Wynton’s Blog

The house was packed and brimming with expectation

Sunday afternoon, we were presented in our Nation’s capitol by the Washington Performing Arts Society. They are the very definition of a community arts organization. Both the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra and my small groups have been honored to perform under their auspices for close to thirty years.

The house was packed and brimming with expectation. Some heavy hitters were out this afternoon: innovative composer/pianist Darin Atwater, one of our country’s most profound writers, Leon Wieseltier with his 11 year old son Matthew, and my 7th grade teacher, Sr. Lee Ann, whose handwriting I copied and use to this day (just not as good).

Today we’re going to hear from someone who was a running back in high school, has 25 years of experience as a licensed driver of charter buses & oil tanker trucks, did 21 years of honorable service in the US Navy and worked for 5 years as a mortician in the state of Maryland! We call him Big Boss, Mr. Raymond Murphy:


It was early Sunday morning, and while many worshipers were up preparing to attend 8am service and Sunday School, the Jazz at Lincoln Orchestra and Chorale Le Chateau were aboard 4 buses departing the Norfolk, VA, Tidewater area. We were driving to where I grew up, Washington, DC. Today’s concert was performed at the Kennedy Center, originally named the National Cultural Center in 1958, but renamed as an everlasting memorial to President John F. Kennedy in 1971. Well, the Jazz at Lincoln Orchestra and Chorale Le Chateau delivered some good ol’ fashioned back-in-the-day Afro-American culture on the Kennedy Center’s Concert Hall stage this evening.

Wynton Marsalis and Damien Sneed united Jazz and Gospel outside of the typical liturgical environment that many worshipers are familiar with. ‘Processional’ was my favorite movement. The orchestra played a fast shouting beat and the choir was clapping, dancing, co-signing and rocking the house. I mean literally rocking the house. Backstage, I could see the risers the choir members were standing on bouncing and rocking from side to side. The Jazz at Lincoln Orchestra and Chorale Le Chateau were having CHURCH! It reminded me of how we danced and worshipped at Holy Cross under the late Bishop Stella V. Mack.

By the conclusion of this concert, EVERY patron in attendance at some point had joined in with some type of participation. “Abyssinian” jazz and songs of praise were uplifting to people of every culture present in the shell of the Concert Hall.

As the tour manager, I started preparing for this Abyssinian Tour way back in February of this year. I am responsible for planning the day to day operation and movement of the tour from city to city. Planning this tour consisted of locating and reserving 66 hotel rooms in 16 cities, finding a professional bus company to lease 4 comfortable, safe, highway reliable buses, hiring a two person team to drive the equipment truck and multi-tasking with miscellaneous roadwork when required.

I have 100 people to manage on this tour which does and will present some different and unanticipated challenges each and every day. Once the first note is played though, I forget about all of the obstacles we had to overcome preceding the start of show. I am here because I LOVE and ENJOY being the Tour Manager.

It’s 11:23pm and I must go and prepare for an 11am departure to Charlotte, NC. That means 5:30am for me! I would not want to be any other place than here with the Jazz at Lincoln Orchestra and Chorale Le Chateau.

Boss Murphy


Today is a travel day to Charlotte for the JLCO and Chorale Le Chateau. It also serves as an important day of voice rest for our vocalists. In advance of our performance in Charlotte tomorrow, gospel artist/educator Karla Scott worked with students in the region on September 23. It was a pleasure to partner with Mark Propst, Performing Arts Specialist for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools. Let’s hear from him now:


Good Afternoon All,

I want to “testify” that Karla Scott, guest clinician for the Abyssinian Mass, surpassed my wildest expectations yesterday. She had students at Butler High School and East Mecklenburg High School eating out of the palm of her hand. Immediately upon her arrival at each school, she mesmerized them with her pleasant personality and charismatic charm. Her rapport with high school students was terrific. Instantly, she related to their interests in music, musical styles, and musical performers. Her presentation was very interesting, informative, and engaging. She listened to students sing and explored several movements of Abyssinian Mass, including its history, how it evolved, how it continues to evolve, and general information about jazz and gospel music.

From a curricular standpoint, I appreciated Karla’s flexibility in working with both Ms. Graves and Ms. Heinen, choral music teachers. Everything was presented in a positive, upbeat, reaffirming manner. My hope is that the experience for her was equally as rewarding. I know I certainly enjoyed spending the day with her!

Thank you Todd, Mike, Robert, and Barb so much for the opportunity to have Karla join us for such a great day! Ms. Scott’s North Carolina roots served us all very well. “In that great gettin’ up mornin’, fare thee well, fare thee well!”

Thank you Karla very much! I hope you will stay in touch.

Warm regards,
Mark Propst, Performing Arts Specialist
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools


We look forward to more uplifting in the concert hall and the community!


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