Wynton Marsalis' rare musical versatility has long been a beacon in the worlds of jazz and classical music. Now the Grammy Award-winning trumpeter and Pulitzer Prize-winning composer brings those worlds together in two new works for violin written for one of today's foremost violinists.
Violinist Nicola Benedetti features with the Philadelphia Orchestra and conductor Christian Macelaru in the world-premiere recording of Marsalis' Violin Concerto, and goes solo in Marsalis' Fiddle Dance Suite for solo violin.
Both works draw inspiration from beyond the world of classical music – the violin concerto borrowing uniquely from blues and jazz, the Fiddle Dance Suite delving into the reels, jigs, strathspeys and other traditional music of Benedetti’s native Scotland.
At every turn, Marsalis' Violin Concerto digs into blue notes, croons endless melodies, bumps folk-like tunes with syncopations ripped from the raw edges of the jazz club.
Take, for instance, the virtually identical endings of the first and fourth movements, which groove a melody that, in lesser hands, could have been the straight-laced tune of a Scottish reel. Or the concerto's third movement, where a blues wanders off into its own unexpected sound world. Or the final movement, which blows the roof off the concerto in a foot-stomping hootenanny.
Few musicians are equipped to meld such a convincing blend of musical styles and idioms.
I had a chance recently to chat with Benedetti about how her collaboration with Marsalis came about, and about the "diverse world of people" that Benedetti asked Marsalis to invite into the experience of both works.
Listen above to our conversation and enjoy excerpts from Marsalis' groundbreaking violin concerto.
And hear Benedetti and Marsalis talk about Marsalis' violin concerto in the video below.