"...WeFreeStrings combine free jazz with the music of African-American string bands and classical avant-garde; it picks up where the likes of The Revolutionary Ensemble and James 'Blood' Ulmer's Odyssey left off, adding sounds previously heard in Ornette Coleman's writing for strings. This is surging, stabbing, thumping music...massive pulse...real sting." - Phil Freeman, The Wire, Oct. 2018. https://www.thewire.co.uk/issues/416
"...positive collective synergy...a deep sense of freedom" - Filipe Freitas, JazzTrail, 9/5/2018
"...this improvising collective performs original music that swirls together into an all-consuming flow, then becomes submerged in group play. Unlike many, this approach to free improvisation is not individualist or strident or perhaps even consciously avant-garde. Rather, you get a congenial, diatonic, rhythmically sturdy kind of conversation." Giovanni, Russonello, NYTimes, 9/13/2018
Photos by Thomas Sayers Ellis
WeFreeStrings debut release, Fulfillment, consists of 5 original works by violist Melanie Dyer, linked by 5 collectively improvised “Paraphrases” of “brief, yet unfettered sonic dialogue." Dyer's songs are inspired by womanhood (I’m Still Here) and (Hope and Fulfillment), the rhythm of Harlem (So(u)stice), and the Batwa people of the Congo rainforest. After Linda/Say Her Name, inspired by Linda Sharrock’s vocals on“Black Woman,” serves as an elegiac homage to the black women who have died at the hands of police/mob violence in the USA. Likewise, the titles of the “Paraphrases” honor “pioneering free thinkers and artists” including Sun Ra, Leroy Jenkins, and Ornette Coleman.
WeFreeStrings perform original works that embody the ethos of free jazz and the Afro-Atlantic music lexicon. For Dyer, improvising on viols is an act rooted in cultural identity and socio-political expression.
Named after Rashaan Roland Kirk’s 1961 album, WeFreeStrings began in 2011 as a collective with Dyer and violinist Charles Burnham. Completing the acoustic ensemble on this recording are the singular talents of violinist Gwen Laster, cellist Tomeka Reid, bassists Ken Filiano and Brandon Lopez, and percussionist Michael Wimberly - musicians “whose art and voices create new music built on veteran knowledge, free expression and broad performance experience.”
Ultimately, in articulating the pursuit of the band’s ideal, Dyer evokes the standard set by Billy Bang: “to transcend impairments, impediments, ‘copper pennies and abstract shit’ and create boundless beauty with wood, string and hair.”
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