Extolled by the Washington Post as "exuding a sultry sophistication during performances", Imani Winds has established itself as one of the most successful chamber music ensembles in the United States. Since 1997, the Grammy nominated quintet has taken a unique path, carving out a distinct presence in the classical music world with its dynamic playing, culturally poignant programming, adventurous collaborations, and inspirational outreach programs. With two member composers and a deep commitment to commissioning new work, the group is enriching the traditional wind quintet repertoire while meaningfully bridging European, American, African and Latin American traditions.
Imani Winds’ touring schedule has taken them across the globe. At home, the group has performed in the nation’s major concert venues including Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Kennedy Center, Disney Hall, and Kimmel Center. The group is frequently engaged by the premier chamber music series in Boston, San Francisco, Portland, Philadelphia and New York, and have also played virtually every major university performing arts series including those in Amherst, Ann Arbor, Austin, Seattle, Stanford, Urbana and countless others. Festivals include Chamber Music Northwest, Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, La Jolla Music Society, Virginia Arts Festival, Bravo! Colorado, and Ravinia Festival. In recent seasons, the group has traveled extensively internationally, with tours in China, Singapore, Brazil, and throughout Europe. Recent season highlights include debuts at La Folle Journee in Nantes, France, and in London’s Wigmore Hall. In 2015 they also debuted at Paris Jazz Festival and were featured at the Huntington Estate Festival in Australia.
The group continues its Legacy Commissioning Project, in which the ensemble is commissioning, premiering and touring new works for woodwind quintet written by established and emerging composers of diverse musical backgrounds. The Legacy Project kicked off in 2008 with world premieres by Alvin Singleton and Roberto Sierra. Since then, projects have included works by Jason Moran, Stefon Harris, Danilo Perez, Simon Shaheen, and Mohammed Fairouz. The group’s fifth album on E1 Music – entitled Terra Incognita after Wayne Shorter’s piece written for the group – is a celebration of the Legacy project with new works written for Imani Winds by Mr. Shorter, Jason Moran, and Paquito D’Rivera. In 2015 they premiered a new work by Frederic Rzewski at Duke University’s Duke Performances.
The wide range of programs offered by Imani Winds demonstrates their mission to expand the repertoire and diversify new music sources. From Mendelssohn, Jean Françaix, György Ligeti, and Luciano Berio, to Astor Piazzolla, Elliott Carter and John Harbison; and to the unexpected ranks of Paquito D’Rivera and Simone Shaheen, Imani Winds actively seek to engage new music and new voices into the modern classical idiom. Imani members Valerie Coleman and Jeff Scott both regularly contribute compositions and arrangements to the ensemble’s expanding repertoire, bringing new sounds and textures to the traditional instrumentation. This past year they premiered a concert-length new work by Mr. Scott written for Imani Winds, jazz trio and string quartet entitled The Passion, which musically explores the idea of a fictitious meeting between JS Bach and John Coltrane.
Through commissions and performance the quintet regularly collaborates with artists ranging from Yo-Yo Ma to Wayne Shorter. Shorter’s Terra Incognita – his first-ever composition for another ensemble – was premiered by Imani Winds. The group went on to perform extensively with Shorter at major European festivals like the North Sea Jazz Festival, and in North America at venues such as Carnegie and Disney halls. On Shorter’s acclaimed 2013 release on Blue Note, Without a Net, Imani Winds are featured prominently. The group’s Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center residency culminated in a recital in New York’s Alice Tully Hall with renowned clarinetist/saxophonist/composer Paquito D’Rivera. The ensemble has also worked with luminaries such as bandoneonist Daniel Binelli, the Brubeck brothers, the Fisk Jubilee Singers, clarinetist David Shifrin, and pianists Gilbert Kalish and Shai Wosner. Their ambitious project, "Josephine Baker: A Life of Le Jazz Hot!" brought chanteuse René Marie with them to New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and St. Louis.
Imani Winds enjoy frequent national exposure in all forms of media, including features on NPR’s All Things Considered, appearances on APM's Saint Paul Sunday and Performance Today, BBC/PRI’s The World, as well as frequent coverage in major music magazines and newspapers including the New York Times and Wall Street Journal. The group maintains an ongoing relationship with Sirius-XM and has been featured multiple times and on various channels.
Their excellence and influences have been recognized with numerous awards including the 2007 ASCAP Award, 2002 CMA/ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming, as well as the CMA/WQXR Award for their debut and self-released recording Umoja. At the 2001 Concert Artists Guild International Competition, Imani Winds was selected as the first-ever Educational Residency Ensemble, in recognition of their tremendous musical abilities and innovative programming.
Imani Winds’ commitment to education runs deep. The group participates in residencies throughout the U.S., giving master classes to thousands of students a year. In the summer of 2010, the ensemble launched its annual Chamber Music Festival. The program, now in it’s 6th year, brings together young instrumentalists from across North America and beyond for an intense week of music exploration. The participants have gone on to sundry successes across the world, ranging from winning positions in orchestras around the country to founding their own music educational programs.
Imani Winds have five releases on E1 Music, including their 2006 Grammy Award nominated recording entitled The Classical Underground. They have also recorded for Naxos and Blue Note and the most recent release "The Rite of Spring" on Warner Classics was on iTunes Best of 2013 list.
Their 7th commerical recording is due to be released in summer 2016.