Filmed back in 2019 and premiered online last summer during our Club Paradise Virtual Soirée, we are excited to be publicly releasing this video of Jeff Scott’s 25-minute masterwork for reed quintet.
This piece (and video) are near and dear to our hearts. We were so happy we were able to showcase the work and its historical inspiration in such depth alongside the original poetry of Marsha Music during these soirées last summer. Thank you all who attended.
Beyond this Web Premiere performance, you can hear Homage to Paradise Valley alongside Marsha Music’s poetry on our recently released 4th album, Ghost Light.
Homage to Paradise Valley was commissioned by Akropolis and Chamber Music America, made possible by the Chamber Music America Classical Commissioning Program, with generous funding provided by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
About Homage to Paradise Valley
The historical content of these notes by the composer is provided courtesy of the Detroit Historical Society (detroithistorical.org) where one can find a wealth of information on Paradise Valley and Black Bottom. Poetry by Marsha Music—a lifelong resident of Detroit whose father, Joe Von Battle, was a record producer for Aretha Franklin and owned Joe’s Records, central to the Black Bottom community—was commissioned by Akropolis in 2020 to create poetry to accompany Jeff’s music.
Black Bottom was a predominantly Black neighborhood in Detroit, Michigan. In the early 20th century, African-American residents became concentrated here during the first wave of the Great Migration to northern industrial cities. Informal segregation operated in the city kept them in this area of older, less expensive housing. Black Bottom/Paradise Valley became known for its African-American residents’ significant contributions to American music, including Blues, Big Band, and Jazz, from the 1930s to 1950s. Black Bottom was eventually razed and redeveloped for various urban renewal projects, driving the residents out. By the 1960s the neighborhood ceased to exist.
Hastings Street ran north-south through Black Bottom and had been a center of Eastern European Jewish settlement before World War I, but by the 1950s, migration transformed the strip into one of Detroit’s major African-American communities of black-owned businesses, social institutions, and nightclubs.
From the Bantu language of Swahili, “Roho, Pumzika kwa Amani” (Spirits, Rest Peacefully) is a lullaby, my humble offering to the many souls who came before me and persevered through the middle passage, decades of slavery, disenfranchising laws, and inequality. I am who I am because of those who stood before me. May their spirits rest peacefully.
Orchestra Hall closed in 1939, but reopened in 1941 as the Paradise Theater. For 10 years it would then offer the best of African-American musicians from around the country. “Paradise Theater Jump!” is dedicated to the famed theater and harkens to the up-tempo style of “jump blues,” usually played by small groups and featuring saxophone or brass instruments.