Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Redemption Songs

David Remnick on the music of the inauguration:

...for me the peak was an event I went to with my fifteen-year-old son, put together by Jazz at Lincoln Center and Wynton Marsalis, at the Kennedy Center. The show opened, more or less as America does, with a jazz march—Wynton leading the way, with Dr. Michael White on clarinet, a bass drum, washboard, the whole marching setup—and the highlights that came after included Dianne Reeves singing “Skylark”; Cassandra Wilson on a bottomless blues; Paquito D’Rivera and Diego Urcola on “A Night in Tunisia”; Béla Fleck, Derek Trucks, and Marsalis on a Django-inflected “Sweet Georgia Brown”; and the West African ensemble Odadaa!, with Yacub Addy trading musical passages across the stage with Marsalis’s Lincoln Center Orchestra. The white kids from the Foxboro High School Jazz Ensemble sounded as if they had been practicing and reading the cultural instruction manual of Ralph Ellison’s “Shadow and Act” from birth, and it was kind of wonderful to watch Marsalis and Sandra Day O’Connor talking about their musical childhoods—hers in rural Arizona, his in Louisiana....

My memory may be shaky, but I don’t remember such music from the Reagan inaugural. Or from any other. Finally, a true reckoning of the cultural inheritance—African-American at the root, but infinitely complex, infinitely soulful, completely our own—right in the center of official Washington. Let freedom ring.

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