Kay, Walker, Cordero, Hailstork & Smith

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Cordero,Hailstork & Smith,Kay,Walker
LABELS: Cedille
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: African Heritage Symphonic Series, Vol. 2
WORKS: Works
PERFORMER: Chicago Sinfonietta/Paul Freeman
For ‘African’, read ‘Afro-American’ (apart from the more mixed heritage of the Panamanian Roque Cordero): these works by black composers born in the first half of the 20th century show few signs of direct African influence, though they contain plenty of jazz rhythms and colours. And for ‘symphonic’, read the more modest ‘orchestral’. But, those quibbles aside, this is a valuable and refreshing disc, performed with flair and well recorded (if disappointingly on the short side). Highlights are Cordero’s Eight Miniatures (1948), succinct and sharply characterised, and Hale Smith’s Ritual and Incantations (1974), strong and serious in its gradual build-up of tension. The Overture by Ulysses Kay (nephew of King Oliver and pupil of Hindemith) gets the disc off to a steaming start. The Lyric for Strings (1941) by the composer and pianist George Walker is in the elegiac vein of the Barber Adagio, and no less deeply felt. Adolphus Hailstork’s energetic An American Port of Call (1985) and noble Epitaph for Martin Luther King (1979) are effective concert pieces, though the endings of both seem a trifle too neat. Overall, strongly recommended – but when will we hear this music in the concert hall? Anthony Burton