Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson

Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Ted Panken
Unforgivable Blackness embodies Wynton Marsalis' soundtrack for a forthcoming Ken Burns biographical documentary on Jack Johnson, the African-American boxer whose reign as heavyweight champion in the early 20th century aroused intense hostility among whites. Mixing originals with classic blues and jazz from the period, Marsalis and his septet create a soulful, sophisticated statement that Johnson -- who carried a bass on his travels, owned cabarets in Chicago, New York and Los Angeles, and was on intimate terms with various levels of the "sporting life" -- would have had no trouble understanding. Strains of the deep blues, ragtime, brass bands, and second line permeate ...
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Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Ted Panken
Unforgivable Blackness embodies Wynton Marsalis' soundtrack for a forthcoming Ken Burns biographical documentary on Jack Johnson, the African-American boxer whose reign as heavyweight champion in the early 20th century aroused intense hostility among whites. Mixing originals with classic blues and jazz from the period, Marsalis and his septet create a soulful, sophisticated statement that Johnson -- who carried a bass on his travels, owned cabarets in Chicago, New York and Los Angeles, and was on intimate terms with various levels of the "sporting life" -- would have had no trouble understanding. Strains of the deep blues, ragtime, brass bands, and second line permeate the aura, and the spirits of Jelly Roll Morton and Duke Ellington are never far from view. Separated from the images and narrative of the documentary, the music has a programmatic feel. But Marsalis has transmuted an old vocabulary into a tellingly modern argot that feeds the mind and nourishes the spirit.
All Music Guide - Matt Collar
Trumpeter Wynton Marsalis' soundtrack to Ken Burns' documentary Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson is a compelling and rootsy mix of blues and swing. Having worked with Burns on the PBS Jazz series, Marsalis' Unforgivable Blackness soundtrack seems like a natural progression of a fruitful partnership. Not dissimilar to such past Marsalis projects as the Jelly Roll Morton album Mr. Jelly Lord, the album features Marsalis in various small-group settings along with such longtime Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra regulars as drummer Herlin Riley, pianist Eric Lewis, saxophonist Wessell Anderson, bassist Reginald Veal, trombonist Wycliffe Gordon, and others, including guitarist Doug Wamble, who adds his unique blend of old-time blues, folk, and jazz to Marsalis' own signature updating of '20s and '30s jazz. Although four previously released tracks appear here, two off Standard Time, Vol. 6: Mr. Jelly Lord and two from Marsalis' Reeltime, the majority of the album is newly recorded and all of it sounds of a piece. Ironically, Marsalis' deepest musical influence and aesthetic nemesis, trumpeter Miles Davis, also recorded an album for a film about the troubled boxing champ Johnson, 1970's fusion classic Tribute to Jack Johnson. However, where Davis' album seemed to reflect the counterculture and Black Power movements of the time, Marsalis is more traditionally cinematic in his approach, with each track evoking the pride, urbanity, strength, and tragedy of the legendary Johnson.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 3/3/2009
  • Label: Imports
  • UPC: 724386419521
  • Catalog Number: 847285
  • Sales rank: 20,104

Album Credits

Performance Credits
Wynton Marsalis Primary Artist, Trumpet
Dr. Michael White Clarinet
Eric Reed Piano
Herlin Riley Drums, Tambourine
Reginald Veal Bass, Double Bass, Upright Bass
Wessell Anderson Clarinet, Alto Saxophone
Lucien Barbarin Trombone
Kimati Dinizulu Percussion
Victor Goines Clarinet, Bass Clarinet, Saxophone, Tenor Saxophone
Wycliffe Gordon Trombone, Tuba
Don Vappie Banjo, Guitar
Marcus Printup Trumpet
Sherman Irby Clarinet
Eric Lewis Percussion, Piano, Washboard
Stephen Riley Tenor Saxophone
Gideon Feldstein Clarinet, Bass Clarinet
Doug Wamble Banjo, Guitar
Sam Karam Clarinet
Technical Credits
Jelly Roll Morton Composer
W.C. Handy Composer
Paul Barnes Producer, Audio Production
Ken Burns Producer, Liner Notes, Audio Production
Martha E. Koenig Composer
Wynton Marsalis Composer, Score
Delfeayo Marsalis Producer
Patrick Smith Engineer
Todd Whitelock Engineer
Spencer Williams Composer
Sandy Palmer Grassi Engineer
Artie Matthews Composer
Jalmoose Rowe Producer, Engineer
Geoffrey C. Ward Liner Notes
Steven Epstein Producer
David Schaye Audio Production
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