Sunday, February 01, 2009

Perfect antidote to Super Bowl analysis...

Screw the hype, I'm off to the Hartford Public Library for their Baby Grand Jazz Series, held in the Library's Atrium. Today's concert features pianist/composer/vocalist Warren Byrd, a Hartford native with an international touring schedule after many fruitful years playing jazz throughout Connecticut, Southern New England, and New York. I finally locate the library after first wandering into the Wadsworth Atheneum.

According to his website, Byrd was born in 1965 the youngest in a family of sixteen. He grew up in a musically fecund world. His experiences with performing began with singing in the church choir with his older siblings and lead to rich performing adventures in during his teen years, exposing him also to the vast treasures past and present of musical ideas. By the time he’d been awarded a full scholarship for Classical Vocal Studies at Hartt College of Music, he’d decided he wanted to be a Jazz artist. Through the listening, absorbing, practicing, and synthesizing of legacies of not only Jazz, but also Classical, Folk, and Popular music past and present, he formulated his approach to improvisation and composition.

In the last, twenty years, he has lended his musicianship to many groups and performers in Jazz, R&B, World, Latin, Pop, etc., as well as Dance and Theatre. A short list of performers would include Archie Shepp, Eddie Henderson, Frank Lacy, Saskia Laroo, Steve Davis, David Chevan, Mixashawn, Kenny Hamber, Alvin Carter, Nita Zarif, and many more. In 2000, he released Truth Raised Twice, his only album as a leader with many of his own compositions as well as standards from the Jazz repetorie.

Byrd starts off his solo piano performance with two Duke Ellington standards, Caravan and Sophisticated Lady before reading Langston Hughes' The Negro Speaks Of Rivers. The poet was born on this day in 1902:
I've known rivers:
I've known rivers ancient as the world and older than the
flow of human blood in human veins.
My soul has grown deep like the rivers.
I bathed in the Euphrates when dawns were young.
I built my hut near the Congo and it lulled me to sleep.
I looked upon the Nile and raised the pyramids above it.
I heard the singing of the Mississippi when Abe Lincoln
went down to New Orleans, and I've seen its muddy
bosom turn all golden in the sunset.
I've known rivers:
Ancient, dusky rivers.
My soul has grown deep like the rivers.
The second half of the program was devoted to the music of Fats Waller, starting with Honeysuckle Rose. What a great, relaxing way to spend a Sunday afternoon! And I was saved to boot, because Jesus left some literature on my windshield. So, I'm cool.

Upcoming concerts (held Sundays from 3-4pm at the Hartford Public Library Atrium:
  • Feb 8- Kim Myers is a well-accomplished pianist, keyboard artist and singer with a repertoire that includes but is not limited to jazz, rock, soul, rhythm and blues and gospel. He has performed in Japan, Canada and most recently in Dubai.
  • Feb 15- Carol R. Daggs, a fourth generation Saratogian, has been enjoying making and sharing music since her childhood. An accomplished vocalist and pianist, she attended the 1999 International FAME Festival Center for Jazz Studies.
  • Feb 22- Mike McGrath has enjoyed a long and varied career as a jazz pianist, performing as a soloist, in small ensembles, and in big bands. He has
    also written several one-act musicals, and has created music and produced audio for a wide variety of multimedia projects.
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