Wynton Marsalis’ latest composition, ‘Ever Fonky Lowdown,’ tells satirical tale about politics, racism and greed
The nine-time Grammy Award and Pulitzer Prize winning jazz luminary assembled his Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, along with vocalists Camille Thurman, Ashley Pezzotti, Christie Dashiell and Doug Wamble, to deliver a satirical and surreal story about deception, racism, greed, democratic freedom and the abuse of power.
Added to the mix is award-winning actor Wendell Pierce as the carnival-barking, Big Brother-styled narrator, Mr. Game, who boasts he “became famous about my financial twerking that showed money how to make money without even the money working.”
“He has game and loves to play his own people,” the world-renowned trumpeter told the Daily News about the caustic character, who can draw comparisons to the leader of the free world throughout the opus’ 53 tracks on two discs.
“[Mr. Game] is an amalgamation of a successful evangelical preacher, lawyer, businessman, politician, street hustler, newsman, social worker, street corner prophet, and reality show celebrity,” Marsalis said.
Marsalis’ relationship with Pierce, a classically trained thespian with an array of stage credits and screen roles, dates from the late 1970s in their hometown of New Orleans, where both attended the same school. They also went to the New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts High School and Juilliard.
“We’re like brothers … we have respect for each other’s artistry and our relationship is everlasting and deep,” he said of the actor who starred in the critically acclaimed HBO dramas “The Wire” and “Treme.”
Marsalis said “The Ever Fonky Lowdown” — dedicated to his parents — is a blueprint for its listeners to decode many of the “schemes and hustles” that divide people.
“We are being bamboozled and turned against each other by ineffectual government and we must be willing to fight for a better more dynamically creative world,” the musician said. “We need to leave the cycle of the binary narrative and look under covers. The world is a dynamic place [so] don’t retreat from it.”
Described as “a funky jazz parable for 2020,” the new work recalls the style of radio programs at a time a listener could sit back and be enthralled.
The project — covering terrain from football to politics, power to poverty, and love and romance to betrayal and corruption — was first performed as an opera that his Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra debuted in 2018.
Recorded last year, its title derives from what he referred to as “a groove that has been established since the beginning of time and across time.”
“Fonky means it is of a time and place that features big Afros, platform shoes, polyester shirts, horn sections, falsetto singing, snappy electric bass lines and a straight up back beat,” Marsalis said. “It also means something smells bad.”
“Lowdown is the actual truth that exists beneath the public story,” he added. “It is also scurrilous, unscrupulous, scandalous, and suspect behavior in the cause of exploiting, defrauding, defaming, humiliating, shaming and/or ruining your fellow citizen for the fun of it all.”
With the exception of the narration element, Marsalis said everything on the album was recorded live — with social distancing protocols observed.
“We did it in our recording studio, Jazz at Lincoln Center’s House of Swing which was outfitted with booths that allowed us to be live and still have separation,” he revealed. “This was all done by our stage crew at Frederick P. Rose Hall, the greatest crew in the world.”
by Karu F. Daniels
Source: New York Daily News