Title: The Transformations Suite
Artist: Samora Pinderhughes
Label: Gray Area
Format: Digital (MP3, FLAC, etc.)
Release date: October 12, 2016
Although originally composed in 2011, The Transformations Suite is one in a long list of artistic projects related to and inspired by the Black Lives Matter Movement. BLM has pushed many artists to engage with questions of civil rights, police brutality, and black humanity, and Samora Pinderhughes is a leading voice in this conversation. The 24-year-old Juilliard trained pianist and composer is already a very accomplished musician, with a number of high profile collaborators. Pinderhughes is the musical director for Ava Duvernay and Ryan Coogler’s Blackout for Human Rights, a Sundance film festival fellow, and recently premiered a song inspired by the death of Sandra Bland at the Kennedy Center with Lalah Hathaway. His sister, Elena Pinderhughes, is also a successful musician in her own right, currently collaborating with Common as both singer and flutist, and featured in his most recent Tiny Desk concert at the White House as well as on his upcoming album. In fact, the two perform together in The Transformations Suite, with Elena being featured heavily on “Cycles.”
The Transformations Suite is tone poem with five movements: transformation, history, cycles, momentum (parts 1 and 2), and ascension. It features a combination of jazz and spoken word (with texts by Saul Williams and Tupac Shakur), and draws on all facets of the African-American musical tradition, from spirituals to hip-hop. Highlights include “Cycles,” which features a motif that will haunt you even after the movement is over. Another favorite is “Momentum (Part 2),” which questions the status quo and refuses to be silenced.
The Transformations Suite is an ambitious, extraordinarily timely composition, coming on the heels of another summer filled with police brutality. The music becomes a space of both collective mourning and healing, and also imagines a space of possibility in which we get free.
Reviewed by Allie Martin