American Composers Orchestra presents the NY premiere of jazzmaster Wynton Marsalis’ recently completed Blues Symphony. A rare work for purely orchestral forces by the jazz legend, Marsalis’ symphony celebrates blues through the prism of moments in American and African-American history and folklore (Marsalis does not perform in this work). The world premiere of Sanctum by Courtney Bryan, a New Orleans-based composer and alumna of ACO’s Jazz Composers Orchestra Institute, explores improvisation in Holiness-preaching traditions. Completing the program is a revised and expanded version of Uri Caine’s Double Trouble, a combination of fixed musical forms, freedom and spontaneity featuring the composer at the piano.
Each movement of Marsalis’ Blues Symphony is designed to be in the form of 12-bar blues choruses, with variations and specific sounds related to historical reference points. Marsalis says, “It incorporates the call and responses, train whistles, stomp-down grooves, big-city complexities and down-home idiosyncrasies of Afro-American and American music. Like most New Orleans musicians, I grew up surrounded by vernacular music and love the plain-spokenness of it all.”
Bryan’s ACO commission Sanctum is written for orchestra and recorded sound. The piece draws inspiration from Pastor Shirley Caesar’s 1973 recorded sermon, “The Praying Slave Lady,” about an enslaved woman protected from the slave master’s whips by her unrelenting faith in God and the intervention of a host of spirits. Bryan says, “By employing techniques of layered repetition, rhythmic intensity, and sounds of moaning and whooping, Sanctum invokes solace found in the midst of persecution and tribulation.”
Caine’s Double Trouble was commissioned by ACO in 2008; this performance will be the premiere of a revised version for expanded forces. Double Trouble sets up a dialogue between composed music written mostly for the orchestra and improvisation, mostly by the piano soloist.
Presented by American Composers Orchestra