" I Loves You Porgy" - Melissa Aldana

COVID-19 has greatly effected all of our lives at this point in 2020. For musicians, their performances at concert venues and festivals have been cancelled; however, some festivals have opted to pay musicians to provide online videos for their patrons. This week I am sharing a video of the Chilean saxophonist Melissa Aldana, shared by The Savanah Music Festival. Aldana is among the most respected jazz musicians of her generation and began playing saxophone at the age of 5. She was the first woman and the first South American musician to win the prestigious Thelonious Monk Competition in 2013. In this video, she explains that she recorded herself playing solo - to follow the rules of quarantine in New York City. 

In her version of George Gershwin's ballad, "I Loves You Porgy," Aldana insures that the listener hears both the melodic line and the harmony during at the song's beginning (called the head) and during her improvisation. Gradually, she moves away from the melody into undulating arpeggios to convey the harmony. The song comes from Gershwin's famous production Porgy and Bess which incorporated elements of jazz, blues, and gospel styles. The broadway musical had limited success in 1935 because white audiences had limited interest in works featuring Black American characters. According to Wikipedia, the Houston Grand Opera resurrected the work. Portrayed as an opera due to its length and demanding voice roles, its popularity grew significantly. Today, Porgy and Bess continues to be one of the most popular American operas.