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Rhapsodies in Black Box set

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Audio CD, Box set, November 7, 2000
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$99.99 $18.97

Product Details

  • Audio CD (November 7, 2000)
  • Number of Discs: 4
  • Format: Box set
  • Note on Boxed Sets: During shipping, discs in boxed sets occasionally become dislodged without damage. Please examine and play these discs. If you are not completely satisfied, we'll refund or replace your purchase.
  • Label: Rhino / Wea
  • ASIN: B00004ZDZC
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #140,534 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Disc: 1
1. The Negro Speaks Of Rivers (Poem By Langston Hughes) - Quincy Jones
2. Cotton Club Stomp - Duke Ellington
3. The Harlem Strut - James P. Johnson
4. Brother Low Down - Bert Williams
5. Letter From Aaron Douglas To Langston Hughes - Wally 'Famous' Amos
See all 19 tracks on this disc
Disc: 2
1. Smoke, Lillies And Jade! (Excerpt From A Short Story By Richard Bruce Nugent) - Carl Hancock Rux
2. (Lookie Lookie Lookie) Here Comes Cookie - Cleo Brown
3. Charleston - Paul Whiteman
4. Chili Pepper - Fred Longshaw
5. Lucy Long - Perry Bradford's Jazz Phools
See all 20 tracks on this disc
Disc: 3
1. If We Must Die (Poem By Claude McKay) - Ice-T
2. Honey, I'm All Out And Down - Leadbelly
3. My Handy Man - Victoria Spivey
4. Ain't Misbehavin' - Louis Armstrong
5. A Handfull Of Riffs - Lonnie Johnson & Blind Willie Dunn
See all 21 tracks on this disc
Disc: 4
1. I Want To Die While You Love Me (Poem By Georgia Douglas Johnson) - Alfre Woodard
2. Stormy Weather (Keeps Rainin' All The Time) - Ethel Waters
3. Corrine Corrina - Cab Calloway
4. Sweetie Dear - Sidney Bechet
5. The Damnation Of Woman (Excerpt From An Essay By W.E.B. Dubois) - LeVar Burton
See all 25 tracks on this disc

Editorial Reviews

Not since historian David Levering Lewis's Portable Harlem Renaissance Reader has there been anything remotely as expansive as Rhapsodies in Black. This four-CD set comes with an elaborately designed 100-page booklet, with the CDs tucked into graphically cool sleeves that bring the Harlem Renaissance's visual advances to life. What comes to life in the recordings are the era's poetic, literary, and musical traditions. The renaissance, of course, wasn't contained in Harlem, with smaller African American arts and culture movements throughout the U.S., but Harlem was, to use the title of Alain Locke's 1925 collection, the "Mecca of the New Negro."

Rhapsodies reaches back to 1918 for Wilbur C. Sweatman's Original Jazz Band and their recording of "Indianola," and it gathers in poems and excerpts from stories and essays, read by such luminaries as Quincy Jones, Public Enemy's Chuck D, Branford Marsalis, and Angela Bassett. Musically, the collection focuses in some depth on early jazz and the first iteration of "urban blues." Bessie Smith's 1925 "St. Louis Blues," Duke Ellington's 1929 "Cotton Club Stomp" and 1926 "East St. Louis Toodle-Oo," Fats Waller's 1929 "Harlem Fuss" and "Smashing Thirds," Cab Calloway's 1931 "Minnie the Moocher," and Louis Armstrong's 1929 performance of Waller's "Ain't Misbehavin'" all stand out indelibly.

Along with the famous tunes are lots of underappreciated gems. Guitarist Lonnie Johnson's 1927 "Woke Up with Blues in My Fingers" is an awesome solo guitar showing. Also tremendous are early looks at future jazz giants Coleman Hawkins and Benny Carter, the former on Don Redman's "Wherever There's a Will, Baby" (from a 1929 McKinney's Cotton Pickers session) and the pair together on the Chocolate Dandies' 1930 "Dee Blues." The political core of the movement is alive here, too, with Claude McKay's "America" read by playwright August Wilson. Georgia Douglas Johnson's "I Want You to Die While You Love Me" and Helene Johnson's "Sonnet to a Negro in Harlem" (read by Bassett and Alfre Woodard, respectively) capture the poetic spirit from a woman's perspective, and Zora Neale Hurston's "Their Eyes Were Watching God" and "How It Feels to Be Colored Me" are read by Veronica Chambers and Debbie Allen. --Andrew Bartlett

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Eileen G. on March 4, 2001
Format: Audio CD
"Before I was an African-American, I was a black kid living in Los Angeles who wanted to be a rock 'n roll star. Then I discovered Harlem, and ever since, I've wanted to be a Negro." Shawn Amos, remarkable young producer of this great project, writes in "Notes from a Wanna-Be Harlemite, " by way of introducing this CD set.
This is a project that is so generous, so full, and so nicely focused that all one can do is read the booklet, and listen to the readings and the music in a sort of awed appreciation - for the greatness of it. Amos was painstakingly thoughtful and careful, and it shows at every turn. The essays are informative, thoughtful, and utterly absorbing. All the poetry and short story excerpts are included, too. So it's a field day for lovers of liner-notes and lyrics.
The music is thrilling. Much of it will be familiar, some less so. (Mastering Engineer Patrick Kraus weighs in, too, in a note regarding changes in sound quality over the years.) The pieces are arranged chronologically, and sensitively. Spoken word compliments music and song. This is something that requires a curatorial sensitivity that Amos clearly possesses. My only mild gripe is that I longed for several additional seconds of silence after each of the spoken-word pieces, before the music started. The power of the poems, for example, requires a little awed silence (the listener's) afterwards. Alfre Woodard's interpretation of Georgia Douglas Johnson's gorgeous, erotically triumphant poem "I Want to Die While You Love Me," deserves those seconds of silence. After Quincy Jones' interpretation of Langston Hughes' "The Negro Speaks of Rivers," you want some extra time, too.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Linwood I. Greer on January 30, 2001
Format: Audio CD
Wow, what a resource for history and language classrooms! That and a great look and listen besides. I'm a resource librarian for a public school system and this set doesn't stay on the shelf long enough to gather dust.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Jack on July 19, 2002
Format: Audio CD
The quality of music and poetry in this boxed set is superlative. It's so good, in fact, that it turned me on to early jazz after a lifetime of listening to other, largely unrelated, musics. This music is the roots of much of today's contemporary jazz, pop, soul, and r'n'b, and it still sounds sensational. My only gripe would be with Rhino's overfussy packaging, in which the discs are housed in elaborate and flimsy individual holders; Rhino should take a hint from Hippo's (Universal) beautifully compact packaging for Louis Armstrong's "An American Icon" box set.
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By marcia watson on January 13, 2013
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Booklet of history is great. Re-mastered music is phenomenal. Beautiful music and poetry. Any age group can enjoy it.
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