Protest, Isolation and Revolution in Wynton Marsalis' 'The Democracy! Suite'

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Wynton Marsalis.
Wynton Marsalis. (Piper Ferguson)

While the pandemic has closed music venues throughout the country, it hasn’t stopped the creation and composition of new music. On Saturday, Jan. 30, the Green Music Center presents Pulitzer Prize-winning trumpeter and composer Wynton Marsalis’s The Democracy! Suite, a composition written during the COVID-19 pandemic and performed by the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra Septet.

Filmed in New York City’s Frederick P. Rose Hall in September of last year, the musicians were able to gather safely according to city guidelines and record a concert to “tour” virtually at performing arts centers across the United States. In addition to Marsalis, the septet features Elliot Mason on trombone, Ted Nash on alto saxophone and flute, Walter Blanding on tenor and soprano saxophones, Dan Nimmer on piano, Carlos Henriquez on bass, and Obed Calvaire on drums.

Over its 45 minutes, The Democracy! Suite reflects and responds to contemporary sociopolitical and economic issues, and ruminates on the potential of collective efforts to create a better future. With directly referential titles like “Sloganize, Patronize, Realize, Revolutionize (Black Lives Matters)” as well as more introspective ones, Marsalis explores the isolation brought by COVID, as well as themes of grief, loss, reflection, protest, and more.

“Jazz music is the perfect metaphor for democracy,” Marsalis said in announcing the suite. “The question that confronts us right now as a nation is, ‘Do we want to find a better way?’” Much of Marsalis’s past work has also been inspired by social and political issues, including the Grammy Award-winning Black Codes (From the Underground) in 1985 and the Pulitzer Prize-winning Blood on the Fields in 1996.

The recording of the concert is available for 48 hours after the link is emailed to ticket buyers on Jan. 30. Tickets are $10. Details here.