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Wynton Marsalis and The Lincoln Center Orchestra: Blood On The Fields

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After much fanfare and acclaim, including its 1994 Lincoln Center premiere, subsequent fine tuning and 1997 international tour, and the momentous news that its composer Wynton Marsalis had been granted the coveted 1997 Pulitzer Prize for Music as a sort of crowning achievement for this painstakingly-crafted three-hour oratorio, now comes the real proof in the pudding: the release of this multi-CD chronicle of Marsalis’ heroic work. Though the tour was extensive and a bit unprecedented for a jazz work of this magnitude involving the full jazz orchestra and vocalists its interpretation requires. This recording will stand as lasting testament and will be what future jazz observers utilize as the true measuring stick of its heroic importance in the jazz continuum.

Blood on the Fields is indeed a massive work, one that combines numerous elements of the black musical experience in America, including three or four shades of the blues, chants, field hollers, spiritual forms and liberal doses of New Orleans and Caribbean rhythmic traditions. Unlike a number of earlier extended forms for jazz orchestra, several of Blood On The Fields’ movements stand on their own as viable vehicles apart from the whole. Execution of the work requires the full Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra (which in the case of the touring ensemble engaged largely musicians under the age of 40), plus three stellar singers: acclaimed contralto Cassandra Wilson, vocalese master Jon Hendricks and spirited young Miles Griffith, known best for his gospel-flavored work in James Williams’ ICU. Recorded in January, 1995, at a Masonic Hall in Manhattan, the sweep and nobility of the work has been largely achieved in the recorded medium.

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