Wynton Marsalis – Bolden: Music from the Original Soundtrack


Title: Bolden: Music from the Original Soundtrack
Artist: Wynton Marsalis
Label: Blue Engine
Formats: CD, MP3
Release date: April 19, 2019


The name Charles “Buddy” Bolden should be a familiar one for many jazz fans and aficionados. Bolden, a New Orleans cornet player, is “ranked among the most influential yet obscure figures in the pantheon of American music,” according to jazz clarinetist and historian Dr. Michael White. Known for developing a style of music that blended Black sacred and secular musical aesthetics (melodic, harmonic, and rhythmic ideas), European dance music, marching-band, and Caribbean folk styles, Bolden laid the foundation and was a progenitor for what we refer to today as jazz music. Although none of his recordings or compositions are extant, we have an understanding of what the cultural and musical environment was like during that period.

This is where trumpeter, arranger, and composer, Wynton Marsalis’comes into play. In his soundtrack for the film Bolden (released May 3), Marsalis took on the challenge to “resurrect the bawdy, brass sound…while capturing the spirit and flavor of both Boldon and Armstrong,” along with a supporting cast of exceptional jazz musicians.

If you know anything about New Orleans jazz, you know it is not necessarily about the song form (although important), but more about how creative original expression is articulated through the use of Black musical aesthetics. Marsalis and band members do a great job of highlighting musical concepts such as call-and-response, riffs, instrument growls, different timbres, scat singing, and driving rhythms within instrumental configurations that resemble Bolden’s seven-piece ensemble and Armstrong’s ten-piece ensemble. In this way he seeks to reimagine what Bolden’s playing style and ensemble might have sounded like.

A significant aspect of this soundtrack album is the inclusion of songs like “Creole Belles” and “Funky Butt (I Thought I Heard Buddy Bolden Say),” most likely performed by or associated with Bolden, as well as Armstrong’s arrangement of “Tiger Rag.” While these tunes have been recorded before, it is nice to be able to contextualize the legacy and influence of Bolden through Armstrong’s arrangements and Marsalis’ performance of them.

Bolden: Music From the Original Soundtrack is a superb interpretative perspective of the performance style and legacy Charles “Buddy” Bolden. In addition, Marsalis helps us better understand the essence of the New Orleans jazz sound, which, apart from being joyful and celebratory dance music, is “very spiritual, a reflection of New Orleans communal experience, and an expression of the full gamut of universal human passions and emotions with a sense of conviction and truth.” I recommend getting this album. You will not be disappointed!

Reviewed by Jamaal Baptiste