Garry Dial and Terre Roche- A Collection of National Anthems
Musicians have long set out to bring the world closer together with their music, but few endeavors have been as ambitious and successful as Garry Dial and Terre Roche's Us An' Them: A Collection of National Anthems (Made In New York). Jazz pianist/arranger/educator Dial and folk guitarist/singer-songwriter Roche have both sought to bring about positive change during their long and distinguished careers - Dial primarily through his work as a teacher at the Manhattan School of Music; Roche through her performing and songwriting in the group she formed with her sisters, The Roches. The couple found a true confluence of their individual philosophies in the seventeen year long process of bringing the anthems project to life.
In the illuminating DVD that accompanies the 16 song collection, Roche, who first envisioned the project explains, "I thought wouldn't it be great to do a whole album of national anthems because each person from the various countries would recognize them. It's a way to make friends with somebody from another country and be a bridge between us and them." When Dial, with whom Roche was taking lessons, sat down at the piano and played through the anthems she'd collected from the library, they "would come to life and be amazing sounding." The pianist elaborates, "I'm so blown away that our anthem is known around the world, so I feel that it's time that we actually learn other people's anthems."
Enlisting the aid of nearly fifty different instrumentalists and singers in the orchestrations of the sixteen national anthems from four continents, Dial and Roche seem to emphasize the musical concept of harmony. Dial arranged most of the songs and Roche sings on many of them, often in the company of a vocalist from the country whose anthem is being sung. Roche expresses wonderment at Dial's "amazing ability to channel things about his impression of the various different cultures into what he was playing." The result is not only new and exciting, but also true to the national character of the country whose song is being heard.
The samba rhythms accompanying Barbara Mendes' vocal on the opening Brazilian anthem are beautifully framed in the jazz moods of Roche's ethereal choir of voices. Scott Wendholt's Milesian trumpet on France gives a nod to the French love of American jazz. The infectious dancing joy of Balla Kouyate's balafon drives the anthem of Guinea, West Africa, sung by master drummer and singer Sidiki Conde. The deeply spiritual tabla playing of Indian master Samir Chatterjee supports his wife Sanghamitra's soulful singing on their country's anthem, written by India's beloved poet Rabindratha Tagore. The Tibetan Anthem begins with the plaintive nomad singing of Namgyal Yeshi, from the remote plateaus of Eastern Tibet, who walked across the Himalayan Mountains and escaped from Communist China. There is a sense that we are learning something about the land and the people that the music represents, be it Jamaica or Israel, Italy or Canada Czechoslovakia or Ireland. Two American musicians mixing their talents with those of native people for whom the songs have a heart connection, produces a surprising mix of sounds. Susan McKeown, who sings the Irish national anthem, explains on the DVD that "it connects with the country, the land, the people and the language … It connects with a generation of those who are gone. It's like the voices of those before us speaking from the past."
The words to the anthems are translated into English in the accompanying booklet. The sound of these songs fulfills Dial and Roche's goal to bridge the gap between "us an' them", but even if there wasn't such a lofty concept, the music stands on its own. With great grooves, soulful and intense, it is (believe it or not) entertaining at the same time. This project is a testament to the innovative talent of these two talented artists (collaborating with The Greatest Musicians in the World) who effortlessly link the sounds of jazz and folk on an album beyond category.
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