Tuesday, October 26, 2010

All Music Guide: 'Recorded Music of the African Diaspora' is 'Highly recommended'

[Recorded Music of the African Diaspora; New Black Music Repertory Ensemble; Leslie B. Dunner, conductor; Albany Records Troy 1200 (2010)]

On August 17, 2010 AfriClassical posted: “Mary D. Watkins & Olly W. Wilson: 'Recorded Music of the African Diaspora.'” Our review focused on the record label, Albany Records. The CD was produced by the Center for Black Music Research (CBMR): Morris Phibbs (Deputy Director, CBMR), Producer; Horace Maxile (Associate Director of Research, CBMR), Associate Producer; and Monica Hairston (Executive Director, CBMR), Executive Producer. Today we quote from a review of the disc in All Music Guide:

All Music Guide
New Black Music Repertory Ensemble
by James Manheim
“The Albany label has consistently released strong recordings of concert music by African American composers, and with this release it inaugurates a new series entitled Recorded Music of the African Diaspora. That's a broad topic, and the two pieces offered up as an introduction are quite diverse. But they hang together well as a pair. Mary D. Watkins is a San Francisco Bay Area pianist and composer who has broadened her palette from jazz piano to orchestral music. Five Movements in Color is close to what its title suggests: the work is episodic, given to signs of Africanism, and in many places directly referring to or even moving into the realm of jazz. It's an attractive, kinetic piece, but the real news here is Olly W. Wilson's Of Visions and Truth (1991). This song cycle for three vocalists and small ensemble is described by the composer as 'my personal reflection on the historical status of African-American males in American society.' Wilson sets four texts (given in the booklet, which is in English only), two traditional and two by African American poets, and there are two interludes. The work entails a fusion of modernist techniques with an African American vernacular idiom, and it is Wilson's genius, rivaled by few in this small but fascinating field of American composition, that neither pole is weakened in its attraction by the presence of the other."

"Of the new vocal trio, Three Mo' Tenors member Rodrick Dixon and baritone Donnie Ray Albert stand out in the extended and very powerful finale, If We Must Die, setting Claude McKay's sonnet of slave resistance. Highly recommended.

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