Wynton Marsalis has just released his latest album, a sprawling, 53-track jazz odyssey called The Ever Fonky Lowdown.
The internationally renowned trumpeter and composer describes the extended, conceptual composition as a “groundbreaking, satirical look at democratic freedom, abuse of power, racism and cultural corruption.”
Performed with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, The Ever Fonky Lowdown features vocalists Christie Dashiell, Ashley Pezzotti, Camille Thurman and Doug Wamble.
The album also includes narration by actor Wendell Pierce (The Wire, Treme, Jack Ryan), who plays the role of the main character “Mr. Game,” whose commentary throughout the record “reveals the ‘hustle’ that keeps us at each other’s throats and prevents us from working together to build a more equitable and friendly world,” according to a press release.
Musically, the record is a “funky jazz parable” that draws from the music of Marsalis’s father, Ellis Marsalis, and New Orleans drummer and composer James Black in the 1960s, along with the funk he enjoyed in the ’70s and the modern jazz he has played and taught for the last several decades.
The Ever Fonky Lowdown was first presented as an opera in 2018. It was released as an album exclusively on digital platforms this Friday, Aug. 21, via Blue Engine Records.
It’s the latest Marsalis work to “directly address the irresistible cocktail of deception, racism, greed and gullibility that subverts the global fight for human rights and corrupts the possibilities and promise of democracy in America and around the world.”
Marsalis has been making music for the purposes of incisive political, cultural and social commentary for four decades. He won a Grammy Award for Black Codes in 1985. He authored the first jazz composition to win a Pulitzer Prize with Blood on the Fields in 1996. He gained international acclaim with All Rise in 2002 and From the Plantation to the Penitentiary in 2007.
Written in 2018, The Ever Fonky Lowdown was made to address matters of human exploitation and suffering — which, as Marsalis points out, have only become more pronounced over recent months amid the COVID-19 pandemic and widespread protests against police brutality.
“The entire world is struggling with issues of governance, belief, wealth, and cultural integrity. This is not the time for sleepwalking,” Marsalis says. “From the protests around the world that saw solidarity in the Afro-American struggle, we see people wanting to rise up and create a more equitable and more participatory world. Where do you stand? The new world is something we must fight for and the first step of doing is seeing. Awareness and acuity are the keys to escaping the complex web of very wilful obfuscations on all sides of the equation. This is a responsibility and a burden we all share. In times of such cloudiness, to act is itself heroic.”