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Wynton Marsalis: All Rise

Wynton Marsalis believes that the blues are the foundation of all music, or at least all good music. He has told us this in interviews and writings and shown it in his solo recordings and in his directorship of the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra. Now Marsalis the composer has written a work to prove his thesis: All Rise, a two-CD, 100-minute opus for jazz orchestra, symphony orchestra and three choirs, cast in 12 massive movements. These movements trace “the progression of experiences that punctuate our lives” but also function as loose analogues to the 12 bars in a classic blues: the first four limn birth and self-discovery, the second four depict sin, repentance and redemption and the last four mature into a deeper, wider joy. So the blues is also life.

Marsalis puts forth an even more ambitious thesis in the liner notes to All Rise: “Today the world is so small, we don’t need music to creep in closer to other people: We are close. The larger question of this moment is how will we translate all our differences into a collective creativity? That’s where the blues comes in.” On All Rise, the blues acts as a common ground for a musical cornucopia including, but not limited to, ancient Greek modes, the didgeridoo, Chinese parade bands, clave and samba, American fiddling, gospel, fugue and New Orleans brass bands. Wielded properly, Marsalis posits, the blues can unite us all-and with All Rise he aims to fulfill his own promise.

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