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From The Plantation To The Penitentiary (2007)


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Wynton Marsalis

On "Where Y'all At?," the last track off trumpeter Wynton Marsalis' 2007 studio album From the Plantation to the Penitentiary, Marsalis delivers a spoken word tirade against everything from the demise of socially conscious hip-hop and misguided politicians to America's commercial and capitalist culture. He asks, "All you '60s radicals and world beaters, righteous revolutionaries, Camus readers, liberal students, equal rights pleaders, what's going on now that y'all are the leaders?!" It's a stunning track that perfectly states what the oft-quoted and often outspoken Marsalis is angry about. While musically he may be a traditionalist, here we find him in a vitriolic, forward-thinking mood. Long an outspoken figure in the jazz world and a lightning rod for debate over what constitutes the so called "jazz tradition," Marsalis is less concerned about the direction of jazz music here and more about the direction of American society. Obviously spurred on by the war in Iraq, the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina (which ravaged his hometown of New Orleans), and what he clearly views as a gluttonous, vapid, misogynist and deeply racist American culture, Marsalis has crafted a bluesy, cerebral, soul-inflected album reminiscent of work by such iconic artists as Charles Mingus and Nina Simone. Adding weight to these comparisons is newcomer vocalist Jennifer Sanon, whose Simone-meets-Blossom Dearie style, featured throughout, adds a warm, melodic pathos to Marsalis' stark, spiritual and '50s Beat-influenced songs. This may not be the most musically avant-garde or boundary-pushing album, but it is a deeply personal and grounded creative statement, which is fascinating coming from an artist of Marsalis' stature and mainstream popularity. ~ Matt Collar