MUSIC OF VALERIE COLEMAN Alexa Still, Flute | Evan Hines, piano Carmen Twillie Ambar, Spoken Word
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Wish: Music of Valerie Coleman Review by James Manheim This album of flute music by composer Valerie Coleman opens with the spoken words of Maya Angelou: "I note the obvious differences in the human family." This is a suitable epigraph for this remarkable collection of works, some of which pertain to the African American experience, but others of which do not. Amazonia, for example, is an evocation of the rainforest that is under such threat. The centerpiece is Coleman's Wish Sonatine, introduced by its own poem of Fred D'Aguiar. The Wish Sonatine is a detailed, harrowing depiction of the Middle Passage. Other works have Chinese or several different South American references; another title is Fanmi Imen, which has a Haitian Creole title but draws on a line of influences running from Asian sounds to flamenco. What makes this music so compelling is how well it hangs together, even with all this diversity. The key is that the foundation of her musical language, somewhat French in orientation, is strong enough to make unity in all the diversity. The performances by flutist Alexa Still and pianist Evan Hines (Danza de la Mariposa is a solo flute work) are excellent, with a steady pulse that allows for rhythmic freedom, and the sound from Oberlin University's in-house label is fine. This album is highly recommended for classes in musical fusion and, indeed, for anyone.
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