Amina Claudine Myers, a Singer Who Still Needs No Words
Amina Claudine Myers was sitting in her apartment in Hell’s Kitchen, surrounded by paintings in addition to photographs as she recalled a rehearsal there almost 40 years ago. She’d been playing the same baby grand piano of which sits inside living room today, in addition to Cecil McBee had brought his upright bass. She recalled of which sounds came spontaneously to her lips. “I do remember thinking: You don’t need words to express,” she said. “Just your voice, the sound, can relay a message.”
The wordless song of which emerged became “African Blues,” the finale of her rousing 1980 album, “Amina Claudine Myers Salutes Bessie Smith,” in addition to a Great distillation of her powers.
at This kind of point 76, Ms. Myers never became a top name, however devotees know her as an uncategorizable force, someone who can communicate powerfully through poetry, piano, organ in addition to voice, in addition to even as an actor. She has recorded 11 albums as a leader since 1979 — mostly solo or trio efforts — however her legacy runs much deeper.
When she sings, especially without words, Ms. Myers’s voice can work like a horn or a drum — an instrument in which air passes straight through, responding directly to the vessel. Her vocals don’t possess the clothespin tightness of a scat singer or the loose delirium of a gospel crescendo, however you can hear her savoring every note.
In her piano playing, the blues, the black church, classical music in addition to free improvising coexist. She often paints in warm, billowing sheets, skirting both the classic lexicon of traditional jazz in addition to the brazen outsiderism of the avant-garde.
On Oct. 19, in a performance at the Community Church in Midtown, Ms. Myers will debut a brand new program celebrating the classic gospel groups of the 1950s. The music will also reach into Ms. Myers’s songbook, in addition to the black spirituals of the slavery era. She’ll be joined by Generation IV, a group featuring Pyeng Threadgill, Luna Threadgill-Moderbacher in addition to Richarda Abrams, all children in addition to grandchildren of Ms. Myers’s longtime associates inside Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, or A.A.C.M. in addition to, covering the repertory of groups like the Staples Singers in addition to the Gospel Harmonettes, she’ll be accompanied by memories of her own childhood.
Born in 1942 inside tiny hamlet of Blackwell, Ark., Ms. Myers grew up playing the piano at Baptist in addition to Methodist church functions, in addition to leading gospel quartets. After graduating by college, she moved to Chicago in addition to in 1966 joined the A.A.C.M., a newly formed group of black composers dedicated to shepherding one another’s work. She developed a particularly close musical partnership with the pianist Muhal Richard Abrams (“my spiritual brother,” she said). At the same time, she was gigging with Gene Ammons in addition to Sonny Stitt, eminent soul-jazz figures. She soon began writing poetry in addition to setting the item to music. Her first serious work was “I Dream,” a set of songs for choir in addition to band.
She continues to compose ambitious, large-form pieces — a long-gestating opera based on the life of Harriet Tubman remains inside works — however of late Ms. Myers has been performing solo almost exclusively. The shows I’ve seen have been transcendent. In 2016, playing at the Community Church, she sang a tired, disillusioned, defiant original, her voice rising on a slant as she repeated a biting refrain: “Ain’t nobody ever gonna hear nobody hearing us at This kind of point.” however moments later, drawing the concert to a close, she played a simple, lapping, major-to-minor progression, in addition to insisted on gratitude. “Thank you for life,” she sang. “Thank you for blessings/Thank you for family/Thank you.”