Wynton Marsalis' "All Rise" stirred souls at Hill Auditorium—and his trumpet fired up The Big House crowd
For nearly two decades, I've attended Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis concerts hosted by the University Music Society (UMS). The shows and attendant residency are an institution now in Ann Arbor, and under Marsalis' stewardship, the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra (JLCO) is the current reigning G.O.A.T. of large ensembles.
But Marsalis' latest Ann Arbor production with the JLCO was the most ambitious undertaking of his 22-year association with UMS.
You can always bank on Marsalis to deliver monumental projects like culturally and politically relevant recordings such as From the Plantation to the Penitentiary, The Abyssinian Mass, and his 1997 Pulitzer Prize-winning oratorio Blood on the Fields. On Friday, October 14, at Hill Auditorium, Marsalis pulled off another massive undertaking: "All Rise (Symphony No. 1.) For Symphony Orchestra Jazz Orchestra, and Chorus."
Composed in 1999, Marsalis' "All Rise" has only been performed a few times: December 29 and 30, 1999, in New York City; October 5, 2000, in Prague, Czech Republic; and September 13, 2022, in Los Angeles. It has 12 movements, each section seasoned with blues, classical, Latin, and jazz. In Ann Arbor, the piece was executed meticulously by the University of Michigan Symphony Orchestra, University of Michigan Choirs, UMS Choral Union, and key members of the JLCO. More than 200 collegiate and professional musicians shared the stage, which had to be expanded to fit everyone, treating the near-capacity audience to two-plus hours of musical bliss.
The musical cohesion of the enormous ensemble navigating through various genres was staggering. The production is Marsalis' brainchild, but the linchpin of the evening was conductor Kenneth Kiesler. It appeared Kiesler meant for each section to come off as 12 mini-concerts, allowing each movement to shine with distinction, including "Jubal Step," A Hundred and a Hundred, a Hundred and Twelve," Go Slow (But Don't Stop)," "Wild Strumming of Fiddle," "Save Us," "Cried. Shouted. Then Swung,"" Look Beyond," "The Halls of Erudition and Scholarship," El "Gran' Baile de la Reina," "Expressbrown Local," "Saturday Night Slow Drag," and "I Am (Don't You Run From Me)."
Each piece was soul-stirring, and the classical musicians cut it up throughout the evening and especially on "Go Slow (But Don't Stop)" and "Cried. Shouted. Then Swung," proving they can swing and navigate any form of the blues with equal aplomb.
Near the end of "All Rise, " I wondered how many audience members had a full-blown spiritual experience absorbing all the awe-inspired music. Given how most in the crowd roared after the last movement and the standing ovation that lasted 15 minutes, the two-plus hours of musical bliss had induced that feeling in many of them.
Charles L. Latimer is the former jazz scribe for the MetroTimes and the author of Behind the Swing: A Glimpse Into the Lives of Some of the World's Finest Jazz Musicians. He writes the popular music blog I Dig Jazz and lives in Grosse Pointe Woods.
➥ "'All Rise,' All Week" Wynton Marsalis brings his inspiring music and passion for education to Ann Arbor" [Pulp, October 6, 2022]
➥ "A Night in New Orleans" — Wynton Marsalis and JALC's halftime performance at the Michigan vs. Penn State game, October 15, 2022: