Chicago, 1927. A recording session. Tensions rise between Ma Rainey (Viola Davis), her ambitious horn player (Chadwick Boseman), and the white management determined to control the legendary “Mother of the Blues.” Based on Pulitzer Prize winner August Wilson‘s play, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is directed by George C. Wolfe, adapted for the screen by Ruben Santiago-Hudson and Produced by Denzel Washington.
the soundtrack features the score by critically-acclaimed saxophonist, instrumentalist, composer, bandleader and educator Branford Marsalis, as well as newly-recorded covers of both popular Ma Rainey tracks and blues and jazz standards from the era. The multi-GRAMMY Award® winner brings over four decades of experience across stylistic boundaries to the project, imbuing the film with an authentic 1920s Chicago soundscape.
Of the soundtrack, Branford Marsalis says, “When George Wolfe called to ask me to compose music for his upcoming film, the project forced me to quickly fill in a gap in my musical experience: addressing the music of the 1920’s. I was excited about learning a new sound for my aural library and had to get right to work… Having only written arrangements for the modern big band (17 instruments, no strings), I looked forward to the challenge of writing in a ‘20s format and convincing the musicians to play the music as authentically as possible.”
George C. Wolfe adds, “When I signed on to direct Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, I instantly knew I wanted to work with Branford Marsalis, because when you collaborate with Branford the composer/arranger, Branford the historian, musicologist, dramatist and raconteur shows up as well. And because he understands the inherently transgressive nature of the blues, Branford’s arrangements capture not only the cultural and regional DNA in Ma Rainey’s songs, but the wit and rage embedded in every note, shout and moan.”