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Jazz And Art Take Center Stage To Form 'Portraits Of America'

Jazz and the visual arts have always enjoyed a mutually beneficial relationship. Last year the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis put that bond front and center with an ambitious original program called Portraits of America: A Jazz Story.

The concert featured new compositions by members of the orchestra, directly inspired by works in the collection of the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Ark. So in this special episode of Jazz Night in America, we'll not only hear the resulting music but also get inside the inspiration — learning how Grace Hartigan's abstract painting Rough, Ain't It motivated alto saxophonist Sherman Irby, and which qualities in the Romare Bearden collage Sacrifice spoke to tenor saxophonist Walter Blanding.

At a moment when it's not possible to visit an art museum in person, Portraits of America invites us to experience color and shape in a new way. "I love the fact that you can take a painting, a piece of art that isn't changing, and then create something that's constantly changing to represent it," reflects multi-reedist Ted Nash. "It almost seems like it wouldn't work, but the music can actually make the painting move."

Musicians: Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis

Wynton Marsalis: Music Director, trumpet; Ryan Kisor: trumpet; Kenny Rampton: trumpet; Michael Rodriguez: trumpet; Vincent Gardner: trombone; Chris Crenshaw: trombone; Elliot Mason: trombone; Sherman Irby: alto saxophone, flute, piccolo; Ted Nash: alto saxophone, flute, piccolo; Victor Goines: tenor saxophone, clarinet; Camille Thurman: tenor saxophone, clarinet; Carl Maraghi: baritone saxophone, bass clarinet; Dan Nimmer: piano; Carlos Henriquez: bass; Jason Marsalis: drums.

Set List (radio show):

  • "Summer Day" (Elliot Mason)
  • "Black Balloon" (Chris Crenshaw)
  • "Au Café (Synchromy)" (Ted Nash)
  • "A Hot Jam on Grand" (Sherman Irby)
  • "For Never and Forever" (Walter Blanding Jr.)
  • "One Understands" (Vincent Garnder)
  • "Salvation, Serenity, Reflection" (Marcus Printup)
  • Set List (video):

  • "The Sound of Colors" (Victor Goines)
  • "A Hot Jam on Grand" (Sherman Irby)
  • "Black Balloon" (Chris Crenshaw)
  • "One Understands" (Vincent Garnder)
  • "For Never and Forever" (Walter Blanding Jr.)
  • "We The People" (Wynton Marsalis)
  • Credits:

    Writer and Producer: Alex Ariff; Senior Producer: Katie Simon; Host: Christian McBride; Video Producers: Justin Bias, Colin Marshall; Concert Video Director: James Sapione; Concert Videographers: Hiram Becker, Andrew Trost; Video Editor: Melany Rochester; Project Manager: Suraya Mohamed; Music Engineer: James P. Nichols; Tech Director: David Tallacksen; Thanks to Linda Freemen from L&S Video; Executive Producers: Anya Grundmann and Gabrielle Armand; Senior Director of NPR Music: Lauren Onkey.

    Copyright 2021 WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center. To see more, visit WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center.