The bluesFem Project: SMILE ORANGE is a musical experience arranged and directed by Bay Area jazz luminary, Dee Spencer, combining the 1976 film Smile Orange with a live performance of the soundtrack composed by trombonist Melba Liston. Spencer’s arrangement combines soul, R&B, jazz, pop and blues with traditional Jamaican sounds and pays homage to two great artists: Author Trevor D. Rhone (1940–2009) and Melba Liston (1926–1999). Sketches of the original scores are archived at the Center for Black Music Research (CBMR) at Columbia College in Chicago, Illinois, where Spencer accessed Liston’s manuscripts. Previously, Spencer was a member of a group of four researchers called the Melba Liston Collective and served as Liston’s music copyist in NYC in the summer of 1982. Smile Orange is a satirical farce about the daily lives of native Jamaicans working in the tourism industry. Rhone’s title is embedded in Jamaican tradition and mythology. Inside this slapstick comedy is commentary about the social conditions of the Jamaican workforce with sharp comparisons to slavery. The characters of Smile Orange, who work at the fictitious Mondo Beach Hotel, must use their “smiles” as tools for survival. According to a myth dating back to the slave trade period, eating oranges causes sterility. The orange growers used this to preserve the crop. Interestingly, oranges are enjoyed by everyone throughout the film.
Dee Spencer is an active performer, composer/arranger, and music director. She holds a B.S. in Music Education from Florida A&M where she majored in oboe performance. Dee received an M.M. from Washington University in St. Louis and Ed.D from the University of San Francisco. Her composition “Sweet Emma B” was commissioned for the 11th JEN Annual Conference held in New Orleans, LA in 2020. Dee’s performance credits include Grammy-Award winner Ledisi, jazz legends John Handy, Regina Carter, Jimmy Scott, Louis Bellson and Clark Terry. Her solo piano recording “Tranquility” was released in 2018. Dee recently served as a panelist for the 2023 Grammy Educator of the Year Award.
SMILE ORANGE: A BluesFEM FILM MUSIC EXPERIENCE
Keyboardist/Vocalist Dee Spencer will present a live performance of a film score written by jazz legend Melba Liston. An excerpt of the film SMILE ORANGE will be shown as the live score is performed. Dee will provide information about the background of the soundtrack and the composer Melba Liston.