Jenoure, Bang and Burnham: Three Things To Say in Amherst, MA
Bang stood center stage as he soloed, his eyes closed, his feet together, his knees often bent. There was no subtlety as his bow landed on the strings; when the sound rose, the tone was strong, adamant and sincere. The boundless energy with which he played propelled him to strike the strings with abandon and rock the bow repeatedly. He worked his instrument so rapidly that he could hardly keep up with himself; the changes just kept coming til he settled in the mid-register of his instrument, marking the transformative moment to come by repeatedly plucking one string like a clock ticking.
When Burnham soloed, he came forward from stage right, his eyes wide-opened, his expression almost a vacant stare, his mouth remaining partially opened. He stressed the extremes of numerous high notes that eventually became mid-range variations entailing the slightest of changes but ones that were nonetheless constant and relentless. He modified his quick rapid strokes into longer slower ones, creating a folk-like melody that drifted into the body of the larger musical concept.
Jenoure's solo added the finishing touches to this musically conceptual form, a construction suggestive of a grand tribute plan. She came forward from stage right, her body relaxed as she immersed herself in the sounds of her instrument. To this observer, it seemed as though she had fallen into her own world, vocalizing gutturally and playing with fortitude, all the while exercising careful precision in an effort to transcend the reality of skin and bones and attain the ethereal.
Each solo acted as a transition to the next phase of the music, whether that entailed the three interacting in rounds or two members engaging in counteracting dialogue. Nonetheless, these three musicians integrated their playing cleanly, their "conductor" invisible but inextricably ingrained within them. It seemed that Jenkins, himself, served as their conductor. Even though the group's name might imply a lack of unity, Three Things To Say was how each musician spoke in response to their conductorin the tradition of the African- American tongue, when three folkloric compositions intermixed with improvisations were celebrated both in words and music within the musical community whose heart throbs with invocations of peace and blessings. As the group walked off stage at the close of the concert, with Jenoure in the lead singing Jenkins' "Come Home Baby," the three were making a metaphoric journey to the birthplace of their spiritual heritage.
The impact of this music would not have been as compelling without the artistry of Terry Jenoure. Ultimately, the elegance of the esthetic with which the performance was imbued lifted it to a level resisting mundane musical analysis, magically altering it into an exquisite jewel.
Photo credit: Lyn Horton