In 2008, nine-time GRAMMY Award winner Wynton Marsalis was commissioned to write a piece commemorating the 200th anniversary of Harlem’s Abyssinian Baptist Church. The result was a sacred celebration: a sweeping composition for a big band and 70-piece gospel choir. In 2013, award-winning recording artist Damien Sneed and his choir, Chorale Le Chateau, joined the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis on a 16-city, 19-show tour across the American south and into deep dialogue with the black tradition. Now, The Abyssinian Mass—Marsalis’s first original recorded composition in six years—documents this piece’s immense power to make audiences clap their hands and sing along to its joyous spirituality, its profound swing, and its bluesy swagger.
This landmark double album also includes a new essay from renowned public intellectual Leon Wieseltier and a bonus DVD documentary that features performances, interviews, and insights into the process behind The Abyssinian Mass. The album’s exploration of the African American experience places it in the tradition of Marsalis's Pulitzer Prize-winning composition and record Blood on the Fields. As The Abyssinian Mass reminds us, "In this great land of ours, everyone has a place." No matter your faith or background, The Abyssinian Mass is a sprawling, soulful triumph and a swinging affirmation of just how good being human can feel.