December 1997

Wynton Marsalis
Jump Start and Jazz: Two Ballets
Sony Classical

Several years before Wynton Marsalis wrote his Pulitzer Prize winning "Blood On The Fields," he was commissioned by the New York City Ballet to write the scores for two original ballets, "Jump Start-The Mastery of Melancholy" and "Jazz: 6 1/2 Syncopated Movements." These two works were choreographed by Peter Martins and Twyla Tharp, respectively, and their performances met with considerable critical acclaim. On this recording, the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, under the direction of Robert Sadlin, performs both compositions with the composer present on trumpet.

Although the music is certainly the creation of a thoughtful and gifted man, it is difficult to assess without seeing the ballet itself. The compositions use the language of jazz, yet there's very little improvisation here.

However, music written for use with another medium doesn't necessarily play well on its own, so we can't fault Mr. Marsalis. The context has been changed. Half of the sensory stimulation is gone. What remains is pleasant, but seems to be missing the part of the puzzle that would make it whole.

Originally published in December 1997
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