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Record Box

Story and experience

Music by
James Kimo Williams,
reviewed by

Little Beck    LBM8051

Symphony for the Sons of Nam, including Fanfare for Life and American Soldier. James Kimo Williams. © 2004 Little Beck Music

An unexpected biography, James 'Kimo' Williams was born in New York into a military family in 1950 and enlisted in the US Army when he was 19. The following year he was sent to Viet Nam where he was assigned to clearing land and building roads through jungle areas. He started playing the guitar (in pursuit of his hero Jimi Hendrix) and was recruited to tour the fighting areas with an entertainment group, an occupation he continued the following year on his return to home ground. In 1972 he enrolled at the Berklee School of Music in Boston. 15 years later with the rank of Captain he resigned his commission to devote himself to composition and his 30-strong Kimotion ensemble.

The Army and that short stay in Viet Nam still colour the music he makes, preoccupied with bugle calls, marching rhythms and blocks of easy-going harmony -- sequences of colourful ideas with nothing too subtle attached. It is not difficult to know where (musically and geographically) his Fanfare for Life comes from [listen -- track 1, 0:00-1:15] nor the vigorous military commands in the first movement of American Soldier, here orchestrated from its original version for the West Point Academy Band. Its second movement supports with quiet aimless chords a poem by his wife Carol (also an Army veteran), narrated by Gary Sinise [listen -- track 3, 2:09-3:33].

Symphony for the Sons of Nam celebrates, in its two movements, troops setting out for Viet Nam [listen -- track 4, 6:12-7:42] and their arrival ('I am overwhelmed by the beauty of the Viet Nam landscape') and, in the second, their homecoming, its anticipation and their own safe return. It is a sentimental musical imagination without any particular challenges, leaning heavily on its background of extra-musical story and experience, competently orchestrated, stirring, but not, in the end, remarkably memorable.

Copyright © 25 June 2005 Patric Standford, Wakefield UK


Symphony for the Sons of Nam - James Kimo Williams

LBM8051 Stereo NEW RELEASE 38'53" 2004 Little Beck Music

Gary Sinise, narrator; The Symphony Orchestra of St Petersburg Philharmonia; James MacDonald, conductor

James Kimo Williams (born 1950): Fanfare for Life (1994); American Soldier (1999); Symphony For The Sons Of Nam (1991)


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Record Box is Music & Vision's regular series of shorter CD reviews