Sunday, October 17, 2010

'Terra Incognita' of Imani Winds Premieres Works of Wayne Shorter, Paquito D'Rivera & Jason Moran

[Terra Incognita; Imani Winds; E1E-CD-7782 (2010)]

As we have posted, the Imani Winds Quintet,, recently released its fifth CD on the E1 Music label, Terra Incognita. We have since obtained a copy and have greatly enjoyed several hearings. We can now discuss the disc in greater detail. The exotic cover art is by Henri Rousseau (1844-1910): “Le Douanier, Jungle scene with buffalo attacked by a tiger.” The quintet is comprised of Valerie Coleman, flute, piccolo; Toyin Spellman-Diaz, oboe; Mariam Adam, clarinet, bass clarinet; Jeff Scott, French horn; and Monica Ellis, bassoon. Paquito D'Rivera is a featured soloist on clarinet. The recording was made in December 2009 at the American Academy of Arts and Letters in New York City. The liner notes are by Howard Mandel,

“Intrepid musical adventurers, they venture into and establish dominion over bountiful yet previously unsuspected musical territories charted in the compositions of Wayne Shorter, Paquito D'Rivera and Jason Moran; three of the most visionary artists in jazz today. Full participants in realizing the concepts behind these specially commissioned pieces, Imani Winds' Valerie Coleman, Toyin Spellman-Diaz, Mariam Adam, Jeff Scott and Monica Ellis collaborate at the highest level of instrumental virtuosity to tumble through their interactive voicings, blend in saturated sonic colors, and surmount some unusual structures. So doing, Imani Winds stands ready to usher listeners into a fresh, promising auditory land.”

“Shorter, tenor and soprano saxophonist and composer of Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, Miles Davis' 1960s quintet, Weather Report, projects by Herbie Hancock, Milton Nascimento, Steely Dan and Joni Mitchell, and his own groundbreaking quartet, had never before written for an ensemble with whom he didn't perform. Imani Winds had recorded National Endowment of the Arts Jazz Master D'Rivera's well-loved work “Aires Tropicales” on The Classical Underground, its Koch debut of 2005 (Jeff Scott even rearranged the suite's last movement, adding voice and percussion). Moran is emerging at age 35 as one of the most thoughtful and broad-ranging of jazz's young individualists, but he had no experience writing for wind quintet, and had an elaborate story to tell.
“'Cane,' in four movements, depicts crucial episodes in Moran's family's history, especially the life of Marie Therese Coin-Coin (1742-1816), born in Togo but enslaved in Natchitoches, Louisiana, and freed after bearing ten children by the man who 'owned' her.”

“'Recording Wayne's music presented a dilemma,' the group reports. 'On the one hand we wanted to preserve a perfect version for posterity. On the other, we hope it will always grow when we perform it, because it encourages us to try different things.'”

“'Kites' by Cuban-born, -raised and defected-from D'Rivera may seem to listeners at first encounter like familiar ground.” As noted above, the composer plays a clarinet solo; he is joined by pianist Alex Brown.

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