With A FIDDLER’S TALE, Wynton responds to Stravinsky’s famous A SOLDIER’S STORY from the perspective of later twentieth century music, including but not limited to jazz. This recording presents the work with spoken narration by award winning actor Andre’ de Shields. (It is also available in an instrumental only version on AT THE OCTOROON BALLS – SK 60979.) A FIDDLER’S TALE was commissioned by the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center as a joint project of the Chamber Music Society and Jazz at Lincoln Center and premiered on April 23, 1998 at Hill Auditorium in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Track Listing

It Always Starts 2:20 Play
Fiddler’s March 3:16 Play
Her Name Is Beatrice Connors 0:29 Play
Fiddler’s Soul 3:12 Play
She’s Floating On A Dream Cloud 4:11 Play
Fiddler’s March Reprise 1:30 Play
Now That He Has Her Going 3:53 Play
Reprise 2 (End Of March) 0:34 Play
Beatrice Connor’s Is Now 2:37 Play
Pastorale 4:18 Play
More Words On Fame 3:37 Play
Fiddler’s Soul Reprise 1:10 Play
Keeping One Hundred Dollars 4:10 Play
Happy March 2:20 Play
The Illness Of The Land 2:39 Play
Little Concert Piece 3:04 Play
Musicians, You Must Play 0:45 Play
Tango, Waltz, Ragtime 7:27 Play
The Music Causes The Savior 1:04 Play
Devil’s Dance 2:11 Play
The Music Was Too Strong 0:33 Play
Little Choral 0:41 Play
The Devil’s Song (BZB) 0:56 Play
The Great Choral 3:49 Play
But Beatrice Connors 4:20 Play
The Blues On Top 2:25 Play

Liner Notes

In a conversation I had with Wynton Marsalis for a book I was writing, he always came back to the fact that musicians in different areas of music have many more similarities than differences, but that we simply have too few opportunities to make music together. But here at last was the ideal opportunity: David Shifrin, the artistic director of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center had the brilliant idea of putting us together with Jazz at Lincoln Center for a month of intense collaboration. The result was a tour that criss-crossed the entire United States, culminating in this recording.

In the first half of the evening we played Stravinsky’s L’Histoire du soldat. The second half was devoted to a piece by Wynton Marsalis. The idea was for Wynton to compose a work with the same orchestration as Stravinsky’s with a connection to the original text by Ramuz. Wynton’s friend Stanley Crouch wrote an American version of Ramuz’s typically European “devil’s tale,” and this became A Fiddler’s Tale. It is possible to hear and/or play Wynton’s work in two versions, either with the narration or as a concert version. The one heard here includes the brilliant narration performed by André De Shields.

Marsalis’ music is always conceived with the intended interpreters in mind. A Fiddler’s Tale was written for us. Therefore, even during the rehearsals, the music was being recomposed and reworked, and newly corrected pages of the score were constantly being placed before us. This was an unusual demand to place on “classical” musicians, who are used to working with a completed, finished score. At the same time, under Wynton’s instruction, we were becoming familiar with his very specific idiom.

Thus began a journey that helped bring together a unique team. Its main characteristics were total artistic dedication combined with delightfully relaxed camaraderie, a camaraderie that even took command of our travel companions. For example, the cook in our hotel was bribed, as a precaution, so that after our long day, which often ended after midnight, we were able to have a hot meal. Of course, the concert didn’t always end after the audience left; occasionally Wynton would sit down at the piano in the dressing room and play the blues. He would also sing ironic, affectionate or sometimes even slightly offbeat songs about us, his fellow musicians. The sound checks before the concert often went the same way. Preparations often turned into gleeful improvisation. Wynton, Edgar Meyer and Stefon Harris would suddenly get carried away by an idea. I developed a great admiration for Wynton’s ability to improvise, and learned other things, too, from our “native jazzers:” Why shouldn’t we nod in approval to our fellow musicians after they play a successful solo? And what book of etiquette forbids classical musicians from having a glass of water onstage?

A few hours after the final bar was recorded, I was sitting on the plane returning to my home in Europe. Suddenly, I felt empty. A project, so unusual for all the participants, had just ended. Everyday music life was resuming.And, no matter how wonderful this everyday life might be, I knew that I would miss A Fiddler’s Tale. At least I was comforted by the fact that a CD would soon be released.

Milan Turkovic
Translation: Elizabeth L. Uppenbrink

Sidemen

Ida Kavafian (violin), Stefon Harris (percussion), David Shifrin (clarinet), David Taylor (trombone), Edgar Meyer (bass), Milan Turkovic (bassoon)