Cory Smythe: “Accelerate Every Voice”

In 1969, Andrew Hill, an idiosyncratic jazz master who’d gigged with Charlie Parker and studied with Paul Hindemith, paired a vocal chorus with a hard-swinging quintet to record “Lift Every Voice,” a buoyant set of upbeat incantations. Now, just over fifty years later, Cory Smythe—like Hill, an improvisatory pianist and composer whose work bridges disparate practices—takes Hill’s album as the starting point for “Accelerate Every Voice,” an odyssey that also references the songwriter and activist James Weldon Johnson, historic and modern-day a-cappella groups, and Annea Lockwood’s climate-conscious piano experiments. Smythe’s intricate vocal lattices, eerily harmonized with microtonal keyboards and driven by beatbox rhythms, evoke a complex web of social and environmental concerns. The vertiginous flights and tightly choreographed maneuvers undertaken by his five superb singers produce a visceral thrill that’s wholly seductive.

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