Fulfillment

by WeFreeStrings

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Liner Notes by W.S. Tkweme
WeFreeStrings: Hope and Fulfillment

This important documentation of violist Melanie Dyer’s own band has been a long time in the making. At the center of a dynamic music and arts scene in Harlem that hosted legendary sessions of various kinds in the years before New Harlem drove so many people from Old Harlem out of town, the Denver native (who grew up learning the European classical tradition but first got turned out jazzwise by violinist Michael White and his Pneuma and Land Of Spirit And Light LPs) relocated across the river but continues to advance the cause in the city and beyond. Hope and Fulfillment showcases Dyer’s artistic vision and leadership after being perhaps most visible musically in the 2000s as a member of the Roxbury Blues Aesthetic and Harlem Arts Ensemble groups led by saxophonist Salim Washington, and with the Donald Smith Group that held court for many years at the late St. Nick’s Pub until its still-lamented 2011 shutdown.

Named after the 1961 album and tune by the great Rahsaan Roland Kirk, WeFreeStrings at its core, going back to its inception circa 2011, is the musical partnership of Dyer and violinist Charles Burnham. She holds the widely accomplished composer and educator in highest esteem (“my favorite living violinist”) and credits his lived example of dedication to his art as well as his vital contributions to the band’s repertoire and performances with strengthening her immeasurably as a musician. “I feel totally exhilarated when Charles plays,” she says. Though Dyer is the composer of the five longer tracks on Hope & Fulfillment, she avers that without Burnham’s contributions neither they nor the album itself could have been fully realized.

She feels similarly about her other bandmates as well. Violinist Gwen Laster has “been central to this project. We have given each other very deep and meaningful support on an almost daily basis as friends and colleagues in propelling our ensemble and other music projects forward,” Dyer states. Likewise, the violist is extremely proud to have cellist Tomeka Reid, bassists Ken Filiano and Brandon Lopez, and percussionist Michael Wimberly be part of this ensemble “whose art and voices create new music built on veteran knowledge, free expression, and broad performance experience.”

The subjects inspiring her writing include her mother (“I’m Still Here”), her children (“Hope and Fulfillment”), and the spell cast by the music of Batwa people of the Congo rain forest. Particularly noteworthy to these ears is the track “After Linda/Say Her Name,” a song inspired by the classic tune “Black Woman” from the album of the same name by the great Sonny Sharrock, featuring the singular, immense vocals of Linda Sharrock. “I wanted to capture the visceral beauty of Linda Sharrock's voice – to cry, to scream, to wail – from the soul,” Dyer says of this well-realized elegiac homage. Say Her Name: during the song the band calls a tragic list of black women who have died at the hands of police/mob violence in the USA. This is a piece that in the composer’s words “endeavors to plea for justice, to express outrage and resolve toward change.”

Linking the five Dyer originals are a series of “Paraphrases,” brief vignettes in which the WeFreeStrings ensemble engages as the violist says in “unfettered sonic dialogue.” The titles honor various “pioneering free artists and thinkers,” including Sun Ra, Ornette Coleman, and the one and only Leroy Jenkins. The album is in fact replete with shout-outs to many of the masters (a hallmark of Rahsaan performances and LPs, as fans of his well know), and for Dyer, Billy Bang may well be first in that line. Artists such as these represent “the essence, the ultimate realization of individual expression, of the freedom to imagine and then to be,”she says. Bang in particular shone for his indomitable will to “transcend impairments, impediments, ‘copper pennies and abstract shit’ and create boundless beauty with wood, string and hair.” This is a fine articulation of the band’s ideal, and they continue to make their best effort to live up to it.

So there you have it. Hope & Fulfillment is a definite record of what is happening now on the New York improvisational music scene and certainly a continuation of the legacy of the free jazz string tradition. But its ultimate value lies in what it does for you when you listen. Truly the music speaks for itself and the King’s English is not really needed. The most important words to offer that Dyer and WeFreeStrings would endorse are those spoken to us by Albert Ayler on “Message From Albert”: “I hope you will like this record.”

Recorded live Aug 24 & 25 2017
Douglass Recording Studio Brooklyn NY
Peter Karl, sound engineer
Liberty Ellman, mixing & mastering
Cover art by George Nelson Preston

credits

released September 5, 2018

WeFreeStrings is:
Charles Burnham - violin
Gwen Laster - violin
Tomeka Reid - cello
Melanie Dyer - viola, compositions
Brandon Lopez - bass
Ken Filiano - bass
Michael Wimberly - percussion
*Ken Filiano on So(u)lstice Song, After Linda/Say Her Name, I'm Still Here
Brandon Lopez on Paraphrases, Hope and Fulfillment, Bayaka/Yangissa

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WeFreeStrings New York, New York

WeFreeStrings is the compositional vehicle for violist Melanie Dyer. Ms. Dyer has an extensive background in chamber, orchestral and experimental / improvised music performance. Her work includes over 40 years of performance and/or recording with artists such as William Parker, Makanda Ken McIntyre, Tyshawn Sorey, Joe Bonner, Henry Grimes, Reggie Workman and more. ... more

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