Like Gershwin, composer Carl MaultsBy added classical training to a background in theatrical music, film music, and jazz. And the results as heard on this compilation of his works are impressive. MaultsBy's basic reference is the African-American spiritual, but even when he stays close to the original form, as in the concluding trio of pieces, he adds original elements that take the music out of the realm of arrangement. Most intriguing is the opening Eye of the Sparrow, where the traditional spiritual "His Eye Is on the Sparrow" is not actually heard but forms a presence behind the scenes of the entire work, lending verbal imagery and vocal cadences. This foundation allows MaultsBy to range through a variety of styles that might otherwise seem incoherent, but in his hands cohere into an idealistic vision that brings to mind Leonard Bernstein's Mass. Hear the fourth movement of the work ("Psalm," track 4), where Anglican service music gives way to a Hebrew text accompanied by acoustically realized hip-hop beats. Eye of the Sparrow and The View from the Mountain are both tributes, with differing emphases, to the Rev. Martin Luther King and his wife, Coretta Scott King, and musical organizations looking for repertory to perform during King Day celebrations are emphatically directed to these works. They are rhythmically animated (MaultsBy's treatment of sections with African-American vernacular rhythms is deft and light), varied, and not without humor ("The justice ascended as the widow died," intone the singers in the first movement of The View from the Mountain, "and the nation shed a tear. Strict constructionist, compassionate conservative"). The shorter spirituals form a convincing counterpoint with the larger works, again suggesting programming avenues. Of strong interest for collectors of concert music by African Americans.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Eye of the Sparrow, for chorus & orchestra|
|The View from the Mountain, for chorus & orchestra|