Posted on Sun, Nov. 17, 2002

Wynton Marsalis brings his opus to Bay Area

Mercury News

Wynton Marsalis is becoming really troublesome for those who stack the shelves at CD stores.

His latest recording, ``All Rise,'' is a mammoth genre-bending work that uses a full symphony orchestra, his Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra and a chorus for a 105-minute piece that incorporates classical, jazz, blues and world music. Among other styles.

The sprawling composition will be heard this week as part of the regular San Francisco Symphony season, Wednesday through Saturday at Davies Symphony Hall. Marsalis, who spent nearly all of 1999 writing and preparing the work, will play trumpet in the four concerts.

For Marsalis, it's easier to play the music than decide what bin it belongs in at the record store.

``I don't know. All of them,'' he says, laughing. ``For me, it's hard to tell.''

Marsalis won the 1997 Pulitzer Prize in Music for ``Blood on the Fields,'' a nearly three-hour work for jazz orchestra. ``All Rise,'' commissioned by Kurt Masur for the New York Philharmonic in 1999, is his first foray into orchestral composition.

``When Masur commissioned it, he wanted it to be big. And it is. It's complicated. It was work, man. It was work. But the music was pretty much there.''

Divided into 12 movements, ranging from five to 12 minutes each, ``All Rise'' is an affirmation of the need -- and ability -- for humankind to rise above its problems.

``It's all part of a personal progression we go through,'' Marsalis says. ``And we all experience that, whether it's not making the basketball team, going through a divorce, trying to lose weight -- any of a million experiences.

``The thing is, we're not doing it alone. We're all together. It's one big ascendance.''

Spiritual theme

The text for ``All Rise'' is short -- some just phrases, really, but all reflecting Marsalis' belief in a loving God.

From movement 12, titled ``I Am (Don't Run From Me):

``Thy will be done.

Lord, comfort me.

I am. All Rise.

For the glory of God.''

Marsalis said the lyrics ``are cliches of Western religion -- some basic idea to repeat over and over again. But I don't question them at all.''

``All Rise'' is one of several large-scale works composed near the turn of the century that require many performers and incorporate different styles. ``El Niño'' by John Adams -- a composer Marsalis greatly admires -- and ``La Pasión Sagún San Marcos'' by Osvaldo Golijov also incorporate religious and biblical texts to define the works.

``I think that's just because it's part of Western culture,'' Marsalis says. ``It's our mythology. It's something Wagner dealt with; it's something jazz deals with.

``I mean, either it's about that or a man and a woman. It's the big stuff: contemplation of God, and our relationships with men and women.''

Show selling well

While ``All Rise'' isn't heating up the Billboard charts -- it's not listed in the latest Top 10 for classical, classical crossover, jazz or blues -- Davies Symphony Hall will be jammed this week.

As of Friday, only scattered seats remained for each of the four performances, with sellouts expected. These are the only West Coast performances planned on the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra's tour, which will hit Europe in January and other parts of the United States through May.

Marsalis is also participating in a conversation about the work at 6 p.m. today at Davies, part of the symphony's music education series. Tickets are $25.

All Rise

By Wynton Marsalis

Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra; S.F. Symphony and chorus

Where: Davies Symphony Hall

When: 8 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday

All Rise

By Wynton Marsalis

Company: Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra; San Francisco Symphony; San Francisco Symphony chorus. Steven Sloane, conductor. Wynton Marsalis, trumpet.

Where: Davies Symphony Hall, 201 Van Ness Ave., San Francisco

When: 8 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday

Tickets: $20-$90; (415) 864-6000;

Running time: 1 hour, 45 minutes

Contact Mike Guersch at or (408) 920-5648. Fax (408) 271-3786.

© 2001 bayarea and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.