Full artist notes and bios at https://henryart.org/exhibitions/sonolocations-a-sound-works-series
Naima Lowe - Vocals and Percussion
Bill Lowe - Tuba and Bass Trombone
Taylor Ho Bynum - Cornet, Flugelhorn, pBone
Engineering and Mastering: Mark Kuykendall and Joe Stewart
Final Mix: Naima Lowe with Jordan Wright
(The full 16 introductory bars of Billie Holiday’s “Pennies From Heaven” feels self-consciously, even slyly, perfect. The air caught between the notes is just on the edge of sarcastic, but then again don’t we all just want to be loved?)
97 Days Between enumerates time, grief, and incalculable distance. The narrative is derived from Naima’s daily documentation of the emotional toll of living through the first ninety-seven days of the COVID-19 pandemic. The piece tracks a mix of mundane tasks under quarantine, challenging interpersonal transformations, and the myriad of watershed historical events that occurred during that time frame. “During those first several months of the pandemic,” Naima notes “I was hyper aware of the ways that time and space seemed to collapse on itself; fractured by the varying paces with which people came to accept and respond to the crisis. Every conversation about the pandemic seemed marked by utterly incomprehensible calculations as everyone was suddenly tasked with becoming an armchair epidemiologist. The comparisons made between data sets were (are) almost absurd to think about: 98% survival rate vs. 3 million dead. The cost to the economy of thousands dying vs. the cost to the economy of thousands not working. How does one “calculate” loss and gains during a time like this? It seemed only feasible by zooming into the hyper specific experience of day to day living.”
Naima’s humorously melancholy countdown recounts familiar emotions that we’re supposed to forget in these celebratory “post-pandemic” times, and dances gracefully with Bill’s cheeky Tuba rendition of the melody from “Pennies from Heaven.” This sweet and sad conversation between father and daughter anchors the improvisations that twist, turn and tangle around the work. Bill and cornetist Taylor Ho Bynum have thirty years of conversations in brass to bring to bear, offering chops on top of chops; confidently enjoying their opportunity to follow Naima’s textual cues from halfway across the continent. Not inconsequentially, this was their first time seeing and playing together in person in almost two years. There’s joy and fun being purposefully brought to bear in the face of all this sorrow. Naima, with growing confidence as a musical performer, and still separated by so much time and distance, taps and spins and clangs mysteriously melodic percussive tones around her own voice. She’s working by herself, but is also never alone.
The mix is spatial by design (best heard through a good pair of headphones) and swings with just as much intention as the instrumentation. There’s air and metal; math and poetry; confidence and tentativeness; togetherness and isolation; history and the present; and a long year between here and there - all brought to bear in a complex of improvisational moments that speak to the loving pedagogies of Black musical tradition that The Lowes bring to their work together.
This work was commissioned by the Henry Art Gallery and Jack Straw Cultural Center for their sound works series Sonolocations, curated by Shamim M. Momin, Director of Curatorial Affairs, Henry Art Gallery; and Levi Fuller, Administrative Coordinator, and Joan Rabinowitz, Executive Director, Jack Straw Cultural Center.
A version of this piece appears in Naima's exhibition "A Token Is a Stand In for Something of Value," curated by Grace Deveney and presented by The Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition's Art 365 Triennial Exhibition of contemporary Oklahoma artists.
- Jazz & Blues