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September 26, 2022

The Origins of Wynton Marsalis’s Massive ‘All Rise’


Wynton Marsalis' All Rise

On October 14, 2022, UMS will present Wynton Marsalis’s rarely heard All Rise (Symphony No. 1). This MASSIVE work requires a jaw-dropping 200+ artist ensemble, which includes the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, the University of Michigan Symphony Orchestra, University of Michigan Choirs, and the UMS Choral Union. And even in a venue as large as our iconic Hill Auditorium, the stage needs to be considerably extended to accommodate all performers!

This epic joining of forces comes to life through the artistic leadership of music director and conductor Kenneth Kiesler, U-M choir director Eugene Rogers, and UMS Choral Union music director Scott Hanoian. Rehearsals by the U-M ensembles and the Choral Union have been well underway since early September, including guest coachings with New York based vocal artist and conductor Damien Sneed.

It’s an honor to share this collaborative work as part of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra’s week-long residency at UMS, made possible by residency sponsors Elaine and Peter Schweitzer.

'All Rise' album cover

Album art from the 2001 Recording of ‘All Rise’

“We chose, and still choose, to swing.”

All Rise was commissioned by the New York Philharmonic for the millennium, and premiered in December 1999. Read more about its origins, from its debut performance to its 2001 recording with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, which epitomized resilience, hope, and community in the days after the September 11 attacks.

From Program Notes contributed by Wynton Marsalis:

All Rise is structured in the form of a 12-bar blues, and separated into three sections of 4 movements. Each section expresses different moments in the progression of experiences that punctuate our lives. It is a personal and communal progression.

The first four movements are concerned with birth and self-discovery; they are joyous.

The second four movements are concerned with mistakes, pain, sacrifice and redemption. They are somber and poignant.

The last four are concerned with maturity and joy.

All Rise contains elements of many things I consider to be related to the blues: the didgeridoo, ancient Greek harmonies and modes, New Orleans brass bands, the fiddler’s reel, clave, samba, the down-home church service, Chinese parade bands, the Italian aria, and plain ol’ down-home ditties. Instead of combining many different styles on top of a vamp, I try to hear how they are the same. In attempting to unite disparate and large forces, everyone has to give up something in order to achieve a greater whole. The fun is in the working together.

All Rise was commissioned by the New York Philharmonic and Kurt Masur as the last of the millennial compositions of 1999. This piece for me was the culmination of a ten-year odyssey during which I sought to realize more complex orchestrations for long-form pieces based in American vernacular music and jazz.

In February 2001, I sent a score and recording of this performance to Esa-Pekka Salonen. Some 18 years earlier, Esa-Pekka and I had recorded an album of trumpet concertos. Through the years we maintained a very high level of professional respect for one another. He agreed that we would perform All Rise with the Los Angeles Philharmonic on September 13, 2001. Because we are both Sony Classical artists, we felt that with proper negotiations a recording would be possible. With much strategizing and calling on friendships and professional relationships, The Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Morgan State Choir from Baltimore under Nathan Carter, the Paul Smith Singers, and the Northridge Singers of California State University at Northridge all came together to perform and record All Rise. Many of Jazz at Lincoln Center’s senior management came out for the event, and a truly warm feeling surrounded our first rehearsals.

Then came the attacks of September 11th. Jazz at Lincoln Center Director of Publicity Mary Fiance Fuss called to tell me a plane had flown into one of the twin towers. As we watched the news, we caught the second plane hitting the second tower. Within minutes everyone in the band was on the phone. Later that day, a meeting was called to discuss what to do. The decision was unanimous: stay and play. Our next rehearsal was made forever memorable by the outpouring of concern and love from the members of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Initial portions of our September 13th concert appeared on CNN; the station broke from Ground Zero coverage to broadcast our joint performance of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” The performance, though justifiably somber, was energetic and meaningful.

The recording was another issue. Due to the suspension of national air travel, our producer, Steve Epstein, perhaps the only person in the world with the experience to make a quality recording of such large and diverse musical forces, was stranded in Kansas City. And our engineer, Todd Whitelock, was stranded in Detroit. With the recording scheduled for September 14th, we were in trouble. As we were about to cancel the recording, several uncommon acts of dedication saved the sessions. A close personal friend and colleague, “Boss” Dennis Jeter, was driving from Los Angeles to New York to tend to a family crisis. When called, he drove to Kansas City and brought Steve Epstein to Rifle, CO, where our road managers, Raymond “Big Boss” Murphy and Eric Wright, were waiting to drive Steve on to L.A. Rodney Whitaker, our bassist from Detroit, called Koli Givens, a trumpeter and close personal friend. Koli and his cousin, Quintin Givens, drove non-stop from Detroit to L.A. and delivered our engineer. Even though time was limited and the recording schedule was tight, a deeper sense of community and inspiration guided us through these sessions.

After the recording, the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra was scheduled to play Benaroya Hall in Seattle, WA. We drove 27 non-stop hours by bus directly from the session to the stage. Waiting for us on the bus were pillows and blankets for the entire band provided by Evan Wilson (violinist, Los Angeles Philharmonic) and his family, a gesture of friendship and love that will forever remain with the LCJO. Our concert was scheduled to begin at 7:00 p.m. – we entered the city limits at 7:00 p.m. Out on the stage we received an extended standing ovation from a sold-out house that had waited patiently to be, in the words on one patron, “reminded of who we are.” The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra was back on the road. We heard that some acts chose to cancel their tours following September 11th. We chose, and still choose, to swing.

– Wynton Marsalis


Get tickets to Wynton Marsalis’s All Rise on October 14, 2022. This concert is part of a week-long artist residency that also includes a Big Band concert with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra and Wynton Marsalis, in addition to many other activities.


Thank You to Our Supporters of All Rise

Residency Sponsors

Elaine and Peter Schweitzer

Principal Sponsors

Menakka and Essel Bailey

Gil Omenn and Martha Darling

Supporting Sponsors

Anthony Reffells

Jay and Christine Zelenock and the Zelenock Family