LIVE: Roger Noyes @ Albany Public Library, 2/25/15
Review and photographs by Rudy Lu
At the Albany Public Library, Ralph Ellison’s classic 1952 novel “Invisible Man” was brought to life through readings of the novel and original music inspired by the novel by composer-guitarist Roger Noyes and his band.
The library’s program Reading Music showcases new, original music inspired by great works of literature. In previous installments, M.R. Poulopoulos tackled the works of William Kennedy and Michael Eck and Matt Durfee wrote songs in the spirit of John Steinbeck’s “East of Eden,” but this was the first Reading Music program to feature jazz and a full band.
In addition to playing the Fats Waller composition, “Black and Blue,” which is seminal to the novel, Noyes & Co. also played three original compositions inspired by passages in the novel.
The initial piece was inspired by the Ellison’s introductory prologue. Then “Atalanta” was based upon the blindfolded boxing battle royal incident where the protagonist is tricked into becoming a participant in this cruel racist sport by being misled that he is giving his high school graduation speech. He is allowed to give his speech amidst jeering of the drunken white audience. Noyes creatively used his guitar and Terry Gordon’s trumpet to reiterate the phrases “ social responsibility” and “social equality” as squawks, screams and screeches.
Meanwhile, “Liberty Paints” related to the chapter in the novel in which the protagonist is hired to work in an allegorical paint factory ending in a violent incident in which he is reborn. The compositions were heavily influence by the humor and dynamic tempos of the work of Charles Mingus and Thelonious Monk.
The musicians for this project were:
Roger Noyes – guitar
Tony Berman – bass
Jim Ketterer – drums
Terry Gordon – trumpet
Noyes – who also plays in the jazz bands the Arch Stanton Quartet and the Jazz Caravan – had been working on the compositions for this performance only since December. Are there more compositions in the works inspired by “Invisible Man,” Roger?