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Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra Creates “Quarantine Blues”

New song, which premiered online Friday, was developed by each member of the group sequentially while in isolation

Victor Goines
Victor Goines at New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, April 2016 (photo: Douglas Mason)

The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra has made its statement about the coronavirus crisis as it does about all things: through music. On Friday the Orchestra released “Quarantine Blues,” an original composition that the band members wrote, arranged, and recorded entirely on their respective mobile phones while isolating themselves in their homes.

The piece was the brainchild of JLCO tenor saxophonist Victor Goines, who suggested it to managing and artistic director Wynton Marsalis as a project that would allow the band to work together remotely. They decided on a format similar to the children’s game “Pass the Story”: Marsalis wrote the song’s first 12-bar blues chorus, then passed the pen to Goines to write the second. Goines then passed it to alto saxophonist Ted Nash, and so on, with each new composer choosing the next one.

The final product features 17 choruses, written by 13 of the 16 orchestra members. (Marsalis adds a shout chorus at the end, and he, pianist Dan Nimmer, and tenor saxophonist Walter Blanding all take solo choruses.) The approach keeps the song constantly changing shape and color—helped along by a key change in its 12th chorus (by trombonist Vincent Gardner).

“Quarantine Blues” is available to stream on Jazz at Lincoln Center’s YouTube and Instagram accounts, as well as on its website.