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We Free StRINGS / Bio

We Free StRINGS is a rhythm string ensemble rooted in jazz and improvisation. Performing both original and spontaneous compositions, as well as celebrated works, the group’s musical influences encompass an eclectic range of voices, from the Batwa forest people and “down-home blues” celebrants to the “free school.” The ensemble is made up of 7 professional musicians with decades of experience performing with and as jazz luminaries at major performance venues and festivals throughout the globe.

Charles Burnham has been playing violin in New York for the last three decades. During that time he has performed and recorded with jazz luminaries (Wynton Marsalis, James Blood Ulmer, Cassandra Wilson, Henry Threadgill, etc.) as well as leading his own widely acclaimed ensemble. “The passion and fire of Charles Burnham’s violin has graced the work of many… String Trio of New York, Ted Daniel, Medeski, Martin & Wood, and many, many others. Worldly and other-worldly sounds can be heard from Burnham’s musical and personal journeys as his soulful voice and violin lead you down some open roads and dark alleys, and bring you to some spots you may not have known even exist.(allaboutjazz.com)” The debut release of his original music with the Hidden City Band occurred in spring 2012. http://pirecordings.com/artist/Charles_Burnham

Jazz trumpeter Miles Davis described Sonya Robinson as reminiscent of legendary jazz violinists, Stuff Smith and Ray Nance. Her gutsy and adventurous approach displays technical finesse, a beautiful sound and a fluidity that meets the creative, spontaneous demands of improvisation. Hers is a richly expressive string voice with a long record of performances with celebrated musicians including Wynton Marsalis, Aretha Franklin, and Richard Davis. She has graced stages at Jazz Fest Berlin, NYC’s Blue Note, Spiral/Tokyo, and Chicago’s South Shore Jazz Festival, among many others. Her recordings as a leader are “Fly,” “Sonya,” and “Sonya Live at Spiral.” Her numerous honors and awards include the NAACP Image Award for Best New Album. www.sonyarobinsonmusic.com

Nioka Workman’s passion for the cello and “new art” are informed by a 'deep' bass playing tradition influenced by her father, Reggie Workman (bassist w/ John Coltrane). 'Stretching out' on both acoustic and electric cello, she performs with leading artists in music, dance, performance art, theater and television, – Indie Irie, Anthony Davis, Uptown String Quartet, Avery Brooks and Craig Harris. She is a prolific musician/composer whose work has been commissioned for Alvin Ailey Dance Theater, the Joffrey Ballet, Michael Wimberly, and the Errol Grimes Dance Company; and heard at Joyce Theater, Lincoln Center Out-of-Doors, the Rush Arts Gallery, Pillsbury House Theater/Late Nite and Blue Heron Theater, among others. Her musical voice and compositional style evolve from the practice of “healing through sound and movement.” She is the creator of Loft Arts Productions, an arts presenting organization. www.niokakworkman.com

Cited in the November 2010 issue of The Strad as, “…an outstanding modernist violist,” Melanie Dyer’s improvisatory work has been described as “..simply mesmerizing.” She appears on 6 recordings with Salim Washington’s Harlem Arts Ensemble and Roxbury Blues Aesthetic, among others. Her credits include work with Henry Grimes, Reggie Workman, Howard Johnson, Joseph Bonner, Fred Ho, Andy McCloud, Donald Smith, Jason Hwang, Kuumbaa Frank Lacy, Makanda Ken McIntyre, in Europe, South Africa and across the U.S. She has performed at the Detroit Jazz Festival, University of KwaZulu Natal (Durban S.A.) and Bass Line (Johannesburg, S.A.); in NYC at Sweet Rhythm, Blue Note Jazz Club, The Jazz Standard, St. Nick’s Pub, Minton’s Playhouse, Avery Fischer Hall, Sista’s Place, The Jazz Gallery; Twins Jazz and The Bohemian Cavern in Washington, DC and WGBH-Radio Live in Boston.

David Harewood recently completed degrees in Jazz Studies and Piano Performance at the LaMont School of Music/U. of Denver. He is broadly versed in improvisational and experimental forms, playing with a rhythmic and dynamic sensibility capable of shifting the musical course. David began as part of New York’s “Jazz Loft Scene” with jazz luminaries including John Blake and Reggie Washington. He has performed most recently with Ravi Coltrane, Tyshawn Sorey, Ralph Alessi and Mark Helias in Sopot, Poland; and Heidi Schmidt in Villards de lans Jazz Festival in France.

Larry Roland has been playing bass on various East Coast scenes for over three decades. He is the founder of the Boston Composer’s Group – Carla Cook (v), Salim Washington (ts), Carolyn Ritt (p), Cecil Brooks (t), Dwayne Clemons (t), Brandon Guillermo (perc), Alvin Terry (d) -- who collectively created original improvisational music with a message for the people. BCG sought to make music a functional, inspirational part of daily community life by performing consistently outside of commercial venues.

Larry has played and recorded with Charles Gayle, Raphe Malik, Guiseppe Logan, William Hooker and other “free school” luminaries. Concepts that wed music to spoken word are central to Larry’s artistic signature. He performs poetry and music as a featured soloist with U.S. dance companies and other artistic ensembles. His latest CD, “As Time Flows On,” features original poetry with self-accompanied acoustic bass.

General Info

Band Members
Melanie Dyer (vla/contact), Charles Burnham & Sonya Robinson (vlns), Nioka Workman (c), David Harewood (p), Larry Roland (b)
Artist Name
Home Page
Active Since
Jazz / Free Improvisation/Experimental / Jazz Standards

Contact Info

New York, NY
Melanie Dyer

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