Every night is Carnegie Hall
Last night’s performance at The Fountain of Praise in Houston, Texas was an act of soul. Pastor Remus Wright and his wife, Co-Pastor Mia K. Wright, stayed with us and created the proper atmosphere for the stomping, shouting and co-signing that is the hallmark of the Afro-American church experience, and also for appreciation of the introspective moments, the nuanced shadings in ensemble playing and in Damien’s shaping of the choral dynamics. The choir surrounded us. We were enveloped in their warmth and intention, and the congregation lifted us and carried us all in a chariot of feeling.
My man David Kirk came tonight. He has played tuba with the Houston Philharmonic for 32 years. We attended Juilliard together as 18 year olds. I loved him, Alabama and Louisiana, two southern boys representing up North. He could play then and is otherworldly now. I heard the orchestra play Shostakovich 11 in Carnegie Hall last year and they turned it completely out.
Nicole Phifer called out the Holy Ghost. And She was everywhere in the House.
Today we’re going to hear from a man who works dawn to dusk to make sure our shows look and sound right. He is meticulous about all of the cues and is even out here with the scores to make sure he is on top of all of the entrances. We could not hope for someone as dedicated to the quality and mission of our music. He is a true believer in swinging and in raising the human condition through excellence. He is Mr. David Robinson:
“Every night is Carnegie Hall.”
That’s how the great Joe Williams said Count Basie approached every gig. It doesn’t matter where you are playing, or who you’re playing for – give it your best effort.
This has been my guiding principle towards concert production since November 29, 1989 at Tipitina’s in New Orleans. It was the first gig I worked. Billy Banks was there showing me the ropes, “Watch what I do, keep your mouth shut, and pay attention to the band.”
Our music is there to be heard as the musicians intend it. Subtle and sweet. Or raucous and rough. Let it speak in its true tone and timbre. Be it the woodiness of Carlos’s bass, or the metallic overtones of Ali’s cymbal. Give it its true character. Work at finding the vocal effect in Chris’s Harmon mute. Pull Sherman’s lead alto voice out of the sax section. Not too much, but just enough to show them who’s leading who. Ryan is Gabriel. Give him domain over the brass. Clarion and clear. Strong and sure.
Let the music speak for itself. No showy lights or garish effects. Elegant sophistication. MAKE IT PLAIN.
That’s what I’m here to do. Every night, 8:00pm, all over the world.
Today we head to Austin to perform at The Long Center for the Performing Arts on the campus of the University of Texas. We look forward to another night of uplifting.
“Abyssinian: A Gospel Celebration”, will be on tour on October 3-23, and will be webcast live on October 24th, 25th and 26th at 8PM ET on http://wyntonmarsalis.org/live — with Jazz at Lincoln Center and 2 others.