Vocal Classics Of The Black Avant Garde 

Source: The Wire.

As a classically trained black singer working in experimental music I have long had a desire to perform music by black composers which presented daring and unusual and innovative and progressive uses of the voice. In 2017 I formed the Vocal Classics Of The Black Avant Garde (VCBAG) group in order to realise this desire. The group’s original line-up consisted of saxophonist Jason Yarde, who is also its musical director, trumpeter Byron Wallen, pianist Robert Mitchell, bassist Neil Charles, drummer Mark Sanders and poet Dante Micheaux. At the group’s first performance, at the London Contemporary Music Festival in December 2017, our repertoire was drawn from the 1960s and 70s black American avant garde: Eric Dolphy and Bob James’s “Jim Crow” (aka “A Personal Statement”), Archie Shepp’s “On This Night”, Jeanne Lee’s “The Maximum Capacity Of This Room” and “In These Last Days”, Joseph Jarman’s “Non-cognitive Aspects Of The City”, and Gene McDaniels’s “Compared To What”. For the group’s second concert, at London’s Cafe Oto in January 2019, Alexander Hawkins deputised for Robert Mitchell and the repertoire was extended to include works by pianist Mary Lou Williams and poet Jayne Cortez, as well as sections of Jason Yarde’s 2018 Windrush Suite with texts by Caribbean thinkers Stuart Hall, Louise Bennett and Sam Selvon.