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I Hear A Knockin’: Legacy Explores “The Spiritual Side of Wynton Marsalis”

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Spiritual Side of Wynton MarsalisThough he’s just 52 years of age, there’s precious little that Wynton Marsalis hasn’t accomplished in music.  The New Orleans-born trumpeter has won nine Grammy Awards and a Pulitzer Prize, performed with the likes of Sarah Vaughan, Dizzy Gillespie, Sonny Rollins and Herbie Hancock, not to mention Eric Clapton and Crosby, Stills and Nash.  He’s tirelessly promoted jazz to young audiences, and programmed the esteemed hall of Jazz at Lincoln Center, where he currently resides as Artistic Director.  It’s a busy month for Marsalis.  He’s overseeing the Broadway opening of After Midnight, a new musical revue produced under the aegis of JALC.   He’s also the creator of the sprawling Abyssinian: A Gospel Celebration Tour which opened in North Carolina on October 3 and arrives in New York City on October 24 for a three-night stint before wrapping up in Boston on the 27th.  To coincide with the NYC homecoming of Marsalis’ two-and-a-half-hour-long jazz-gospel mass, Legacy Recordings has issued The Spiritual Side of Wynton Marsalis.

This new 15-track compendium features recordings handpicked by Marsalis from his Columbia and Sony Classical label catalogues.  All were recorded between 1991 and 2002, including one previously unreleased track.  With selections ranging from duets and trios to full orchestral settings, The Spiritual Side is eclectic but preserves the spirit of a New Orleans funeral – rollicking one minute, mournful the very next.  Marsalis touches on any number of jazz styles here, with the tracks united by the subject matter that inspired them.  A number of vocal greats are featured alongside Marsalis, including Shirley Caesar (“I Hear a Knockin’,” “If I Hold On”), Cassandra Wilson (“Oh We Have a Friend in Jesus”) and Marion Williams (the previously unreleased “Precious Lord, Take My Hand,” an outtake from 1994’s In the House, On This Morning).  Marsalis’ rhythm section of Reginald Veal (bass) and Herlin Riley (drums) are also heard alongside other key players like Eric Reed and Marcus Roberts (piano), Ted Nash (reeds), Dr. Michael White (clarinet), Wycliffe Gordon (trombone), Wessell Anderson (alto saxophone) and Victor Goines (tenor saxophone).

Seven albums, overall, are represented on this gospel-tinged journey.  The earliest, Uptown Ruler – Soul Gesture (1991), musically reflected on the mythical Mardi Gras character who, in Marsalis’ words, is “accepted without question in the houses of worship, institutions of higher discourse and intellectual engagement, as well as places of ill repute and lower levels of social intercourse.”  1994’s In This House, On This Morning was Marsalis’ first commission from Jazz at Lincoln Center; a full six tracks have been reprised from the recording sessions including the smoky “Benediction.”  Cassandra Wilson’s “Oh What a Friend We Have in Jesus” has been excerpted from Blood on the Fields (1997), Marsalis’ oratorio on slavery.  Three 1999 releases are also represented.  Sweet Release and Ghost Story combined recordings of the two titular ballets, from 1996 and 1999 respectively.  The Spiritual Side draws on Ghost Story for the Buddhist-inspired “Awakening.”

Reeltime, recorded in 1996 but released in 1999, was originally intended as the soundtrack to John Singleton’s film Rosewood about the 1923 massacre of a largely-black Florida town by white racists.  For his score, Marsalis touched on influences including Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, and pure New Orleans “street music.”  The joyous “Sing On” and spirited big-band-and-choir “To Higher Ground” plus Caesar’s performances of “If I Hold On” and “I Hear a Knockin’” have been lifted from Reeltime.  1999’s Live at the Village Vanguard (recorded 1990-1994) has yielded the dark, brassy “Flee as a Bird to the Mountain.”  An edit of “All Rise: XII: I Am (Don’t You Run From Me)” represents the most recent album here, 2002’s All Rise.

After the jump, we have more details plus the full track listing with discography and order links!

Wynton’s son Simeon Marsalis contributes new liner notes to The Spiritual Side of Wynton Marsalis detailing each track and reflecting on his father’s spirituality and expression through music.  Mark Wilder has newly remastered all tracks at Battery Studios.  You can order this collection of sanctified, soulful and bluesy jazz at the links below!

Wynton Marsalis, The Spiritual Side of Wynton Marsalis (Columbia/Sony Classical/Legacy 88883 78542 2, 2013) (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

  1. I Hear a Knockin’ (Solo)
  2. All Rise: XII: I Am (Don’t You Run From Me) (Edit)
  3. If I Hold On
  4. Processional
  5. Psalm 26
  6. Awakening
  7. Hymn
  8. Precious Lord, Take My Hand
  9. In the Sweet Embrace of Life Sermon: Holy Ghost
  10. Flee as a Bird to the Mountain
  11. Sing On
  12. Benediction
  13. Oh We Have a Friend in Jesus
  14. To Higher Ground
  15. Pot Blessed Dinner

Tracks 1, 3, 11 & 14 from Reeltime, Sony Classical SK 51239, 1999
Track 2 from All Rise, Sony Classical S2K 89817, 2002
Tracks 4, 7, 9, 12 & 15 from In This House, On This Morning, Columbia C2K 53220, 1994
Track 5 from Uptown Ruler – Soul Gesture, Columbia CK 47976, 1991
Track 6 from Sweet Release and Ghost Story, Sony Classical SK 61690, 1999
Track 8 previously unreleased, from sessions for In This House, On This Morning
Track 10 from Live at the Village Vanguard, Columbia CXK 69876, 1999
Track 13 from Blood on the Fields, Columbia CK 57694, 1997

Written by Joe Marchese

October 22, 2013 at 14:03

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