Folk and World Music
July/August 2009

US AN’THEM: A Collection of National Anthems

Every once in awhile a project comes along whose very concept takes us by surprise. The idea behind this album was so natural that one can only wonder why no one ever thought of it before. The premise, initially conceived 17 years ago, was to celebrate the process of immigrants (“Them”) becoming part of the social mainstream (“Us”). The album is also a reaction to the fact that people around the world recognize the American anthem, but Americans aren’t familiar with other countries’ anthems. With this in mind, pianist Garry Dial and singer Terre Roche recorded 16 national anthems with the help of other New York-based musicians, some of whom are from the countries represented.

While national anthems tend to be overwhelmingly conventional – sometimes even stodgy – these versions deserve much more than just perfunctory attention. Some of these songs, translated into English, are bound to be revelations. The anthem from Guinea, the only African country represented, is one of the musical highlights. The Greenland anthem, performed by David Massengill with his dulcimer, features accompaniment by Maggie and Terre Roche. “Esperanto”, the only non-anthem, is a fitting tribute to a well-known attempt – albeit one that has had very limited success – at breaking down cultural and linguistic borders. A separate DV with profiles of 6 of the performers is included. A second volume is practically inevitable.

- Paul-Emile Comeau

Garry Dial & Terre Roche
US An’Them
Just Dial Roche Records

CD Review:

By George W. Harris

Pianist Garry Dial and vocalist Terre Roche have come up with the brilliant concept of gathering a collection of various national anthems and, well, jazzing them up with clever indigenous instrumentation combined and contemporary sensibilities. Countries ranging from Austria to Tibet are represented in this alarmingly successful project. After all, these songs ARE meant for singing; Dial and Roche just give an extra kick to these pieces. For example, “Brazil” features a beautiful lilting samba, while “France” as an almost Miles-Nefertiti-ish groove, with Jeff Hirschfield’s hummingbird cymbal work hauntingly similar to Tony Williams. “Jamaica” has a Monty Alexander reggae meets jazz rivulet, while the piano and vocal duet on “Italy’ is given a Lieder interpretation. Closing this wonderful disc is “USA” which is given a Cumberland Gap folksiness. This will have you in the car singing along with lyrics from Norway to Israel. Discs like this will do more for international relationships than a thousand UN resolutions.

CD Review:

Review by Susan Frances

Jazz pianist Garry Dial and folk singer Terre Roche have undertaken an ambitious project, bringing countries together with a gallery of national anthems. The collection comes together on Dial and Roche’s latest CD, Us An’Them, featuring renditions of national anthems from a number of countries such as Brazil, France, Tibet, Norway, Esperanto, and many others. Dial and Roche have sought to make the world’s individual communities aware of each other through this album. Dial developed his skills as a connoisseur of world music from his position as a teacher at the Manhattan School of Music, and Roche through her performing and songwriting in the group which she formed with her sisters called The Roches. This album has been a work in progress for seventeen years, and the result is a compilation that showcases a wide breadth of material with cultural significance.

Dial and Roche modernized the anthems without diluting their ethnicity like the samba rhythms of Brazil’s national anthem and the Yiddish flavoring of Israel’s. The people from the countries represented on the album will recognize their national anthems and learn others. Roche explains in a recent press release, “It’s a way to make friends with somebody from another country, and be a bridge between us and them.” Dial adds, “Our anthem (“The Star-Spangle Banner”) is known around the world, so I feel that it’s time that we actually learn other people’s anthems.” Becoming acquainted with the subtle ethnic nuances and flavorful tones of other countries music also makes the listener aware that many of these sounds have seeped their way into pop culture music like the sprightly chimes of Tibet’s national anthem and the reclining torchlight embers of Austria’s.

Dial and Roche enlisted nearly 50 different instrumentalists and singers for the project. Dial arranged most of the songs and Roche sings on many of them, often in the company of a vocalist from the country whose anthem is being sung. Great care was taken to keep the material true to the national character of the country whose song is being represented. For instance, the tabla played by India’s master Samir Chatterjee frames the spiritual chanting resonance of his wife’s vocals, Sanghamitra, with words written by India’s beloved poet Rabindratha Tagore. Such ethnic nuances give the listener a sense of learning something about these cultures, its people and their fidelity to their country without ever being there.

The album is an ambitious project which connects the world through music, be it in the reggae grooves of Jamaica’s national anthem or the folksy sprigs of Greenland’s. It is an album that is as much an educational piece as it is entertaining. Dial and Roche’s effort shows mass consciousness, and a desire to see peace and understanding for one another flourish on a worldwide scale.

December 16, 2008

CD Review:

Review by Brad Walseth

I must admit that I am an unabashed fan of The Roches, the talented family of singers and musicians from Greenwich Village who have put out a number of wonderful albums brimming with smarts and humor over the years. On this project, sister Terre Roche and pianist/arranger Garry Dial came up with one of the more novel ideas I've seen – to take national anthems from around the world and enlist a diverse cast of singers and musicians to record new and jazzed-up arrangements. Despite my appreciation of the Roche canon, I'll admit some trepidation at the thought of some of these nationalistic and often unwieldy tunes in this setting, but I really should have known better as the results are quite extraordinary.
Barbara Mendes starts things off with the anthem of Brazil that sounds more like another samba than a paean to a country, while Terre (and the backing musicians) turns the anthem of France into a free form exploration with jazz=2 0underneath and Roche-style harmonies above. A wide ranging line up of singers, chosen specifically for the song contribute: for example Sidiki Conde sings the anthem of Guinea, Levi Kaplan sings Israel's anthem, while Sanghamitra Chatterjee sings India’s and Namgyal Yeshi sings the Tibetan anthem. A equally diverse group of musicians, including well known musicians like bassists Jay Anderson and Elvind Opsvik (on the Norwegian anthem of course), drummers John Riley and Joey Baron, and guitarist Vic Juris combine with less well-known, but talented musicians.

The music ranges from classical to jazz to world music and folk. And of course, the Roche sisters (Terre, Maggie and Suzzy Roche) make a wonderful appearance on the beautiful anthem of Czechoslovakia, where their harmonies float above Dial's classical piano and the string orchestra arranged by Dial and orchestrated/ conducted by Richard DeRosa, The song is a true highlight. Terre and Maggie also provide some lovely guitars and harmony on the Tibetan entry. And naturally, the Jamaican anthem is done reggae style.

Does music bring us together or divide us? Roche and Dial seem to be asking (among other things), but it seems if everyone listened to the music of other cultures and participated as the artists on this album have done, the world would certainly be a better place. Kudos to Dial and Roche for this great idea that has been brought to life so brilliantly. And don't miss the DVD accompanying the CD that provides further insight into=2 0this intriguing project.

“However beautifully composed, in performance national anthems tend to be solemn and grandiose. But in the savvy, bridge-building hands and voices of these gifted international musicians, they swing, seduce, surprise, and touch your heart.”  

Karen Durbin – Film critic

Received this cd yesterday, and I must admit that my expectations were low!
But I was wrong!
Interesting, different, attractive, and a real treasure!
Have not heard anything like this before.
Will certainly play the music in the months to come!
Thank you very much for sending this unique CD to me.
Best Wishes and Regards,

Peter Kuller - Jazz Presenter Radio Adelaide 101.5fm &
JPL "Jazz from Down Under"

CD Review:

Here is an interesting concept: a collection of national anthems celebrating the people of the world, many of whom have made an impact on what is the United States of America. The title Us An'Them initially made me think of Pink Floyd, but after reading the rest of the cover, it is a reference to anthems. While it might make people think of "us vs. them", as in the United States vs. the world as if this was a FOX ice skating reality show, that's not the point. The point Garry Dial & Terre Roche wanted to make is listen to these songs, listen to the pride that these songs are meant to represent, and you will hear something quite interesting.

Interesting? What you're hearing is jazz interpretations mixed in with world traditions, along with English translations of each (when needed) that are either literal or interpretive. In a way, it sounds like what each=2 0culture immerses itself into when moving to the United States, and musically, things sound great. "France" sounds like something The Manhattan Transfer would turn out effortlessly, while "Tibet" sounds as distant and yet so near with its meditative chant and Tibetian bells. "India" was a personal favorite, beginning with the tambura before Sanghamitra Chatterjee sings beautifully of her homeland. "Jamaica", of course, has a nice reggae vibe to it, it may not have Monty Alexander playing along, but vocalist Patrick Gordon handles his duty well.

The liner notes talk about why an album like this needs to be made, and aren't most anthems nothing more than battle songs? If so, should your family sing along to them in a car? If anything, Us An'Them is an audio peek at what we as people represent, or perhaps as how the songs are meant to represent us. Is it political, is it social, is it about the protection of defending what each country represents, or is it nothing more than spending a few minutes to sing when we spend most of our adult lives worrying about how to put food on the table? Considering the state of the world in 2008, it's long overdue for a worldwide sing-a-long, and perhaps the great music found on this CD/DVD combo will lead the way to some sense of harmony. The concept of the album may be about what makes an American a true "American", and who are the judges that make those final decisions, and why a lot of times that shouldn't matter but does in th e eyes of "our" goverments, the ones that are meant to protect its people while killing others. By hearing these anthems in a different context, we are allowed to go past the walls and look into the eyes of the people these songs represent.

CD Review at Blitz Magazine's web site:

US AN’THEM - Garry Dial And Terre Roche (Just Dial Roche)

Inflammatory political rhetoric has been front and center in the mass media for decades. Even more so in this first decade of the new millennium, in which it is becoming more readily apparent that the last days of which the Biblical books of Daniel, Ezekiel and Revelation foretold are imminent.

In such a volatile climate, many of the world’s nations have been experiencing political upheaval. In the process, some of its leading entertainment figures have become self-appointed guardians of the public trust, weighing in on matters of state with varying degrees of credibility. Sadly, many of their endeavors have also proven to be neither selfless or bereft of impartiality.

Enter pianist Garry Dial and singer/songwriter Terre Roche; two highly regarded figures in their respective favored idioms (jazz and folk), who have provided herein an altruistic forum for artists to weigh in by providing their own interpretations of sixteen national anthems. Altruistic in that they have asked nothing more of the various participants than to deliver to the best of their ability and with faithfulness to their respective artistic visions.

Although they both have opted to use their public podium to champion their respective causes over the years, of the two, it is Roche whose work has gravitated more towards the political spotlight. As cofounder of the Park Ridge, New Jersey-based Roches (with sisters Maggie and Suzzy), Terre Roche has maintained an undercurrent of social consciousness in her work (which in part was influenced by Gospel, folk and rock and roll); in turn inspiring such like minded artists as the Chenille Sisters and collaborations with Paul Simon, King Crimson’s Robert Fripp and others.

Conversely, Dial (who concurrently serves as a professor at both the Manhattan School Of Music and Mannes College Of Music in New York City) has prioritized academia in his mission statement. Nonetheless, as a one time collaborator with trumpeters Ira Sullivan and the late Charlie Parker sideman, Robert Roland “Red Rodney” Chudnick, Dial has as a result emphasized the passion factor in his academic discipline.

Roche and Dial actually laid the groundwork for this project in the early 1990s, gradually entrusting the rendering of each anthem to artists either under their tutelage or with demonstrated vision of their respective anthems as a celebratory device, rather than one subjected to the ever changing winds of the political climate. In that respect, they have kept the original blueprint intact while allowing each participant carte blanche within those parameters.

Although Roche and Dial profess no particular agenda in the selection of the sixteen anthems presented in this collection, each does have the common thread of adaptability in both structure and execution. And although one selection does not even represent a specific country (Esperanto, which celebrates the language founded in 1887 by ophthalmologist Ludwig Lazarus Zamenhof as an international means of communication), each soloist (assisted as needed by either Roche or Dial) brings just enough of their own mission statement to the table to season the mix, with Executive Producer Bob Justich giving them the free rein to do so.

To that effect, Brazil’s national anthem benefits from a sympathetic rendering from Barbara Mendes with Dial’s Sergio Mendes-flavored, flute (by the New York City-based Anne Drummond) and percussion (from Forro In The Dark’s Mauro Refosco) friendly arrangement. Likewise, the great nation of Israel is rightfully lauded by Dial’s exuberant score, allowing vocalist Levi Kaplan to extol its numerous virtues without succumbing to hyperbole.

And in some instances, the universal language of music herein portrays the host nations in unlikely yet compatible lights. Witness the quasi-Manhattan Transfer meets McCoy Tyner and Prestige era Miles Davis romp (with Roche on lead vocals) through La Marseillaise, the national anthem of jazz-happy France. Or the Time Further Out-era Dave Brubeck take on Austria’s Land Der Berge, Land Am Strome.

Bridging any perceived gap is tantamount to the project’s objectives, according to Dial in the featurette in the accompanying DVD. The DVD also includes brief and fascinating spotlights on participating artists Susan McKeown (Ireland), Sidiki Conde (Guinea), Samir Chatterjee (India) and Namgyal Neshi (Tibet).

Perhaps the lone exception to the project’s professed musical and cultural solidarity is Dial’s low key take on Calixa Lavallee’s O Canada, which succeeded God Save The Queen as Canada’s national anthem in July 1980. Rendered with its original grandeur intact, a solid case could be made for O Canada as being the greatest of all national anthems. Its Gospel-like reverence portrays the splendor of the provinces with the utmost of national adoration.

However, regarded in the light of provincial public opinion having taken umbrage with the mass media’s portrayal of Parliament and its handling of certain so-called “hot button” issues (as reflected in the results of the 14 October national elections), Dial’s Manhattan School Of Music colleague, Peter Eldridge may well be within reason in downplaying the reverential elements of the piece in favor of the compassionate and intimate ones.

To be certain, Us An’ Them is a resounding success on all counts. And given the wide range of possibilities extant with a proposed second volume (which would benefit greatly from the inclusion of such unlikely participants as Cuba and North Korea), Dial and Roche may well find themselves once again sowing the seeds of their harvest for some time to come.

CD Review:

People all over the world recognize “The Star-Spangled Banner,” but how many of us Stateside are familiar with other countries' anthems? Save for maybe “La Marseillese” or “God Save The Queen,” it is doubtful that the average American might recognize any of these melodies.

In an attempt to correct this, pianist Garry Dial and vocalist Terre Roche embarked on this highly intriguing project that brings together several performers from different nations, who together reinterpret sixteen international anthems. The disc begins with a samba version of The Brazilian National Anthem. Barbara Mendes provides the lead vocals here, while guitar wiz Romero Lubambo quietly steals the scene with his incredible technique. Patrick Gordon joyfully sings the Jamaican anthem in (you guessed right) an upbeat reggae arrangement that features a fantastic brass section by David Mann (saxophone) and Barry Danielian (trumpet). “La Marseillese” appears here with an English translation and a quirky Euro-jazz format that deems the tune almost unrecognizable but still enjoyable.

Listen also to the Israeli theme, which goes into a Klezmer-meets-rock vibe. Singer Levi Kaplan has an uncanny vocal resemblance to David Byrne, and together with the musicians' playful approach it does remind us of the kind of material played by The Talking Heads. For those who want to celebrate this country, there is a rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” that also sounds great.

-Ernest Barteldes Media

Contacts: Jim Eigo Jazz Promo Services T: 845-986-1677
E-Mail: Jazz Promo East: Lorraine Tucci Sound

Who would've thought these staid, stodgy, nationalistic groaners could ever be infused with new energy and life? This is a most interesting project. I've been mixing some of these into my world music show - some into my jazz show.

Mr. Dial and Ms. Roche should be proud of their collective vision - and the results of their efforts.

Michael Patoray
World Music & Jazz Producer
KPBX Spokane Public Radio

From Audiophile Audition:

US AN’THEM - A Collection of National Anthems arr. by Garry Dial & Terre Roche - CD + video DVD (no #) [] ****:

I recall an LP collections of national anthems many years ago which was merely concert band tracks; it was a big bore for the most part. This new effort is entirely different. Its creators begin their notes talking about America being the sum of its current citizens plus new immigrants, and that the proportion of “Us” to “Them” changes all the time. For nearly all of us, there was a time when “We” were “Them.” This type of thinking stimulated Dial and Roche to create this collection of anthems which are all sung and played by a variety of folk and jazz performers.

The idea that anthems are all just battle songs - “Hooray for Cave 29!” as per Mel Brooks - is not necessarily correct. The lyrics for all the 16 anthems are printed in the note booklet, and some are lovely expressions of pride in their particular country without putting down other countries. The one for Guinea is a call for all Africans to work together to improve their general state, and Jamaica’s anthem has lines such as “Grant true wisdom from above, Justice and Truth be ours forever...” The various tracks were recorded all over the world by authentic peoples of that country, even the ones for places like Tibet and Greenland. Our own anthem - the last track on the disc - sounds pretty torturous to the ordinary singer compared to the other anthems. I think we could use a new one.

The separate video is also a touching documentary on the making of the album, showing the various citizens of the different countries recording the music on their home ground. It reminded me of a short film I did years ago for a possible public TV signoff, of many different, contrasting people each singing one phrase of The Star-Spangled Banner - except that everyone on this CD are perfectly in tune, unlike my effort! This album is a fine example of the best use of the two-disc DualDisc idea!

- John Sunier

From the Blogcritics Magazine:
and the Geezer Music Club:

REVIEW: Garry Dial & Terre Roche - US An’Them

An unusual but intriguing new release on the Just Dial Roche label brings to life a feel-good project from the duo of jazz musician Garry Dial and folk singer Terre Roche. For years, they’ve been fascinated by the national anthems of many countries, and have spent long hours arranging, playing, and singing those tunes. That labor of love has now culminated in their new album, US An’Them.

The name of the album has several meanings, but primarily the artists wanted to impart a feeling of how immigrants in America start out as ‘us’ and ‘them’ but eventually everybody comes together. To help make their vision come to life, the duo has enlisted a lot of musical stars from the international music world, including Barbara Mendez for the Brazilian anthem, Patrick Gordon for the Jamaican one, and Susan McKeown for Ireland’s.

The album actually contains two discs, one a CD filled with music and the other a ‘making of’ DVD that also contains some video of ordinary people singing their country’s anthems, including a quirky one by a street person with a creative hairdo.

The music CD is filled with the anthems of 16 countries. Some of those might be familiar - such as those of Canada or France - but there are a few surprises too. For example, how many of us have heard the anthems of Guinea, Greenland, or Tibet?

Helping to make this a special musical experience is that most of the anthems have been given distinctive arrangements that make them something a little different from what you might expect. For example, the U.S. anthem is softly and sweetly voiced by Roche, simply accompanied by her own guitar, while the Brazilian tune is performed by Mendez backed by a full Latin jazz sound.

Some of the less familiar anthems are real revelations for a listeners. For example, the previously mentioned Guinea anthem, featuring Sikiki Conde’s singing and djembe drum play, was one of my favorites, as was the Austrian anthem. It’s given a modern jazz sound via a vocal by Sabina Hank, accompanied by Dial’s piano and the sax play of Dick Oatts.

A collection of music that will surprise you by its diversity, while still maintaining a solid central modern jazz theme — and don’t forget that it includes a bonus DVD!