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Cecilia Smith: Dark Triumph

Dan McClenaghan By

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Victoria L. Smith was born in Baltimore, Maryland in 1931. She was the first black nurse hired in St Charles Hospital in Toledo, Ohio. She served in the Red Cross and the Peace Corps. By the measure of fame and popular recognition, she is an ordinary woman, but by another measure—the real and truthful one—she is an exceptional human being.

As an African-American born in her time in history, Victoria L. Smith was the victim of the American soul's darkest stain, racism. A part of the truth of her story involves racism within the black community, the "slave mentality" discrimination against its darker-skinned members. Politically incorrect, perhaps, but a part of the truth of the situation. Smith's story—which she tells herself here, with a succinct, plain-spoken eloquence, without rancor or bitterness—is embraced by vibraphonist Cecilia Smith's gorgeous, lush orchestrations—one part jazz, two parts classical, with a jazz rhythm section and strings, and The Boys' Choir of Harlem contributing a sweetly perfect counterpoint to Victoria L. Smith's every woman's spoken words.

The tale follows Smith's journey from mother, nurse, and ballet teacher, as she did the common but always remarkable deed of raising a family, to her move to Red Cross Volunteer to Peace Corps worker, after her family was raised and her husband, the great love of her life, had passed. It's the story of a life of unselfish service.

This is a mix of storytelling and music of the highest order, Ellingtonian in scope and magnificence, unmistakeably American, a tale that should be included in every school's curriculum. Cecilia Smith's Dark Triumph is a compellingly honest look at an underdog, an everyday person who overcame sadly imposed societal disadvantages to travel in spectacular fashion in her journey. A story of uplifting beauty; a masterpiece.

Track Listing: Birth Spring; Spring/The Darkest Child; Seating by Color; Too Light a Negro for Me--A Love Story; New Birth--Spring; Grief and Disasters; An African American in Rio Frio Costa Rica; Africa Remembered; From Confusion to Order/Spring.

Personnel: Cecilia Smith: vibes, orchestration; Victoria L. Smith: spoken word; Bruce Williams: soprano saxophone; The Boys' Choir of Harlem: voices; Carlton Holmes: piano; Gwen Lanchaster, Belinda Whitney, Philip Payton, Evelyn Estav, Marlene Rice, Jon Kass, Gayle Dixon, Duane Jones, Brenda Vincent, Judy Spokes,Stanley Hunt, Ann Marie Bedney: violin; Maxine Rosch, James Coleman, Aundrey Mitchell, Aileen Folson, Garfield Moore: viola; Lonnie Plaxico: bass; Montez Coleman: drums; Robin Dixon: vocals.

Title: Dark Triumph | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: CEA Music Company

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