Angel Bat Dawid leads a fearless expedition to 'Afro Town' at Winter Jazzfest
On Martin Luther King Day, clarinetist, vocalist and composer Angel Bat Dawid premiered a new suite at the Winter Jazzfest, in her capacity as artist-in-residence.
Afro-Town Topics: A Mythological Afrofuturist Revue is a sprawling, multi-faceted work of incantations and musical performance, meditation and dance — a requiem and an exaltation, in a little over two hours.
Dawid developed the opus by harking back to two very different yet distinct African-American traditions: Connie’s Hot Chocolates, the all-Black musical revue made famous by Fats Waller in in the late 1920s; and an ancestral hush harbor, where enslaved Africans risked their lives to gather and perform in North America before Emancipation. Dawid reminds us that hush harbors should be recognized as birthplace of all Black music in America, including the spiritual.
The combined formulas are imagined with a modern twist, of course. One could say Dawid employs an Afrofuturist sensibility to the suite, à la Sun Ra and his Arkestra, but as she explains in this Checkout podcast, she admits she has difficulty using that name — a term invented by the white critical establishment. We have video of the discussion here in celebration of Black History Month.
About three quarters into the suite, she directly takes on MLK day, writing a song and poem for the occasion, but reframing it as day of our reckoning — a reminder of what made Dr. King a martyr in the first place: an assassination aided by the US government.
This stunning work was filmed by a robust production crew at Co-Prosperity in Chicago and performed with Dawid’s Octet, along with a string quartet, four vocalists and a dancer, Keisha Janae. It was presented virtually by the Winter Jazzfest in partnership with WBGO.
Angel Bat Dawid - Clarinet, Conductor
Alejandro Salazar - Percussion
Jeremiah Hunt - Upright Bass
Micah Collier - Electric Bass
Dr. Charles Joseph Smith - Piano
Dr. Adam Zanolini - Flute
Luc Mosley - Soprano Sax
Jaden Berkman - Tenor Sax
Caitlin Edwards - Violin
Alexandria Hill - Violin
Matthew Beauge - Viola
Olivia Harris - Cello
Tramaine Parker - Voice
Erica Nwachukwu - Voice
Monique Golding - Voice
Julian Otis - Voice