Bill Lowe's Signifyin' Natives

The renowned ensemble of Bill Lowe’s Signifyin’ Natives reassembles in New Haven to celebrate the release of their first cd recording, “SWEET CANE, Suites and Other Pedagogical Prompts,” including Lowe’s adaptation of Jean Toomer’s Harlem Renaissance masterpiece, CANE, first published in 1923. This celebration of their new CD and the novel’s centennial will open with a presentation and conversation with Lowe followed by a full performance on the Beinecke Library mezzanine.

Signifyin’ Natives 2023 ensemble: Bill Lowe (tuba, bass trombone), Hafez Modirzadeh (saxophones), Taylor Ho Bynum (cornet), Kevin Harris (piano), Ken Filiano (acoustic bass), Luther Gray (drums), Naledi Masilo (vocals).

Bill Lowe

Bass trombonist and tubaist Bill Lowe has been a major force in the music world for close to fifty years as a performer, composer, producer, and educator. He has worked with most of the masters of African American creative music, across all genres and musical cliques, from musical legends like Dizzy Gillespie, Eartha Kitt, and Clark Terry, to the leaders of the avant-garde like Muhal Richard Abrams, Henry Threadgill, and Cecil Taylor, to under-heralded greats like George Russell, James Jabbo Ware and Bill Barron. As an educator, Lowe has taught at several major universities, lectured throughout the world from Cuba to Paris, and mentored countless young musicians.

Signifyin' Natives is an ongoing project of rotating personnel under Lowe's leadership. The band has performed in several interdisciplinary productions, including Ed Bullins' Street Sounds and Lowe's own adaptation of  CANE. This iteration of the ensemble, which toured and recorded in 2021 in celebration of Bill's 75th birthday, brings together new and old collaborators from Lowe's long and distinguished career. While there are many decades of history and collaboration between many of the individual musicians, this was the first tour of the full ensemble.

Hafez Modirzadeh

Joining Bill in the horn section are two former students, now close friends and long-time collaborators who've gone on to renown in the creative music world. Saxophonist Hafez Modirzadeh has pioneered his “chromodal” concept, a cross-cultural musical approach developed from American jazz and Iranian dastgah heritages as heard on several critically acclaimed albums on Pi Records, including Facets, featuring pianists Kris Davis, Craig Taborn, and Tyshawn Sorey. He now teaches at San Francisco State University. Taylor Ho Bynum's expressionistic playing on cornet and expansive vision as composer have garnered him critical attention on over twenty recordings as a bandleader and dozens more as a collaborator with Anthony Braxton, Bill Dixon, Tomas Fujiwara, and Mary Halvorson, among others. He currently teaches at Dartmouth College.

Kevin Harris

Pianist Kevin Harris plays a distinctive combination of traditional and contemporary music that seeks to celebrate the musical influences of Thelonious Monk and Miles Davis intersecting with J.S. Bach, Scott Joplin, and the folkloric African rhythms of the Caribbean. Harris's notable collaborations include Greg Osby, Jason Palmer, and Terri Lyne Carrington, and he is on the faculty at Berklee College of Music.

Ken Filiano

NYC-based bassist Ken Filiano has collaborated with leading artists in multiple genres, fusing the rich traditions of the double bass with his own seemingly limitless inventiveness - from West Coast legends like Bobby Bradford and Vinny Golia to NYC mainstays like Connie Crothers, Fay Victor, and Jason Kao Hwang.

Luther Gray

One of Boston's most in-demand musicians, drummer Luther Gray works (and swings) with many different musicians displaying a wide diversity of styles, from Cecil Payne and Butch Warren to George Garzone and Joe Morris. A composer and band leader in his own right, Luther often curates series of performances in Cambridge’s renowned Lily Pad club.

Naledi Masilo

The youngest member of the ensemble is the South African vocalist Naledi Masilo, now based in Boston after completing her degree at New England Conservatory. Masilo is quickly emerging as a leading figure in the Boston and New York arts scenes and is a dedicated mentor to young women in the arts wherever she works. Masilo has toured Missouri, New Jersey and New York with Some Kokomo’s Dreaming Zenzile, a groundbreaking play based on the life of Miriam Makeba. Naledi performed with her own ensemble in a weeklong residency in Savannah, Georgia.