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Release: Immediate

Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra plays Marsalis epic 'Blood on the Fields'

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Trumpeter Wynton Marsalis will conduct the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra in "Blood on the Fields," his epic jazz oratorio of slavery and liberation, at 8 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 18, in Hancher Auditorium on the University of Iowa campus. The concert, which is part of the UI observance of Black History Month, is an event in Hancher's 1996-97 University of Iowa Community Credit Union Jazz Series.

The performance -- which will stars jazz vocalist Jon Hendricks and 1996 Grammy Award winner Cassandra Wilson, along with young vocal jazz talent Miles Griffith -- is part of an extensive international tour including performances at Symphony Hall in Boston, Orchestra Hall in Chicago, the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, the Barbican Theatre in London and other major venues.

Marsalis will also discuss the creation of "Blood on the Fields" at 2 p.m. in Hancher. Free tickets are required, and seating is limited to 500. Marsalis will interact with students at locations throughout the state on the Iowa Communications Network (ICN).

Peter Watrous of the New York Times recently described "Blood on the Fields" as "an extraordinary, expansive work in which the poison of slavery is extracted by love."

It is the story of Africans kidnapped from their homes, transported in chains and sold into a life of forced labor and brutality. But it is also the story of physical and psychological emancipation, and the triumphant acquisition of what Marsalis calls "soul" -- "the ability to address adversity with elegance." "It deals with love, soul, coming to grips with pain and disappointment," says Marsalis, who wrote both the music and the libretto, "and the type of effort that's required to be free."

When "Blood on the Fields" was premiered at Lincoln Center in 1994, critic George Kanzler wrote in the Neward Star-Ledger, "It was one of those rare concerts where you knew something magnificent, even history-making, was taking place. At intermission the audience was buzzing with excitement and by concert's end there was a palpable feeling of awe, of being almost overwhelmed by the sheer power of the music."

The piece has been hailed as the most ambitious and accomplished jazz composition since the extended opuses of Duke Ellington. The NPR broadcast of the concert made the top 10 of Time magazine's list of "The Best Music of 1994."

UI Writers' Workshop director Frank Conroy, who is also an accomplished jazz pianist, wrote in a New York Times Magazine cover story that Marsalis' work is a powerful summation of the jazz tradition and its antecedents. He called the premiere "the

symbolic moment when the full heritage of the line, Ellington through Mingus, was extended into the present. The result is a contemporary piece laced with the flavors of the blues, marches, country music, turkey in the straw, Dixie and more."

The oratorio's headline cast includes some of the most popular, honored and critically acclaimed artists in jazz. Marsalis, who became the first artist in history to win Grammy Awards in both classical and jazz categories, has been not only a standard-setter in jazz performance, but also his generation's most outspoken standard-bearer of the jazz tradition. His dedication to education led to "Marsalis on Music" for PBS, and the 1996 Peabody Award-winning companion book. In June 1996 Time magazine listed Marsalis as one of "America's 25 Most Influential People."

Cassandra Wilson has come into her own in recent years with a smoky style whose appeal spans blues, jazz and popular music. She has released nine albums, including the Grammy Award-winning "New Moon Daughter" and its acclaimed, best-selling predecessor, "Blue Light 'til Dawn."

Jon Hendricks, dubbed the "king of scat" and the "Poet Laureate of Jazz," achieved fame with the long-standing vocal trio Hendricks, Lambert and Ross, which perfected the art of adding lyrics to classic jazz instrumentals. More recently his album "Vocalese," featuring the Manhattan Transfer, won five Grammy Awards.

Miles Griffith grew up in the Boys Choir of Harlem and has since used his unusual percussive vocal techniques with jazz artists including Jimmy Heath, Christian McBride and Roy Hargrove.

The Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra is the primary performing ensemble of Jazz at Lincoln Center, of which Marsalis is the artistic director. This year-round program celebrates America's jazz heritage with concerts, lectures, films, recordings, radio broadcasts, international tours and educational events.

Tickets for "Blood on the Fields" are $35, $31 and $29. UI students and senior citizens qualify for a 20-percent discount, with Zone 3 tickets available to UI students for $10. Tickets for audience members 17 and younger are half price.

Hancher box office hours are 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. weekdays, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday and 1-3 p.m. Sunday. From the local calling area or outside Iowa, dial (319) 335-1160. Long distance within Iowa and western Illinois is toll-free, 1-800-HANCHER. Fax to (319) 353-2284. Orders may be charged to VISA, MasterCard or American Express. UI students may charge their purchases to their university bills, and UI faculty and staff may select the option of payroll deduction.

People with special needs for access, seating and auxiliary services should dial (319) 335-1158. This number will be answered by box office personnel prepared to offer assistance with handicapped parking, wheelchair access and seating, hearing augmentation and other services. The line is equipped with TDD for people with hearing impairment who use that technology.

The University of Iowa Community Credit Union is the corporate sponsor the Hancher's Jazz Series, through the University of Iowa Foundation. This event is also supported, in part, by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. Hancher's interactive connection to the ICN was made possible by a grant from US West.