Personnel: Cecilia Smith (strings, vibraphone); Joshua Douglas Smith, Joshua White (soprano); Carlton Holmes (harp, piano, keyboards); Marlene Rice, Brenda Vincent, Philip Payton, Ann Marie Bedney, Duane James, Jon Kass, Stanley Hunte, Gayle Dixon, Belinda Whitney, Gwen Laster (violin); Maxine Roach (viola); Garfield Moore, Eileen Folson (cello); Bruce Williams (soprano saxophone); Lonnie Plaxico (acoustic bass); Montez Coleman (drums).
Recording information: Right Track Recording Studio 509A, New York, NY (10/13/2004-10/17/2004).
There aren't too many narrated life stories set to music out there, and this album purports to help fill that gap. The life of a Victoria Lancaster Smith is told (by Victoria herself, no less) over the top of a jazz-based score written by Cecilia Smith. The score is relatively straightforward, sticking to a basic jazz idiom while remaining in the background, so as not to overpower the spoken word. The highlight instrumentally is quite likely Cecilia's vibraphone playing (which is really what she's known for in the jazz world), which unfortunately is only present here and there. The Boys Choir of Harlem are enlisted as well, but are relegated to simple humming and the like. The bulk of the material for listening here is the story of Victoria, as she progresses from childhood, to motherhood, to a life of volunteerism in the Peace Corps and Red Cross. The story itself is nice, though it does take away from the musical end of things. Luckily, there is a music-only disc included as well, for those who simply want the score. Not the greatest album ever, and it may even seem a little self-indulgent, but the music is relatively solid. Worth a listen for the relative rarity of a fusion involving spoken word and jazz. ~ Adam Greenberg