The idea of revisiting and interpreting an legendary album that helped define modern music is the dream of many, but one that few actually attempt. This Sunday at 4 p.m. at Hill Auditorium, renowned jazz trumpeter Wynton Marsalis will appear with the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra. They will perform a tribute to John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme, the iconic 1964 masterpiece consisting of three tracks totaling 32 minutes and 59 seconds.
A recipient of several Grammys and a Pulitzer Prize, Marsalis, co-founder and Music Director for the LCJO since its creation in 1987, needs no proof of his legitimacy as a jazz musician. Still, even for someone with as many credentials as he has, preparing A Love Supreme is no small feat. Originally recorded with a quartet, Marsalis has arranged the music to encompass the entirety of the 15-member LCJO.
Even with his numerous accolades, Marsalis is no stranger to criticism. While there’s no doubt that the nonprofit LCJO is one of the leading institutions of jazz music in America, there’s much discussion of what the LCJO doesn’t play. His disapproval of post-1965 avant-garde jazz, as well as fusion from the ’70s, is as well known as his calm disinterest in his critics.
Politics aside, Marsalis is devoted to music on a broad scale.
He appeared in New Orleans this past Monday, giving a speech and performing for the students of Tulane University, which resumed classes Tuesday.
“He has devoted his whole life to jazz music,” said Ali Jackson, the ensemble’s drummer who is among its newest members.
From meeting with committees to fundraising, Jackson said Marsalis “does the work of three or four people.”
He described Marsalis as a “good barometer for talent,” and perhaps that reflects on Jackson himself. Jackson, who began drumming at age two, has performed with Aretha Franklin and sat in on two tours with Marsalis. Jackson also toured Europe with his uncle, Oliver Jackson, when he was 17.
When asked about his choice to perform A Love Supreme, Jackson described the album as “a unique documentation of a certain time, a certain philosophy, not just Coltrane’s philosophy, but also the musicians he was playing with.” He went on to label the album as “a very spiritual piece of music.”
A cornerstone in the education of any jazz musician’s life, Jackson recognized the full importance of the album at age 14. He emphatically summed up the album’s concept as one of “unconditional love.”
“It’s a connection of trying to find who you are, where God is . to walk a path of righteousness and containing all of the those qualities that concern righteousness,” he said.
As one of the musicians performing such a piece, Jackson described the feeling as being “absorbed by the music.”
On Marsalis as a band leader, Jackson had only high praise, dismissing critics and emphatically throwing his support.
“He’s a special individual . He doesn’t give up. He’s straight-up,” he said.
With Ann Arbor the fourth stop on a 10-date tour that includes Chicago and Yokahama, Japan, the ensemble has the potential to impact an audience as few performers can.
Wynton Marsalis with the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra
Sunday at 4 p.m.
At Hill Auditorium