Blues Dialogues (Cedille)
★★★★ (out of five)
Here’s cause for thanksgiving. The Chicago violinist Rachel Barton Pine has filled an album with music by Black American composers, most of them shamefully little-known. Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson, for instance, no relation to the British composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, but named after him at birth. C-T’s set of blues for solo violin strikes me as having a dual purpose of being truly enjoyable for the listener and perfect warm-up riffs for the player if Bach is too cold to start with on a winter’s morning.
William Grant Still is the most familiar name here, probably because he was a cause célèbre after the Chicago Symphony board objected when Rafael Kubelik wanted to perform his work, leading to Kubelik’s resignation. His suite for violin and piano is thrillingly accomplished, rooted in music of the Deep South but distinctively shaped.
My favourite piece is “Walk Around Brudder Bones” from a set of solo violin dances by Noel Da Costa, a peculiar cross between Chicago blues and an English jig that hovers on the edge of an atonal volcano. And who’s Dolores White (b. 1932)? Why don’t we hear more of her strong voice? Such good stuff here, with Rachel Barton Pine at her most expressive.