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Legacy: Violin Music Of African-American Composers / Hughes, Bottorff

Baker / Johnson / Morrison / Hughes / Bottorff
Release Date: 08/09/2011 
Label:  Albany Records   Catalog #: 1293  
Composer:  Francis JohnsonGeorge MorrisonDavid Nathaniel BakerOzie Cargile,   ... 
Performer:  Tami Lee HughesEllen Bottorff
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

LEGACY: VIOLIN MUSIC OF AFRICAN-AMERICAN COMPOSERS Tami Lee Hughes (vn); Ellen Bottorff (pn) ALBANY 1293 (59:42)

JOHNSON Bingham’s Cotillion. MORRISON 5 Violin Solos. BAKER Jazz Suite. CARGILE Mixed Feelings. HUGHES S.L.I.C.E. Read more

Violinist Tami Lee Hughes and pianist Ellen Bottorff have compiled a program of original violin music (not transcriptions) by black composers from several eras. Francis Johnson (1792–1844) served as a bandmaster but also achieved a high degree of skill as a violinist. Bingham’s Cotillion , from 1820, represents an early example of American black music and though it may not evince a high degree of compositional complexity, it’s perky and ingratiating, and sounds well constructed.

The Five Violin Solos by George Morrison (1891–1974), based on Some Time I Feel Like a Motherless Child, Every Time I feel the Spirit, Steal Away to Jesus, and Stand Still Jordan, in addition to a piece of his own composition, Lullaby , combine to form one of the two longest pieces on the program and provide Hughes with an opportunity to draw a sumptuous tone from her instrument, although the engineers seem to have miked these pieces somewhat more closely than they did the cotillion. In Every Time I Feel the Spirit, Bottorff bangs out a vigorously thumping accompaniment, contrasting with Hughes’s almost succulent double-stops. In Steal Away to Jesus, Hughes mixes cleanly whistling harmonics with lush double-stops and bold, heartfelt declamation. The final piece, Lullaby , breathes the same atmosphere, if it’s a bit more playful, as do the earlier pieces. Here some extraneous noise (heavy breathing?) creeps into the final mix.

The five movements of the Jazz Suite by David Baker (b.1931), the program’s other full-length work, depart from the almost overt romanticism of Johnson’s and Morrison’s compositions, introducing harmonies that diverge from straightforward tonality and smoothly flowing melody. “Minton’s,” for example, tosses jagged fragments (many in double-stops in the violin part) back and forth between instruments and calls upon the violinist to produce timbres that would have been inappropriate in the earlier works. “Harlem Saturday Night” begins in a style that sounds more prototypically jazzy, with infectious rhythms seemingly both African and Caribbean, supporting some tangy and spiky dissonances. Taken out of its context in the suite, it might make a highly effective individual number on a recital program. “Perfume/Perspiration,” lushly seductive in its almost three-minute-long opening cadenza (suggesting more than a hint of classical influences), gives way in its middle section to a sultry duo with piano combining various influences in a coherent whole that might, like “Harlem Saturday Night,” serve an effective independent number on a program of shorter works. Tangy dissonances bejewel “Jamaican Jam,” but “52nd Street,” despite some familiar rhythms, seems altogether more abstract in its expression; nevertheless, Hughes and Bottorff make of it a near tour de force.

Mixed Feelings by Ozie C. Cargile II (b.1981) sounds almost symphonic and romantically cinematic, even occasionally suggesting Rachmaninoff in its harmonic lushness. S.L.I.C.E. (“Soulful Latin in a Classical Environment”—commissioned for the recording) by Chad “Sir Wick” Hughes (b.1977), brings the program to a bright, bracing conclusion.

While the program as a whole may appeal most strongly to those interested in its subject matter, it unquestionably provides a sampling of styles that have evolved in the black musical community, each of which should capture at least some listeners’ fancy. Recommended, therefore, more broadly than its documentary nature might suggest.

FANFARE: Robert Maxham
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Works on This Recording

Bingham's Cotillion by Francis Johnson
Performer:  Tami Lee Hughes (Violin), Ellen Bottorff (Piano)
Period: 19th Century 
Written: USA 
Violin Solos (5) by George Morrison
Performer:  Tami Lee Hughes (Violin), Ellen Bottorff (Piano)
Period: 19th Century 
Written: USA 
Jazz Suite by David Nathaniel Baker
Performer:  Tami Lee Hughes (Violin), Ellen Bottorff (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: USA 
Mixed Feelings by Ozie Cargile
Performer:  Tami Lee Hughes (Violin), Ellen Bottorff (Piano)
Period: 20th/21st Century 
Written: USA 
S.L.I.C.E. by Chad "Sir Wick" Hughes
Performer:  Tami Lee Hughes (Violin), Ellen Bottorff (Piano)
Period: 21st Century 
Written: USA 

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