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Friday February 22, 2013

From The Philadelphia Inquirer

Sweet Honey in the Rock celebrates music and 40 years
By: John Timpane

On Thursday at the Merriam Theater, Sweet Honey in the Rock will be bringing it – and then some.

“We have everything,” says longtime (and retiring) member Ysaye Maria Barnwell, “from African to spiritual to doo-wop to folk to jazz to civil-rights music – we have it all.”

This year is the group’s 40th anniversary. Since 1973, Sweet Honey – present lineup Barnwell, Louise Robinson, Aisha Kahlil, Nitanju Bolade Casel, Carol Maillard, and impassioned signer Shirley Childress Saxton – has crisscrossed the world, with song-and-dance performances that combine musical journey, dance, spoken-word, political statement, and ecstatic exploration of the human voice.

Best known for its earthy a cappella, Sweet Honey will bring to the Merriam a jazz trio dubbed the Honeymen. “We’d never given extensive space to jazz, really, even though we’d all listened to it,” Barnwell says. “But this gives us that interplay between human and musical instruments.”

The show, and the album Sweet Honey in the Rock: A Tribute – Live! Jazz at Lincoln Center, released Tuesday by Appleseed label in West Chester, arose from a group meditation on the singers who had shaped them most.

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