2021 Commissioned Artist
One heroine’s journey through personal heartbreak to universal political truths and transfiguration. A mixture of art, song, and improv, composer and performer Leila Adu’s vocal and piano performances transform and uplift hearts across the globe. In her first post-lockdown intimate live show, Adu’s impressionistic love songs and fierce protest songs emit hope for our future. Adu’s Roulette performance combines her trio, including long-time collaborator, bassist Jon Toscano with one of New York’s premier string quartets, PUBLIQuartet.
Leila Adu: voice / piano
Jon Toscano: bass
Curtis Stewart: violin
Jannina Norpoth: violin
Nick Revel: viola
Hamilton Berry: cello
David Frazier: drums
Jacob Bills: electronic drumpad and backing vocals
Ethereal and edgy, Leila Adu creates captivating sonic constellations. At times romantic, at times an ode to humanity, lyrics tackle harsh political realities of police brutality and gender violence. WNYC’s John Schaefer says, “A New Zealand composer of Ghanaian descent, Adu is combining art music with pop…with a velvety, soulful voice.” Adu has released five acclaimed albums, composed for Bang on a Can and Brentano Quartet, and given visionary performances on the BBC, Ojai Music Festival, and WXQR. Adu holds a Ph.D. in music composition from Princeton University, writing for chamber ensembles, orchestras, and the space where electropop, jazz, avant-classical, improv, and singer-songwriter meet.
Applauded by The Washington Post as “a perfect encapsulation of today’s trends in chamber music,” and by The New Yorker as “independent-minded,” the GRAMMY-nominated PUBLIQuartet’s modern interpretation of chamber music makes them one of the most dynamic artists of their generation. Dedicated to presenting new works for string quartet, PUBLIQuartet rose on the music scene as winner of the 2013 Concert Artists Guild’s New Music/New Places award, and in 2019 garnered Chamber Music America’s prestigious Visionary Award for outstanding and innovative approaches to contemporary classical, jazz, and world chamber music. PQ’s genre-bending programs range from 20th-century masterworks to newly commissioned pieces, alongside re-imaginations of classical works featuring open-form improvisations that expand the techniques and aesthetic of the traditional string quartet. PUBLIQuartet has served as artist-in-residence at top institutions including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and National Sawdust and has appeared at a wide variety of venues and festivals, from Carnegie Hall and the Newport Jazz Festival to The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. Their latest album, Freedom and Faith, debuted atop the Billboard Classical Charts in May 2019. The 2019–2020 season brings a diverse array of programs to venues across the United States, including a special collaborative project with jazz violinist Diane Monroe.
Jonathan Toscano is an emerging bass player enjoying collaborations with world class talent on the international stage. New York-born Toscano’s dynamic style on upright and electric bass has brought him major performing credits with celebrated artists. Toscano’s collaborators include Gregoire Maret, Billy Kilson, Kader Japonais, Adam Falcon, Richie Morales, Minu Cinelu, Pheeroan Acklaff, and The Cotton Club All-Stars. Toscano has performed at the Blue Note in Beijing; Winter Jazz Fest in New York City; The X Jazz Fest in Berlin, Germany; the Dobos Festival in Cegled, Hungary; Long Beach Jazz Festival, and the Zadymka Jazz Festival in Bielsko-Biala, Poland. Currently working with drum master Omar Hakim and virtuoso pianist Rachel Z, Toscano’s harmonic range and percussive feel have made him a sought-after man on the bandstand in his early career.
Photo: Rodrigo Vazquez
This performance is a Roulette commission and is possible, in part, by the Jerome Foundation. The Jerome Foundation, a long-time supporter of young composers, was a mainstay in Roulette’s early development and continues to help us fulfill our mission by presenting ambitious work by promising artists.