Friday, March 2, 2012

Imani Winds at Wake Forest

Last night, I had the pleasure of seeing the Imani Winds play at Wake Forest University. This was part of the Wake Forest “Secrest” Artist Series at the University. What a night of music! The fantastic woodwind quintet emanated musicianship, scholarship, and purpose from the first note to the last. I took 14 students from NCSSM to this performance and can genuinely say that each one of them was thrilled with the performance.

We also attended the pre-concert lecture given by Wake Forest Music Instructor, Eileen Young. She outlined the woodwind quintet instrumentation, history, ranges, etc. and then gave a brief history of the Imani Winds with a few recorded selections as well. The two hour drive was SO worth it.

Having said that, my greatest pleasure of the evening was opening the program and seeing that the ensemble was performing a work by Danilo Perez, entitled Travesias Panamenas, which was written specifically for the Imani Winds. Danilo, you see, is an old friend of mine from our undergraduate years at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. Danilo came to IUP from Panama in 1984 and was my friend and musical collaborator as part of the independent jazz group, Jazztet, during those years. He is now among the most influential and dynamic musicians and composers of our time.

Back in the ‘80’s, I remember Danilo to be a fun-loving, sort of naïve guy who could just play the heck out of the piano. He could tear it up on both classical and jazz music and had the most incredible “ears” that I had ever encountered. (By the way, that ensemble had some pretty fantastic mucians in it that have gone on to real jazz greatness, including saxophonist Rich DiMuzio, guitarist Bob Ramsey, and, sadly, I can’t remember the name of our drummer who was equally fantastic. I was clearly the weak link in that band, laying down bass-lines as best as I possibly could.)

Danilo was a good guy from the start. He was so nice to me and everyone that he encountered. I remember one night he was trying to teach me how to play a samba bassline, in broken English, and I just couldn’t get that emphasis on “4” that is required along with the syncopated Latin feel of the style. He never got mad, although I am certain he was frustrated by this violinist that couldn’t get the line on the bass.

I also have really fond memories of ther first time I was exposed to music notation software and real-time entry by playing a midi keyboard. We sat Danilo down at the keyboard and he blasted out what seemed like millions of notes, up and down the keyboard, and we then printed it out. All the while, the 5 or 6 of us in the room were simply mystified by both the technology and the technical prowess of Danilo. Amazing.

Travesias Panamenas certainly did not disappoint last night. It is a musical history of Panama that includes i. The Arrival, ii. Jungle Expedition, iii. The Chase, iv. The Funeral, and v. The Sacrifice. Imani just simply knocked it out of the park. I could picture my old friend though each and every note. It was so familiar and so perfect. It was really a thrill. I was also really happy to see that Interlochen Center for the Arts had a hand in the original commissioning of this work. I am proud to be associated with Interlochen as a conductor for their Summer Arts Camps and equally thrilled that they have supported Danilo Perez and the Imani Winds.

Our Mini-term session comes to a close today. In coming days, I will be sharing some of the journal entries that our students will submit to me as they reflect on their week of performance and concert attendance. It sure has been a great week. Teachers – be sure to take your students to great concerts. I have been so enriched by the discussions that these events have generated among my students and I know that their lives have been enriched as well.



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