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On to Birmingham: Langston’s Lot is ready for a recording date!


From left: Roderick George, tenor; Jackie Edwards Henry, piano;

Gail Levinsky, alto saxophone

Stage two of my upcoming CD release took place in Birmingham, Alabama, where three wonderful musicians and I gathered for two days of intense rehearsing. My thanks to the faculty and staff of the School of Music at Samford University for allowing us to share their facilities! Roderick, Jackie, Gail, and I are preparing to record Langston’s Lot in early September with our engineer Mark Bunce at Stone Soup Studios, in Maumee, Ohio. Langston’s Lot is a seven-movement song cycle for tenor voice, alto saxophone, and piano, inspired by the poetry of American poet Langston Hughes. The selected texts reflect the poet’s sincere love of life, his people, and their rich African-American cultural heritage. As a poet, Langston Hughes was very influenced by music, especially, jazz, blues, and gospel. All of these popular music styles are reflected in my song cycle, combined with traditional classical musical forms and procedures.

This piece has a long history. Gail and Jackie commissioned the work in 1996, when we were colleagues at Mississippi State University. Tenor McCray Davis, also from the MSU faculty, joined us for the early performances which started in 1997. Over the years, Langston’s Lot has been performed on numerous occasions. In more recent times, tenor Roderick George has added his tremendous talents to this cherished project. With a perfect trio now in place, it was time to produce a professionally released recording of this work. To start, we needed to rehearse. Gail and Jackie worked together first, to lock in the instrumental portions of the song cycle. Roderick was there for the next two sessions, enabling us to address ensemble issues and work on some fresh interpretations. Did we make some changes to this ancient score? Yes, a few…this is what keeps an old piece working! Recording this piece is a labor of love for all of us. We are looking forward to our recording sessions in Ohio on September 8-9.


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