Our Journey began in 1998, straight out of the New School. In addition to freelancing, I have produced and created platforms for Jazz and new music since the '80's. In addition to creating a voice for myself as a cellist, I have always wanted to create environments where women have a strong voice in the musical scene.
"To Reggie and Elaine thank you for a beautiful morning song and for creating Collective Black Artist leading me to be who I am today. My beautiful' Sistas, lets continue to INSPIRE each other". - Nioka Workman
Photo Credits: Arthur Cooper
Marlene and I met at Steve Coleman's session for the Genesis CD. A few engagements later we decided to form Sojourner, a string collective performing Jazz and new music. Sojourner became the string section for several recording artists including Greg Osby, Jessica Simpson and India Arie. With India's Acoustic Soul CD, we were featured live on Saturday Night Live and the Oxygen network.
"Shout out….thank you for the re-plug, the journey continues to twist, turn, swing and sway...lovin' the ride."-Marlene Rice
Firey String Sistas! have had several different configurations including string quartet with harp and percussion. A few engagements with WBGO's Jazz series led to the beginning of an incredible collaboration with Mala Waldron. She agreed to cover for one of our artist singing and playing piano. Jazz harp brought a fantastic colour to our band, but finding Mala led us in a wonderful new direction.
"Much gratitude for inviting me to join this wonderful group of multi-talented women…. this project also holds a special place in my heart because of the bond Reggie Workman and Mal Waldron (our fathers) shared in playing together all those many years. Making music, feels like the most natural & beautiful by-product of that friendship, and I look forward to many great things to come." -Mala Waldron
We met Bassist Melissa Slocum in the studio. We were called in to play Craig Harris' string tracks for Hollywood star Avery Brooks. Melissa is performing currently with both the Firey String Company and the Firey String Sistas!.
" A wonderful collaboration of great musicians. I am honored to be counted among such lovely, talented and Firey Sistas!" -Melissa Slocum
Our drum chair has always been a challenging one to fill. The drummer has to be willing to add flavor without covering the strings, support the bass and lock with the piano. We have been fortunate to work with amazing artists like Berkeley grad Karina Colis and Dorota Piotrowska from Poland.
I met virtuoso drummer Camille Gainer Jones in New York City playing with the Wallace Roney band at Joe's Pub. Camille's dynamic beats and innovative style had impressed me so much ten years ago. We are thrilled to have her join us.
The Journey continues….
We develop music within the group. In our third year we decided that it was time to produce a CD. Darrell Bridges from Arts & Education Continuum became our executive director for the project. We recorded our first CD "That's What She Said" in November 2016 at Peter Karl Studios in Brooklyn.
We've had a very fruitful year performing and promoting our CD for family audiences of no less the 250. Firey String Sistas! has appeared at several major venues in the US including Brooklyn Academy of Music, South Jersey Performing Arts Center, Coltrane Day Festival and the Sugar Hill Music Festival.
We sold out two performances for our APAP 2017 event , opening for internationally renowned trombonist Clifton Anderson. Special thanks to the Jazz Foundation of America and director at Harlem School of the Arts Theater for hosting the event.
Since the rise of the all- female band, made popular in the 1920s and 30s, women have worked hard to be accepted into the mainstream. Even more challenging , is the recognition of string instruments as part of a band, not as a miscellaneous addition.
Each member of Firey String Sistas! is a band leader, arranger and composer. The challenges are shared and ongoing. A very exciting development for us has been a new following of improvising string players. This movement is bringing to the forefront new music and arrangement for strings.
The ensemble’s first CD, That’s What She Said, made quite a splash in the press. Ellie, Mala Waldron’s tribute to her mother is our most played selection, followed by Shine (Nioka Workman) and lastly To the Holy Land by Cedar Walton (arr. Marlene Rice).
With the launch of a campaign for our second CD, we have begun recording in November 2018.