Posted on Thu, Nov. 21, 2002

Marsalis creation breaks down musical barriers

Mercury News

There were season subscribers, some dressed in their concert-best. There were Davies Symphony Hall newcomers, some dressed in Miles Davis T-shirts. The house lights were left on, and the one work on the program was interrupted by an intermission.

Everybody could tell it was not an average night at the symphony. Or the jazz club.

Wynton Marsalis and his Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra joined the San Francisco Symphony and Chorus on Wednesday in the exhilarating Northern California premiere of ``All Rise,'' his 12-movement celebration of mankind's ability to rise above its problems.

The performance was a testament to Marsalis' ability to break down musical barriers; it provided an interesting visual contrast in musical cultures. ``All Rise'' is a hefty work, 100 minutes of sound in so many styles that sometimes your head spins.

``It certainly covers all the bases,'' one symphony subscriber said at intermission.

Like most large symphonic pieces, ``All Rise,'' commissioned by the New York Philharmonic in 1999, is easier to enjoy after multiple hearings. But it carried immediate impact with the sold-out crowd. At the end of ``All Rise'' the audience did just that, hollering its approval.

Marsalis utilizes several styles, weaving symphonic, jazz and blues music with Latin and African rhythms. Then, with sometimes jarring effect, he filters the music into different forms. There's a traditional piano-bass-drums jazz trio; a quartet that includes cello and violin; jazz-style improvisation; an orchestra-only movement; and gospel-style treatment for the choir and soloists.

The two remaining concerts are sold out. But the recording, with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, was recently released, and the San Francisco Symphony performance will be broadcast on KDFC-FM (102.1) at 8 p.m. Dec. 3.

On Wednesday, the 15-piece jazz orchestra, which includes piano and drums, was plopped onto the center of the stage, and the symphony surrounded it, crammed into every nook of the stage, it seemed. The chorus wrapped around the seats behind the orchestra, and at the ends only one seat separated choir member from listener.

Conductor Steven Sloane did a commendable job keeping all these forces together after somewhat shaky starts at the beginning and after intermission.

And Marsalis? He spent most of the night just being one of the guys in the band but supplied one major trumpet solo during ``All Rise.'' He also played a solo encore -- a rendition of ``Embraceable You.'' For the first time, the lights dimmed at Davies. It was a sweet, soft ending to a special night.

All Rise

By Wynton Marsalis

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

Upshot: Fascinating mix of classical and jazz (and swing and blues and . . . )

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

When: 8 tonight-Saturday

Tickets: Sold out.

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

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