Imani Dances with African, Latino Sounds and Rhythms
Imani Winds, with an oboist who later doubled as an amazing vocalist, warmed Finney Chapel’s atmosphere Tuesday, Nov. 6 for yet another installment of the Conservatory’s Artist Recital Series. Despite the chills outside, the lively wind quintet played a sparkling concert with spunky rhythms and funky personality, programming non-mainstream works.
The ensemble opened with a punchy Piazzolla that immediately demonstrated the performers’ musical and technical prowess, with an intense dynamic range that rivaled the sound of the lightest feather falling to the sound of your traditional big band. Flautist Valerie Coleman, OC ’95, introduced a piece she composed, a four-movement work titled Portraits of Josephine Baker. She described the movements as “musical snapshots,” forming a “photo album” of Baker’s inspiring life. Imani proceeded to belt numerous notes with excellent sense of pulse, members always communicating genuine, heartfelt thoughts.
After the intermission, oboist Toyin Spellman-Diaz, OC ’94, spoke briefly about the late Professor of Oboe James Caldwell who had been her teacher during her time as an Oberlin student. In tribute, she let loose a rendition of “Afro Blue,” soon joined in with a multitude of sounds from the rest of the group. Both as an oboist and a vocalist, Spellman-Diaz stunned the audience.
The savvy and sweet Suite Popular Brasileira by Brazilian composer Julio Medaglia injected loops, whirls and swirls – the musical equivalent of curlicues – charming all the ears in Finney. György Ligeti’s Ten pieces for Wind Quintet presented a different side of Imani, programming a piece that pushed the envelope.
Coleman and Spellman-Diaz, along with bassoonist Monica Ellis, OC ’95, clarinetist Mariam Adam and French hornist Jeff Scott, capped the evening with Scott’s own arrangement of Piazzolla’s well-known Libertango. The quintet rocked out every corner and every curve with its unique efforts.
Celebrating a decade together, the Grammy-nominated ensemble has performed across the globe and has recently started working on its Legacy Commissioning Project, which calls for ten new works for woodwind quintet by ten composers over the course of five years. Imani boldly embraces a richness in its distinct programming, drawing from European, African, Latin American, Afro-Cuban, Asian and Middle Eastern cultures and musical traditions.