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Rock Chalk Suite

It’s been said that basketball is like jazz—but Rock Chalk Suite takes the comparison to another level entirely. Written and recorded by the musicians of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis, each of the suite’s high-flying 15 movements takes inspiration from a different University of Kansas hoops legend. As Marsalis says, both basketball and jazz “reward improvisation and split-second decision making against the pressure of time,” and the JLCO’s masterful composers have turned the Jayhawks’ rich basketball history into a stylish slam dunk of an album.

Rock Chalk Suite was commissioned to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Lied Center of Kansas, KU’s performing arts center, and the album utilizes the JLCO’s full roster to honor the university’s rich athletic heritage as well as its cultural contributions to the world. Drawing on the careers of famous Jayhawks like Paul Pierce, Lynette Woodard, and Jo Jo White, Rock Chalk Suite is a timeless tribute to the spirit of improvisation, both on and off the hardwood.

Rock Chalk Suite

Album Info

Ensemble JLCO with Wynton Marsalis
Release Date March 20th, 2020
Recording Date April 12, 2019 - April 13, 2019
Record Label Blue Engine Records
Catalogue Number BE0026
Formats CD, Digital Download
Genre Jazz at Lincoln Center Recordings
Digital Booklet Download (pdf, 2 MB)

Track Listing

Track Length Preview
The Y’s Guy – (for James Naismith) 4:19 Play
Jo Jo’s Mojo – (for Jo Jo White) 3:59 Play
Phog Allen – (for Phog Allen) 3:55 Play
The First Lady: Lyrical Lynette – (for Lynette Woodard) 4:18 Play
C.B.‘s Theme – (for Charlie B. Black) 4:16 Play
D(efense)-Up: The Untold Story of Darnell Valentine – (for Darnell Valentine) 3:55 Play
The Truth – (for Paul Pierce) 4:10 Play
Walt’s Waltz – (for Walt Wesley) 4:59 Play
Miracles – (for Danny Manning) 3:51 Play
Third Quarter – (for Nick Collison) 4:49 Play
Passing Game – (for Bill Hougland) 3:34 Play
I Cry Before My Country, I Leap Across Its Seas – (for Wilt Chamberlain) 3:58 Play
Wiggins in 6/8 – (for Andrew Wiggins) 4:25 Play
The Ponderous Pachyderm of the Planks – (for Clyde Lovellette) 4:19 Play
The Shot/I’m a Jayhawk (The KU Fight Song) – (for Mario Chalmers) 4:59 Play

Liner Notes

AS WE PREPARED to celebrate the Lied Center’s 25th anniversary throughout the 2018–2019 season, our goal was to create an indelible sense of community. It was decided that an anchor of this milestone season would be the debut of a new work. To avoid commissioning a piece that would be mostly forgotten after its premiere,we found inspiration in KU basketball. For the vast network of Kansas Jayhawks worldwide, there is a singular reverence for the sport. ESPN analyst Jay Bilas observed, “If you love basketball; if you love and respect the history of the game, every road leads back to Lawrence, Kansas.”

As a member of the Jazz at Lincoln Center family since 2000, I knew many members of the JLCO loved hoops, was aware of David Stern’s service on the board,
and had heard Wynton philosophize about the parallels between jazz and basketball. So, in 2015, we pitched the idea of commissioning each member of the JLCO to compose a movement in a collective suite honoring 15 KU basketball luminaries. Wynton and JALC’s Concerts & Touring team agreed to pursue what would eventually become Rock Chalk Suite.

Our work within the KU community then began in earnest. Through extremely heated discussions, an advisory committee established a list of over 60 KU basketball luminaries before paring it down to 15.
We then worked to engage individual sponsors for each of the 15 movements. The net proceeds of the commission would go towards our Expanding Performing
Arts Access initiative, an endowed fund that enables all 10,000 Lawrence Public School students to annually attend an age- specific performance for free. There was no precedent for a project of this nature, and the combination of the JLCO and Kansas basketball proved to be compelling to our community. We promised each sponsor one thing: the JLCO would approach this project with the deepest sense of integrity.

The JLCO’s residency at the Lied Center took place October 9–11 in 2018 and included two Jazz for Young People “Who is Thelonious Monk?” programs for all 3000 middle-schoolers in the Lawrence district the morning before the premiere. Later that day, members of the JLCO visited historic Phog Allen Fieldhouse
and were greeted by KU’s head coach (and Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame member) Bill Self and his staff. Even KU alum and NBA champion Wayne Simien greeted the musicians and was very curious and collegial. Coach Self allowed the orchestra members to shoot some baskets on the historic court, and after the shoot-around the musicians examined Dr. James Naismith’s typed “13 Original Rules of Basket Ball.” It was a particularly powerful moment for Chris Crenshaw, who composed “The Y’s Guy” for Dr. Naismith and used a 13-bar form as part of his composition.

That evening, the JLCO met with commission sponsors, honorees, and their families. Over and over again, commission sponsors and associates of the honorees would remark how impressed they were with the intense research each JLCO member conducted on their respective KU legend. The seriousness of intent was felt by all, and the JLCO was now officially part of our community, even before anyone beyond the band had heard one note of the new work. These very personal, communal interactions perfectly set the stage for the world premiere of Rock Chalk Suite the next night.

The October 11 performance kicked off with the Voice of the Jayhawks, Brian Hanni, introducing each member of the JLCO as if he were announcing the starting lineup before a game at Allen Fieldhouse. The feeling in the house was electric. As each composer introduced their movement, the audience co-signed as key statistics and seminal moments in Kansas basketball history were mentioned. The diversity and sophistication of the music itself left the audience mesmerized. Victor Goines surprised everyone at the conclusion of the performance by including KU’s fight song in his composition “The Shot,” which honors Mario Chalmers. It proved to be the perfect celebratory ending to the evening.

Directly following the concert, we agreed that Rock Chalk Suite had to be properly recorded. There was no question that this artistic content would have a profound and lasting impact on our community. Jazz at Lincoln Center was now firmly etched into the mythology of this town and the University of Kansas.
Over the next few months, our two institutions worked diligently to carve out some time in the JLCO’s hectic schedule for recording Rock Chalk Suite in the House of Swing, Frederick P. Rose Hall.

In the meantime, Wynton addressed KU’s men’s basketball team during their visit to New York for the NIT Season Tip-Off. On Thanksgiving morning, November
22, 2018, Wynton delivered a fiery talk elaborating upon the concepts of energy and breathing; the value of listening; the art of conscious repetition; the power of the collective; the supremacy of the invisible; respecting and embracing your opposition; and, finally, the transcendence of love.
It was fantastic and profound. The next night, KU beat #5 ranked Tennessee in overtime to win the tournament.

Finally, in April of 2019, we recorded Rock Chalk Suite. Wynton graciously invited the supporters of the commission to attend the historic sessions in NYC. Jazz at Lincoln Center’s amazing hospitality made the entire Kansas contingent feel like we were attending a family reunion.

Wynton set the tone at the top of the first rehearsal when he welcomed everyone to the House of Swing. He also encouraged us to attend shows at Dizzy’s Club, which hosted groups led by Elliot Mason and Sherman Irby on consecutive nights.
KU luminary and 10-year NBA veteran Walt Wesley and his wife Denise were in town and were particularly moved by the fact that Mason fought through illness to ensure his movement—“Walt’s Waltz”—was recorded well. At Dizzy’s, Irby performed a one-of-a-kind arrangement of “Sweet Georgia Brown” that brought all- time great Lynette Woodard and her family to tears. The first female ever to be invited to join the Harlem Globetrotters, Woodard had heard this tune a million times—but never quite like this.

On Saturday, April 13, the last day of the recording session, Woodard and Wesley spoke on behalf of the Kansas contingent and expressed their deepest gratitude for this once-in-a-lifetime experience. There is no question that this project, built upon the foundation of great jazz music, has created a stronger sense of community in Kansas, in NYC, and for all of Jayhawk nation. We are truly grateful to Wynton and the entire Jazz at Lincoln Center family for their remarkable collaboration. Rock Chalk!

Executive Director, Lied Center of Kansas



1. The Y’s Guy (4:18)
For James Naismith
Jeanette’s Son’s Music (BMI)
Composed by Chris Crenshaw
Solos: Dan Nimmer (piano), Wynton Marsalis (trumpet), Chris Crenshaw (trombone)

2. Jo Jo’s Mojo (3:59)
For Jo Jo White
RiMarcable Publications LLC (SESAC)
Composed by Marcus Printup
Solos: Charles Goold (drums), Elliot Mason (trombone), Ted Nash (alto saxophone), Chris Crenshaw (trombone), Marcus Printup (trumpet)

3. Phog Allen (3:55)
For Phog Allen
Composed by Ted Nash
Solo: Camille Thurman (tenor saxophone)

4. The First Lady: Lyrical Lynette (4:17)
For Lynette Woodard
Skayne’s Music (ASCAP)
Composed by Wynton Marsalis
Solos: Sherman Irby (alto saxophone), Ted Nash (flute), Ryan Kisor (trumpet), Dan Nimmer (piano)

5. C. B.’s Theme (4:16)
For Charlie B. Black
Composed by Dan Nimmer
Arranged by Carlos Henriquez
Solo: Dan Nimmer (piano)

6. D(efense)-Up: The Untold Story of Darnell Valentine (3:55)
For Darnell Valentine
Composed by Victor Goines
Solos: Charles Goold (drums), Wynton Marsalis (trumpet), Victor Goines (tenor saxophone), Sherman Irby (alto saxophone)

7. The Truth (4:10)
For Paul Pierce
Sherman Irby Publishing (BMI)
Composed by Sherman Irby
Solos: Ryan Kisor (trumpet), Chris Crenshaw (vocals), Paul Nedzela (baritone saxophone), Vincent Gardner (trombone)

8. Walt’s Waltz (4:59)
For Walt Wesley
Hipnotes Publishing (ASCAP)
Composed by Elliot Mason
Arranged by Carlos Henriquez
Solos: Ted Nash (alto saxophone), Elliot Mason (trombone), Victor Goines (clarinet), Paul Nedzela (baritone saxophone)

9. Miracles (3:51)
For Danny Manning
Muttbone Music (SESAC)
Composed by Vincent Gardner
Solos: Ted Nash (soprano saxophone), Charles Goold (drums)

10. Third Quarter (4:49)
For Nick Collison
Composed by Paul Nedzela
Arranged by Chris Crenshaw
Solos: Carlos Henriquez (bass), Vincent Gardner (trombone)

11. Passing Game (3:34)
For Bill Hougland
Ramptones Music (BMI)
Composed by Kenny Rampton
Solos: Kenny Rampton (trumpet), Victor Goines (tenor saxophone), Ted Nash (alto saxophone), Elliot Mason (trombone), Charles Goold (drums)

12. I Cry Before My Country, I Leap Across Its Seas (3:58)
For Wilt Chamberlain
Skayne’s Music (ASCAP)
Composed by Wynton Marsalis
Solos: Sherman Irby (alto saxophone), Kenny Rampton (trumpet), Marcus Printup (trumpet), Wynton Marsalis (trumpet)

13. Wiggins in 6/8 (4:25)
For Andrew Wiggins
Big Papi Publishing (ASCAP)
Composed by Carlos Henriquez
Solos: Paul Nedzela (baritone saxophone), Dan Nimmer (piano)

14. The Ponderous Pachyderm of the Planks (4:19)
For Clyde Lovellette
Sherman Irby Publishing (BMI)
Composed by Sherman Irby
Solos: Carlos Henriquez (bass), Chris Crenshaw (trombone), Elliot Mason (trombone), Vincent Gardner (trombone)

15. The Shot / I’m a Jayhawk (The KU Fight Song) (4:59)
“The Shot”
For Mario Chalmers
Composed by Victor Goines
Solos: Sherman Irby (alto saxophone), Wynton Marsalis (trumpet), Ted Nash (alto saxophone), Chris Crenshaw (trombone), Marcus Printup (trumpet), Camille Thurman (tenor saxophone), Kenny Rampton (trumpet), Sam Chess (trombone), Ryan Kisor (trumpet), Vincent Gardner (trombone)

“I’m a Jayhawk (The KU Fight Song)”
MPL Music Publishing Inc. OBO Edwin H. Morris & Co. (ASCAP)
Composed by George “Dumpy” Bowles



2018-2019 Concert Season

Sherman Irby — alto and soprano saxophones, flute, clarinet
Ted Nash — alto and soprano saxophones, flute, clarinet, piccolo
Victor Goines — tenor and soprano saxophones, Bb and bass clarinets, tambourine
(†) Walter Blanding — tenor saxophone
(*) Camille Thurman — tenor and soprano saxophones, clarinet
Paul Nedzela — baritone and soprano saxophones, bass clarinet

(*) Ryan Kisor
Kenny Rampton
Marcus Printup
Wynton Marsalis

Vincent Gardner
Chris Crenshaw (additional vocals, track 7)
Elliot Mason (tracks 1-8, 10-14)
(*) Sam Chess (tracks 9 and 15)

Dan Nimmer — piano
Carlos Henriquez — bass
(*) Charles Goold — drums
(*) Taurien “TJ” Reddick – percussion

(*) Indicates substitute orchestra members
(†) Did not perform on this recording

CO-PRODUCERS The Lied Center of Kansas under the direction of Derek Kwan; Todd Whitelock

Recorded on April 11–13, 2019 at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Frederick P. Rose Hall.

Front of House Engineer: David Robinson
Marketing Manager: Nicole Morales
Recording Engineers: Todd Whitelock and Rob Macomber
Product and Marketing Assistant: Benjamin Korman
ProTools Engineer: Josh Welshman
Director of PR and External Communications: Zooey T. Jones
Assistant Engineer: Michael Hickey
Public Relations Manager: Madelyn Gardner
ProTools Editor: Gloria Kaba
Art Direction: Brian Welesko
Mixing Engineer: Todd Whitelock at Amplified Art and Sound
Design and Illustration: Iris Dai
Production Assistant: Wes Whitelock
Legal: Daphnée Saget Woodley, Wesley Friedman, and Allison Job
Stage Hands: David Gibson, Alan Sheehy, Wayne Roelle, Mark Fiore, Shannan Sukhu, and Michael Conrader

Mastering Engineer: Mark Wilder at Battery Studios, NYC 2020
Audio Archivist: Benjamin Carbone
Music Copyists: Jonathan Kelly and Michael Sailors

Label Head and A&R: Gabrielle Armand
Concert Programming: Jason Olaine and Georgina Javor
Label Manager: Aaron Bisman
Concert Line Producer: Justin Bias
Assistant Label Manager: Jake Cohen
Photography: Shulamit Seidler-Feller
Product Manager: Madeleine Cuddy
Liner Notes: Derek Kwan


1. James Naismith
David Booth

2. Jo Jo White
Scott & Linda Robinson and Chris & Jane Fevurlyù

3. Phog Allen
John & Rosy Elmore

4. Lynette Woodard
In honor of Renate Mai-Dalton, Venkat & Neeli Bendapudi

5. Charlie B. Black
Cathy L. Daicoff

6. Darnell Valentine
Steve & Chris Edmonds

7. Paul Pierce
Cathy Reinhardt

8. Walt Wesley
Roland & Joanne Hurst

9. Danny Manning
Danny & Julie Manning

10. Nick Collison
Catherine Holland

11. Bill Hougland
Brad & Linda Sanders

12. Wilt Chamberlain
Beverly Smith Billings

13. Andrew Wiggins
Jeff & Mary Weinberg

14. Clyde Lovellette
Jon & Vicki Jamison

15. Mario Chalmers
Miles & Paula Schnaer