Imani Winds

March 5, 2017, 4pm

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Extolled by the Washington Post as “exuding a sultry sophistication”, Imani Winds has distinguished itself with its dynamic playing and adventurous collaborations. Presenting culturally poignant programming with a repertoire which bridges European, American, African and Latin American traditions, they have performed at Carnegie and Disney Halls and Lincoln and Kennedy Centers.

Artist Website:



Valerie Coleman, flute
Toyin Spellman-Diaz, oboe
Mark Dover, clarinet
Jeff Scott, french horn
Monica Ellis, bassoon


Red Clay and Mississippi Delta                                                 Valerie Coleman (b. 1971)

Scheherazade                                                          Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908)
                                                                                                             arr. Jonathan Russell

Contrabajissimo                                                                        Astor Piazzolla (1921-1992)
                                                                                                                         arr. Jeff Scott



 Quintette en Forme de Choros                                        Heitor Villa-Lobos (1887-1959)


Kites                                                                                           Paquito d’Rivera (b. 1948)
       i.    Kites Over Havana
      ii.   Wind Chimes


Klezmer Dances                                                                                                   Traditional
       i.    Khosidl                                                                                        arr. Gene Kavadlo
      ii.   Freylekh


The Imani Winds is represented by
Arts Management Group, Inc.

New York, NY


Program Notes

Valerie Coleman
Red Clay Mississippi Delta
Notes by the Imani Winds

Red Clay and Mississippi Delta is a light scherzo work that references my family’s background of living in Mississippi.  From the juke joints and casino boats that line the Mississippi river, to the skin tone of my relatives from the area: a dark skin that looks like it came directly from the red clay.  The solo lines are instilled with personality, meant to capture the listener’s attention as they wail with “bluesy” riffs that are accompanied (‘comped’) by the rest of the ensemble.  The result is a virtuosic chamber work that merges classical technique and orchestration with the blues dialect and charm of the south.


Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov
born March 18th, 1844 
died June 21 1908
arr. by Jonathan Russell
Notes by the Imani Winds

Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov had a busy summer in 1888. He moved his family into a beautiful lake-house in Russia and completed the full scores to both Russian Easter Overture and the symphonic tone poem Scheherazade, two of his most popular works. 

In his notes on Scheherazade he described how he vacillated between naming the 4 movements conventional names -"prelude, ballade, adagio and finale" and more descriptive names that reflected the specific themes of "Arabian Nights", the story on which the work was based. In the end he settled on the musical terms, believing that the piece would be more effective if the pictures evoked by the music were left to the imagination of the listener.

Rimsky-Korsakov was a member of a group of Russian nationalist composers who called themselves "The Five" (or "The Mighty Handful"). Other members of The Five were Mily Balakirev, Cesar Cui, Modest Mussorgsky, and Alexander Borodin. These men believed in using the themes, sounds, and traditions of the folk in their music. Scheherazade is a perfect example of the nationalistic style. 

Scheherazade is a character from Arabian Nights, a collection of Middle Eastern, West Asian and South Asian folk tales. She was to become the 1,000th wife of a Persian king who beheaded each new wife the day after he married them. Scheherazade actually volunteered to spend the night with this king and, as she was a master story teller, kept him enraptured with her tale for an entire evening. The king kept her alive for another day to hear more of her tales, and did this again and again for 1,000 nights. By the end of that time the king had genuinely fallen in love with Scheherazade and married her and they lived out the rest of their days together.

This ambitious and virtuosic arrangement was done in 2013 by Jonathan Russell, especially for Imani Winds. Mr. Russell is an arranger, composer, conductor, and clarinetist.


Astor Piazzolla arr. Jeff Scott
Notes by the Imani Winds

Contrabajissimo was written by Astor Piazzolla as a feature for Hector Console, the bassist in his final quintet. This expansive work showcases Piazzolla's ability to weave western classical and Tango music seamlessly. It was a work he considered to be one of his finest and for this reason was the only music performed at his funeral. In this arrangement the bassoon takes center stage with demanding solos and delicate duets with the flute and oboe. 


Heitor Villa-Lobos
Quintette en Forme de Choros 
Born March 5th, 1887 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Died November 17th, 1959 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Notes by the Imani Winds

Heitor Villa-Lobos is perhaps the most celebrated Brazilian composer of all time.  His work not only richly typifies the diverse and kaleidoscopic Brazilian scene but also, in its abundance, originality, and vitality, provided the key which unlocked Brazilian art music once and for all from the shackles of European late-Romanticism.

After the death of his father in 1899, Villa-Lobos, determined to escape the medical career planned for him by his mother, spent time playing (probably cello and guitar) in the ad hoc musical groups which performed and improvised in Rio de Janeiro’s cafes, on street corners, and at parties and weddings.  He then traveled in Brazil, absorbing musical influences from his country’s three main ethnic strands-Portuguese, African and Amerindian.  This all resulted in the realization that the glorious aural amalgam which so impressed his soul was indeed the means by which concert music in Brazil would be revitalized and given a voice of its own.

After some success and much controversy as a composer in Brazil, Villa-Lobos made his way in 1923 to Paris, at that time the cultural center of Europe, where every aspiring musician, artist and writer felt it obligatory at least to put in an appearance.  The artistic ambience of Paris during the 1920s was particularly suitable for the acceptance and promotion of Villa-Lobos during his subsequent periods of residence there, until a final departure in 1930. Indeed, even before his own arrival several of his works were heard and applauded in the French capital, played by his compatriots or by European artists who had met the composer in Brazil.  African music and jazz were particularly in vogue and the strange sounds of the music of the East so beloved by Debussy and Ravel still echoed loudly.  The clear-cut, quixotic melodies of Milhaud and Poulenc were favored, while Stravinsky’s rhythmic vitality affected everyone.  Villa-Lobos’s highly colored, strangely conceived, and rhythmically assured music thus found an ideal home in Paris during the 1920s.

Villa-Lobos wrote the Quintette en Forme de Choros while living in Paris.  It is based on the Brazilian improvisatory dance form called choros that only narrowly preceded jazz in the U.S.  Villa-Lobos returned to the choros many times during his career, raising the form to a concert level never before heard.  A typical choros starts out slowly and gradually builds to a dramatic climax.  This piece is a tour-de-force for the entire ensemble.  The players usually demonstrate an embellished introduction before a rhythmic section with unpredictable harmonic changes.
Technically, the Quintette was originally intended for flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon and English horn, but is usually performed now with French horn.


Paquito d’ Rivera (b.1948)
Kites (notes by Dr. Richard E.  Rodda and Monica Ellis)

Composer, clarinetist, and saxophonist Paquito d’Rivera, one of the most celebrated jazz and Latin musicians of his generation, has also built a reputation as a classical performer and composer since appearing as soloist with the National Symphony Orchestra in the premier of Roger Kellaway’s David Street Blues in 1988.  His original compositions blend the influences of Cuban, African, American, jazz, popular, and classical idioms.  D’Rivera has been artist-in-residence at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center and artistic director for jazz programming of the New Jersey Chamber Music Society, and serves on the boards of Chamber Music International, Chamber Music America, and the New York Virtuosi Orchestra.  He is also artistic director of the Festival Internacional de Jazz en el Tambo in Punta del Este, Uruguay.  D’Rivera has authored an autobiography (My Sax Life) and a novel (En Tus Brazos Morenos).

Imani Winds has provided the following information about d’Rivera’s Kites Over Havana:

Kites over Havana  was inspired by the following anonymous poem, which is spoken throughout the piece:

I would like to be a kite, and soar up over the trees.  I would like to try to reach the sky with butterflies and bees.

I would like to be a kite, and with my tail of red and white I’d love to fly so high, the things below would disappear from sight.

When once you have tested flight, you wil forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return.

The poem is analogous to the concept of freedom.  When truly free, one can soar like a kite and once that feeling is experienced, there is no turning back.  However, even in freedom there are precincts, and although the kite has the freedom of flight, the string keeps in bound to the earth.

Mr. d’Rivera was motivated to write Kites for Imani Winds because he felt the ensemble exemplifies this notion of freedom that is manifested through music and culture.


Klezmer Dances
arr. Gene Kavadlo
Notes by the Imani Winds

Klezmer music has frequently been associated with jazz and has even been dubbed by some people as "Jewish Jazz". But instead of the chords and harmonies used in jazz, Klezmer is more about ornamenting a prescribed melody in a tasteful, artistic manner. In that sense Klezmer is more like Baroque music than jazz, however with vastly different styles of ornamentation!
Clarinet has inherited the mantle of the Klezmer instrument of choice because of the many 'tricks' the instrument is capable of.  These arrangements stay true to the tradition of using whichever instruments available, here the wind quintet, to perform what is essentially dance music for dancing in a round.

Freylekh, literally translates to "happy" and is  a lively circle dance played in a bright tempo. Khosidl, is a slower dance in duple meter, in which the melody moves slowly enough to invite ornamentation.


About the Artists

More than North America’s premier wind quintet, Imani Winds has established itself as one of the most successful chamber music ensembles in the United States. Since 1997, the Grammy nominated quintet has taken a unique path, carving out a distinct presence in the classical music world with its dynamic playing, culturally poignant programming, adventurous collaborations, and inspirational outreach programs. With two member composers and a deep commitment to commissioning new work, the group is enriching the traditional wind quintet repertoire while meaningfully bridging European, American, African and Latin American traditions.

Imani Winds’ touring schedule has taken them across the globe. At home, the group has performed in the nation’s major concert venues including Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Kennedy Center, Disney Hall, and Kimmel Center. The group is frequently engaged by the premier chamber music series in Boston, San Francisco, Portland, Philadelphia and New York, and have also played virtually every major university performing arts series including those in Amherst, Ann Arbor, Austin, Seattle, Stanford, Urbana and countless others. Festivals include Chamber Music Northwest, Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, La Jolla Music Society, Virginia Arts Festival, Bravo! Colorado, and Ravinia Festival. In recent seasons, the group has traveled extensively internationally, with tours in China, Singapore, Brazil, and throughout Europe. Recent season highlights include debuts at La Folle Journee in Nantes, France, and in London’s Wigmore Hall. In 2015 they will also debut at Paris Jazz Festival and be featured at the Huntington Festival in Australia.

The group continues its Legacy Commissioning Project, in which the ensemble is commissioning, premiering and touring new works for woodwind quintet written by established and emerging composers of diverse musical backgrounds. The Legacy Project kicked off in 2008 with world premieres by Alvin Singleton and Roberto Sierra. Since then, projects have included works by Jason Moran, Stefon Harris, Danilo Perez, Simon Shaheen, and Mohammed Fairouz. The group’s fifth album on E1 Music – entitled Terra Incognita after Wayne Shorter’s piece written for the group – is a celebration of the Legacy project with new works written for Imani Winds by Mr. Shorter, Jason Moran, and Paquito D’Rivera. Imani Winds make their Naxos debut performing the Legacy-commissioned-work Jebel Lebnan by Mohammed Fairouz on the composer’s March 2013 release, Native Informant.

The wide range of programs offered by Imani Winds demonstrates their mission to expand the repertoire and diversify new music sources. From Mendelssohn, Jean Françaix, György Ligeti, and Luciano Berio, to Astor Piazzolla, Elliott Carter and John Harbison; and to the unexpected ranks of Paquito D’Rivera and Simone Shaheen, Imani Winds actively seek to engage new music and new voices into the modern classical idiom. Imani members Valerie Coleman and Jeff Scott both regularly contribute compositions and arrangements to the ensemble’s expanding repertoire, bringing new sounds and textures to the traditional instrumentation.

Through commissions and performance the quintet regularly collaborates with artists ranging from Yo-Yo Ma to Wayne Shorter. Shorter’s Terra Incognita – his first-ever composition for another ensemble – was premiered by Imani Winds. The group went on to perform extensively with Shorter at major European festivals like the North Sea Jazz Festival, and in North America at venues such as Carnegie and Disney halls. On Shorter’s acclaimed 2013 release on Blue Note, Without a Net, Imani Winds are featured prominently. The group’s Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center residency culminated in a recital in New York’s Alice Tully Hall with renowned clarinetist/saxophonist/composer Paquito D’Rivera. The ensemble has also worked with luminaries such as bandoneonist Daniel Binelli, the Brubeck brothers, clarinetist David Shifrin, and pianists Gilbert Kalish and Shai Wosner. Their ambitious project, "Josephine Baker: A Life of Le Jazz Hot!" brought chanteuse René Marie with them to New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and St. Louis.

Imani Winds enjoy frequent national exposure in all forms of media, including features on NPR’s All Things Considered, appearances on APM's Saint Paul Sunday and Performance Today, BBC/PRI’s The World, as well as frequent coverage in major music magazines and newspapers including the New York Times and Wall Street Journal. The group maintains an ongoing relationship with Sirius-XM and has been featured multiple times and on various channels.

Their excellence and influences have been recognized with numerous awards including the 2007 ASCAP Award, 2002 CMA/ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming, as well as the CMA/WQXR Award for their debut and self-released recording Umoja. At the 2001 Concert Artists Guild International Competition, Imani Winds was selected as the first-ever Educational Residency Ensemble, in recognition of their tremendous musical abilities and innovative programming.

Imani Winds’ commitment to education runs deep. The group participates in residencies throughout the U.S., giving master classes to thousands of students a year. In the summer of 2010, the ensemble launched its annual Chamber Music Festival. The program, set on the Juilliard campus, brings together young instrumentalists from across North America and beyond for an intense week of music exploration.

Imani Winds have five releases on E1 Music, including their 2006 Grammy Award nominated recording entitled The Classical Underground. They have also recorded for Naxos and Blue Note and the most recent release "The Rite of Spring" on Warner Classics was on iTunes Best of 2013 list.