Jazz and gospel groups combine to perform celebration of the Civil Rights movement
Contemporary jazz meets traditional gospel when The Christian McBride Jazz Quartet and the Maine Gospel Choir perform The Movement, Revisited, a musical celebration of the Civil Rights struggles of the 1960s, Wednesday, Nov. 11, at 7 p.m. in the College Chapel. The public is invited to attend free of charge.
Commissioned by Portland Performing Arts Inc., the celebrated jazz bassist McBride has composed an extended work for jazz ensemble and gospel choir to evoke the Civil Rights movement through settings of a suite of poems and Old Testament passages. The premiere performance makes its first stop in Lewiston as it tours throughout New England during the month of November.
“This kind of project, supported through the arts, helps to maintain the cultures that have become a vital part of our American heritage,” said Joanna Lee, director of the Office of Affirmative Action.
Since the release of his first two recordings Gettin’ To It and Number Two Express, McBrde has received critical acclaim, toppping Down Beat’s “bassist most deserving of recognition” poll and Jazz Time’s readers poll. Time magazine heralded him as “the most promising and versatile bassist since Charles Mingus,” and his live performances have received equally lavish praise. “He already sounds like no other bassist of his generation,” the Chicago Tribune said. McBride has appeared on more than 100 recordings, playing with Wynton Marsalis, Joshua Redman, Wayne Shorter and Chick Corea.
McBride was commissioned by Jazz at Lincoln Center to compose “Blues in Alphabet City,” a full-scale work performed by Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, with McBride as a special guest. In addition to his solo recordings, McBride has recorded a trio record Fingerpainting: The Music of Herbie Hancock with trumpeter Nicholas McBride and guitarist Mark Whitfield. Most recently, he has released A Family Affair with producer George Duke. A member of yet another trio Superbass with Ray Brown and John Clayton, McBride also teaches at the Berkelee College of Music.
Choir and congregation members of two Portland churches, the Green Memorial AME Zion Church and Williams Temple Church of God in Christ Church, comprise The Maine Mass Gospel Choir. The two groups, along with members of Portland’s African Fellowship International, first gathered together in 1996 under “Sounds of Blackness” music director Gary Hines as part of the House Island Project of Portland Performing Arts. Hines continued to work with the choir in annual residencies until this year, when J.J. Steele assumed the position of musical director. Organist Fred Steele will accompany the choir for the tour. In addition to regular church services, the inter-generational and interdenominational Maine Mass Gospel Choir has appeared in concert with Grammy-award winners Sounds of Blackness and the acclaimed South African singer and choir director Thuli Dumaiude, among others.
The performance is funded in part by a grant from the Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest National Jazz Network, a program of the New England Foundation for the Arts, with additional support from the six New England state arts agencies and the National Endowment for the Arts. The performance also is made possible through a commission from Portland Performing Arts Inc., Portland, Maine; and Bates College, including the affirmative action and Dean of Students’ office as well as the American cultural and African American studies programs.