

Posted by Kristen Hoffman

Paul Freeman Introduces David N. Baker

david baker.jpgTitle: Paul Freeman Introduces…David N. Baker
Artist: Czech National Symphony Orchestra; Paul Freeman, cond.
Label: Albany Records
Catalog No.: Troy 843
Date: 2006

David Baker (b.1931) is one of the greatest composers America has ever produced. His highly individual, ingenious writing style reflects a type of eclecticism enjoyed by only few composers who understand how to successfully synthesize various elements from jazz and classical music. Paul Freeman introduces…David N. Baker is a compilation CD that demonstrates the self-proclaimed influence composers like Bela Bartok, Duke Ellington, and Charles Ives have had over Baker’s style by showcasing four of his works written and/or revised between 1973 and 2004, including Kosbro, Concert Piece for Trombone and String Orchestra, Fantasy on Themes from Mask of the Red Death, and Concerto for Alto Saxophone and Orchestra.

“Kosbro,” which is an acronym for “Keep On Steppin’, Brothers,” was composed in 1973 and later revised in 1975.  Written at a time in America’s history where Black people were crawling out of segregation and stepping into new found freedoms, Baker’s music depicts the push of excitement, the pull of uncertainty felt by many Blacks after realizing they no longer had to sit in the back of the bus or drink from “colored only” water fountains, and the encouragement to be successful beyond integration. Most fascinating is that Baker’s socially conscious proclamation is made with the use of 2nd Viennese composer, Arnold Schoenberg’s, dodecaphonic system, coupled with a driving ostinato reminiscent of both Ellington and Bartok, in addition to the use of metric modulation, a technique made popular by American composer George Crumb.

“Concert Piece for Trombone and String Orchestra” is a neo-Romantic work encompassing three movements, masterfully performed by trombonist Jiri Novotny.  The piece was completed in 1991 after Dee Stewart, former Philadelphia Orchestra trombonist, commissioned Baker. Despite the varying characters of each melody contained within the individual movements, they are equally memorable and are supported by idiomatic string lines that weave a supportive fabric around the trombone’s melodic content. Each movement stretches the limitations of the trombonist and culminates with a cadenza in the third movement that explores the entire gamut of performance possibilities.

“Fantasy on Themes from Masque of the Red Death Ballet” was written in 1998 for the Indiana University Ballet Theatre’s production of Edgar Allan Poe’s Masque of the Red DeathContinue reading

Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson: A Celebration

087_2.jpgTitle: Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson (1932-2004): A Celebration
Artists: Paul Freeman, cond.; Chicago Sinfonietta
Label: Cedille
Catalog No.: CDR
90000 087
Date: 2005

Cedille’s “Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson: A Celebration” is the first comprehensive release of any kind relating to the music of Chicago-based classical composer Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson (1932-2004). This one must have been in the planning stages before Perkinson’s death at age 71, as its release follows his passing by a little less than two years. The works included span a time frame of six decades, beginning with his Sinfonietta for Strings (1954), composed when Perkinson was 22, and the Movement for String Trio, literally written by Perkinson as he lay in his deathbed.

The early Sinfonietta is intriguing, as its three movements map out some of his primary influences in contemporary music; namely Hindemith, Barber and Bartók. Yet while the piece may derive, it does not sound derivative as Perkinson has his own ideas about dynamic rhythms, maintains a penchant for melodic lyricism, and utilizes a harmonic profile that reflects the influence of jazz and blues. As the disc unfolds, European influences are gradually more fully digested into the music, although the example of Johann Sebastian Bach is a constant and most strongly felt in the works written towards the end of his life. While harmonic toughness is part of Perkinson’s profile, he does not allow this aspect of his personality to dominate the other elements within the music, which emphasizes transparency of texture and the full working out of ideas.

The performances on “Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson: A Celebration,” by conductor Paul Freeman and others, are all very dedicated; this is music that is familiar sounding in its essence, but little known to most. “Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson: A Celebration” makes clear that Perkinson sought, and achieved, a seamless blend between African-American musical concepts and Western concert music that is serious and not at all “folksy.”

Posted by Uncle Dave Lewis

Editor’s note: Cedille is currently running a Web-Only Sale on American Music through July 16, which applies to this CD in addition to the three volumes issued as part of Cedille’s African Heritage Symphonic Series.