Concert and Performers
This report will cover the performance by Wynton Marsalis and the ensemble at the Jazz in Marciac festival in 2009. Wynton Marsalis is an internationally acclaimed vocalist, musician, and composer from New Orleans, Louisiana, with an impressive repertoire ranging from jazz to classical music. The musician’s vision is based on the foundational principles of jazz: support of creativity, cooperation, sophistication, and persistent optimism in times of trouble (“Biography”).
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At Jazz in Marciac, Marsalis was accompanied by Gordon (trombone, vocals), Goines (clarinet, saxophone), Wilber (clarinet, saxophone), Franc (soprano saxophone), Nimmer (piano), Enrique (bass), and Jackson (drums) (“Wynton Marsalis”). I have chosen this particular performance for my love of jazz and sincere interest in the 40-year traditions of Jazz in Marciac festival that never fails to attract renowned musicians.
Music and Musical Characteristics
Jazz is an incredibly diverse and complex musical genre that originates from the United States of America. The original performers of musical genres which later contributed to the emergence of jazz were slaves. Their striving for freedom and self-expression was what gave this genre the liberal character, rhythmical urgency, and space for improvisation. The performance by Marsalis and the ensemble has the key characteristics of jazz: syncopation keeps listeners at the edge of their seats, whereas swing creates a smooth forward momentum (Terefenko 20).
Style and Genre
The program consists of eight compositions:
- “The Sheik of Araby” is a 1921 song by Illinois-born composer Ted Snyder and New York lyricist Harry Smith. The song has become part of popular culture and has undergone numerous notable recordings by accomplished musicians. The song is characterized by a playful tone and upbeat rhythm as it was written in response to a 1921 romantic adventure film, The Sheik.
- “Egyptian Fantasy” is a 1949 song by American composer Sydney Bechet. Like Marsalis, Bechet was born in New Orleans, and by performing this bohemian, lush tune, Marsalis may be paying homage to his countryman.
- “Cake Walking Babies from Home” is a 1925 popular song by Eva Taylor and Clarence Williams. The jazz vocabulary of this composition is incredibly rich, and the fast-paced music flow takes many unexpected turns before coming to an abrupt end.
- “Summertime” is a 1945 aria by George Gershwin, which is recognized as one of the finest musical pieces to date as it masterfully combines jazz elements and African-American singing styles from the 1920s.
- “Promenade aux Champs Élysées” was written by Sidney Bechet in 1949 following his emigration to Paris, which must have served as an inspiration for this moderate-tempo elegant composition.
- “Petit Fleur” is the first song performed in minor in this program. The composition was written by Bechet in 1950 in Paris and is finely laced by lightweight piano and melancholic saxophone.
- “The Way I Ride” is a 1945 fun, nonchalant, somewhat lazily paced composition by Wooden Joe Nicholas, another Louisiana-native.
- “Sweet Louisiana” is a slow-paced but vibrant rendition of a 1945 composition by Bechet.
What stood out to me about the program chosen by Marsalis and the ensemble was that the first half of it consisted of the compositions written in the 1920s, whereas the second half included songs from the 1940-1950 decade. In the history of jazz, these two decades bore a lot of significance and were marked by many prominent events and figures. The 1920s were the Jazz Age, and many classic jazz songs originate from that era.
It appears to me that in the first half of the concert, Marsalis and the ensemble adhered to the original way of performing, seeking to convey the critical characteristics of the epoch. The 1940s, on the other hand, broadened the audience of jazz, and musicians dared to experiment more than ever. In alignment with that tendency, Marsalis and the ensemble were more frivolous with rhythmic alterations and dissonance. Overall, the musicians played in tune and communicated the music as it was intended but with unexpected details.
Highlights of the Show and Final Impressions
All in all, the show by Marsalis at Jazz in Marciac was a captivating experience. Even though the entire performance was excellent, I deem it essential to point out a couple of the most enjoyable moments. In the second half of “Sweet Louisiana,” Gordon sets in with a temperamental solo on a trombone which strikes a listener with incredible versatility as it goes from breathy to almost guttural in its sound. Another highlight was “Petit Fleur” since the appearance of a song in minor was surprising given the lighthearted nature of other compositions. Its moody piano melody was akin to a breath of fresh air. I am convinced that jazz can attract listeners of all ages, genders, and walks of life, and I would encourage my family and friends to get familiar with Marsalis’ artistry.
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“Biography.” Wynton, n.d. Web.
Terefenko, Dariusz. Jazz Theory: From Basic to Advanced Study. Routledge, 2014.
“Wynton Marsalis – Jazz in Marciac 2009.” YouTube, uploaded by Pavel Levin, 2012. Web.