Petite Afrique, the new album from superb jazz chanteuse Somi, is a song cycle inspired by the vibrant African immigrant community that has become a vital part of Harlem s cultural dimension and to New York City as a whole. The historic uptown neighborhood fondly boasts of West 116th Street as "Little Africa," where passersby can find any number of African immigrant shops selling a vast array of products and food. Over the last decade, gentrification has crept deeper into Harlem, pushing the African immigrants out. With Petite Afrique, Somi ensures that the stories and struggles of New York City's largest African community do not disappear without having ever been told. The songs on the album are based on Somi's conversations with diverse members of the Harlem community reflecting on themes of transnationalism, cultural difference, assimilation and gentrification. Blending modern jazz, African music and the singer-songwriter tradition, Petite Afrique is an amalgamation of the musical and cultural worlds that resonate with Somi as an African AND American woman and a proud Harlemite.
Sidney Bechet was the first important jazz soloist on records in history (beating Louis Armstrong by a few months). A brilliant soprano saxophonist and clarinetist with a wide vibrato that listeners either loved or hated, Bechet's style did not evolve much through the years but he never lost his enthusiasm or creativity. A master at both individual and collective improvisation within the genre of New Orleans jazz, Bechet was such a dominant player that trumpeters found it very difficult to play with him. Bechet wanted to play lead and it was up to the other horns to stay out of his way.
Sidney Bechet studied clarinet in New Orleans with Lorenzo Tio, Big Eye Louis Nelson, and George Baquet and he developed so quickly that as a child he was playing with some of the top bands in the city…
La Petite Bande recorded its set during the late 1970s and these are performances which do considerable justice to the music. Brisker tempos, lighter bass string playing and an altogether more imaginative approach to continuo realization bring these concertos alive to an extent hardly realised by I Musici. Sigiswald Kuijken, the leader and director of La Petite Bande, includes a theorbo in his continuo group and this is invariably an effective addition. Both sets field a secure and lively concertino group of two violins, cello and continuo but listeners may well find that the warmer sound and greater degree of finesse provided by the concertino of I Musici is more to their liking than the thinner, wirier textures of the other. Having said that, I should add that in matters of baroque style, as in its more highly developed spirit of fantasy, La Petite Bande offers far and away the more satisfying performances.
Pygmalion, c'est Narcisse créateur. Au lieu de s'éprendre de lui-même dans son propre reflet, il s'éprend de lui-même dans son reflet "second", sa création. S'adressant à la statue, Pygmalion chante : "Se peut-il que tu sois l'ouvrage de ma main ?" Poser la question, c'est y répondre. Apothéose de l'autosatisfaction.