[JPL] Fw: Marsalis' `All Rise' A Worthy And Imperfect Work

Tom Reney tr at wfcr.org
Tue Jul 13 11:01:29 EDT 2004

> Metcalf saves me from the challenge of writing my own review, which
wouldn't deviate much from his.  tr at wfcr.org

> From ctnow.com
> --------------------
> Marsalis' `All Rise' A Worthy And Imperfect Work
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> Special To The Hartford Courant
> July 11, 2004
> LENOX, Mass. -- An opening-night Boston Symphony concert at Tanglewood
gets you thinking about a lot of things.
> The blues as a metaphor for the human condition is not usually one of
> Defying tradition at several levels, the BSO elected to open its 2004
summer season with a performance of "All Rise," Wynton Marsalis' epic for
chorus, jazz ensemble and orchestra. The nearly two-hour piece, which had
its premiere five years ago with the New York Philharmonic, was performed
Friday night by the 15-member Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra (with Marsalis,
its leader, sitting first trumpet), the Tanglewood Festival Chorus, a
quartet of vocal soloists, and the BSO, all shoehorned onto the Tanglewood
> Kurt Masur, who led the premiere, conducted.
> It was a smart, adventurous choice, even if some members of the Tanglewood
opening-night crowd seemed a little stunned by the piece, and more than a
few tiptoed to the parking lots at intermission.
> Marsalis, of course, is a complicated phenomenon. To many, he is the
undisputed torchbearer of the jazz tradition, a witty and thoughtful
custodian of a lineage that, especially in today's short-memory musical
marketplace, desperately needs his contextualizing presence.
> To others he is self-impressed and doctrinaire, freely pontificating not
only on how to play jazz, but how to even think about it.
> Nevertheless, everybody in the wider musical community would concede that
the man is a huge talent with a huge personality. He might be irritating
from time to time, but he is, for lack of a more precise term, authentic.
> Those words would serve well to describe "All Rise." Its ambitions are
large, its moments of brilliance are many. It absolutely deserves to have a
continuing life. At the same time, the piece illustrates why, among other
lessons, there are very few totally successful two-hour pieces of concert
> Written in 12 substantial sections (one for each measure of the 12-bar
blues form), "All Rise" is about the universality of experience, filtered
through an African American sensibility. It partakes of almost every known
Western musical style and genre. There are moments of crisp, almost Baroque
counterpoint (including at one point a nice dialogue between piccolo and
tuba); moments of Ellingtonian big-band expansiveness; moments of Mozartian
delicacy; moments of sustained funk and groove; and moments of high-gloss,
Mancini-like pop glibness. And for its smiling parting shot, the piece ends
with a jaunty Dixieland/gospel ditty composed over the "Bill Bailey"
> All this is testimony to Marsalis' range. It also can be a little
distracting for the hardworking listener. Even as you're trying like heck to
follow the thread, you can't help but be drawn into your own home version of
"Name That Influence."
> This is not a piece that attempts to "make a lady out of jazz," as the
phrase went when Gershwin wrote "Rhapsody in Blue" for Paul Whiteman 80
years ago. If anything, it's a piece that tries to see if jazz and concert
music can have a fruitful, evening-length conversation, and if so whether
any conclusions can be reached.
> Maraslis is not the first to try it. To name just a few who came to mind
Friday out under the stars, Charles Mingus, Stravinsky, Bernstein
(especially in "Mass"), Gunther Schuller, Anthony Davis, William Grant
Still, and, quintessentially, Duke Ellington himself have weighed in. The
effort has almost always been honorable, the goal almost always elusive.
Marsalis has added a fine, imperfect new specimen to the collection.
> The performance, in a work like this, is hard to separate from the work.
Marsalis' bandmates wailed as an ensemble and shone as soloists. At a few
junctures, though not frequently enough to suit the crowd, Marsalis himself
blew some imposing solos. It was also impressive to see Masur, now nearly
80, preside so confidently, offering gentle leadership when required and
staying out of the way when not.
> In the end, the piece feels a little like a musical "director's cut": It
gives us more material than is needed, it repeats things, it strays and
rambles, it shows off. If he hasn't done so already, Marsalis should cull a
"concert suite" version, or some such highlights vehicle. As written it's
simply too long and too big to be performed live by any but the biggest and
richest orchestral machines.
> But whether performed in its entirety or in smaller batches, "All Rise" is
the work of a brave and original musical mind, and that's reason enough for
it to be heard, and heard again.
> Copyright 2004, Hartford Courant
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