A Note from the Producer:
SWEET HONEY IN THE ROCK with a jazz trio? Rock on, Sisters! What a joy to be guests in the home of Wynton Marsalis – Jazz at Lincoln Center – exploring an entirely new repertoire with three brilliant young jazz musicians! The opportunity to share some of the same songs that these great women offered to the world has been truly inspiring and expansive for us all. From conception to rehearsals to performances to the studio to this exciting recording – it has taken a tremendous team effort. If the listener can receive the energy of actually attending the concert and appreciate the excitement of our boldly going where this a cappella group has never gone before . . . then I humbly accept that I may have done my job. ;-) With love and respect, -Nitanju
SWEET HONEY IN THE ROCK®: A Tribute – Live! Jazz at Lincoln Center, which was recorded during two concerts at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Rose Theater in 2011, certainly marks a new direction for the historic African-American female vocal group, whose legendary stature has been built on its a cappella singing.
But the group has always had many facets, manifested in the outside activities of its individual members and even by Sweet Honey itself, as a whole. In fact, the inspiration for this album came in 2008, when the group went on the road with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in the collaboration “Go in Grace,” a dance piece scored and sung by Sweet Honey and based on the African proverb that “it takes a village to raise a child.”
“We began discussing our next move, and started talking about the songs of Odetta, Miriam Makeba, Nina Simone and Abbey Lincoln – and our own personal emotional connection to their music,” recalls Sweet Honey’s Carol Maillard, who took on the added role of project director. “Once we were all on board with the idea of doing a tribute concert to their songs, we had to decide which songs – and how to present them.”
That Odetta, Makeba and Simone had actually toured together – in 1990 in Italy – suggested a direction in choosing the repertoire, but program notes from the concerts were unavailable. Still, Sweet Honey came up with songs that more than one of the singers had recorded, and others that represented their mutual themes and messages.
Additionally, Sweet Honey had plenty of songs in their own copious catalog that they had either covered directly or had otherwise been inspired by the pioneering women they had chosen to honor. The subsequent twodisc A Tribute – Live!, then, rightly includes political, civil rights, and Africa-centered songs. After all, SWEET HONEY IN THE ROCK essentially grew out of the 1960s civil rights movement, having been founded in 1973 by Bernice Johnson Reagon, who had been a member of The Freedom Singers, the movement’s paramount African-American singing group.
But Sweet Honey has also specialized in songs touching all aspects of everyday life, and these are here as well – especially classic love songs.