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by BWW News Desk
Nearing its fourth decade, the internationally acclaimed, award-winning female African-American a cappella group Sweet Honey In The Rock was ready to follow its adventurous spirit and undertake a new challenge - to honor some of the seminal songs that first inspired its unique blend of folk, blues, jazz, gospel and ethnic music in a concert presentation utilizing an instrumental backing trio for the first time.
With the release of A Tribute -Live! Jazz At Lincoln Center (February 26, Appleseed Records), Sweet Honey In The Rock explores the group's longstanding inspirations and versatility with a special program paying tribute to Remembering Odetta and Miriam with a Special Salute to Abbey Lincoln tonight, February 28 at 7:30 p.m. in Merriam Theater.
In the opening moments of Sweet Honey In The Rock's new 2-CD set, "A Tribute - Live! Jazz at Lincoln Center," well-timed for February 26th release - concluding Black History Month and preceding Women's History Month in March - group member Ysaye Barnwell recites a roll-call of some of the great female African-American vocalists whose songs helped shape the group and comprise much of "Tribute's" repertoire, including Abbey Lincoln, Odetta, Billie Holiday, Nina Simone, Miriam Makeba, Carmen McRae, Bessie Smith, and Sarah Vaughan.
The songs on this recording are drawn from two shows at Jazz at Lincoln Center's Rose Hall in April 2011. They were subsequently performed on several additional dates, and will be featured in at least five upcoming "Tribute" shows in February and March 2013. Adorned with new arrangements by Sweet Honey's members, there are jazz standards such as "Love Me or Leave Me," "Wild is the Wind," and "Tell Me More and More and Then Some," gospel/civil rights anthems melded into a "Freedom Suite," Afro-centric songs (the Sixties hit song "Pata Pata," "Sabumoya," "Shuku Shuku," and the closing "N'diarabi/Africa is Where My Heart Lies"), show tunes, blues, and a salsa-flavored original, "Let There Be Peace."
Sweet Honey In The Rock's distinctive swirl of a cappella vocals, encompassing waves of imaginative ensemble harmonies and occasional solo showcases, is heard unaccompanied, aside from the quintet's hand percussion, on about half of the songs. Interwoven throughout the presentation are the understated instrumental contributions of the trio nicknamed "the Honey Men" - Stacey Wade (musical director/piano/keyboards), Parker McAllister (bass), Jovol Bell (drums, percussion) - who augment Sweet Honey's exhilarating, soulful voices and confident, genre-crossing dexterity.
Tickets are available for Sweet Honey In The Rock range from $37 to $57 and can be purchased by calling 215-893-1999, online at www.kimmelcenter.org, or at the Kimmel Center box office open daily from 10am to 6pm and later on performance evenings. (Additional fees may apply.) For group sales call 215-790-5883.