Print this Page


Wynton Marsalis And The Jazz At Lincoln Center Orchestra With Yacub Addy And Odadaa!

By Ernest Barteldes
Published June 26, 2008

Congo Square

Arguably the birthplace of jazz, Congo Square was the only corner in New Orleans where African slaves were allowed to perform their music. At the 2007 Montreal Jazz Festival, Wynton Marsalis teamed up with Yacub Addy to honor that hallowed spot (which survives to this day in Louis Armstrong Park in the French Quarter), delivering a two-hour performance that blended traditional and modern jazz, African beats and blues into one cohesive package. Marsalis begins the set with a trumpet solo while the other musicians quietly enter the stage, but as the band settles, he takes the mic to sing a scathing chant about the U.S. government’s failure in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and then shifts the narrative focus to Congo Square. The African musicians of Odadaa! and the orchestra then take turns playing, often joining forces for some numbers. One of the movements, based entirely on elements from African percussion, finds Otey Thompson taking the lead on the balaphones, while Cynthia Gonzales sings beautifully on “Never Goes Away”—a bluesy spiritual that leads to the grand fi nale, which pays tribute to the Crescent City’s famed marching bands. Even though there are no extras—an interview with Marsalis definitely would have enriched the experience—Congo Square is still an amazing ride.