The Blue & Green Project – Jack Wilkins


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”The Blue & Green Project offers a paradigm modeled on good cheer, clear-sighted vision, hope and impressive musicianship, intimating a top-shelf selection for 2011.” ‘
‘Wilkins is a tough roving tenorist, and his conceptions vary from track to track. There’s little that is self-consciously folkish in this Jazz suite where Green stands for the natural world and Blue the insinuating influence of Jazz and world musics. I especially liked TWO VIEWS OF THE MOUNTAIN, which suggested a barn dance taken to a basement Greenwich Village Jazz club, the mournful Mingus-tinged 25 CENTS, and the second-line New Orleans BLACK BUCKET STOMP, energetic and creative throughout.” -CADENCE

For this project critically acclaimed saxophonist and composer Jack Wilkins researched Appalachian Mountain culture and environment as the inspiration for a series of new compositions. The compositions combine the musical inspiration of American roots music -Blues, Gospel, Jazz, Mountain music, New Orleans traditions- (the ‘Blue’ element) with the subjective inspiration of Appalachian Mountains – the people, artists, craftsmen, traditions and environment (the ‘Green’ element). Each work has a story to tell, and an inspirational concept on which it is based; a superbly done recording! Death Rattle – a piece based on ‘death ballads’ found in mountain culture…generally unaccompanied songs which deal with Death, a topic which is part of everyday life found in the difficult struggle for survival in the mountains. A set of words from various death ballads is used as influence, and shown on the screen for the audience to absorb as the musicians perform. Song of the Anvil – based on Blacksmith Bea Hensley This composition incorporates footage of master Blacksmiths Bea Hensley and his son Mike (from Spruce Pine, NC) demonstrating the ‘language’ of the anvil, how blacksmiths communicate when forging hot metal into shape. Bea, now in his 90’s, learned his craft from Daniel Boone VI, including the anvil communication tradition which has been part of Blacksmithing for thousands of years. This involves the master Blacksmith ‘playing’ the anvil in a musical fashion, in rhythm with the striking of the hot metal by the other blacksmith. The result is a set of rhythmic musical sounds, as Bea strikes the anvil on different sides of the hot metal, and at varying intensities to communicate with Mike on which side, and how hard to strike the hot metal with his hammer. The music takes over from the video, in tempo and in the key of the anvil, using percussion instruments to imitate and expand on the anvil sounds. Mountain Watercolors – based on painter Elizabeth Ellison This work uses a number of paintings by Bryson City, NC artist Elizabeth Ellison as the inspirational source for the 3 movement piece. Elizabeth’s paintings of mountain landscapes are shown on the large screen during the performance (as the band plays with only stand lights on the stage). The music is based on elements found in the paintings – melodic lines follow the flowing ridgelines, various combinations of instruments depict the mist over the mountains, the bedrock, the changing colors of the seasons, etc…The three movements follow one of the paintings themes from left to right, with a ‘mountain’ theme moving into a ‘cabin’ theme, which transitions to the ‘front porch jam session’ – a bluegrass inspired romp which fades into the return of the mountain thematic material as the music follows the ridgelines up and into the morning sunrise. Two Views of the Mountain This piece takes the concept of hiking a mountain trail, from the open views of the mountain scenery, through the deep forest of rhododendron and hemlock, and back out into the open on the other side. The music uses similar materials in major and minor keys to depict the ‘two views’ of the mountain. River Run This musical journey takes you down a whitewater river adventure, moving from the calm scenic waters, through the gradually building rapids, and eventually through the Class IV and V whitewater, finally spitting you out at the end of the run. Each improvising soloist must complete the ‘River Run’, navigating their way through the challenging musical obstacles. Whitewater photography and videos accompany the performance. 25 Cents This work is an instrumental take on a haunting vocal piece that describes the tragedy of a mountain family that sold their mineral rights to the mining companies for next to nothing (’25 cents’). This is, unfortunately, an all too familiar story in the mountains. The words to the song are displayed on the screen, as the musicians perform a dark arrangement, musically describing the singer’s plea for the steam shovels not to disturb the graves of her mother and father. Black Bucket Stomp This is a New Orleans R&B based piece that uses musical elements from a Coal Miners blues song as thematic material. This one is an audience pleasing work that uses the ‘second line’ street beat found in New Orleans musical traditions – picture the brass bands marching through the French Quarter – dancing, shouting, umbrellas waving…”Laissez Les Bon Temps Roulez”!!


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