As some of you know, composing on my own is a recent phenomenon for me. I began in earnest around 2014 and thanks to Amy Bormet inviting me as a special guest in 2015 on her wonderful Washington Women in Jazz Festival, commissioning me to write a piece for her group. the piece I composed, “In The Flow” received incredible feedback and that response kept me writing on my own although I had few opportunities to present the music that was beginning to emerge. This music was new and different from the music I was performing at the time. My writing varied instrumentations, approaches and structure – just based on what I thought might sound great together. I was excited for this new direction, deciding to just write, learn and study. Yet there was a moment when I wanted to know what this music would sound like in the hands of other humans. How would these explorations ever be heard? In 2018, I was invited to be a Yaddo resident as a Herb Albert Fellow in Composition and wrote a large work devoted to my mother, called ‘Faith, The Gift”. I was thrilled about this opportunity, how that six-week stay allowed me the space to write about my mother, and mourn her death properly for the first time. I’ve YET to present that large scale work. Like I said so few opportunities to present the music I was writing. But these last few years things have opened up, portions of my Mutations for Justice project has been performed as well as the pieces I’ve written for SoundNoiseFUNK. This year though the opportunities have started to come even more!
I closed out March 2022 performing a pared down Mutations for Justice set at the National Jazz Museum in Harlem (with bassist Luke Stewart and violist Melanie Dyer), just before a talk with Larry Blumenfeld of Trauma and Healing – What Does Healing Sound Like? Which also included musician and music therapist Noa Fort. At the Stone in early April, I presented different groups each night, where I could share my writing with audiences for the first time, especially the trio with bass guitarists Melvin Gibbs and Tim Dahl and the Black Poems performance, where I composed in a new way for me – sharing composed motives inside a tapestry score of poems, cues and other information for the amazing crew of Angelica Sanchez (piano), William Parker (bass) and Lesley Mok (drums). Fantastic to get to delve deeper into the works I composed for voice/bassoon with Rebekah Heller! Then recording a collective project based on James Baldwin’s novel, Another Country where we all contributed a composition to the mix with Dave Douglas (trumpet), Sylvie Courvoisier (piano), Patricia Brennan (vibes), Darius Jones (alto sax) and yours truly. April ended at Bang on a Can’s Long Play Festival, getting to share the compositions I’ve written for FLUTTER, with Nicole Mitchell for flute, electronics & voice. It feels like my writing is finally finding the spaces to be heard and I am just so grateful and looking forward to more ways to get my composing voice out there into the world.
Next week Thursday – May 26, 2022 – is a really a BIG deal for me. In September 2021, I joined the esteemed new music ensemble, the International Contemporary Ensemble. What an amazing connection of my practice with all of the absolutely amazing and groundbreaking work that they do. I couldn’t be happier with the work and with my colleagues! As an ensemble member, we all get the possibility to perform works curated by the Ensemble (for example, this past weekend the Ensemble took part in a three-day residency at Brown University including a final performance of works by student composers and a work by George Lewis).
Ensemble members can also present works of our own to be performed. On May 26th, my piece Sirens and Silences premieres at Roulette alongside works of Kate Gentile and Peter Evans. This is the first time I will present a composed work of mine that I am not performing on at all but I will conduct. Sirens and Silences is a ‘memory document’ composition, created to reflect a specific, space, place and time: New York City from April-May 2020 when New York was the epicenter of the Covid-19 epidemic, the global ground zero for the burgeoning pandemic.
It would mean everything it you could be there! Thank you to the International Contemporary Ensemble for representing these works, to the Jazz Coalition for Commissioning Sirens & Silences and the amazing players that will perform Sirens & Silences: Mazz Swift (violin); Marika Hughes (cello); Kalia Vandever (trombone); Patrick Holmes (clarinet).
Purchase tickets here and learn more here: https://roulette.org/…/international-contemporary…/
Thank you for reading this long-ass post of gratitude. I’m trying to spread Black Joy y’all, as long as I’m alive I will do what I can to spread Black JOY! Much love and light to you all.
Photo by Deneka Peniston! #steppingout