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Rhapsodies in Black

Box Set

5.0 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Audio CD, Box set, November 7, 2000
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Editorial Reviews

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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

Track Listings

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
  6. There'll Be Some Changes Made - Ethel Waters
  7. Sounds Of Africa - Eubie Blake
  8. Sweet Man O' Mine - Mamie Smith
  9. The Weary Blues (Poem By Langston Hughes) - Branford Marsalis
  10. Blues Ain't Nothin Else But! - Ida Cox
  11. Kansas City Man Blues - Clarence Williams' Blue Five
  12. Indianola - Wilbur C. Sweatman's Original Jazz Band
  13. Hard Hearted Hannah - Rosa Henderson
  14. Sonnet To A Negro In Harlem (Poem By Helene Johnson) - Angela Bassett
  15. St. Louis Blues - Bessie Smith
  16. Copenhagen - Fletcher Henderson
  17. Cake Walking Babies From Home - Clarence Williams' Blue Five
  18. Long Gone (Poem By Sterling Brown) - Darius Rucker
  19. Railroad Blues - Trixie Smith

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
  6. Chain Gang Blues - Ma Rainey
  7. Mother To Sun (Poem By Langton Hughes) - Sylvia Rhone
  8. Deep River - Paul Robeson
  9. East St. Louis Toodle-O - Duke Ellington
  10. Lazy Drag - Thomas Morris
  11. How It Feels To Be Colored Me (Excerpt From An Essay By Zora Neale Hurston) - Debbie Allen
  12. Sengalese Stomp - Savoy Bearcats
  13. After You've Gone - Paul Whiteman
  14. Dead Drunk Blues - Margaret Johnson
  15. No Images (Poem By Waring Cuney) - Lou Rawls
  16. Woke Up With The Blues In My Fingers - Lonnie Johnson
  17. Worried Blues - Gladys Bentley
  18. Humpty Dumpty - Frankie Trumbauer
  19. Ham And Eggs - Johnny Dunn
  20. Sugar - Alberta Hunter

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
  6. Bright Boy Blues - Cecil Scott
  7. The Debt (Poem By Paul Laurence Dunbar) - Joshua Redman
  8. Harlem Fuss - Fats Waller
  9. Nobody Knows You When You're Down And Out - Bessie Smith
  10. Fare Thee Honey Blues - Jimmy Johnson
  11. Soon (Poem By Leon Damas) - Gregory Hines
  12. Smashing Thirds - Fats Waller
  13. Do Shuffle - Fess Williams
  14. Wherever There's A Will, Baby - McKinney's Cotton Pickers
  15. Dee Blues - Chocolate Dandies
  16. Odyssey Of Big Boy (Poem By Sterling Brown) - Chuck D
  17. Minnie The Moocher (The Ho De Ho Song) - Cab Calloway
  18. Panama - Luis Russell
  19. Royal Garden Blues - Ted Lewis
  20. America (Poem By Claude McKay) - August Wilson
  21. Jesus Gonna Make Up My Dying Bed - Josh White

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
  6. Baby - Adelaide Hall
  7. Happy As The Day Is Long - Leo Reisman/Harold Arlen
  8. I Got Rhythm - The Spirits Of Rhythm
  9. Let's Get Together - Chick Webb
  10. Their Eyes Were Watching God (Excerpt From A Book By Zora Neale Hurston) - Veronica Chambers
  11. Lady Be Good - Buck & Bubbles
  12. Symphony In Riffs - Benny Carter
  13. Sendin' The Vipers - Mezz Mezzrow
  14. Down South Camp Meetin' - Fletcher Henderson
  15. The Day Breakers (Poem By Arna Bontemps) - Coolio
  16. She'll Be Coming 'Round The Mountain - Tiny Bradshaw
  17. Minor Mania - Claude Hopkins
  18. Sensemaya - Chant For Killing A Snake (Poem By Nicolas Guillen) - Eartha Kitt
  19. Symphony In Black - Duke Ellington
  20. Echoes Of Spring - Willie 'The Lion' Smith
  21. Lookie, Lookie, Lookie Here Comes Cookie - Teddy Hill
  22. The Negro Artist And The Racial Mountain (Essay By Langston Hughes) - George Duke
  23. It Never Dawned On Me - Teddy Wilson
  24. Honey Dripper Blues - Georgia White
  25. I'm In The Mood For Love - Louis Armstrong


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
  • ASIN: B00004ZDZC
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #393,079 in CDs & Vinyl (See Top 100 in CDs & Vinyl)
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