"Deep River," the beloved spiritual, gets heard in strikingly diverse settings – from a swing version recorded by Tommy Dorsey in 1941 to an operatic performance at the memorial of Ruth Bader Ginsberg last year. For this new recording by the rising young British pianist Isata Kanneh-Mason, the backdrop is Sierra Leone. That's where her mother is from, as was the father of the mixed race composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, who published this arrangement in 1905. Kanneh-Mason says she feels a familial connection to the music. You can hear the water lapping at river's edge in the gently rolled opening chords. In exploring her musical roots, as it were, Kanneh-Mason offers the arc of Coleridge-Taylor's cinematic drama while tapping into the song's inherent melancholy and hope for a brighter tomorrow.
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