Firey String Sistas!: Firey String Company Book 1: The Blues Series (2013)
Over the course of five tracks, Workman and three of her fellow sistasviolinist Megan Atchle, violist Maryam Blacksher and double bassist Melissa Slocum easily move between or combine complex, fully-notated textures, Latin and African- rooted grooves, and some truly creative soloing. Like many 21st century musicians, all four sistas have extensive experience studying and performing in jazz, folk, rock, classical and avant-grade idioms. Workman, who co-produced the recording with Slocum, has played with everyone from composer Anthony Davis to hip-hop mogul Jay- Z, and has composed music for dance, performance art, theater and television. On FSCO Book 1: The Blues Series, she brings her multidisciplinary approach to sound into focus to present a program of four jazz standards and her own "Uncle Arthur," an homage (or perhaps threnody) for her uncle Arthur Harper, who played bass for J.J. Johnson, Mary Lou Williams and Betty Carter. The recording quality is raw and immediate, with each instrument captured and presented as a lively component to the overall mix.
The Firey String Sistahs! performances of "Afro Blue" and "All Blues," two classic compositions that might appear to sound skeletal and unfinished without the inclusion of a drums or congas, swing and groove like nobody's business thanks to the quartet's internal and collective feel for rhythm and time, not to mention some inspired hand- drumming on the body of the cello. "I Remember Clifford," composed by Benny Golson in memory of the late, great trumpeter Clifford Brown, is infused with new life as an arrangement for the duo of Workman and Slocum who take the tune at a slow, gently mesmerizing tempo and turn what might have been a funeral dirge into something closer to a (lost) love song. This being a contemporary take on the blues, the set concludes with Bill Evans' "Blue in Green," which features Blacksher's wistful viola solo.
Delightful cover art by award-winning children's illustrator Brian Pinkney mirrors the spirited performances captured on this CD. Hopefully a Book 2 is just around the corner..
Track Listing: Afro Blue; All Blues; I Remember Clifford; Uncle Arthur; Blue In Green.
Personnel: Megan Atchley: violin; Maryam Blacksher: viola; Nioka Workman: cello; Melissa Slocum: double bass.
Record Label: Firey Strings Company
Style: Beyond Jazz