Tuesday February 26, 2013
WORLD-RENOWNED VOCAL ENSEMBLE SWEET HONEY IN THE ROCK
ADDS SOMETHING DIFFERENT – A JAZZ TRIO! – ON NEW 2-CD LIVE SET
AND UPCOMING SPECIAL SHOWS CELEBRATING MUSICAL INFLUENCES
February 26th Release on Appleseed Recordings, “A Tribute – Live! Jazz at Lincoln Center,” and Tour Dates Spotlight Quintet’s Inspirations and Versatility
Nearing its fourth decade, the internationally acclaimed and Grammy Award nominated female a cappella group SWEET HONEY IN THE ROCK is unafraid to experiment. To honor some the seminal music that first inspired its unique blend of blues, African, jazz, gospel and R&B music, the group recently strode out of its comfort zone and designed a special “Tribute” concert presentation, boldly adding instrumentalists to fully realize the jazz-oriented concept, their first live shows with a contemporary jazz trio. Upping the ante, the singers decided to perform this special program at New York’s prestigious Rose Hall in Jazz at Lincoln Center and to record their two-night appearance there in front of delighted audiences.
The resultant recordings, drawn from those two shows at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Rose Hall in 2011, comprise SWEET HONEY’s new 2-CD set, “A Tribute – Live! Jazz at Lincoln Center,” aptly timed for late February release – concluding Black History Month and preceding Women’s History Month in March. In the opening moments of the concert, group member Carol Maillard recites a roll-call of some of the great female African-American vocalists whose songs helped shape the group and comprise most of “Tribute’s” repertoire, including Abbey Lincoln, Odetta, Billie Holiday, Nina Simone, Miriam Makeba, Carmen McRae, Bessie Smith, and Sarah Vaughan.
“A Tribute – Live!” is the band’s first new release in five years and 23rd overall. Their previous Appleseed release, “Experience . . . 101” (2007), was their fourth children’s album and was a Grammy nominee. The group then conceptualized and prepared the “Tribute” presentation, a two year process, while collaborating on an original theatrical piece, “Go in Grace,” as part of the 50th Anniversary national tour of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, composing and performing their first orchestral work, and playing their own shows as frequently as ever.
On this new live set, SWEET HONEY IN THE ROCK’s distinctive swirl of a cappella vocals, encompassing waves of imaginative five-part harmonies and occasional solo showcases, is heard unaccompanied, aside from the quintet’s hand percussion, on about half of the songs. Adorned with new arrangements by Sweet Honey’s members, there are jazz standards, gospel/civil rights anthems, Afro-centric songs, show tunes, blues, and a salsa-flavored original.
Interwoven throughout the presentation are the understated instrumental contributions of the trio nicknamed “the Honey Men” – Stacey Wade (musical director/piano/keyboards), Parker McAllister (upright acoustic & electric bass), Jovol Bell (drums, percussion) – who augment Sweet Honey’s exhilarating, soulful voices and confident, genre-crossing dexterity.
The group’s 2013 itinerary includes numerous dates in major US cities, including several special “Tribute” shows:
2/28/13 Kimmel Center, Philadelphia, PA • 3/1/13 McCarter Theater, Princeton, NJ • 3/2/13 New Jersey Performing Arts Center, Newark, NJ • 3/5/13 B.B. King’s, New York City • 3/7/13 Howard Theatre, Washington, D.C. The tour dates through the end of May will mark the final appearances of Dr. Ysaye Barnwell, a 34-year member of the group, who is departing to pursue her own career endeavors. (See www.appleseedmusic.com for all tour dates.)
Founded in 1973 by Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagon at the D.C. Black Repertory Theater Company in Washington, SWEET HONEY IN THE ROCK’s line-up currently includes returning original members Carol Maillard and Louise Robinson (Dr. Reagon retired from the group in 2004) and “long-timers” Barnwell, Nitanju Bolade Casel, and Aisha Kahlil, as well as on-stage sign language interpreter Shirley Childress. The group has toured from Australia to Zimbabwe, performed in the White House at the request of President and First Lady Obama, accrued numerous honors, and established itself as an inspiring, empowering musical force worldwide.