For the past two nights, the Brooklyn Academy of Music hosted “Brooklyn Philharmonic: You’re Causing Quite A Disturbance” in which the increasingly adventuresome arts institution paired the the innovative (and part-time Brooklynite) Erykah Badu with the Brooklyn Philharmonic for an orchestral explosion re-imagining songs from New Amerykah Part One: Fourth World. (Initially billed as a collabo with BK’s own Yasiin Bey, the performance apparently came about after Bey intro’d Badu to conductor Alan Pierson, with whom he shared the stage last season. Sadly, Yasiin was absent from this performance.)
An opening set from Badu’s long-time DJ and co-producer Ringo “Tumblin Dice” a.k.a. Rashad Smith was accompanied by a live drummer and trumpet. It fixed the mood as an experimental jaunt into classic songs re-thought and re-worked, and led to a standing ovation. (But not before a sing-along to Stevie‘s “All I Do” with inspired trumpet solos on top.) Then the main event – Badu backed by Alan Pierson’s full, swelling orchestra doing interpolations of her repertoire composed with Ted Hearne, for re-worked versions of “Amerykhan Promise,” “The Healer,” “Soldier,” “Master Teacher,” “Twinkle” and “Me.” It was just as beautiful as it sounds; the orchestra seamlessly following Erykah’s lead into true experimentation and reinvention. At moments, Badu played the Theramin along with the orchestra and Om’mas Keith orated spoken word sections from the New Amerykah suite. Badu’s incredible voice stood out as the main character of the event, and her self-proclaimed “last interview,” the song “Me,” served as the soaring finale. Above, check out our photo gallery of the evening, by shot-slayer Mel D. Cole.