With early voting in New York City underway and thousands of New Yorkers having already mailed in thousands of absentee ballots for the presidential election, a trumpeting legend took to Lower Manhattan’s historic stomping grounds for a musical reflection on our democracy and history as a nation.
Inside Federal Hall, the stately Wall Street building that played host to George Washington’s inauguration and the passage of the Bill of Rights, the National Parks of New York Harbor Conservancy joined forces with Jazz at Lincoln Center for a solo Wynton Marsalis performance right in the middle of the building’s historic Grand Rotunda. (The building originally served as New York City Hall, but was renamed Federal Hall when the city became the nation’s first capital.)
In the video below, Marsalis performs “Amazing Grace,” which he dubs “our unofficial national anthem.”
Marsalis also frames jazz as “the perfect metaphor for democracy.
“We improvise,” he continues, “which is our individual rights and freedom. We swing, which means we are responsible to nurture the common good with everyone in fine balance. We play the blues, which means no matter how bad things get, we remain optimistic while still mindful of problems.”
Marsalis adds, “The question that confronts us right now as a nation is, Do we want to find a better way? If we answer affirmative, we’ll make it through these things. If we decide no, we want to be our worst selves. We’re going to struggle.”
screenshot: Federal Hall