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It could have been a great moment--the world premiere of a long orchestral work by Wynton Marsalis, called All Rise, at the Hollywood Bowl last night--and for the first ten minutes it was. Esa Pekka Salonen introduced Wynton and the work, and he was shaken by the global events, and appreciative to have NYer Wynton and his NYer Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra sitting in with the LA Phil, and we all found out at twilight as the mist was beginning to descend on the Bowl that the proceeds for the long-planned world debut would go to the American Red Cross.And the work started out chorally, and spectacularly, for the first ten minutes, with only chorus and rhythm, you felt you were on a slave ship heading for something yet unseen, and tragic but perhaps also hopeful. But then it devolved into a synopsis of American music--here there was call and response, there there was Copland, and slow blues popped up twice--and Wynton seemed vulnerable to the great criticism against jazz: that since Coltrane, jazz hasn't looked forward very much, it has only looked backwards, and Wynton is both the new hopeful messenger and the chief offenderThe piece ended with a very strong Dixieland rumble which was strong as Dixie but nothing new.Those who heard the five hour special on Coltrane on Labor Day heard of a spectacular anecdote: Trane, once, in Japan, with an appreciative crowd going crazy for his atonal licks, in a 45 minute solo finally stopped playing but kept carrying on as though he were, thumping himself and emiting sax-like noises from himself. The crowd only redoubled it's appreciation. After the concert, someone (I think Sun Ra) asked Trane what he was doing, and he said, "I just ran out of horn."Jazz as it is embodied by Wynton has also run out of horn, but it isn't as insistent for the need to be new as Trane was. Jazz needs to figure out a way to make itself relevant in the 21st century as it was the great new music of the 20th, and rehashing the forms of the 20th without building on it isn't the way. All Rise, synopsis of jazz forms with a few other American composers paid musica lip service--Copland, Bernstein, and William Grant Still--wasn't it. It was fun, and it was good to be out, but in the end it seemed a shame to see such a potentially powerful moment missed.jps
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