ABYSSINIAN: A GOSPEL CELEBRATION F. WYNTON MARSALIS
For anyone remotely into the strain of improvisation that dominated jazz in the second half of the 20th century, Wynton Marsalis is a polarizing figure to say the least. The trumpeter was the guiding voice behind Ken Burns’ Jazz series, and the chief reason why the neophyte Burns ignored virtually everything that happened after hard bop, from terrific explorations of melody and rhythm by Ornette Coleman and John Coltrane to Miles Davis’ fertile fusion era and Sun Ra’s space jams. It left a bitter aftertaste on what had otherwise been an enjoyable series, and similarly exposed Marsalis’ traditionalist agenda. This work — commissioned by the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem to celebrate its bicentennial anniversary — blends the sacred and secular in an Ellingtonian “joyful noise” journey through blues, gospel and jazz history... well, jazz history up to 1964 or so. Yup, Wynton’s revisionist agenda lives on, undermining the very music he claims to be “repping.” Featuring the 15-piece Lincoln Jazz Center Orchestra and 70-member Chorale Le Chateau choir, directed by Damien Sneed.
— John Schacht