Imani Winds, Jason Moran to debut original piece at the Hop

by Marley Marius | 4/2/14 2:21pm

by Jin Lee / The Dartmouth

Imani Winds, whose blend of classical, modern and international influences form a vibrant repertoire, performs at the College tonight at 7 p.m. Composed of Valerie Coleman on flute, Toyin Spellman-Diaz on oboe, Mariam Adam on clarinet, Jeff Scott on French horn and Monica Ellis on bassoon, the group will be joined by jazz pianist Jason Moran for a concert in Spaulding Auditorium.

The players have commissioned works by six composers since 2008. They will debut a piece by Moran, commissioned by the Hop, tonight.

Imani, which means “faith” in Swahili, combines many elements to reflect the shades and influences that color the American experience, Ellis said.

“The voice that we have in this country is so diverse,” Ellis said, “That is something that we really want to emphasize. It’s not even about black and white [but] about the American voice and what kind of statement that can make.”

Tonight’s program will open with “Startin’ Sumthin” by Jeff Scott, followed by “Terra Incognita” by Wayne Shorter, “Afro-Cuban Concerto” by Valerie Coleman, “Suite Popular Brasileira” by Julio Medaglia, Moran’s premiere of “Jump Cut Rose” and “Dance Mediterranea” by Simon Shaheen and arranged by Scott.

Imani Winds has collaborated with artists including cellist Yo-Yo Ma and jazz saxophonist and composer Wayne Shorter. Moran, tonight’s collaborator, is no stranger to the Hop. Called a “uniquely invigorating presence” by The Wall Street Journal in 2005, the MacArthur Foundation Fellowship-winner has performed on campus twice.

Collaboration between Imani Winds and Moran was happenstance. When plans for a different commission fell through, the members of Imani Winds suggested a collaboration with Moran instead, who they have worked with in the past.

“His voice is very distinct, compositionally speaking,” Ellis said. “He is really brilliant in a lot of ways, and he’s just got such an interesting way of looking at the world, [and] he adds that to his music somehow.”

Moran said he was thrilled to be asked to work with the group and return to the Hop. He described the two movements to “Jump Cut Rose,” his original work, as having the ability to “frequently [cut] between sonic spaces.”

“By aligning our strength in the groove, ‘Jump Cut Rose’ begins a new dialogue between myself and my fantastic collaborators, Imani Winds,” he said.

When a 2007 Imani Winds performance closed, the audience “couldn’t believe their ears,” Hop programming director Margaret Lawrence said. She described the group as “brilliant” and having “incredible warmth.”

After receiving a $575,000 grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in 2012 — targeted to promote classical music at Dartmouth and in the Upper Valley — inviting Imani Winds back to campus seemed obvious, Lawrence said.

Likening the group’s casual performance style to a conversation between friends, Lawrence praised the players’ physical expressiveness and repertoire — “[They] don’t stop at the four walls of what is considered strictly classical music,” she said.

The group will perform with the Dartmouth College Wind Ensemble in Collis Common Ground.

“We look at [engaging with students] as a way of proving our teachers proud and letting them know that all of the work that they put in is being manifested,” Ellis said. “It’s important to show that a wind group can thrive and be productive and absolutely do different and innovative things.”

The article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction appended: April 3, 2014

The online version of this story implied that Imani Winds commissioned tonight's collaboration between the group and Moran. In fact, the Hop commissioned this piece.