Jazz meets justice: Music for a cause at Lincoln Center


MANHATTAN — It was a night of great jazz artists meeting a great social justice advocate.

when trumpeter Wynton Marsalis asked lawyer and founder of the Equal Justice Initiative Bryan Stevenson to play piano at Jazz at Lincoln Center, Stevenson said he couldn’t possibly say no.

“Wynton Marsalis said to me ‘everybody needs to understand that whatever your level or skill is, music is for everyone,’” Stevenson told PIX11 News. 

Stevenson is well known for the book he wrote “Just Mercy” and the movie based on his life of helping the poor, the incarcerated and the condemned. But he is also an accomplished amateur jazz pianist who tonight joined Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra for a special performance honoring the struggle for justice in America called Freedom, Justice and Hope.

“This effort to create art that helps people understand the struggle for freedom, the need for justice, the centrality of Hope is really the idea behind this night of music,” Stevenson told PIX11 News.

This night of jazz at Lincoln Center features the world premiere of two new jazz compositions. One is called “Ida’s Crusade,” written by bassist Endea Owens, about the life of Ida B. Wells.

Owens had just read Wells’ autobiography and said she felt compelled to write about this courageous journalist and activist.

“I feel Ida B. Wells is one of the unsung heroes in history,” Owens said. “She created one of the first anti-lynching organizations in the world.”

It was a night where world-class jazz musicians met a world-famous social justice advocate who admitted he was incredibly nervous.

“I have argued six cases before the United States Supreme Court but this is more stressful than that,” Stevenson said.

And together these musicians played many of the songs from the soundtrack of the civil rights movement, a night few will forget.

“Knowing the history of Bryan Stevenson,  how he fought for so many people,” Owens said “It was just amazing and such an honor,” she added.         

Tickets are available for $20. Ticketholders will be able to watch the performance any time between Friday, May 21, at 7:30 pm ET, when the program goes live, until Wednesday, May 26. DVD recordings of the performance will also be available for purchase.

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