Garth Fagan, Wynton Marsalis pair for new work

About 25 years ago, choreographer Garth Fagan was walking down East Avenue and saw something out of the ordinary. The famous jazz trumpeter Wynton Marsalis was strolling around, looking rather blue. Marsalis had just performed in Rochester and was having a few band quibbles.

“I picked him up and took him to the studio to see a performance,” says Fagan.

There in a gymnasium where the company practiced, Fagan’s company put on an impromptu private performance for the jazz great. Marsalis, originally from New Orleans and a New York City resident, calls it “a signature moment in my life.”

The meeting of two great artistic minds would eventually lead to one of Fagan’s most significant works, Griot New York, which premiered in 1991 at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) with music choreographed and performed by Marsalis, plus quintessential set design by sculptor Martin Puryear.

Playing off 25 years of friendship, Fagan and Marsalis reprise their collaboration this week with the debut of a second joint work, being staged at the Brooklyn venue on Thursday in a gala co-chaired by Marsalis and Xerox CEO Ursula Burns.

Lighthouse/Lightning Rod features original choreography by Tony Award winner Fagan, original music by Grammy Award winner Marsalis (performed with his septet) and original scenery by Guggenheim Fellow artist Alison Saars. It caps Garth Fagan Dance’s 40th anniversary year and also celebrates BAM’s 150th anniversary.

Griot New York will also get a revival at the concert. Observers will then be able to see if 20 years of additional friendship has deepened the artistic connection.

Garth Fagan Dance will perform the new work in Rochester at Nazareth College Arts Center from Nov. 27 to Dec. 2, although it will be with a recording of Marsalis’ music. A group of patrons, friends and family members got to preview the new dance on Friday, as the dance company and Marsalis and his musicians did a full dress rehearsal at Garth Fagan Dance’s Chestnut Street home.

Reguero, a former Democrat and Chronicle critic, is a doctoral student in musicology at State University of New York at Stony Brook.

Source: Democrat & Chronicle

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