For those of you who don’t know Wynton Marsalis (don't worry, I just discovered him ten minutes ago), he is a top-notch trumpet player and one of the more prominent classical and jazz musicians around. He has won an impressive nine Grammys spanning both genres.
Marsalis’ fluent swing can be found in his next release, From the Plantation to the Penitentiary on March 6, but you may find more than just the easy listening toots he’s so well known for. As the title may have indicated, this time, it’s political! His album offers a combination of musical solos, mixed with tracks where people sing about politics. He is using his music to tackle what he sees as the major follies of America—as well as black America.
According to The Washington Post, a variety of hot-button topics made the cut, including the state of our current leadership, sex, violence in rap, excessive materialism, and '60s radicals losing their revolutionary fury. The 45 year-old New Orleans native told the Associated Press that, "I'm a part of it, I'm speaking from inside of our culture. We're not taking a moralistic view. It's not, `Let me tell y'all how I'm different from you.' It's a comment on our way of life and our culture."
The trumpeting extraordinaire then shared where his wild musical ambitions stem from: "I always try and do something different. I don't try to make any of my records the same. I'm always singing and chanting all over my house. I grew up doing it in New Orleans, chanting and singing and making up rhymes; long before there was rap music we were doing that. That's the New Orleans' way"
Although a lot of the record sounds as though it’s kind of a rant, Marsalis does offer some encouraging themes about human compassion. He cites the influx of help given by Americans to victims of Hurricane Katrina as an example of what people can do when they see and understand a problem at hand. He said, "That's the one thing the Katrina episode taught us about America. Americans can be moved to do things when they have good information, honest information. People are more serious, people do want to participate in things"
We’ll see if this little venture works out for him. Much like the affable George Clooney, Marsalis is interjoining his political passion with his work as an artist. He should be taken more seriously than the countless performers disregarded for expressing their views (sometimes even on a show called The View) while hawking some studio or record label fluff. Many people might scream, “shut up and sing!” but when politics is precisely what they sing about, then perhaps we should shut up and listen.