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Cellist Seth Parker Woods’ New Album, “Difficult Grace”

Released on Cedille Records, the disc includes works by Fredrick Gifford, Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson, Monty Adkins, and Nathalie Joachim


“Difficult Grace,” is GRAMMY Award-nominated cellist Seth Parker Woods’ first album with Cedille Records. A semi-autobiographical exploration of his identity, the album draws on personal histories and growth, immigration, and the Great Migration.

Co-commissioned for Woods by the community center, 92nd Street Y, the album showcases several world premiere recordings, works written for and with Woods, excerpts from The Chicago Defender, plus the poetry of Kemi Alabi and Dudley Randall.

Its world premiere recordings include Fredrick Gifford’s Difficult Grace, with layered solo cello, electronics and spoken text from Randall’s poem “Primitives,” Monty Adkins Winter Tendrils, Nathalie Joachim’s The Race: 1915, and Ted Hearne’s Freefucked — a multi-movement suite of songs set to Alabi’s poetry.

More tracks include Alvin Singleton’s Argoru II, Joachim’s Dam Mwen Yo, and Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson’s Calvary Ostinato, which references traditional African American music. Save for Perkinson, the entire album comprises works by living composers.

“In a 1934 essay, the writer and anthropologist Zora Neale Hurston suggests that there is something common — what she calls a ‘will to adorn’ — uniting a wide variety of African American cultural articulations, from styles of speech to clothing and home decoration,” explained writer John Fallas in the album booklet. 

“Understood thus, adornment may be both an expression of self and community and a creative response to trouble — especially when that trouble arises in the context of a shared history of pain and injustice,” Fallas added.

“This aesthetic of adornment — of constant, joyous multiplication — is embodied in the cellist Seth Parker Woods’ ambitious, already acclaimed project Difficult Grace, with its relentless, exploratory acts of translation across different artistic media and dizzying expansion of what we might expect a solo instrumentalist to do, on stage or in the studio.”

Woods' upcoming performances of the album will be hosted at Chicago’s Harris Theater on April 20, 2023, and at the San Diego Symphony’s Currents Series on November 28, 2023.

To purchase and listen to the album, click here. The album trailer can be viewed below. 



A graduate of Brooklyn College, Musik Akademie der Stadt Basel, and the University of Huddersfield, Woods has been Artist in Residence with the Kaufman Music Center, the Seattle Symphony, University of Miami’s Frost School of Music, and Northwestern University, Center for New Music. 

With his 2016 debut solo album, “asinglewordisnotenough” being internationally acclaimed and profiled in countless publications, he tours frequently and has appeared with the ICTUS Ensemble, Ensemble L’Arsenale, Basel Sinfonietta, Ensemble LPR, Orchestra of St. Luke’s, the Atlanta and Seattle Symphonies, and in concert with violinist Hilary Hahn and pianist Andreas Haefliger

Woods recently joined the faculty of the Thornton School of Music as an assistant professor, and will soon hold residencies at Montclair State University and the Oberlin Conservatory. Previously, he served on the faculties of the University at Buffalo, University of Chicago, Dartmouth College, and the Chicago Academy of the Arts.

He is a recipient of the 2022 Chamber Music America Michael Jaffee Visionary Award, and as a Pirastro Artist, endorses Pirastro Perpetual Strings worldwide.

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