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The Democracy! Suite

“Jazz music is the perfect metaphor for democracy,” says famed trumpeter Wynton Marsalis. At a time when America—and indeed, the whole world—finds itself at a crossroads, the Pulitzer Prize-winning composer has been inspired to write a poignant and buoyant work, The Democracy! Suite, which proves that the joy and beauty of jazz can bring us all closer together.
That new suite is now a digital album from Marsalis and a septet composed of members of the famed Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. Recorded live in Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Appel Room during the Covid-19 lockdown, the work is irresistible and irrepressible. Tracks like “Out Amongst the People (For J Bat)” and “Be Present” are an impassioned reflection of turbulent times that find peerless musicians working as a harmonious community, urging us to reflect on the past and reconsider the future.
“The question that confronts us right now as a nation is, ‘Do we want to find a better way?’” Marsalis says. The music of The Democracy! Suite may be instrumental, but it speaks for itself, urging us onto action—to get out of our seats and fight for the world we believe in.

The Democracy! Suite

Album Info

Ensemble Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra Septet with Wynton Marsalis
Release Date January 15th, 2021
Recording Date September 27, 2020
Record Label Blue Engine Records
Catalogue Number BE0037
Formats Digital Download, LP
Genre Jazz at Lincoln Center Recordings
Digital Booklet Download (pdf, 9 MB)

Track Listing

Track Length Preview
Be Present 5:12 Play
Sloganize, Patronize, Realize, Revolutionize (Black Lives Matters) 6:57 Play
Ballot Box Bounce 4:40 Play
That Dance We Do (That You Love Too) 6:09 Play
Deeper Than Dreams 5:40 Play
Out Amongst the People (for J Bat) 5:27 Play
It Come ‘Round ‘Gin 5:57 Play
That’s When All Will See 4:48 Play

Liner Notes

This is a time of great struggle for health, wealth, life, and liberty. A panorama of timeless national and international human rights dilemmas has been surfaced and accelerated by the pitiless glare of 2020. As Americans and global citizens, we are increasingly uncertain about who, where, and how we are. The healing insights of jazz are right in time. This music is tough. In the face of tremendous social, political and cultural resistance, jazz provides solutions to the central dilemma of our democracy and of our universal humanity: can we work together to create unlimited resources and agency for each other, or do we just accept that the strong will exploit and control the weak?

Since its inception as an art form, jazz has stood tall and unflinching in its defense of human rights. The fight for personhood and freedom is in the sounds, rhythms, and voices of those singing horns and dancing drums that stretch back to the years immediately after the abolition of American slavery. Jazz is the spirit of Congo Square, always advancing to meet the intentions of Constitution Hall.

From deep in the souls of those who put the foundations of this music in place sprang an entire sweep of collective creativity that would come to represent the rights and responsibilities that characterize our way of life. Its sound was powerful and provocative. Its nature was organic and deeply considered. It was and IS still called… jazz. And though there are many more fans of the name than the music, only the actual music has that combination of insight, virtuosity, grit, soul, invention, honesty, and integrity that makes the sound of jazz like nature herself: sweet and pungent.

The Democracy! Suite is a non-polemical, instrumental composition inspired by the facts, feelings, and fictions of our current global situation. Written a few months into the Covid-19 lockdown, it addresses the drama and beauty, the ugliness and the violence of these times, Yes, but ultimately, The Democracy! Suite is optimistic in tone and execution.

Be Present
A piece inspired by citizens who have put their lives on the line working through this pandemic (whether by choice or otherwise). “Be Present” recognizes the efforts of everyone who has chosen to enter the fray to fight for human freedoms, wherever and however they choose.

Sloganize, Patronize, Realize, Revolutionize (Black Lives Matters)
A melody that articulates the slogan-chant-battle cry that has dominated our airwaves and social spaces. Its intention is very clear, though the facts of it all remain shrouded in mystery. Is it an organization, a philosophy, a call to arms, a call for justice, or all of the above? Used and obscured by all sides to mean whatever they want it to mean, it has illuminated, excited and exacerbated the multiple segregated fault lines that corrupt our way of life. Will this be a passing slogan used to patronize and move on? Or will it be a bloodless revolution, realized through the changing of the laws and mechanics that allow unarmed citizens to be slain by peace officers who lie beyond the arm of the same justice they are sworn to uphold?

Ballot Box Bounce
The postmaster general is very publicly and proudly making mailboxes bounce away. It’s like your fire chief identifying himself as an arsonist. Here, the to-and-fro of Swing is applied to our national vote. Some folks are begging you to vote; others warn you to stay away. Ha-ha—it’s ironic, funny and difficult to play. Prohibition created more drinkers; these preventative actions will create more voters.

That Dance We Do
In-person and over the multitudes of media outlets, I listen closely to the diversity of music in various protests. There are so many unconventional, grooving beats accompanying the profuse slogans and chants and….always people with tambourines. Where do all of these tambourines come from? This movement is a recognition of folks, them and us, getting out and gettin’ down for our beliefs, rights, and responsibilities.

Deeper than Dreams
So many of us have lost loved ones to Covid-19 and didn’t have that last chance to say goodbye in-person. Your dearly departed is forced to come to you from the spirit world and sit with you. Their presence allows you to grieve slowly, to mourn completely. So many people say they just can’t sleep. It is a profound, holistic pain that can only be assuaged in a realm that is deeper than dreams.

Out Amongst the People (for J Bat)
Musicians are trying to stay active in this period. Many of my younger students call me to come and play at this protest or the other. Invariably, they tease me about my age and so on— “climb up out of that jar of formaldehyde and join us out here, man.” I love pianist and entertainer Jonathan Batiste. He has always been about getting in front of the people and serving good-time music to uplift the entire community. I saw a picture of him playing with drummer Joe Saylor and other members of the Stay Human band, surrounded by people cloaked in masks. They were all grooving, doing their thing in the name of freedom. It was pure inspiration to see our younger musicians engaged with the fundamental principles of democracy. For every call I got saying “Let’s get out there!” and in the festive spirit of J Bat, I wrote this.

It Come Round ’Gin
Is this actual change or a wash cycle that will soon pass until the next time we have to “let a little pressure out of the system”? Time will tell. This is what old, wise people say whenever you ask a question about the current crisis: “I remember a time when so and so happened—and it come round ’gin.” Maybe—maybe not. In the words of great American historian Geoffrey Ward, “History doesn’t repeat itself; people do.”

That’s When All Will See
It’s easy to look away from human tragedies that befall others. Bad things that happen to “them” do not affect “us.” It’s over there, and we’re over here. Sometimes, when “we” become “them”, and circumstances leave us with no other option…. we are forced to see. Then, as a matter of survival, different tribes come together and act for the good of a larger community.

After 9/11 and in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, we saw a national awakening and a mutual productivity for the benefit of any and all citizens trying to recover. We saw it too after the murder of George Floyd. A diversity of Americans with a non-commercial common goal.

Propaganda is powerful, and illusions are comforting. They allow feelings to override facts. Every now and then, a reality is so inescapable that fabrications peel away, and facts become evident. For some, this is very painful. For others, it is cause for celebration. This is a parade song for some future time when we won’t need death and destruction to force meaningful, intelligent, and humanistic change.

Let’s see. Can’t wait.



1. Be Present
Solos: Wynton Marsalis (trumpet), Dan Nimmer (piano), Elliot Mason (trombone)

2. Sloganize, Patronize, Realize, Revolutionize (Black Lives Matters)
Solos: Walter Blanding (tenor saxophone), Carlos Henriquez (bass), Obed Calvaire (drums), Ted Nash (alto saxophone), Wynton Marsalis (trumpet), Elliot Mason (trombone)

3. Ballot Box Bounce
Solos: Wynton Marsalis (trumpet), Ted Nash (flute), Walter Blanding (tenor saxophone), Dan Nimmer (piano), Carlos Henriquez (bass), Obed Calvaire (drums)

4. That Dance We Do (That You Love Too)
Solos: Walter Blanding (soprano saxophone), Elliot Mason (trombone), Ted Nash (alto saxophone), Dan Nimmer (piano), Carlos Henriquez (bass), Obed Calvaire (drums), Wynton Marsalis (trumpet)

5. Deeper Than Dreams
Solos: Wynton Marsalis (trumpet), Ted Nash (alto saxophone), Walter Blanding (tenor saxophone), Elliot Mason (trombone), Dan Nimmer (piano)

6. Out Amongst the People (for J Bat)
Solos: Walter Blanding (soprano saxophone), Obed Calvaire (drums and tambourine), Wynton Marsalis (trumpet), Dan Nimmer (piano), Ted Nash (alto saxophone), Elliot Mason (trombone)

7. It Come ‘Round ‘Gin
Solos: Wynton Marsalis (trumpet), Ted Nash (alto saxophone), Carlos Henriquez (bass), Walter Blanding (tenor saxophone), Elliot Mason (trombone), Dan Nimmer (piano)

8. That’s When All Will See
Solos: Wynton Marsalis (trumpet), Ted Nash (alto saxophone), Walter Blanding (tenor saxophone), Elliot Mason (trombone), Dan Nimmer (piano)



Wynton Marsalis – trumpet, music director
Ted Nash – alto and soprano saxophones, flute
Walter Blanding – tenor and soprano saxophones, clarinet
Elliot Mason – trombone
Dan Nimmer – piano
Carlos Henriquez – bass
Obed Calvaire – drums, tambourine

Executive Producer: Wynton Marsalis
All songs composed and arranged by Wynton Marsalis

Recording Engineer: Rob Macomber
Editor: Gloria Kaba
Mixing Engineer: Todd Whitelock at Amplified Art and Sound
Mastered by Mark Wilder at Battery Studios, NYC 2020

Label Head and A&R: Gabrielle Armand
Assistant Label Manager: Jake Cohen
Product Manager: Madeleine Cuddy
Marketing Manager: Nicole Morales
Product and Marketing Assistant: Benjamin Korman
Director of Public Relations and External Communications: Zooey T. Jones
Public Relations Manager: Madelyn Gardner

Legal: Daphnée Saget Woodley, Allison Job
Music Administration: Kay Wolff, Christianna English
Music Copyist: Jonathan Kelly
Concert Programming: Jason Olaine, Georgina Javor
Concert Producer: Justin Bias
Production Manager: David Taylor
Production Compliance Safety Officers: Domingo Cabrera, Sarah Peterson
Art Direction: Brian Welesko
Design: Iris Dai
Photography: Justin Bias

Recorded on September 27, 2020 at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Frederick P. Rose Hall in accordance with the New York State Department of Health Interim Guidance on Media Production during the Covid-19 Emergency.

Leadership support for Blue Engine Records is provided in part by the Arnhold Family and Jay Pritzker Foundation.
Generous support is provided by Helen and Robert Appel, Diana and Joseph DiMenna, Leonard and Louise Riggio, and Lisa Schiff.
The mission of Jazz at Lincoln Center is to entertain, enrich, and expand a global community for jazz through performance, education, and advocacy

℗&©2021 Jazz at Lincoln Center, Inc.