WYNTON MARSALIS - From the Plantation to the Penitentiary
Blue Note, 2007
Really a suite, this "message" album assigns blame for the continuing plight of African-Americans -- on "raggely" public schools, rampant consumerism, skewed governmental priorities and, most pointedly, at the willful degradation of black media culture. The music is more passionate than most of Marsalis' output but otherwise textbook: technically challenging but rendered with crisp precision and swaggering confidence, and firmly rooted in New Orleans and the jazz tradition. Good stuff, with great vocals by Jennifer Sanon.
Fo's Picks: 1, 3, 5, 7
1. 11:48 - shuffling work-gang rhythm, deliberately off-key vocals, moaning horns: a litany of slavery, past and present
2. 9:34 - sunny vocal & melody, but deeply troubling lyrics; relaxed tempo, heavy break in the middle
3. 8:37 - cute and playful instrumental, but dark at the edge: tinkly piano, marching drums, perky horns
4. 7:40 - slow ballad, lovely vocal: fights misogyny and "minstrel" rap culture with plea for the "return of romance"
5. 6:55 - frantic song of greed: breathless vocals, good lyrics, with slow-drag breaks
6. 8:04 - optimistic ballad, with nice laid-back conversation among the horns
7. 5:48 - Wynton raps! He calls out all those who talk but do not act, shouting rhymes over a nifty second-line groove