Like Howard Beale in Network, Wynton Marsalis is mad as hell and he’s not gonna take it anymore. Of course, the 45-year-old trumpeter-bandleader and celebrated jazz ambassador has always been riled and outraged, ever since he was an audacious, outspoken kid back in New Orleans. And over the course of the past 20 years, he has always spoken his mind in interviews or in casual conversation. Like his equally unguarded brother Branford, you know where Wynton stands. He pulls no punches, never attempts to obfuscate. Like him or not, he’s painfully direct, unwavering in his convictions.
On Marsalis’ latest Blue Note recording, the provocatively titled From the Plantation to the Penitentiary, he puts forth his agenda in no uncertain terms, commenting on troubling aspects of American culture and socio-political realities in the context of some swinging grooves alongside his current working quintet of saxophonist Walter Blanding Jr., pianist Dan Nimmer, bassist Carlos Henriquez and drummer Ali Jackson. Voicing Wynton’s pointed lyrics on this potent collection is the soulful singer and Marsalis discovery, 20-year-old Jennifer Sanon.