When Dante Alighieri published his timeless epic poem “Divine Comedy” in the 14th Century, that work became the source of so many fire and brimstone sermons by preachers across the Christian world. That is due especially to the poem’s opening segment, “Inferno.” It has also been the source for so many moviemakers and even musical artists and composers. The thing is that each of the adaptations of Alighieri’s epic poem have been equally foreboding. Enter the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis. The group’s recently released album, helmed by one of its own – Sherman Irby – is a take on Alighieri’s poem that is unlike any adaptation of that poem that has ever been crafted. That is exhibited through the live recording’s overall arrangement, which will be addressed shortly. The group’s very performance of the presentation is just as noteworthy as the presentation of the songs. It will be discussed a little later. The recording’s production adds the finishing touch to the recording’s presentation. It will be addressed later, too. Each item noted here is critical in its own right to the whole of Inferno. All things considered, they make Inferno yet another of the year’s top new live CDs, along with the group’s prior release, The Music of Wayne Shorter.
The Jazz at Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra [JLCO] with Wynton Marsalis’ latest live recording Inferno is one of the most intriguing adaptations of the opener from Dante Alighieri’s epic poem that has ever been crafted since its initial publication in the 14th century. That is due in part to the recording’s arrangement, which forms its foundation. While Alighieri’s literary work is a dark, foreboding presentation that has been the fodder for so much fire and brimstone in the Christian world, the group’s work featured here is anything but that dark, foreboding story. Rather, it is a much more upbeat presentation that, despite that more positive feeling and sound, still manages to work with Alighieri’s original work. ‘Overture: Lost,’ the recording’s opener, works in line with the two Cantos that open “Inferno.” Audiences can almost see Virgil talking with Alighieri about helping him on his journey. ‘House of Unbelievers,’ the performance’s second entry, opens with a full horn flourish and maintains a certain energy throughout its five-minute-plus run time even in its more subtle moments. One could argue that said song is the beginning of Dante’s journey through the nine circles. ‘Hunger’ perhaps echoes perhaps Dante’s journey through the third circle, “Gluttony.” As the performance progresses, audiences can just as easily make the connection between specific portions of “Inferno” and Alighieri’s work. Again, at no point does the performance present any sense of foreboding, completely unlike the poetic work. This leads into the second of the recording’s most notable elements, the organization’s performance of the show.
The performance of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra’s members throughout the course of this recording is what makes each portion of this musical tale so engaging. The subtleties in the performance of ‘The City of Dis’ is just one example of the importance of the musicians’ performances. The Middle Eastern sounds presented by the group creates a certain “mysterious” feel in the song that ensures listeners’ engagement. The oftentimes manic energy in ‘Beware The Wolf and the Serpent’ does a good job of musically illustrating Dante’s emotions in Canto XXV. This is just one more point at which the musicians’ collective talents show the importance of their work in this performance. Between the moments noted here and the rest of the performances throughout, it goes without saying that the group’s collective performances add so much depth to the overall presentation of Inferno.
For all of the depth and substance that the musicians’ performances add to Inferno, one would be remiss to ignore the work put into the recording’s production. Keeping in mind that this, like JLCO’s other recordings, is a live production, much time and effort had to be put in to complete the presentation. The work put in by all concerned made the final production just as enjoyable for its aesthetics as for its content. At no point do any of the musicians overpower one another. Each channel is balanced expertly with the others throughout. The final result is a work that sounds good and is good all the way around. Keeping this in mind, Inferno proves itself to be another positive live offering from JLCO that audiophiles and bibliophiles alike will enjoy.
Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra’s new live recording Inferno is another positive addition to this year’s list of top new live CDs. It is a unique presentation that is unlike any adaptation of Dante’s “Inferno” that has ever been released. It takes the timeless work and gives it a whole new life and identity through its compositions. The group’s musicianship builds on the foundation formed through the compositions, adding to the recording’s engagement and entertainment. The recording’s production keeps listeners engaged as it balanced every single line throughout the concert. Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of this recording. All things considered, they make Inferno a work that jazz fans will enjoy and a work that is another of the year’s top new live CDs. More information on this and other titles from the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra is available online at:
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