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Wynton Marsalis Taking “Abyssinian Mass” on American Tour

// Sep 13,2013

Wynton Marsalis, center, with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra and the Abyssinian Baptist Church choir in 2008. Photo: Nicholas Roberts, The New York Times


Wynton Marsalis plans to take his “Abyssinian Mass” on the road in October,traveling to 16 cities with a 70-member gospel choir and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra.

Mr. Marsalis, the jazz trumpet virtuoso who leads Jazz at Lincoln Center, composed the lengthy piece to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, mixing gospel and jazz idioms. An elaborate concert piece that traverses jazz history, from spirituals to hard bop, “Abyssinian Mass” was first performed in New York in 2008, with a 100-member choir from the Harlem church it celebrated, and then again in London in 2011.

But Mr. Marsalis and his 15-member orchestra have never tried to tour with the work, in part because it requires such a big choir. This week, however, officials at Jazz at Lincoln Center said plans for an American tour had been finalized: it will begin in Chapel Hill, N.C., on Oct. 3 and run through Oct. 27, with a final performance at Symphony Hall in Boston.

Along the way, the ensemble will perform in Washington, D.C.; New Orleans; Houston; Dallas; St. Louis; and Kansas City. The tour, titled “Abyssinian: A Gospel Celebration,” will stop for for three nights in New York City at the Frederick P. Rose Hall, Jazz at Lincoln Center, 60th Street and Broadway, from Oct. 24-26.

Though most of the concerts are booked at theaters, concert halls, colleges and performing arts centers, a few will be held in Baptist churches, among them the Good Shepherd Baptist Church in Augusta, Ga., and the Friendship Missionary Baptist Church in Charlotte, N.C.

Zooey T. Jones, a spokeswoman for Jazz at Lincoln Center, said the orchestra and the Chorale Le Chateau, a New York-based gospel choir led by Damien Sneed, will travel by bus between the cities. With more than 85 musicians to transport, the caravan will include four buses and an equipment truck. All told, the tour is expected to cost at least $2 million, she said.

Originally posted by James McKinley, Jr. on The New York Times – ArtsBeat