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Angel Bat Dawid

Angel Elmore, aka Angel Bat Dawid, is a composer, improvisor, clarinetist, and pianist who is a core part of Chicago's avant music scene. Her unusual stage name is actually a social media handle. "Bat Dawid" is a Hebrew phrase for "daughter of David," and alludes to the spiritual practice at the heart of her music. She has worked with many artists, among them Roscoe Mitchell, Makaya McCraven, and Rob Mazurek, and played with rock and electronic musicians. Her 2019 International Anthem debut album, The Oracle, was universally acclaimed as a "road map" to the roots of all Black music. Live appeared in 2021, followed by the provocatively titled Requiem for Jazz in 2023. Dawid grew up in Chicago and was introduced to music by her father and mother, whose backgrounds were rooted in funk, jazz, and classical music as well as Broadway musicals. Her father took her to see the Milos Forman film Amadeus when she was five years old. Instantly taken with the prodigy composer and the violin, she asked to learn to play one in the school orchestra but was given a clarinet instead. She wasn't impressed; at that time, the only music she could find at home on records was by Benny Goodman, who was far from hip. Nonetheless, she continued to study the instrument and advance her musical education. Not long after, she heard Mozart's clarinet concerto; it convinced her of the instrument's appeal. She began taking piano lessons at age 12, and studied at the Moody Bible Institute, flunked out, and enrolled at Roosevelt University. At 22, she was diagnosed with a brain tumor that eventually required surgery. After a long period of recovery, Dawid took a job selling high-end lingerie and stuck with it for seven years, playing music at night and on weekends to advance her skills. At age 32, she quit to take a year off and devote herself to music. She cashed in her 401(k), rented a coach house, and eventually discovered the free-jazz sessions that saxophonist David Boykin led for his Sonic Healing Ministries organization. Coached by the saxophonist, she learned how to play by ear, thus changing the trajectory of her life. Inspired, she co-founded the Participatory Music Coalition with other musicians she met at the South Side Community Arts Center that hosted the Sonic Healing Ministries, including Adam Zanolini (now executive director of the Elastic Arts Foundation), installation and performance artist Viktor Le Givens, and Ben LaMar Gay. She took any gig that came her way, no matter the style and/or musical genre. Her improvisational chops vastly improved while at Sonic Healing Ministries and through her encounters with other players. By 2014, Dawid had become an important and near-ubiquitous part of the Windy City's vanguard jazz community. She has worked with Gay, McCraven, Mazurek, Mitchell, and Jaimie Branch, and performed in the sprawling, ambitious Black Monument Ensemble, led by Eternals frontman Damon Locks. Between 2014 and 2018, she took a day job, working behind the counter at Hyde Park Records until she left to focus on music full-time. As active as she is on Chicago's avant-garde circuit, Dawid was unsurprisingly noticed by Scott McNiece of the International Anthem label, well known for its documents of Chicago musicians and others. McNiece inquired about a series of demos she'd recorded over the previous two years, all over the world, on her cell phone -- for musicians she was playing with who didn't read music. McNiece loved the demos as they were. Dawid set about piecing the various parts of the demos together -- clarinet and keys, drum patterns and lyrics. The finished work was issued in early 2019 as The Oracle and was immediately acclaimed for its use of various musical traditions, from folk, blues, jazz, and classical to avant, improv, and Afro-futurist spiritual jazz. Dawid toured nationally backed by "Tha Brotherhood," resulting in the release of Live in October 2020. It received an abundance of accolades, including making NPR Music's "Best Albums of 2020" list. In March 2023, she released Requiem for Jazz, a 12-movement suite composed, arranged, and inspired in part by dialogue from Edward O. Bland's 1959 documentary film The Cry of Jazz, which offered an incisive critique of racial politics in the U.S. The film draws formal comparisons between the structure of jazz music and the African American experience by cutting together archive reels from Black neighborhoods in Chicago with live performance footage from the Sun Ra Arkestra among others. Dawid's Requiem for Jazz was performed by a 15-piece ensemble, a choral quartet, and dancers. The Arkestra's Marshall Allen guested on the track "Lux Aeterna – Eternal Light/My Rhapsody."
© Thom Jurek /TiVo
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