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Wynton Marsalis From The Plantation To The Penitentiary Review

Album. Released 2007.  

BBC Review

...Juxtaposes moments of nostalgia-drenched traditionalist jazz with an angry, newer,...

Matthew Rogers 2007

Juxtaposing moments of nostalgia-drenched traditionalist jazz with an angrier, confrontational approach, From The Plantation To The Penitentiary’s title references the divisive forms of oppression the institution of America has implemented to control its black population.

Marsalis releases his fury with American culture with the first note of his solo in the title track, seemingly saying: 'sit up and and be righteously angry at these injustices.' By the final cut, “Where Y’all At?”, where a soulful chorus is interrupted by a sharp-tongued Wynton interjecting spoken-word rants before the album’s abrupt end, you'll be shaken. This is powerful stuff.

While it’s fair to say that Marsalis displays a higher level of creativity in the words written than in the notes played, his solos still ooze quality and tracks like “Love and Broken Hearts” and “These Are Those Soulful Days” prove equally delightful. He’s aided by steady performances from a line-up, featuring pianist Dan Nimmer, bassist Carlos Henriquez, vocalist Jennifer Sanon, Walter Blanding (whose sax is redolent, at times, of Coltrane), and the superb drumming of Al Jackson Jr.

While jazz these days is a genre whose restless spirit demands pushing the envelope, Marsalis’ traditionalism here seems apt and entirely the right medium for the message. Time to sit up and take note...

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