To mark the release of the double album and DVD The Abyssinian Mass—Wynton Marsalis’s monumental homage to jazz’s gospel heritage—Jazz at Lincoln Center recently produced the four-part video series Everyone Has A Place: Stories from the Abyssinian Tour, which follows Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra and Chorale Le Chateau on a 16-stop tour through the South.

Commissioned by the Abyssinian Baptist Church to celebrate its bicentennial, The Abyssinian Mass is a sweeping statement on the overlapping power of music and prayer. Scored for big band and a 70-member choir, the project is grand in scale and deals with universal themes of history, faith, and humanity. The Abyssinian Baptist Church’s current leader, the Reverend Dr. Calvin O. Butts, describes the work—which features a veritable sermon in the middle—as "a cosmopolitan approach to prayer."

Individuals are at the heart of Jazz at Lincoln Center’s touching video series. First, Dr. Butts talks about the history of the Abyssinian Baptist Church—founded in 1808 to protest segregation in New York’s other churches. Then the focus shifts to several of the musicians for whom a tour stop was a sort of homecoming, as they performed in their childhood churches or visited the high schools from which they graduated.

Beyond just promoting the Mass—which is, indeed, a major achievement of Marsalis’s career—the video series is a fascinating testament to the nonlinear arc of culture, which constantly circles back on itself, drawing from the past and making serendipitous connections to move forward.

Watch The History of Wynton Marsalis’s The Abyssinian Mass:


Part I: The Power of Prayer


Part II: God’s Trombone


Part III: Heaven Makes a Great Noise


Part IV: Everyone Has a Place


Order from iTunes: ow.ly/Y7LeR
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Producers: Simeon Marsalis and Eugenia Han
Director: Simeon Marsalis
Director of Photography: Elizabeth Leitzell
Editor: Elizabeth Leitzell
Abyssinian Performance Audio Engineering: David Robinson
Graphics: Mike Tully
Creative Direction: Luis Bravo
Special thanks to Chris, Casper and Jeannette Crenshaw & Thomson High School

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Learn more about Jazz at Lincoln Center: jazz.org


Amanda MacBlane is a writer for Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.