Friday, July 30, 2010

In review--Blowing in the Wind

Imani Winds
Terra Incognita
E1 Entertainment

Although Imani Winds formed in 1997, Terra Incognita marks the first album I’ve heard by the quintet. As the name would imply this chamber ensemble features wind instruments, but not all woodwinds, French horn is included bringing a wide range of sonorities. IW performs both original and interpretations of classical, jazz, and traditional. Terra Incognita (named after the Wayne Shorter piece performed on this recording), also features works by Cuban expat Paquito D’Rivera and composer Jason Moran. Guest musicians include D’Rivera on clarinet and Alex Brown on piano. The recording is part IW's Legacy Project, featuring music from around the world.

I’m particularly fond of projects that marry classical music to jazz, world, and folkloric idioms. And I’m not surprised to hear work by D’Rivera on this recording since he combines all those elements in his music. Remember his track on the album and documentary film Calle 54? Imani Winds, (Valerie Colman, flute, Toyin Spellman-Dìaz, oboe, Mariam Adam, clarinet, Jeff Scott, French horn, and Monica Ellis, bassoon), perform a classical-jazz blend that recalls Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue (I hear hints of Ravel too), with Latin jazz flavors, which plays out like salsa club in the last few lines of D’Rivera’s Wind Chimes.  In fact, D’Rivera and Brown’s blues tinged Latin jazz performances on Kites over Havana and Wind Chimes contribute to this exhilarating recording.

I’m surprised at the number of young chamber ensembles, Spanish Brass also comes to mind, that explore territory that bridges classical with other genres. These ensembles infuse new vibrant energy to classical music with their adventurous spirit. Imani Winds experiments too with harmonics often with the five instruments veering off in different directions then colliding at jaunty angles. It’s interesting to hear the bassoon, clarinet, oboe, flute, and French horn in conversation, not just musical, but also cultural dialogues. The overall effect of IW’s performance of Jason Moran’s suite Cane, Wayne Shorter’s Terra Incognita and D’Rivera’s Kites over Havana/Wind Chimes could easily send shivers of joy up listeners’ spines—truly a delightful and enlightening recording.

See fall touring dates at and information on the recording at

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