Walk with us through Shades of Blues.
The blues is water to the parched, a lifeline to those adrift, rest for those who are weary, and nourishment for the weak. Those who only glance at this music mistake it for sadness. But those who have opened their hearts to the riches of the blues understand that it is a path from sadness, through challenges, to strength. The blues is salvation.
The blues is also a living and breathing genre—still bending, moving, and evolving in the hands of artists who honor its past and explore its potential. Strathmore’s Shades of Blues is a season-long exploration of artists who recognize the power of the blues, who draw inspiration from the iconic musicians of its past, and who are keeping the blues alive in both traditional and innovative ways.
The narrative of triumph over adversity is evident throughout the series. It is in the creation of a new work, Piedmont Blues, in which Grammy-nominated pianist Gerald Clayton spends time with blues elders in the tobacco country of North Carolina and transforms their inspiring stories into a dynamic multimedia music event with the soulful singing of René Marie. It is in the skillful hands of musicians Mud Morganfield (son of Muddy Waters) and the Big Head Todd band members who pay homage to the inspired music of Willie Dixon. It is in the voices of Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra’s leading vocalists channeling the legendary sounds of Ma Rainey, Mamie Smith, Bessie Smith, and Ethel Waters—four inspiring women who faced racial injustice with music and fierce determination. Themes of salvation are most certainly evident in the centerpiece to our Music Center series with Wynton Marsalis’ grand composition, All Rise. This massive and soaring composition, featuring over 200 artists, finds its roots in blues and gospel, but its wings in jazz, classical, and world music.
Performances at Strathmore’s music club AMP and Mansion spaces allow us to explore even more nuanced “shades” through film and live music events. The spirit of the blues is more evident than ever in the “desert blues” sounds of the Sierra Leone Refugee All Stars who found salvation singing together in a refugee camp and now travel the world sharing their message of hope. And the compositions of Chicago icon Corky Siegel find classical string players bending the blues in ways that are uplifting and completely contagious.
It is impossible to travel the entire road of blues music in one season. But this collection of concerts, film events, and education programs is an opportunity to walk a few miles in the footsteps of legends and be inspired by amazing artists of our time. We look forward to sharing this walk with you.
Joi A. Brown
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