The ‘Exotic’ Wind Quintet: Imani Winds Perform in Columbus Sunday

Imani Winds performs with the Urban Strings at the King Arts Complex, 7 p.m. April 13.(Photo: Matthew Murphy)
Imani Winds performs with the Urban Strings at the King Arts Complex, 7 p.m. April 13.(Photo: Matthew Murphy)

“I definitely think that we have created a new version of what the wind quintet is,” said Mariam Adam, clarinetist with the globetrotting, New York City-based Imani Winds, in a recent phone interview.

Sunday at 7 p.m. at the King Arts Complex, Imani Winds will perform a program of works that blend African, Latin American, South American and European influences and transform the typical wind quintet sound into what Adam calls “the Imani Winds sound.”

“Those are two different things,” Adam said.

Adam calls the standard wind quintet sound “very refined,” though with somewhat limiting writing for the quintet instruments.

“When you think about the wind quintet as being five members of the orchestra plucked out to make a smaller chamber ensemble, that sound has been, I would say, kind of on the small side and limiting in how the instruments were portrayed. So, maybe the bassoon wouldn’t always get a lot of solos, but the flute would get a lot of solos, and the clarinet would get ‘chatterbox’ solos,” Adam said.

Contrast that with the sound the Imani Winds have built since their formation in 1997, with countless works commissioned by the group from composers of many musical styles, and in whose hands the wind quintet instruments break free from their traditional roles.

“When we approach a new work, approach a composer, we try to break down those stereotypes and expectations, so that you can hear music sung through instruments that you normally don’t hear it from,” Adam said. “And also Imani Winds’ players have a much bigger sound in general, just because we like to have more colors, more options in our dynamic range and our timbre.”

A Musical Menu

Adam says Sunday evening’s program will give listeners a “menu” of musical offerings from among the jazz crossover, Latin crossover and South American crossover works in the quintet’s repertoire.

“It’s showing kind of the exotic side of the wind quintet repertoire that we play,” Adam said.

On the program the Afro-Cuban Concerto of Imani Winds flutist and founding member Valerie Coleman, inspired by the African influences in Cuban music, rubs shoulders with jazz composer Wayne Shorter’s Terra Incognita and Julio Medaglia’s Suite popular brasileira, dances representing various regions of Brazil in feisty rhythms and evocative solo writing for each of the quintet’s instruments. Works by Imani Winds French hornist Jeff Scott, Palestinian-American composer Simon Shaheen and Stan Spottswood complete the program.

An Historic First

Sunday’s concert will not be Imani Winds’ first concert in Columbus, but it will mark the African-American quintet’s first performance at the King Arts Complex and its first performance with the Columbus-based Urban Strings.

“We’re happy to be a part of this,” Adam said. “Anytime the quintet can help bring music to the cultures that we grew up with and the people who are trying to continue the discipline for the young generation and for the communities at large – any way that we can help is wonderful. It’s a very historical organization to be affiliated with for the concert, so it’s very nice.”

And, Adam says, the musical variety on Sunday’s program should mean everyone goes having sampled a little something good.

“There’s always a little bit of something for everybody in the audience, whether you like a little more contemporary sounding music, complicated, uplifting – there’s a little bit of everything.”

Imani Winds perform Sunday, 13 April 2014, 7 p.m., at the King Arts Complex, 867 Mt. Vernon Avenue, Columbus, 43203. For more information visit the King Arts Complex online.

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