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Imani Winds: The Classical Underground

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Imani Winds is a contemporary woodwind quintet whose music is quietly breaking down the artificial barrier between the classical and jazz idioms. The group's members—Valerie Coleman (flute), Toyin Spellman (oboe), Mariam Adam (clarinet), Monica Ellis (bassoon), and Jeff Scott (French horn)—are young Afro-Americans intent on integrating their American Negro and Afro-Caribbean musical traditions into their chosen field of creative expression.

The disc opens with Scott's arrangement of Astor Piazzolla's "Libertango, which adds percussionist Rolando Morales Matos on cajon, emphasizing the group's desire to make the classical canon more open to non-European influences. The album's centerpiece, Paquito D'Rivera's "Aires Tropicales, is a most appropriate vehicle for the quintet. The piece includes movements utilizing traditional Cuban melodies ("Son and "Habanera ), jazz ("Dizzyness references Gillespie's "Night In Tunisia and "Tin Tin Deo ), and European music ("Contradanza ). The final movement, "Afro, arranged by Scott, features René Marie's vocals and Matos' conga drums in a rhythmic melding of seemingly disparate influences.

Valerie Coleman's arrangement of the traditional spiritual "Steal Away (the title track of pianist Larry Willis' excellent collaboration with Gary Bartz) and her own "Concerto for Wind Quintet reveal the flutist's original conception, considerable creativity, and ability to compose new music that is both beautiful and exciting. The multitalented Lalo Schifrin's "La Nouvelle Orleans, an appealing piece, commemorating the birthplace of jazz, is expertly interpreted by the ensemble. The concluding "Homage To Duke, by Jeff Scott, is an exploration and expansion of Ellington's rich tonal palette.

At Joe's Pub on February 5, the group impressed an audience with selections from the disc. Scott and bassoonist Monica Ellis often provided a solid rhythmic underpinning, similar to the role of bass and drums in jazz, allowing the group to examine dissonant harmonies without alienating the audience. Guests Matos and Marie helped raise the level of excitement on the Piazzolla and D'Rivera pieces. The evening proved clarinetist Mariam Adam's assertion that Imani Winds exemplifies not what a woodwind quintet should sound like, but what it can sound like.

Track Listing: 1. Astor Piazzolla: Liber Tango (arr. Jeff Scott); 2. Paquito D'Rivera: Aires Tropicales: Alborada; 3. Paquito D'Rivera: Aires Tropicales: Son; 4. Paquito D'Rivera: Aires Tropicales: Habanera; 5. Paquito D'Rivera: Aires Tropicales: Vals Venezolano; 6. Paquito D'Rivera: Aires Tropicales: Dizzyness; 7. Paquito D'Rivera: Aires Tropicales: Contradanza; 8. Paquito D'Rivera: Aires Tropicales: Afro (arr. Jeff Scott); 9. traditional spiritual: Steal Away (arr. VColeman); 10. V. Coleman: Concerto for Wind Quintet: Afro; 11. V. Coleman: Concerto for Wind Quintet: Vocalise; 12. V. Coleman: Concerto for Wind Quintet: Danza; 13. Lalo Schifrin: La Nouvelle Orleans; 14. Jeff Scott: Homage to Duke.

Personnel: Valerie Coleman - flute; Mariam Adam - clarinet; Toyin Spellman - oboe; Monica Ellis - basson; Jeff Scott - French horn.

Title: The Classical Underground | Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: KOCH Records


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