Wynton Marsalis: Symphony No 4, ‘The Jungle’ album review — irrepressible energy

There is no holding back Wynton Marsalis. As well as being a virtuoso trumpeter and leading jazz musician, he has thrown himself into composing major new works in the classical tradition, including an ambitious range of concertos and symphonies.

His latest symphony, “The Jungle”, had its premiere in 2016 and this live recording was made in Melbourne in 2019. Following that, the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra is currently in the middle of its big-band European tour, taking the symphony to 16 cities, ending on July 9 at the Barbican in London.

The “jungle” in the title of the Symphony No 4 is New York City, which Marsalis believes is “the most fluid, pressure-packed and cosmopolitan metropolis the modern world has ever seen”. That is what we get in his music, a very substantial (more than an hour in duration) symphony of irrepressible energy, grit and drive.

It was hard to see how Marsalis’s last symphony hung together, so profuse was its abundance of ideas. “The Jungle” is more coherent in tone, despite rolling together jazz, blues, big band and classical, but the downside is that it feels reluctant to let up for moments of calm. After the urban racket of the New York cityscape, the quiet ending, as the music dissolves, comes as a surprise.

Where this symphony scores well is its virtuosity. Although the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra conducted by Nicholas Buc sounds hard-pressed, the jazz elements are high-octane and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, with Marsalis as trumpeter par excellence, shows off its bravura.

by Richard Fairman
Source: Financial Times

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