www.hartfordjazzsociety.com or call 860-242-6688.
www.buttonwood.org - to find out more about the guitarist, go to www.sinanbakir.com.
Composer David T. Little interviewed a number of soldiers from the various wars that the United States has been involved in over the past 5 decades. Using excerpts of those interviews as his libretto, Little has created "Soldier Songs" - the music, now released by Innova Rcords, is performed by Newspeak, the ensemble Little has worked with (percussion, vocals) and composed for over the past 6 years. That octet features Caleb Burhans (violin), Mellissa Hughes (voice), James Johnston (piano, keyboards), Eileen Mack (clarinet, bass clarinet), Brian Snow (cello) and Peter Wise (vibraphone, percussion). (Newspeak guitarist Taylor Levine is not on the recording.) Added to the ensemble for this production are Kelli Kathman (piccolo, flutes) and lead vocalist David Adam Moore (baritone), all conducted by Todd Reynolds.
The multi-media production debuted in June 2011 at the International Festival of Arts & Ideas in New Haven, CT. The reviews were (mostly) positive and Little set about recording the music. Needless to say, much of the music is dark, harsh, and grating (like the combat scenes it represents) yet the power of the compositions, Moore's expressive vocals, and the ensemble's precise work shines on this recording. While the lyrics do not pick out any particular politician, government or guerilla organization, they do speak to the dreams and frustrations of the men and women who do the "dirty" work"of those who call the shots. As the program progresses from the dreams of young boys playing soldier in the backyard to the various war zones to the aftermath (how we inform families of the loss of their children and how we remember the fallen) to the inevitability of war breaking out around the war, one hears the people that Little has interviewed.
Music can not stop war but pieces like "Soldier Songs" can inform those of us in the safety of our homes of the sacrifices of those people we send to fight for us and the families they leave behind. The memories of combat do not, can not, leave the minds of those who are involved - David T. Little reminds us to listen to those people, to pay attention to the families, to make sure we never grow "cavalier" about what war really is - war is killing, plain and simple Neither glorious nor beautiful, wa is death. This is powerful music and deserves your close attention. For more information, go to davidtlittle.com/projects/soldier-songs/.
But the music goes in so many directions. Violinist Rachel Barton Pine is featured on the 5-part title piece, a solo work that ranges from a celebration of dance to a lament to the many people killed in the Egyptian uprisings of 2010-11 to the plaintive lullaby that closes the work. The Borromeo String Quartet are featured on the expansive "Chorale Fantasy" and return on the 2-part "For Victims", accompanying baritone David Kravitz as he sings the Shapiro poems. Pianist Steve Spooner teams with baritenor Christopher Thompson on "Posh", the song cycle based on the Koestenbaum poems - the blend of darkness and light is quite lovely. The CD closes with the 5-part "Jebel Lebnon" (Mount Lebanon) commissioned and performed by Imani Winds. The music takes its direction from the disastrous Lebanese Civil War (1975-1990) and is marked by the blend of shrill piccolo and clarinet on the opening section ("Bashir's March") to the plaintive bassoon that opens "Ariel's Song", a lamentation to the massive loss of civilian life and dislocation in the conflict. Yet, the lightness of spirit that permeates "Dance and Little Song" and feistiness of "Mar Charbel's Dabkeh" points to the resilience and hopes of the nation.
The best person to talk about this music is Mohammed Fairouz and he does so in this recent article on the Huffington Post (read it at www.huffingtonpost.com/mohammed-fairouz/native-informant_b_3119521.html.) My suggestion is find this music, soak in it, pay attention to its inner workings and the voices that emerge - it's an intense emotional journey but also quite educational. To learn more about the composer, go to mohammedfairouz.com.