Jim James and the National Symphony Orchestra @ The Kennedy Center [DC]- 9/4/2019

“Oh, it just feels good to sing,” sings Jim James on “Set it to Song,” and how he shows it. James teamed up with the Louisville Symphony and composer Teddy Abrams for a new album, The Order of Nature, arriving October 18th through Decca Gold. The captivating frontman of My Morning Jacket teamed up with Abrams and the National Symphony Orchestra to play a few selections from the upcoming album, alongside a few other original pieces. James’s voice and his playful demeanor on stage (wearing colorful socks, no shoes, and skipping around the stage) evoked a heightened sense of wonder alongside the NSO and vocal ensemble The Capitol Hearings. In addition to the upcoming album, fans album, fans were treated with orchestral versions of some of James’s solo output, including “Same Old Lie” and “Over and Over.”

Jim James and the National Symphony Orchestra at The Kennedy Center (Photo by Mauricio Castro)

Jim James and the National Symphony Orchestra at The Kennedy Center (Photo by Mauricio Castro)

Before James took the stage, Abrams conducted the NSO through musical pieces with a common thread between them. In his words, Abrams wanted to put together a program that would “represent what it’s like for us to be alive right now.” He included pieces from Aaron Copeland’s Rodeo, which Abrams admires for Copeland’s melding of folk and classical music to make it more accessible to 1940s-era America. More contemporarily, Abrams conducted a piece by Julia Wolfe called “Big Beautiful Dark and Scary,” her response to witnessing the 9/11 attacks in New York City that is appropriately named for the dreadful emotions it evoked. Kennedy Center composer in residence Mason Bates also performed a piece that combined electronic house elements with an orchestra, something that uniquely speaks to the musical landscape of today. All of the pieces had something unique to say about our world - whether it was admiration and wonder or fear and anger, Abrams and the National Symphony Orchestra conveyed the messages loud and clear.


Photos by Mauricio Castro


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