SOURCE: KOCH International Classics

May 30, 2007 11:39 ET

Koch International Classics Releases Imani Winds "Josephine Baker: A Life of Le Jazz Hot!"

Life of Josephine Baker Inspires New Recording

PORT WASHINGTON, NY--(Marketwire - May 30, 2007) - Koch International Classics is pleased to announce the release of "Josephine Baker: A Life of Le Jazz Hot!," the much-anticipated third recording from Grammy-nominated woodwind quintet Imani Winds. The group will kick-off this very special release with a tribute concert for Ms. Baker at New York's Apollo Theater on June 3rd to commemorate the 101st anniversary of her birth. This history-making multimedia event will showcase all of the music on this new CD which celebrates the many facets of Josephine Baker's rich life and legacy.

In honor of Baker's centennial, Imani Winds has created "Josephine Baker: A Life of Le Jazz Hot!," a musical biography that celebrates the remarkable spirit of this internationally renowned entertainer and the enduring mark she made as a performer and as a public figure. Ms. Baker's works, which flourished in Paris during the European period of expressionism -- and the height of America's jazz era -- are particularly a source of inspiration for Imani Winds, whose overall mission is to discover the links between African and European music and their omnipresence in American culture.

For this new recording, Imani composers Valerie Coleman and Jeff Scott have created a chronological introspection inspired by the various aspects of Baker's life. Coleman's five-movement suite "Portraits of Josephine" is a musical memoir that depicts a behind-the-scenes look at Baker's personal life: from her poor humble childhood in the racially oppressed St. Louis of the early 1900s, to her rise to stardom in Paris as a dancer and singer, her work as a human rights activist and member of the underground French Resistance during World War II, her "Rainbow Tribe" family of adopted multi-racial children, and the turbulent times leading up to her successful comeback just before her death in 1975.

Jeff Scott's song arrangements and original incidental music were inspired from Baker's films and represent the on-stage personae: the embodiment of jazz. Scott composed "La Belle Sirène Comme le Comédien" to accompany selected scenes from her films. The songs in this program (set by Scott and performed by jazz vocalist René Marie) are snapshots of Baker's dual on-stage role of provocateur and comedienne. "Donnez moi le main" (Give me your hand), about a fortune-teller, and "Je Voudrias" (I would like) are seductive songs during which she would often walk throughout the audience and flirt, while "Don't Touch My Tomatoes" is pure fun, suggestive yet comedic, and a prime example of the goofy sexiness Josephine perfected.

Until her death, Baker continued to perform, raise her family, and fight for equality, tolerance, and education. On April 8, 1975 she performed a farewell concert in Paris , which is represented in "Farewell Concert," the first part of the fifth movement of Coleman's suite, "Paris 1975." Her performance was energetic and masterful, as if she barely aged since she had premiered in Paris 50 years before. She died in her sleep just a few days later. Baker had gone out as she had arrived: a smash.

The final part of Coleman's work, "Thank you, Josephine (J'ai Deux Amours)," is the denouement to this aural biography. An arrangement of Josephine's most famous song, "J'ai Deux Amours" (I have two loves), it represents her amazing, generous spirit. She often said that she had two loves, her country and Paris, but she had two lives as well: enthusiastic performer and dedicated human being.

About Imani Winds

Comprised of five talented musicians -- Valerie Coleman (flute), Toyin Spellman-Diaz (oboe), Mariam Adam (clarinet), Jeff Scott (French horn) and Monica Ellis (bassoon), Imani Winds banded together in 1997 to develop and enhance the concept of the wind quintet. Exploring the connection between European, African and American musical traditions, Imani Winds' music is a soulful blend of classical, world, Latin and jazz music. The award-winning ensemble is the first classically-based woodwind quintet comprised exclusively of young African-American and Latino performers. At the 2001 Concert Artists Guild International Competition, Imani Winds was selected as the first-ever Educational Residency Ensemble, in recognition of their significant educational mission, tremendous musical abilities and innovative programming. Imani Winds' past performance highlights included their New York debut at Carnegie Hall's Weill Recital Hall as winners of the Artists International Annual Prize, concerts with the Chicago Symphony Musicians Residency Program, St. Louis Premiere Performances, Chamber Music America's Rural Residency Program and the Fischoff Chamber Music Association. In 2004, Imani Winds released their first major label recording, "The Classical Underground" on KOCH International Classics, which was nominated for a Grammy Award in 2005. Their second album on Koch, "Imani Winds," was released in January 2006. Their debut album, Umoja, released in 2002 received a CMA/WQXR award.

For more information please contact James Scileppi at (516) 484-1000 Ext. 243 or email james.scileppi@kochent.com.

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