These two pieces are from Blood on the Fields. They represent opposing religious perspectives.
These two pieces are from Blood on the Fields. They represent opposing religious perspectives. What a Friend We Have in Jesus, speaks of granting forgiveness, being accepting and waiting for the afterlife to be fulfilled. God Don’t Like Ugly, speaks of retribution and of fire and brimstone descending on evil doers. For me, both together represent a single 360 degree viewpoint on how religion can alleviate pain and create consciousness in a very difficult circumstance.
Blood on the Fields was first presented in 1994, recorded in 1995 completed somewhere in 1996. It was soooo long every time we’ve played it, I’ve had to cut cut cut. On the first tour, members of the orchestra would say cut this. And whenever I took a section out, they would say,“No, not that one.”
This first selection features Mississippi’s finest, Cassandra Wilson. She was extremely serious about learning all of her parts on the piano and brought so much soul and understanding to this music, I was grateful and remain even more so as times have passed.
This was the first piece I composed for full big band and I remember being very nervous about how it would sound. The first two days of rehearsal sounded like absolute pure noise, and all I could do was look down at the score in disbelief. I have to be one of the world’s worse conductors and in between Wes Anderson laughing at me (and pointing back to the trumpet section) every time I did something wrong and my insecurity about what was written. It was rough. Just as I was about to throw in the towel on it and accept that large ensemble writing maybe wasn’t my thing, it started to sound like music somewhere in there. The room started to lift and we all said “Wait a minute, the patient might not be dead on arrival.”
As always, the musicians were fantastic and worked very hard to make it happen. They practiced day and night and Robert Stewart literally didn’t sleep for that first week learning his parts. The band was:
Roger Ingram, Russell Gunn and Marcus Printup on trumpets; Ron Westray, Wycliffe Gordon and Wayne Goodman on trombones; Wes Anderson, Robert Stewart, Victor Goines and James Carter, reeds, Eric Reed-piano, Reginald Veal-bass, Herlin Riley-drums; Michael Ward—violin; with vocalist Jon Hendricks, Cassandra Wilson and Miles Griffin.