Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

Ernest Dawkins’ Live in the Spirit Residency Big Band: Memory in the Center, An Afro Opera: Homage to Nelson Mandela

JazzTimes may earn a small commission if you buy something using one of the retail links in our articles. JazzTimes does not accept money for any editorial recommendations. Read more about our policy here. Thanks for supporting JazzTimes.

This orchestral jazz suite, written in tribute to Nelson Mandela and recorded live on the opening night of the 2014 Chicago Jazz Festival, grafts elements of South African dance and melody onto a characteristic Ernest Dawkins fusion of postbop melodic and rhythmic thrust, jubilant swing, freedom-bound improvisation and militancy leavened by compassion and spiked with acerbic wit.

Dawkins, who conducted the 16-piece orchestra, doesn’t play sax here; the soloists-including Rajiv Halim (alto) and Aaron Getsug (baritone); trumpeters Marquis Hill, Corey Wilkes and an uncredited Maurice Brown; trombonist Steve Berry; and pianist Neil Gonsalves-are focused yet unconstrained, and charged with iconoclastic brio. Vocalist Dee Alexander negotiates Dawkins’ asymmetrical melody lines deftly, breaking out into her trademark multi-octave improvisational flights at appropriate moments. Poet Khari B., while acknowledging Mandela’s monumental gift for forgiveness and redemption, is also uncompromising in his rage as he cites parallels between South African apartheid and the ongoing racial and social inequalities in the U.S.

Start Your Free Trial to Continue Reading

Become a JazzTimes member to explore our complete archive of interviews, profiles, columns, and reviews written by music's best journalists and critics.
Originally Published