REVIEW: A mighty performance from Imani Winds

Monday, 23 October 2017

US woodwind ensemble Imani Winds plays with great skill, great freedom and with great fun!

Review by John Button - Dominion Post

Imani Winds (Valerie Coleman, Toyin Spellman-Diaz, Mark Dover, Jeff Scott, Monica Ellis), Michael Fowler Centre September 26.

This was the last Chamber Music New Zealand concert of the year and it was an unhackneyed, refreshing affair.

Imani Winds is a group of five players – four of them African American – and they play with great skill, great freedom and with great fun! And their programme was of mostly new pieces, with other two arrangements of more established works. All of them had their moments.

Valerie Scott's Red Clay and Mississippi Delta set things off with delicious tonal qualities and a fluidity that typified the group's playing all evening. New Zealand composer Natalie Hunt's Snapshots featured two small "machines", one a tin that somehow gave us the sound of a waterfall, and was colourful, and both Paquito D'Rivera's A Farewell Mambo and Simon Shaeen's Dance Mediterranea were exotically colourful and titillating to the ear.

Deliciously outrageous was the arrangement of parts of Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherazade. To make an arrangement of this enormous, colourful orchestral score for five wind players might seem the height of inanity but, in the event, it was huge fun and much of Rimsky's colour shone through.

More serious, and highly effective was Jeff Scott's arrangement of Astor Piazolla's Contrabajissimo with the bassoon taking the place of the original double bass.

Absolutely beautifully played. But in some ways, the marvellously fluid abilities of this enticing quintet was best shown in their affecting playing of a spiritual they gave as an encore.

Great music making.