Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra
Recording Date: Jul 20,22, 2009
Vitoria Suite, as Wynton titled it, is a 12-part work, the structure inspired by the 12 measures of the blues. Marsalis uses the impulse of the blues as a foundation to jointly explore the music of two worlds and two cultures: the jazz and blues of North America and the indigenous Basque music and flamenco of Spain. Granted, there's a lot of cultural territory in between them, such as the whole of Africa, the Caribbean, and South America, but Marsalis shows how much the two locations have common, musically if not geographically. Wynton notes that, "As outsiders, it's not possible for us to play this music in the same way that a Spanish musician would, so instead I've tried to take elements of the music of the region and translate that into the sound of jazz."
All Music Guide
I was familiar with Wynton Marsalis' music long before meeting him in person. I had attended a few of his concerts with Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, with the quartet of Herbie Hancock and with his brother Branford, but our first meeting did not take place until 17 July 1987.
Wynton had been invited to perform at the Vitoria Jazz Festival, He arrived at Biarritz airport and, as soon as he got off the plane, he took a piece of paper out of his shirt pocket and said in Spanish: "Portalon, now!"
Naturally, we went straight away with him & his group to this restaurant in Vitoria. Once there and while we were eating I happened to mention that exactly on that same day, twenty years ago, Coltrane had passed away and I would really like them to pay tribute to him during their concert. No sooner had I said this when the four musicians began to hum different themes from Coltrane's repertoire.
That night, without rehearsing a single note, the quartet played a full concert of Trane's compositions, with the exception of one single Monk encore. In addition to that the performance was from start to finish pure blues and as every music lover knows, that when an African-American jazzman wants to pay tribute to a master, the most sincere way to do it is by playing the blues.
From that moment on my admiration for Wynton grew enormously. He was able to improvise a tribute to John Coltrane in only a matter of minutes!
Five years passed before he returned to Vitoria. It was in 1992 and he performed a memorable concert with his septet. Even his most implacable critics then surrendered to the obvious quality of his musicianship. I remember that he approached me at the end and said: "This is the first place where the audience has really understood my music."
During the last two decades, Wynton has performed many times at the Vitoria Jazz Festival, always with different formations- a duet with Ellis, on five occasions with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, with the septet, his own quartet and a quartet with Elvin Jones. And there have not only just been concerts: Wynton has given master classes for musicians, children's concerts and even a session of "dance to swing".
One of those visits; I ventured to suggest to him that he wrote a short blues to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the festival. While I was asking this, Wynton was smiling at my complete embarrassment at trying to be imaginative in finding arguments to convince him. Finally, with a big smile, he said, "I don't' know how to write short pieces, I'll compose a suite."
And, indeed, he did. The day of the Festival's 25 Anniversary, Wynton played four movements of what would be the Vitoria Suite. The full version was performed in Vitoria as well, coinciding with the celebration of the Festival's 30th anniversary and in late April 2008, the suite was played for the first time in New York City.
For the concert in New York, Wynton invited pianist Chano Dominguez to participate in the Flamenco movements.
At that time, Paco de Lucia had not yet joined the project. Wynton and Paco had previously met at the festival in Vitoria, where they shared the stage in an unforgettable evening. Given the flamenco elements of several movements of the Vitoria Suite, it was quite logical that Paco would end up participating. It is the first time these two legends have collaborated on an album.
The Vitoria Suite is a tangible demonstration that music is a universal language. It cleverly mixes jazz with traditional Basque music and flamenco. Wynton's inspiration and intelligence- and may hours of work!- merge with Paco's genius and naturalness, a totally committed Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, playing like never before and a supremely well polished technical production- it is not surprising that the sound and recording engineers who worked on this album have won several Grammy Awards.
One can find all of the qualities in the Vitoria Suite, but there is something else that imbues each one of its movements and even surpasses the music itself: the love that Wynton has for the festival and the city. Only with such love in your heart can one compose and perform a masterpiece that equally surprises and captivates jazz lovers worldwide.
Now listening to its twelve movements (the same meter that the Blues has) the suite feels very far away from the initial "Why don't you compose a short blues for us?"
The day before the recording, the Vitoria Jazz Festival hosted the complete performance of the suite. The headline on the national newspaper "EL PAIS" could not have been more fitting "Wynton scales the heights in Vitoria."
- Inaki Anua