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MP3 Cecilia Smith - Dark Triumph-The Life of Victoria Lancaster Smith Through Spoken Word and Music (2 Cd set)

Jazz-Spoken Word/Narrative- Orchestration, Boys Choir of Harlem, Rhythm Section, Vibes. (This recording contains 2 CD''s- One with narration- The second one with JUST THE MUSIC.)

18 MP3 Songs
JAZZ: World Fusion, SPOKEN WORD: With Music

Liner Notes for
The Life of Victoria Lancaster Smith
Through Spoken Word and Music
Music By Cecilia Smith

Storytelling set to music has an allure all its own. It’s no surprise that contemporary composers often embrace this blended art form. And to what better purpose than honoring the life of an extraordinary American? One thinks of Aaron Copeland and his work celebrating Abraham Lincoln. Yet how often has an African American’s life been the subject of a major musical tribute? And moreover, how often has that tribute focused on unsung heroes, the everyday people of the black community? Perhaps never.

Until now. DARK TRIUMPH is jazz vibraphonist Cecilia Smith’s rich and complex musical work which tells the story of an African American woman who dedicated herself to serving others – first as a nurse and later as a volunteer for both the Red Cross and the Peace Corps. The selfless and extraordinary life of one Victoria Smith is richly celebrated here through a deft blend of orchestration and narration.

It is a stunning addition to a select canon. Celebrating what it means to be both black and American, Cecilia has written original compositions that blend modern classical, jazz and contemporary popular music. As such, her arrangements pay homage to an all-American experience, yet are grounded in the specificity of an African-American one.

“I found it very fulfilling to apply certain practicalities used by classically-based composers, but for a subject matter far more familiar to me -- and closer to my heart,” explains Cecilia.

From the 17-string ensemble, to the voices of The Boys Choir of Harlem, to the driving rhythm section, to Cecilia’s own incomparable vibes, the result is a textured and complex and ultimately inspired work –the perfect musical reflection of a woman whose life story itself inspires.

The work opens at the beginning of Victoria Smith’s life, with “Birth/Spring”, an evocative piece that introduces the eight-bar melody that weaves its way like silken thread throughout the entire work. That melody and the lyrics that accompany it were composed and written by Miss Victoria -- when she was in eighth grade! A tune this woman carried inside of her for more than 60 years has been powerfully realized here. Note that the clarion voices of The Boys’ Choir of Harlem sing the melody in a different key from that of the ensemble music. The result is a lovely, “off-key” dissonance that mirrors Miss Victoria’s personal story -- as she was born into a world of chaos and uncertainty, bringing into that world her own unique voice.

“The Darkest Child/Spring” opens with a dark, somber harmonic structure, reflecting Miss Victoria’s precarious first moments of life; what follows is a subtle repetition in the composition that suggests a questioning. Will this child survive? The texture of the music then shifts, characterized by the Boys Choir of Harlem’s voices hitting a high note as they sing Miss Victoria’s melody, illuminating her self-discovery and newfound sense of value.

In “Seating by Color”, Cecilia addresses the “double consciousness”, as W.E.B. Du Bois called it, of African-Americans. Given that Miss Victoria was as a child seated according to her dark skin color in all-black classrooms, Cecilia chose to mirror that irony in her choices for this piece. Hence, the music shifts from a classical melodic devise to classic jazz. The classical music is itself beautiful, and acknowledges what is European-influenced in all Americans; yet it also offers a playful tongue-in-cheek reference to the irony of African Americans being taught to appreciate western culture while facing daily racism. The straight-ahead section is a counterweight, a response as it were, to that contradictory situation. When Miss Victoria becomes the first black nurses in her workplace and is “constantly scrutinized” by her white superiors and colleagues, she prevails. Hence the celebratory nature of the straight-ahead section, complete with improvisation that offers the listener a reprieve, a chance to fully absorb this woman’s tale of triumph over prejudice.

Too Light a Negro for Me - A Love Song - is just that, in all its full-blown romanticism, punctuated by the sensuous use of strings. It sets up perfectly the next piece, “New Births/Spring”, which provides a rearrangement of and elaboration on the recurring melody introduced in the first piece. Here for a change, a woman – Elon Robin Dixon sings the melody with the Boys Choir of Harlem members, giving the piece a familial feeling. In “Grief and Disasters”, Cecilia conveys the mixed feelings Miss Victoria grappled with when she became a disaster nurse in the aftermath of her own husband’s death. This is achieved through innovative rhythmic concepts: the drums, in double-time, play alongside the half-time of the bass, while the melody does both – hooking up with the drums, then slowing down to meet the bass. The result is a sound that achingly reflects what it must feel like to come to the aid of others in the midst of one’s own grief. While the piece is dark and heavy, it pulls us in with its organic, raw quality.

Things lighten up in “Rio Frio”, which represents Miss Victoria’s journey to Costa Rica as a volunteer in the Peace Corps. Here Cecilia mixes it up again, combining the classic Latin grooves of meringue and the characteristic strings used in Costa Rican music with the harmonic structure of contemporary African American-influenced music. Reflecting both cultural influences, the piece works as a perfect backdrop for the experiences Miss Victoria surely had as a black American woman in a Central American country.

“Africa Remembered” feels like a signature piece. Thick with ideas, it opens with somber vocals that mirror the beauty yet deep strife of the African continent. The rhythmic concepts are African in origin -- a nod to the depth of African music’s harmonic and rhythmic structure. Still the piece boasts a rich intricacy -- as with the violin arrangement -- which speaks to the complexity of a continent so vast, so misrepresented, so resonant. How ironic that Miss Victoria found herself offering refuge to people in the very land from which her own ancestors were stolen. And yet, the piece conveys great exuberance and rejuvenation and transcendence -- a tribute to African peoples, and the human spirit.

“Confusion To Order – DARK TRIUMPH!”, the final piece, suggests an ultimate message conveyed through Victoria Smith’s extraordinary life. She found her purpose, and with that came a kind of euphoria – captured here in the voices of The Boys Choir of Harlem. From a beginning fraught with confusion over identity and skin color, she triumphed, becoming a whole and giving individual. The graceful melody in this piece celebrates that triumph of order over chaos, moving as it does toward its satisfying finale.

Take your time to absorb and appreciate DARK TRIUMPH, as it is not only a fitting musical tribute to the incredible life of a great woman. It is an historic first.

--Bridgett M. Davis

Cecilia Smith
Performance Biography

“. . .Arguably the best vibraphonist, that you probably never heard of.”
Pittsburgh Gazette

Born in Cincinnati and raised in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, Cecilia Smith began her musical odyssey at age eight when she began piano lessons. By age twelve, she had added drums to her repertoire and by age fourteen, she was on to mallet percussion. In her early teens, Cecilia studied with graduate students at the Cleveland Music Institute in music theory and she soon knew music would be her life’s quest.

Upon graduating from high school, Cecilia attended the Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts. While at Berklee, her pursuit of musical knowledge only increased as she studied a wide range of subjects including composing, arranging, film scoring and her instrument of choice, the vibraphone. These components and a wide range of professional experiences have enhanced her expertise in a variety of musical styles. Smith earned a Bachelor of Music degree in Professional Music from Berklee and continued there in a teaching capacity for four years before moving to New York City.

As a professional composer and recording artist, Ms. Smith is the recipient of many commissions and grants for her composing abilities. Smith is also an avid MIDI programmer. She is currently one of the leading vibraphonists of the Four-Mallet Technique in the United States. Smith is also the first woman to release material on vibraphone on a national and international level. She performs in concert halls, nightclubs and festivals throughout North and South America, Europe and Asia and frequently highlighted as a performer on national radio and television broadcasts. Cecilia Smith Quartet tops the list of the New England Foundation For The Arts touring roster, as one of the most popular Jazz bands.

Recent performances, recordings, composing, arranging, film scores and commissioned projects by Cecilia Smith.


Ms. Smith has appeared or recorded with the following noted jazz recording artists:

 Gary Bartz,
 Greg Osby
 Milt Hinton
 Alan Dawson
 Donald Harrison
 Hubert Laws
 Cindy Blackman
 Billy Pierce
 Lonnie Plaxico
 Mulgrew Miller
 Vanessa Rubin
 Cecil Bridgewater
 Cassandra Wilson
 Rufus Reid
 Donald Byrd
 Mark Whitfield
 Randy Weston
 Amina Claudine Myers
 Marian McPartland

Featured artist, John F. Kennedy Center For The Performing Arts
10thAnniversary Celebration Of The Mary Lou Williams Women In Jazz Festival (1999, 2003 and 2005)

Charlotte Jazz Festival – (2006)

Bethlehem Music Festival (2002).

Quincy Jones Presents The Montreux Jazz Festival In New York Central Park (1997).

Smithsonian Institution Symposium/Concert Presentation “Sung-Unsung Jazz Women” (1996).

Jazz Times Convention In New York City (1998).

Featured artist, 1999 Mary Lou Williams Women In Jazz Festival at the Kennedy Center, Washington, D.C.

Featured artist, The Clifford Brown Festival in Wilmington, Delaware (2002-04).

Featured artist, Annapolis Jazz Festival, Jazzmatazz at the Ronald Reagan Center, Washington D.C. (2002).


The Ifa Yoruba Contemporary Arts Trust (London, England) presented her. A Concert presentation and educational clinics were presented at the Tabernacle Performing Arts Center and Portobello Squares–https://www.tradebit.com Café, May 1999.

March 2000 and August 2002, Cecilia Smith was featured on National Public Radios’ Piano Jazz With Marian McPartland. This hour-long interview /performance aired both nationally and internationally.

Researched and performed the work of the late great Mary Lou Williams. More than 400 people attended this performance at Our Lady Of Victory Church in Brooklyn, NY (2000).

Featured on National Public Radio “Jazz Profiles,” on the Milt Jackson segment profiling her as one of the youngest up and coming vibists in the country.

Featured on the Black Entertainment Television Network.


Ms. Smith is featured on the Digable Planets release “Blowout Comb” released on the EMI record label. She is also featured on the Japanese release, “Carmen R&B” with vibest Yoshi Katori, recorded in Paris, France for the 3361 BLACK label and released in Japan. She also appears on bassist Lonnie Plaxicos’ Muse recording, “Short Takes.” She is also a part of vocalists Leonora Zenzalai Helms April 1999 release on the J-Curve recording label entitled “Spirit Child.”

Ms. Smith performed and recorded with Blue Note recording artist, Cassandra Wilson on her March 1999 release entitled “Traveling Miles.” This work was premiered at Jazz At Lincoln Center.

Ms. Smith has four compact discs on which she is a bandleader. Her first CD, released in 1992, is entitled “The Takeoff—Cecilia Smith Vibraphonist.” Her second CD “CSQ: Volume II” was released in the summer of 1995. “CSQ Volume II” stayed on the charts 20 weeks. Her third CD entitled “High Standards” was released late September 1996. “High Standards” received 3 ½ stars from the November ’97 issue of Downbeat magazine. “High Standards” also charted for more than 20 weeks reaching #14 on the Gavin Chart. Her newest CD, “ Leave No Stone Unturned” was released in the fall of 1997. “Leave No Stone Unturned” features Gary Bartz, Cecil Bridgewater and Greg Osby. This release reached #12 on the Gavin Chart.

Commissioned by the Mary Lou Williams Foundation to edit incomplete works (2002-2003). These pieces where performed at New England Conservatory Winter, 2003.

Commissioned by the Cooper-Hewitt Museum – Smithsonian Institution National Museum Of Design, titled “Native To Native–An African American/Native American Perspective On Music” (1996). Ms. Smith incorporated her personal cultural background to create a new music form combining a jazz quartet with four Traditional Native American musicians. Seven compositions were premiered.

Commissioned to compose music for the Langston Hughes Cultural Center in Corona Queens, NY. This piece of music was written as a musical translation of the Langston Hughes poem – I Dream A World.

Commissioned by the Boston Museum Of Science to compose a series of compositions to accompany a docu-drama entitled “Black Achievers In Science” (1991). Six compositions were composed. Two of these compositions premiered on Cecilia Smith’s first CD, The Takeoff.

Commissioned by the Cambridge Children’s Performance Arts Project for four compositions arranged for vibraphone and piano. Composed around the theme of winter, these compositions accompany a series of Improvisational Children’s Theater pieces titled Winter Journeys.

Cecilia Smith has an extensive background as a Midi Programmer. While teaching at Berklee College Of Music, all faculty members were required to become knowledgeable in Midi Programming. Smith became engrossed in programming and ultimately self-produced a compact disc of her work. She became skilled on Vision/Opcode and then moved on to Digital Performer.

Ms. Smith has composed music for Bridgett Davis’ independent feature film titled “Naked Acts” for Kindred Spirit Productions. This film has been presented at film festivals around the world. It has also appeared on the Sundance Channel.

MS. Smith has most recently completed a composition for a short film titled Let’s Not Talk About It. Written, produced and directed by British filmmaker Ian Piggot for Above The Sky Productions.

(See Vita for more information)


The Mary Lou Williams Resurgence Project celebrates the life of Mary Lou Williams this year and through 2010. Cecilia Smith was an Artist-in-Residence at Berklee College of Music where the music of Mary Lou Williams was the focus.

Ms. Smith has studied the work of Mary Lou Williams for the past six years. She created the Mary Lou Williams Resurgence Project where she is currently the Artistic Director. During the Kennedy Center Celebration, Cecilia Smith put together an all-star, mixed-gendered, multi-generational big band and brought in the Morgan State University Choir to perform the complex works of Mary Lou Williams. Smith received rave reviews for this performance! (See Reviews.) Smith also received a Berklee College Of Music Alumni Grant that aids her in the continuation of the project.

May 20, 2005 – The Mary Lou Williams Resurgence Big Band with special guest Amina Claudine Meyers celebrated Ms. Williams’ birthday and the 10th Anniversary of the Mary Lou Williams Women In Jazz Festival At The John F. Kennedy Center For The Performing Arts in Washington D.C. The world renowned Morgan State University Choir also performed some of Ms. Williams’ rarely heard choral works. (See Review.)

New England Conservatory Of Music Project highlighting the compositional works of Mary Lou Williams (2002 and 2003).

Commissioned by the Mary Lou Williams Foundation to edit and adapt the Mary Lou Williams piece Ghost Of Love, May 2004. Smith’s arrangement of The Gloria was played by the Lincoln Center Big Band at their Music of Mary Lou Williams Concert at Alice Tully Hall May 14, and 15t, 2004.

Commissioned by the Mary Lou Williams Foundation to edit incomplete works (2002-2003). These pieces where performed at New England Conservatory Winter, 2003.

Researched and performed the work of the late great Mary Lou Williams. More than 400 people attended this performance at Our Lady Of Victory Church in Brooklyn, NY (2000).

As a result of her work with Mary Lou Williams’ compositional works, Cecilia Smith was selected by Max Roach’s family to archive the works of the jazz master, commencing in the spring of 2006.

May 2003 Cecilia Smith Quartet performs Mary Lou Williams’ Small Band Works at the Kennedy Center New Millennium Stage, Washington, D.C.

2000 – 2006

Cecilia Smith has been granted a commission through an anonymous benefactor. The piece Dark Triumph was written for a large ensemble including a string section. It includes performances by the Boys’ Choir Of Harlem, vocalist Elon Robin Dixon and Spoken Word. This project was recorded at Right Track Studio 509A on New York City. The commission will result in a two CD recording. This musical work traces the life of an African American senior citizen Victoria L. Smith who has led an extremely unusual life of service. The work can best be compared to the work that was written by American composer Aaron Copeland who wrote a piece called A Lincoln Portrait, which uses orchestration and narration to highlight Lincoln''s life. The work that she has composed utilized both jazz and classical composing devices as well as sampled sounds generated through keyboard. This recording will be released for educational institutions in Fall of 2005. The commercial release is scheduled for Summer 2006.

On her first trip to Africa, Cecilia Smith and pianist Amina Claudine Myers played duets at the Stanbic Bank Ghana Jazz Festival in Accra, Ghana.

Vibes Duos – Began with Japanese vibest Yoichi, is a collaboration that was recorded in Paris and released in Japan in the late ‘90s.

In 2004 — The Cecilia Smith Jay Hoggard Quintet – modeled after the 1970’s duo vibe ensemble Double Image (Dave Friedman and Dave Samuels). This quintet combines the efforts of two vibraphonists as well as vibraphone and marimba in a duo mallet setting plus rhythm section. The program included works made famous by vibest Milt Jackson and Lionel Hampton. Compositions by Mary Lou Williams, Clifford Brown and original compositions by Smith and Hoggard were also performed. Performance at the Clifford Brown Jazz Festival is also available for download at https://www.tradebit.com. Cecilia Smith will continue the Vibes Duo project with a new vibest in the Spring of 2005.

March 2004 – Cecilia Smith Quartet with Special Guest Jennifer Holiday (R&B & Gospel vocalist most noted for the her work in the original Broadway hit Dream Girls) and the Abyssinian Baptist Church Gospel Choir – New York, NY.

The Cecilia Smith Quintet – featuring vocalist – Elon Robin Dixon continues to do performances throughout the US.

Cecilia Smith is currently working with poet Tracie Morris in a collaborative effort called New Works Unspoken And Spoken. This new work unites
Smith’s unique composing style with Tracie Morris’s unique poetry style.

2000 – 2006

Yeye (Spirit) with choreographer and Guggenheim Fellow Gabri Christa. Cecilia Smith created improvisational music around the midi compositions for this work. Guitarist – Vernon Reed, composed the compositions.

Fall 2000 - Cecilia Smith received a Meet The Composer Grant that allowed her to perform in a number of Queens Public Libraries.

Midatlantic Arts Foundation Tour Planning Grant
This grant allowed me to perform my new work for a host of Mid Atlantic Arts Presenters.

Currently Ms. Smith is working on two CD projects:

The first project is a “straight ahead” music project entitled “New Thoughts On Tradition.” This project involves the rearrangement of a number of American standard compositions. Smith will use exciting musical processes as arrangement devices to create new compositions while maintaining original themes.

Another project is entitled, “!Groove!” Smith will take a number of original compositions that reflect the popular music culture of today and using R&B and hip-hop grooves, along with several world music and rock rhythms, will compose new work for presentation. It is in the tradition of the jazz artist that popular music is rearranged with harmonic, rhythmic as well as performance complexities that the jazz musician has to offer. These devices give new meaning to the music of today.

Something About Mary Lou
Women''s Jazz Gathering Hits a Festive Note as It Marks Its 10th Year

By Mike Joyce
Special to The Washington Post
Monday, May 23, 2005; Page C05

Though it ran for three nights and presented scores of musicians in diverse settings, the 10th annual Mary Lou Williams Women in Jazz Festival at the Kennedy Center coalesced into one glorious hallelujah. If there was a recurring theme, it could be summed up in three words: "Hail Mary Lou."

Certainly that was the case at the Terrace Theater on Friday night, when the Morgan State University Choir, standing three deep and spanning the stage, joined a big band in saluting both familiar and lesser-known aspects of Williams''s genius. The legacy of the pianist and composer, who died in 1981, has always been a spiritual touchstone for the festival performances, but this year it triggered a jubilant celebration, the mood charged by secular and sacred sounds alike.

Vibraphonist, arranger and bandleader Cecilia Smith saw to that. For the past five years she has scrutinized Williams''s scores, manuscripts and "found parts" -- arranging, editing and adapting them for a variety of performance contexts. Her research provided the impetus for Friday night''s multifaceted concert, featuring the Mary Lou Williams Resurgence Big Band, led by Smith, and the Morgan State choir, under the direction of Eric Conway. When the two ensembles joined forces in the second half of the program, the sheer intensity of their union was something to behold, sounding dramatically unlike anything heard at the festival in previous years. The performances of Williams''s "I Have a Dream," based on the Martin Luther King Jr. speech, and her gospel anthem "Come Holy Spirit" were particularly eloquent and exhilarating.

The evening held other pleasures as well: a solemn yet emotional solo performance by pianist Amina Claudine Myers, the big band''s rollicking rendition of Williams''s signature swing era classic "Roll ''em" and the small combo arrangements devised by Smith that placed Williams''s music in a different, though not necessarily more contemporary, light. Numerous soloists, including reedman Bill Easley, trumpeter Tanya Darby and trombonist Benny Powell, turned in expressive performances, as did vocalist Elon Robin Dixon, especially during the world premiere of the evocative ballad "Ghost of Love."


“Her touch and style yield a distinctive sound that sets her apart from other vibest. Smith finds a deeper groove, keeps things lightly swinging with her impeccable sense of time. She excels s leader! Certainly deserves wider recognition.” CD ROM Magazine

“ . . . A young player who knows the instruments giants. . Bright and driving like Hutcherson; Hymn like dignity like Jackson; and an air like bounce like Burton.”

“. . . An inventive Composer that possesses a knack for Mood and Texture.”

“. . .Arguably the best vibraphonist, that you probably never heard of.” Pittsburgh Gazette

Cecilia Smith received a 1998 Trailblazer Award from the International Women In Jazz, Inc. and the Universal Jazz Coalition, Inc.

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