Ramsey Lewis's Freedom Collective
Lewis: Proclamation of Hope: A Symphonic Poem by Ramsey Lewis
A MESSAGE FROM RAMSEY LEWIS
I am pleased to present a newly commissioned work celebrating one of the most famous Americans ever, Abraham Lincoln. In this the 200th anniversary of his birth, I am proud to perform Proclamation of Hope: A Symphonic Poem. It’s a large scale composition for wind ensemble, rhythm section, and voice. This has been a heady year for Americans—Chicagoans particular—with so many historical events afoot, so many enthusiastic calls for hope, patriotism, and change. Indeed, the life and legacy of Abraham Lincoln, our sixteenth and perhaps greatest president, evoke many of those same feelings. I've tried in
this new work to capture those energies and passions, both historical and contemporary. A special feature of this world premiere, of which I am particularly excited, will be a backdrop of moving visual images depicting some of the historical themes I tease out and amplify in my music. This is truly one of my most ambitious efforts to date!
I look forward to seeing you there as we celebrate a man, his work, and his powerful legacy in one of America's greatest art forms.
RAMSEY LEWIS, Pianist and Composer
A native Chicagoan (born May 27, 1935), Ramsey Lewis began taking piano lessons at the age of 4, going on to learn the classical repertoire with Dorothy Mendelsohn. He was 15 when a fellow church musician, Wallace Burton, asked him to join his jazz band and took the time to help the young musician learn the language of jazz. A seven-piece group called The Cleffs provided his first real involvement with jazz. The emerging Ramsey Lewis Trio (including bass player Eldee Young and drummer Redd Holt) had its roots as the rhythm section, remaining after the other band members went off to the Korean war. He first captivated fans in 1956 with his first album, Ramsey Lewis and the Gentlemen of Swing. By 1965 he was topping the charts with “The ‘In’ Crowd,” “Hang On Sloopy” and “Wade in the Water.” He has three Grammy Awards and seven gold records to his credit. His most recent industry award was the 2006 Stellar Award for Best Gospel Instrumental Album, With One Voice. He was also the recipient of the National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Masters Award in January 2007 and has received four honorary doctorate degrees and numerous other accolades. In addition to recording albums and performing live, he hosts the nationally syndicated Ramsey Lewis Morning Show on WNUA-FM as well as the syndicated Legends of Jazz with Ramsey Lewis. As artistic director of jazz at Ravinia he helped organize the festival’s Jazz Mentor Program. He also serves on the Board of Trustees for the Merit School of Music and is a member of Loyola University (Chicago) Council of Regents.
SCOTT HALL, Arranger and Conductor
Scott Hall has distinguished himself as a trumpeter, composer, arranger, educator, and producer of all things jazz. Since his student days with Ron Modell and the Northern Illinois University Jazz Ensemble, Scott Hall has carried on the tradition of collegiate jazz through directing the Columbia College Jazz Ensemble, which has been applauded at the Vicenza Jazz Festival in Italy, Notre Dame Jazz Festival, Elmhurst College Jazz Festival, Jazz Unites, Inc. Duke Ellington Tribute Concert, and many venues around Chicago. His debut album, Strength In Numbers, received critical acclaim and airplay on jazz radio stations around the world. As a graduate jazz composition major at DePaul University, he received awards from the National Association of Recording Arts and Sciences and DownBeat magazine for his work as a jazz arranger. This led him to being an active composer and arranger in the Chicago area, where in recent years he has worked for Ramsey Lewis as arranger for many projects. Last year he orchestrated Lewis’s Ravinia-commissioned work Muses and Amusements. Hall has performed and mentored in major musical capitals around the world including Montreal, Rome, New York, Chicago, Beijing, Amsterdam, New Orleans and Milan. He has performed with such jazz greats as Jon Faddis, Mel Torme, Kurt Elling, Benny Carter, Joe Lovano, Lennie Niehaus, Lester Bowie, Roy Hargrove, Marcus Belgrave, Cedar Walton, Dr. Billy Taylor, Johnny Griffin, Ramsey Lewis, the Art Ensemble of Chicago, and more. A past president of the Illinois Unit of the International Association for Jazz Education, he is currently director of jazz studies at Columbia College in Chicago. Hall founded and has operated Hallway Records, a Chicago-based jazz label, since 1997.
LARRY GRAY, Acoustic Bass
Larry Gray began working with Ramsey Lewis in 1998 and has collaborated with him as both bassist and arranger on his last five projects, Appossionata, Meant To Be, Simple Pleasures (both along with Nancy Wilson), Time Flies, and With One Voice. An experienced and dedicated educator, Gray serves as assistant professor of double bass in jazz studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He formerly served on the faculties of DePaul University and Northern Illinois University. Throughout the years he has worked or toured with a large number of jazz legends, among them Bobby Hutcherson, McCoy Tyner, Branford Marsalis, Benny Golson, Sonny Stitt, Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis, Jack DeJohnette, Clark Terry, Roscoe Mitchell, James Moody, Larry Coryell, Monty Alexander, Joe Williams, and Eddie Harris. He has performed at many jazz festivals and clubs around the world, including the Blue Note (New York, Tokyo and Milan), Umbria Jazz Festival, Montreux Jazz Festival, North Sea Jazz Festival and the ECM Festival. As an arranger and composer whose discography includes Solo + Quartet on Premonition Records; Gravity, a solo bass record on Graywater Records; and One Look, a trio recording of original compositions. His newest release, 1,2,3..., was released in 2008 by Chicago Sessions Records to much critical acclaim. In addition his original composition for double bass and guitar, Five Movements, was commissioned and performed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Chamber Ensemble at Symphony Center in Chicago. For more information, please visit www.larrygraymusic.com.
LEON JOYCE, JR., Drums and Percussion
A native of Meriden, Connecticut, Leon Joyce, Jr., studied under John Oblon and Jimmy Rozelle. While still in high school, he toured Connecticut and Massachusetts with the Greater Hartford Community College Theater Group. He joined the Marine Corps in 1976, graduated from the Armed Forces School of Music in 1987 and became percussion section leader for the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing Band in April 1990, becoming drum major in August 1991. He retired from the Marine Corps in June 1997. Military awards include the Navy Commendation Medal, Navy Achievement Medal, Naval Unit Commendation, Meritorious Unit Commendation, Good Conduct Medal, the National Defense Medal & the Marine Corps Sea Service Deployment Ribbon. As a drummer Leon has worked for such artists as Ramsey Lewis, Nancy Wilson, Barbara Morrison, Monty Alexander, Barry Harris, Gary Bartz, Billy Harper, James Carter, Clark Terry, Conti Condoli, Ellis Marsalis, Larry Coryell, Pete Fountain, Patti LaBelle and Mary Wilson. Currently a regular with the Ramsey Lewis Trio, the Dee Alexander Quartet and the Leon Joyce Trio, he also freelances throughout the Chicago area. As a percussionist, he has performed under the direction of Carmen Dragon, Claude T. Smith, Dr. Larry Curtis, Cooleridge Taylor-Perkinson and Bill Russo. He has led music clinics throughout the United States and has appeared at numerous Jazz Festivals, including Montreaux & Lugano Jazz Festivals in Switzerland, the Villingen Swing/Jazz Festival in Germany; the MontereyJazz, Playboy Jazz and JVC Jazz Festivals in California; New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival in Louisiana; the JVC Jazz Festival in Colorado; and, locally, the Chicago Jazz Festival, the Chicago Blues Festival & the South Shore Jazz and Heritage Festival.
JAN LEWIS, Senior Creative and Business Advisor
Jan Lewis is an active partner in Ramsey Lewis Productions, overseeing all components of the enterprise, including its publishing, recording and performance ventures. Beyond her busy schedule as Ramsey Lewis’s principal business partner and artistic muse, she has pursued her own creative work. After earning a bachelor of arts degree from the University of Illinois at Chicago, she studied graphic design and developed, among other things, her own line of jewelry. Lewis is also the author of the forthcoming book The Choice of a Voice, a guide to spiritual health and self-fulfillment drawn from her numerous and diverse personal experiences in the creative and business worlds.
MICHAEL COAKES, Visuals
Michael Coakes is a visual artist whose work has spanned a variety of media in both the fine and commercial art worlds. He has been involved in developing graphics for the music industry for more than 20 years. From his Chicago studio his latest commercial work is predominantly photography and interactive design. He is also currently working on a fine-art photographic series called Illusions. Proclamation of Hope marks his first foray in “ambient visuals” design for live musical performance. For more information, visit www.coakes.com
PROCLAMATION OF HOPE
A SYMPHONIC POEM BY RAMSEY LEWIS
RAMSEY LEWIS, Composer and Pianist
SCOTT HALL, Arranger and Conductor
RAMSEY LEWIS’S FREEDOM COLLECTIVE
DEE ALEXANDER, Voice
CLAUDIA CRYER, Flutes
NICOLE MITCHELL, Flutes
CHRISTIE MILLER, Clarinet
JARRARD HARRIS, Alto Saxophone, Clarinet
GEOF BRADFIELD, Tenor Saxophone, Clarinet
TED HOGARTH, Bartione Saxophone, Bass Clarinet
LARRY BOWEN, Trumpet, Flugelhorn
TERRY CONNELL, Trumpet, Flugelhorn
ART DAVIS, Trumpet, Flugelhorn
SCOTT BENTALL, Trombone
RAPHAEL CRAWFORD, Trombone
RYAN MILLER, Bass Trombone
DAN ANDERSON, Tuba
BETH MAZUR JOHNSON, French Horn
ALICE CLEVENGER, French Horn
MARY GRINGRICH, French Horn
LARRY GRAY, Bass
LEON JOYCE, Drums and Percussion
BRUCE NELSON, Percussion
MICHAEL COAKES, Visual Images
GUTHRIE P. RAMSEY, Research, Script and Creative Consultant
JAN LEWIS, Senior Creative and Business Advisor
Proclamation of Hope: A Symphonic Poem by Ramsey Lewis
Proclamation of Hope commemorates Abraham Lincoln’s 200th birthday and considers his life and legacy as our country’s 16th, and perhaps greatest, president. Scored for wind ensemble, rhythm section and voice, the work is organized in eight discrete movements. Visual images from a range of sources depicting various historical moments and concepts are viewed as the group performs the composition. These images are intended to further animate the story that Lewis has musically interpreted and serve to inspire reflection in listeners. Each movement takes its motivation from actual historical events and people drawn from Lincoln’s life and work, and considers their profound influences on this nation’s quest for “a more perfect union.”
Abraham Lincoln was born February 12, 1809, near Hodgenville, Kentucky. His parents, Thomas and Nancy Hanks Lincoln, both belonged to a Baptist congregation that opposed slavery. Lincoln loved to read as a child, preferring book knowledge to fieldwork on his father’s farm. The family moved, first to southern Indiana in 1816, then to Illinois in 1830. Lincoln married Mary Todd in 1839 and they had four children. He tried several occupations as a young man: operating a store, postmaster, soldier, Illinois legislator, lawyer, U.S. representative. As a lawmaker Lincoln earned a reputation for his interests in building the country’s infrastructure and the establishment of a national currency. But he would, perhaps, become best known for his opposition to slavery, standing on the principle “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”
When he was inaugurated president in March 1861, seven states had already seceded, anticipating that his philosophies about slavery would threaten the South’s sovereignty in the matter. Civil War erupted the next month. On January 1, 1863, the Emancipation Proclamation was enacted, a document that freed human beings living in the Confederacy from chattel slavery. In 1864 Lincoln appointed Ulysses S. Grant as general-in-chief of the armies in the same year that he was re-elected to a second term. The battered South, led by General Robert E. Lee, surrendered on April 9, 1865. Less than a week later Lincoln was shot in the back of the head by John Wilkes Booth while attending a play at Ford’s Theater. He died the next morning, April 15, at 7:22.
As we celebrate Lincoln and his accomplishments, Americans are, of course, reminded of the historic events of the past year. We have experienced a renewed vigor to reflect, as a nation, on our stated ideals as they weigh against the sometimes-fraught quality of our collective day-to-day citizenships. Certainly Lincoln himself faced such challenges in his lifetime, and he met them with the courage of his convictions. Recently calls for hope, the question of what constitutes patriotism, and vehement demands for change charged through the public sphere daily, as Americans seemed to believe that we were on the brink of a new day, a remade union. Many, in fact, consider this to be true after our recent election cycle, as we now have our first African American president. The historical arch stretching from Lincoln’s signing the Emancipation Proclamation to the election of a black president with a multi-cultural background is rich with symbolic force. And none of this is lost on Ramsey Lewis.
Lewis’s own journey positions him as the right artist to interpret this story, staggering in its complexity, yet so elemental in its humanity. As a musician who has crisscrossed the stylistic terrain of the American musical landscape with uncanny aplomb, he draws on the many lessons he’s learned through his various experimentations with genre and musical communication. His training and involvement in European classical music, soul-jazz, swing, gospel and more, all manifest here with stunning results, as he expands our imaginations, this time through sound, image and word.
The symphonic poem is typically defined as a composition originating with an extra-musical inspiration—a poem, novel, painting or even a broad concept such as nationalism. Proclamation of Hope uses this form to frame, in eight episodes, the social, cultural, political and historical space between Abraham Lincoln and Barack Obama.
Reflections on the commonalities between these two historic figures have abounded: similarities of their strength of character, clarity of purpose, and depth of intelligence. But Lewis meditates here on the more sublime and illusive concept of hope that each president stirs in him. With music as his primary mode of communication, he engages the mix and jumble of this narrative also through the media of image and the words on this page. It should come as no surprise that he has taken this model from his home turf: the art of jazz.
The jazz musician’s role as a mediator between his or her bandmates and the audience is well known. In the context of a performance, a master jazz musician is constantly taking cues from the other musicians and his own muse as well as from the listeners in order create a work of art, albeit a living and breathing one. On one level, this interactive framework allows Lewis to pour into the symphonic poem form sound-languages that span jazz, blues, gospel, American pop, Aaron Copland, William Grant Still, George Gershwin and Romantic-era chromatic harmonies. In another way, Lewis’s multifaceted compositional voice—in conjunction with arranger/conductor Scott Hall, art director Michael Coakes, and creative consultant Jan Lewis— fashions a space in which consensus, collaboration, communication and courage emboldens us to imagine new worlds where beauty and justice abide. Indeed, these are also the lessons of both Lincoln and Obama for the generations.
I. Abe’s Theme with Variations
This tuneful movement explores a basic duality embodied in the mystique that is Abraham Lincoln. The music conveys the pastoral, plainsman setting of his youth and the searching, rough-and-tumble image of the self-made man that he became. One of the themes heard here returns in varying guises throughout the piece. As Lincoln continues to fascinate historians, we keep learning more about the complexity of one of our most famous Americans—how the apparent serenity of the image that has been handed down belies the complicated, even guarded, statesmen. Capturing his unrushed yet determined thirst for knowledge, his quest for justice through his pursuit of perfecting his union, the music in this movement seems to probe Lincoln’s inner psyche in a lovely and resolute setting.
II. The Horrid Picture, a Peculiar Institution
Beginning with dark sonorities and voicings, this movement conjures Lincoln’s reactions to slavery after having witnessed it for the first time during a boat trip to the South. As he wrestles with what he has seen and considers the question of the slaves’ humanity, he begins in earnest a journey toward his destiny as the “Great Emancipator.” He himself would change the course of history by condemning through law this “peculiar institution” in America. The movement is musically stirring as it moves through several emotional worlds: dark revelation, agitation and struggle, and light.
III. Mystic Chords of Emancipation
This movement moves beyond articulating the slaves’ expected responses of joy upon learning that they had at last been freed. Lewis explores rather the set of mixed emotions that such a dramatic change surely caused in the psyche of the ex-slaves, no longer property but not yet equal. The music explores the conflicted bundle of feelings inspired by the event, its emotive gestures ranging between the jubilance of freedom and a gripping fear of the unknown.
IV. 7:22: An Empire Strikes Back
Lincoln was pronounced dead on April 15, 1865, at 7:22 a.m., the morning after being shot by John Booth, an actor and sympathizer of the Confederacy. The empire here refers to the economic powerhouse that the South represented, as the cotton and tobacco crops grown, cultivated and harvested by the slave population all contributed to America’s growing stature. President Lincoln’s assassination, the first in American history, demonstrates the deep divisions that the issue of slavery created in American society at this time. Although the music acknowledges the solemnity of the event, its lush chords, lilting melody and hopeful meditation on old-time blues structure denies the listener abjection. Reconstructing the spiritual bond of our union would, in fact, advance even without its leader. The dream would live on.
V. J.C.’s Blues: Black Codes in the Republic
The initials “J.C.” in this title refers to the term “Jim Crow.” Both Jim Crow and “black codes” in this movement describe the sprawling set of informal practices and laws that appeared during the post-Emancipation period. These customs were designed to enforce racial segregation and established a “color line” in the era of “freedom” that calcified social inequalities for the former slaves and their descendants. This movement begins slowly but gradually cranks up into a virile study of black vernacular genres. Here the composer slides between gestures evoking gospel, blues and jazz, highlighting their related though distinct stylistic codes.
VI. Double V, Double Time
Despite being considered second-class citizens well into the 20th century, African Americans participated enthusiastically in all manner of civic duties, expressing their loyalty to the country and its ideals by serving in both World Wars to battle fascism abroad. “Double V” refers specifically to the grassroots campaign for equal rights spawned by their participation in World War II. The slogan stood for victory at home and victory abroad. “Double time” is a musical designation that describes when rhythms begin to move twice as fast in a composition. Some have suggested that around this period African American culture began to move more quickly toward the goal of social equality. The music of this section reflects that impulse: a people surging toward a new modernism and empowerment.
VII. The Mississippi Three
In 1962, almost 100 years after the Emancipation Proclamation, only 6.2 percent of African Americans were registered to vote in Mississippi because of overt disenfranchisement. By 1964 several Civil Rights groups had organized a Freedom Summer campaign and sent volunteers to rally potential voters to teach the philosophy of the civil rights as well as black history. That summer, while investigating one of many church burnings, three of these workers—21-year-old James Chaney, a black man from Mississippi, and Andrew Goodman, 20, and Michael Schwerner, 24, two whites from New York, were beaten and murdered by members of the Ku Klux Klan. The names and stories of leaders such as Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks and Fannie Lou Hammer are well known. This movement recognizes the less conspicuous sacrifices of everyday people who make this nation great. It is set in a plaintive, contemplative mood and has the ring of an ode, certainly an ironic twist for a most tumultuous time in our history.
VIII. 16/44: A More Perfect Union
The final movement completes the work by acknowledging the synchronicity—indeed, the symbolic connections—between the presidencies of Abraham Lincoln and Barack Obama. We hear bits of Abe’s Theme as it returns in a confident and muscular setting designed to evoke the confidence, peace, hope and resolve begun by Lincoln’s political act, the legacy of racial equality it inspired, and culminating in the momentous election of Barack Obama. We also hear in this section “Obama’s Theme: Hope,” meant to point us toward an optimistic future, one that transcends racial difference and all other kinds of perceived divisions. In Lewis’s thinking, the numerous challenges we presently face as a nation are no more intractable than those of Lincoln’s time. History will always produce the right leader, a person possessing an endless resolve to help navigate us toward the promise of democracy. And in Lincoln’s own words from a speech in 1860: “Let us have faith that right makes might, and in that faith, let us, to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it.”
Guthrie P. Ramsey, Jr.
Professor of Music History and Africana Studies.
University of Pennsylvania
GUTHRIE P. RAMSEY, Research, Script and Creative Consultant
Musicologist and pianist Guthrie P. Ramsey, Jr., received his Ph.D. from the University of Michigan. A specialist in African-American and American music, jazz, cultural studies, popular music, film studies and historiography, he is professor of music and Africana Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. Ramsey is the author of Race Music: Black Cultures from Bebop to Hip-Hop (2003), which was named outstanding book of the year by the International Association for the Study of Popular Music. He is completing a book on jazz pianist Bud Powell titled In Walked Bud: Earl Bud Powell and the Modern Jazz Challenge. He has published and lectured widely and has taught at Tufts University, Harvard University and Princeton University. He is currently guest curator for the exhibition Jump, Jazz, and Jive: The Apollo Theater and American Entertainment for the National Museum of African American History and Culture, Smithsonian Institution, which will open in 2010. He is collaborating with inaugural poet Elizabeth Alexander on a composition to commemorate the 100-year anniversary of the NAACP. His band Dr. Guy’s MusiQology has performed for audiences in the United States and abroad. Ramsey composes and arranges all of MusiQology's music, which moves beyond the traditional jazz idiom, experimenting with R&B, Latin and hip hop fusions. Their first CD, Y the Q? was released in 2007.