Big Train is an extended suite, programmatically keyed to railroads-a vein of imagery as central to America as the Mississippi (and, perhaps not coincidentally, a favorite of Albert Murray). That Ellington wrote in programmatic fashion about “The Happy-Go-Lucky Local” and other trains inevitably begs comparisons, though Marsalis has extended his interpretation imaginatively, including the “Dining Car” as well as “Engine,” “Bullet Train” as well as “Sleeper Car.” He uses the voices of his band-mates to emphasize the earthy sweaty realities of railroading, contrasting them with the sophisticated experience that trains can be.
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