Announcing The Ever Fonky Lowdown, Wynton Marsalis’s latest extended composition, a groundbreaking, satirical look at democratic freedom, abuse of power, racism, and cultural corruption.

(From album booklet)

Performed by The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis, featuring vocalists Christie Dashiell, Ashley Pezzotti, Camille Thurman, 
and Doug Wamble with narration from special guest Wendell Pierce.

Available exclusively on digital platforms on August 21, 2020

New York, NY (August 12, 2020) Wynton Marsalis‘s exploration of socio-cultural and political issues has yielded some of his most inspired and provocative work over the last four decades including the GRAMMY® Award-winning Black Codes in 1985, Blood on the Fields ─ the first jazz composition ever to win a Pulitzer Prize ─ in 1996, All Rise in 2002 (performed by Symphonic Orchestras the world over to great acclaim), and From the Plantation to the Penitentiary in 2007, which according to one reviewer, “reveals some important truth about this country with a lot of anger and heart.”

On August 21, 2020, Blue Engine Records will release The Ever Fonky Lowdown, the latest Marsalis composition to directly address the irresistible cocktail of deception, racism, greed, and gullibility that subverts the global fight for human rights and corrupts the possibilities and promise of democracy in America and around the world.

Available exclusively on digital platforms, The Ever Fonky Lowdown features the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis and vocalists Camille Thurman, Ashley Pezzotti, Christie Dashiell, and Doug Wamble.

The new recording also features narration from acclaimed actor Wendell Pierce (The Wire, Treme, Jack Ryan) who plays the role of “Mr. Game,” whose commentary reveals the “hustle” that keeps us at each other’s throats and prevents us from working together to build a more equitable and friendly world.

“Mr. Game” is a composite strongman, part evangelical preacher, lawyer, businessman, politician, street hustler, newsman, social worker, street corner prophet, and reality show celebrity. His language is refined, colloquial and slang and his confidence and populist message keeps you hooked on the line for more. He is consistently charismatic, conniving and irreverent and so shocking in his disrespect for convention as to be provocative.

The Ever Fonky Lowdown was written in 2018 to address universal issues of human exploitation and suffering with a specific focus on how those matters have played out in America. The most recent public acts of police violence and the social inequities exposed by the Covid-19 Pandemic have spotlighted national problems and has hit a global nerve as well, as evidenced by the many international protests in solidarity. In this very moment, our world is experiencing more and more social upheaval over a myriad of human rights issues. The Ever Fonky Lowdown is even more pungent and timely today because it provides a blueprint for the game that has been and is being run on so many of us.

“Mr. Game” himself says, “We are here tonight, but this is an international hustle. It has played out many times across time and space and is not specific to any language or race. It takes on different flavors according to people’s taste, but always ends up in the same old place.”

Reaching back to Blood on the Fields, the Orchestra and singers act as an ancient Greek chorus commenting on the action and moving things along. Playing the symbolically complex and multi-layered score with the absolute precision, feeling and soul of jazz musicians, they cover everything from Gospel Quartet, to American folk, to New Orleans funk, utilizing the swing rhythm, as well as tresillo and other grooves that have yet to be named. The music also functions as another character, largely celebratory and ecstatic, expressing the internal joy and glee with which we exploit our fellow man and woman.

The Ever Fonky Lowdown is entertaining—but it also brilliantly reveals an incisive, panoramic, and satirical view of modern society. A funky jazz parable for 2020, the new work covers terrain from football to politics, power to poverty, from love and romance to betrayal and corruption; it will make you dance and sing and it will make you think and reconsider.

Mr. Marsalis says, “Usually I research and learn a lot of new material for longer pieces. For this one, I went with music and mythology that I have lived. From the music my father and great New Orleans drummer and composer James Black played in the 60’s, to the funk we played in the 70’s, to the modern jazz we have been blessed to play, teach and shape over these last decades, The Ever Fonky Lowdown is an antidote to the poisonous (and largely unquestioned) cultural mythology that continues to infect our general quality of life.”

The work ultimately asks the question, where do we go from here?

According to Marsalis, “There’s no real answer on the Left or the Right. The solution lies outside of the game. But, we have to rise above our position on the board to get a broader view…..and then decide individually, if we have the will to fight for a collectively better country (or world) populated with ‘others’. It boils down to the basic question of predation vs. symbiosis—do we want to help one another or exploit each other?”

Through this work, Marsalis suggests the need for all of us to question cheap populism and propaganda; rather than looking at what you are being told to see, look at what you are actually seeing in your immediate environment and act to improve that. “The entire world is struggling with issues of governance, belief, wealth, and cultural integrity. This is not the time for sleepwalking,” he says. “From the protests around the world that saw solidarity in the Afro-American struggle, we see people wanting to rise up and create a more equitable and more participatory world. Where do you stand? The new world is something we must fight for and the first step of doing is seeing. Awareness and acuity are the keys to escaping the complex web of very willful obfuscations on all sides of the equation. This is a responsibility and a burden we all share. In times of such cloudiness, to act is itself heroic.”

The Ever Fonky Lowdown Track Listing

  1. We Are the Greatest (Instrumental)
  2. Mr. Game Speaks: I Am a Winner
  3. We Are the Greatest
  4. Mr. Game: Success Is My Middle Name
  5. They/Let’s Call Them This
  6. Mr. Game: Beware! They’re Going to Cause Problems
  7. The Ever Fonky Lowdown in 4
  8. Mr. Game: Talk Is a Waste of Time
  9. I Don’t Like Nobody but Myself
  10. Mr. Game: We Must Strike First! (Trust Me)
  11. The Drums of War
  12. Mr. Game: The Mandates of Our Democracy
  13. Consideration Blues / I Know I Must Fight / The Drums of War Return
  14. Mr. Game: Who Is We?
  15. What Would the Savior Think?
  16. Mr. Game: Winners Don’t Reflect, We Celebrate
  17. Some for Me, None for You
  18. Mr. Game: We’re Number One!
  19. The Ever Fonky Lowdown in 5
  20. Mr. Game: They Deserved Everything They Got
  21. Night Trader
  22. Mr. Game: They, Too, Want to Be Winners
  23. Mr. Good Time Man
  24. Mr. Game: Shame Is for Losers
  25. Because I Want to, Because I Like to, Because I Can
  26. Mr. Game: A Ridiculous Plea
  27. I Wants My Ice Cream
  28. Mr. Game: Somebody’s Got to Rule
  29. The Ever Fonky Lowdown in 6
  30. Reprise: What Would the Savior Think?
  31. The Ever Fonky Lowdown in 5 & 6
  32. Mr. Game: Your First Prize
  33. Isms, Schisms
  34. Mr. Game: Your Second Prize
  35. Yes/No
  36. Where Has the Love Gone?
  37. Mr. Game: Your Third Prize
  38. Consider This ‘Bout the Filth We Love
  39. Mr. Game: Your Fourth Prize
  40. Everybody Wear They Mask
  41. Mr. Game: You Love These Prizes Because You Live Them
  42. The Ever Fonky Lowdown in 7
  43. Mr. Game: Your Wildcard
  44. I Got a Nagging Feeling
  45. Mr. Game: The Freedom Fighter: Fannie Lou Hamer
  46. The Ballad of Fannie Lou: Part 1
  47. The Ballad of Fannie Lou: Part 2
  48. Mr. Game: Just Let the Memories of Them Die
  49. Why Do We Pick Slavery over Freedom?
  50. Mr. Game: Your Last Prize (The Best One)
  51. Reprise: The Ever Fonky Lowdown in 4
  52. Reprise: I Wants My Ice Cream
  53. I Know I Must Fight


Sherman Irby
Ted Nash
Victor Goines
†Walter Blanding *Dan Block
Paul Nedzela

Ryan Kisor
Marcus Printup
Kenny Rampton
Wynton Marsalis

Vincent Gardner
Chris Crenshaw – trombone and vocals
Elliot Mason

Dan Nimmer – piano
Carlos Henriquez – bass

Jason Marsalis – drums and tambourine

Wendell Pierce – narrator
Doug Wamble – guitar and vocals
Camille Thurman – vocals
Ashley Pezzotti – vocals
Christie Dashiell – vocals
Ricky “Dirty Red” Gordon – percussion
Bobby Allende – percussion


Sam Chess – trombone (track 7)
Adam Birnbaum – piano (tracks 7, 35, 42, 51)
Charles Goold – drums (track 35)

(†) did not perform at this recording session
(*) substitute orchestra member

About Blue Engine Records
Blue Engine Records, Jazz at Lincoln Center’s platform that makes its vast archive of recorded concerts available to jazz audiences everywhere, launched on June 30, 2015. Blue Engine Records releases new studio and live recordings as well as archival recordings from Jazz at Lincoln Center’s performance history that date back to 1987 and are part of the R. Theodore Ammon Archives and Music Library. Since the institution’s founding in 1987, each year’s programming is conceived and developed by Managing and Artistic Director Wynton Marsalis with a vision toward building a comprehensive library of iconic and wide-ranging compositions that, taken together, make up a canon of music. These archives include accurate, complete charts for the compositions – both old and new – performed each season. Coupled with consistently well-executed and recorded music performed by Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, this archive has grown to include thousands of songs from hundreds of concert dates. The launch of Blue Engine is aligned with Jazz at Lincoln Center’s efforts to cultivate existing jazz fans worldwide and turn new audiences onto jazz. For more information on Blue Engine Records, visit

Press Inquiries:

Zooey Tidal Jones

Jazz at Lincoln Center 
Director, Public Relations and External Communications

[email protected]

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