Jazz saxophonist, composer, and West Conn professor Jimmy Greene has released a new album entitled "Beautiful Life". The album is a remembrance and celebration of the life of his daughter Ana Grace Marquez-Greene, who was among the first-grade victims at Sandy Hook Elementary School. The Jimmy Greene Quartet performed music from "Beautiful Life" at a sold-out gala concert on Friday, marking the opening of the Veronica Hagman Concert Hall at the new WCSU Visual and Performing Arts Center.
All of the songs were specifically written for this recording. Greene says the musicians and artists chosen, were those who would most honor his daughter's memory. "7th Candle" and other songs reflect a bit of his journey through grief and the aftermath of Ana's murder. He says the focus is on conveying these complex and often painful emotions. But the album also reflects the way she lived--generous and loving and joyful, for six-and-a-half years.
He says music is an amazing language and can do things words can't. He called it a way to communicate when words fail.
Greene says any recording that was going to honor Ana's memory had to have singers and lyrics. Greene felt it was important because Ana loved to sing and had a beautiful singing voice. Greene also wanted to include songs that Ana loved, including "Maybe", from the musical Annie. The album also features family recordings of Ana singing a Latin American Christmas melody and a spiritual hymn.
What took a long time, he says was to make sure that all of the elements that needed to be included on the album were there. The album cover is a photograph of Ana and her brother Isaiah taken at their home in Winnipeg, Manitoba, where the family lived prior to moving to Newtown in 2012. Greene says that photograph finds musical expression on the album in “Last Summer”. He flew up to Winnipeg to record the children's choir from Ana's former school.
This was the first album he's done since his daughter's murder at Sandy Hook School, and his collaborators were friends and former classmates, including Javier Colon. “Little Voices” includes a soliloquy recited by Tony Award-winning actress Anika Noni Rose. Rose, who attended Bloomfield High School with Greene, won his daughter’s heart as the voice of Princess Tiana in one of Ana’s favorite animated films, “The Princess and the Frog.”
A portion of proceeds from sales of "Beautiful Life" will benefit the Ana Grace Project of Klingberg Family Centers in New Britain and the Artists Collective in Hartford.
The Ana Grace Project was founded in October 2013 in a collaboration between the Greene family and the Klingberg Family Centers to promote love, community and connection for every child and family through research, professional development and public policy aimed at building community efforts to prevent violence and foster recovery. The Artists Collective, founded by McLean in 1970, is an interdisciplinary arts and cultural institution that has served the Greater Hartford area for more than four decades.