Earl Louis Stewart | From the Heart

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From the Heart

by Earl Louis Stewart

From the Heart presents 11 passionate pieces that draw on an astounding array of sources, influences and traditions, blending jazz songs and gospel hymns with nocturnes, elegies, laments and lullabies - it is a work to relax and enjoy.
Genre: Easy Listening: Orchestral
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  Song Share Time Download
1. Asante Sana Sana
3:19 album only
2. Elton's Nocturne
4:56 album only
3. Tenderly
6:09 album only
4. Katrina Lament
5:10 album only
5. Elegy For Mr Alvin Batiste
4:02 album only
6. Corsica
4:51 album only
7. Amazing Grace
6:08 album only
8. My Funny Valentine
5:40 album only
9. Undulations
5:36 album only
10. Elegy For Mr Alvin Batiste, Reprise
3:57 album only
11. Nakupenda
3:29 album only


Album Notes
From the liner notes, "A Tradition as Wide as All Outdoors: The Artistry of Earl Stewart," by George Lipsitz

Earl Stewart’s compositions and arrangements on "From the Heart" draw on an astounding array of sources, influences, and traditions. He blends jazz songs and (a) gospel hymn with nocturnes, elegies, laments, and lullabies. Who else would orchestrate 'My Funny Valentine' for harp and strings, blend African American vernacular progressions and extensions with the standard conventions of tonal functional harmony, or pay homage in the same album to both avant-garde nationalist composer and musician Alvin Batiste and television personality and philanthropist Oprah Winfrey?

Stewart’s eclecticism comes organically from his deep roots in many different kinds of performance, composition, and arranging. He played in backup bands for soul singers Percy Sledge and King Floyd, but also worked as guest conductor and composer in residence for the National Symphony Orchestra of Ghana. His composition 'An Appropriate Title' -- written for the New Orleans public schools’ Jazz Artist in Residence program -- featured the playing of jazz saxophonist Julian “Cannonball” Adderly. Stewart also composed 'Al-Inkishafi', an oratorio that was performed by the Austin Symphony Orchestra with mezzo soprano Barbara Conrad of the Metropolitan Opera Company, choreographed by African dance master Chuck Davis, and narrated by actor Moses Gunn. He has written songs honoring the poetry of Paul Laurence Dunbar and the Emancipation holiday of Juneteenth. Between 1987 and 1991, Stewart conducted and directed the Boston Orchestra and Chorale while also serving in those same years as guest conductor of the Scott Joplin Orchestra in Houston.

Stewart’s sophisticated deployments of harmony and counterpoint reveal both his mastery of the traditions of western art music and his critical engagements with them. In West Africa the Mande people use the word "woron" to denote getting to the heart of something, mastering it, and fusing elegance with simplicity. Like many other African American musicians before him, Stewart applies this African aesthetic to Euro-American musical forms, embracing the western art tradition as one of many important currents in his art, treating it as a kind of clay to be molded and shaped rather than as an inheritance to be imitated. He creates complex, contradictory, and multi-layered music that is at one and the same time both traditional and new.

…On this album, he presents eleven instrumental compositions and arrangements that illuminate the links between music and everyday life. His compositions speak back to the world from which they emerged, reaching out to individuals in the praise song 'Asante Sana Sana' thanking Oprah Winfrey for her humanitarian work in Africa and 'Elton’s Nocturne' honoring the birthday of his friend Elton Heron. He marks the passing of his beloved and visionary teacher and fellow musician Alvin Batiste through 'Elegy for Mr. Alvin Batiste' and 'Undulations.' Stewart’s compositions address the dialectics of love and hate in 'Katrina Lament,' provoked by the suffering of people in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and in the celebrations of love expressed in 'Corsica' and 'Nakupenda.' He presents startlingly original and innovative arrangements of familiar gospel, pop, and jazz standards in 'Amazing Grace' 'Tenderly' and 'My Funny Valentine'…

"From the Heart" displays many of the unique approaches to music that Stewart has developed over the years as a visionary theorist of vernacular harmony and counterpoint. He maintains that African American vernacular harmony builds upon the principles of western art music in uniquely generative ways. Stewart deploys progressions considered “weak” within western harmonic theory, such as dominant seventh chords that resolve by root motion to sub-dominant chords. Such progressions, however, are common in American vernacular music… His unusual orchestration of the hymn 'Amazing Grace' requires the strings and harp to serve sporadically as rhythm instruments. On Walter Lloyd Gross’s composition 'Tenderly' (perhaps best known as a hit record for pop singer Rosemary Clooney), Stewart assigns the cello and violin the responsibility of “singing” a part he originally wrote as a vocal arrangement for Stephanie Jordan, sister of jazz flutist Kent Jordan (and fellow Alvin Batiste student).

Stewart’s imaginative compositions, arrangements, and orchestrations receive expert interpretation from a stellar group of soloists on this album. Suzanne Duffy’s sensitive, scintillating and hauntingly beautiful flute playing graces 'Undulations,' 'Nakupenda,' 'Asante Sana Sana,' 'Elton’s Nocturne,' 'Katrina Lament' and 'Amazing Grace.' Kirsten Monke’s mesmerizing playing on the viola brings a unique sound, texture, and tone to 'Corsica' and 'Elegy for Mr. Alvin Batiste' while generating an absolutely unforgettable interpretation of 'My Funny Valentine.' The impassioned, artful, and touching artistry of Abe Liebhaber on cello and Loránd Lokuszta on violin gives 'Tenderly' a unique depth and power. The fine flute work by Cheryl Keyes on 'Elegy for Mr. Alvin Batiste' produces a perfect expression of the artist’s appreciation of her teacher.

"From the Heart" is a remarkable album in its own right, but it is even more impressive when one considers its appearance less than four years after Stewart found himself stricken with Guillain-Barre Syndrome -- a life-threatening illness for which there is no known cure. This syndrome causes the body’s immune system to attack its peripheral nervous system. The sudden onset of Guillain-Barre transformed Stewart’s life completely. Hospitalized and completely paralyzed, he could not speak for three months. Stewart remained in acute care for a year. As he lay in bed unable to write or speak, Stewart heard music in his mind. Yet because his condition prevented him from transcribing or playing it, he had to repeat the sounds he heard over and over again in his thoughts so that he would not forget them. “I knew I would one day write again,” he remembers. “The music was always there, I could hear it and compose it in my mind and that act helped me stay focused.” "From the Heart" offers vivid evidence of that focus on many fronts.

During the time when "From the Heart" was in production, Alvin Batiste died in New Orleans at the age of seventy-five. Batiste’s instruction in composition at Southern University opened up new worlds to Stewart when he was young. The teacher known to his students as “Mr. Bat” served as an inspiring and generative role model for Stewart as a musical border crosser. On this album, Stewart teams up with fellow Batiste student and flutist Cheryl Keyes on 'Elegy for Mister Alvin Batiste,' and joins forces with violist Kirsten Monke on the reprise of that work. Stewart also dedicates his composition 'Undulations' (Identity 16:1) to Edith Batiste, Alvin’s widow and an accomplished poet and lyricist.

The New Orleans Black community celebrated the life of Alvin Batiste with a musical tribute on the evening of May 11 and a jazz funeral on May 12, 2007. Earl Stewart and the musicians he assembled to play on this album honor Batiste in their own way. They recognize Batiste the way he would have wanted, with critical, creative, and boundary crossing artistry of their own. Stewart’s tributes to Alvin and Edith Batiste resonate with the inventive artistry that informs all of "From the Heart," artistry which is as much a challenge as an achievement. As Richard Wright once declared, “The artist is a revolutionary figure. The serious artist grapples with his environment, passes a judgment on it. He helps to deepen people’s perceptions, quicken their thought processes. He makes them conscious of the possibility of historical change – and in that way he facilitates change. That’s a big task, a self-sufficient one.”1

"From the Heart" grapples with this big task, with the lessons, hopes, disappointments, and triumphs of the past and present. It draws deeply on the collective, continuing, and cumulative creativity of Afro-diasporic peoples in dialogue with the cultures of their oppressors. "From the Heart" engages western art music traditions and goes beyond them as well. Its innovative arrangements, orchestrations, and compositions deepen our perceptions and quicken our thought processes. Stewart’s harmonies, counterpoints, melodies, rhythms, titles, and dedications all challenge us to think about the causes and consequences of our shared histories, about the things that unite us and the things that divide us. He reminds us of the suffering and inequality endured by Africans in America to be sure, but also of the triumphant achievements of the African American aesthetic tradition. That tradition, as composer and saxophone virtuoso Julius Hemphill once described it, is “as wide as all outdoors.”2 Earl Stewart’s "From the Heart" gives us many gifts, all of which augment and enhance our existence. He enables us to roam through the wide open spaces of the tradition in which he works, and to emerge as different – and better -- people as a result. His music pleases the senses and challenges the mind, precisely because it comes "From the Heart."
1 . Charles J. Rolo, “This, Too, is America,” Tomorrow 4 (May 1945), 63. Reprinted in Keneth Kinnamon and Michel Fabre, Conversations with Richard Wright (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1993), 67
2. George E. Lewis, “Experimental Music in Black and White: The AACM in New York, 1970-1985,” Current Musicology n.71-73 (Spring) 2001-2, 143

Contact Information:
Website: www.earllouisstewart.com
E-mail: alinkishafi@aol.com
Telephone: 805-617-0333

Licensing and Contracts:
Elton Heron, Esq., 504-723-8782



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