Picks and Pans Review: Sessions at West 54th: Blood on the Fields

updated 08/04/1997 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/04/1997 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Public television stations (Sat., Aug. 2; check local listings)


Wynton Marsalis's Blood on the Fields won a Pulitzer Prize this year, but even admiring reviewers have noted that the three-hour oratorio on slavery could stand trimming. So how about a two-thirds slash? Sessions at West 54th, a month-old performance series, drops its usual supplementary interviews to allow for nearly an hour of highlights from Jazz at Lincoln Center's production of the epic work for big band and three vocalists. The result leaves us ambivalent: A few selections drag on, yet we feel cheated of all the music that was left out. It's as though Blood on the Fields loses part of its identity if it loses any of its grandiosity. Still, there's much to savor here, including a long Marsalis trumpet solo that proves this oratorio isn't too heavy to swing.

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