2007/11/15

Iconoclasts: Wynton Marsalis and John Besh

By JULIETTE ROSSANT

Iconoclasts Season 3:  Winton Marsalis and John Besh

It should come as no surprise that the Sundance Channel will broadcast its Season 3 Iconoclasts episode with Wynton Marsalis and John Besh on Thanksgiving Day, Thursday, November 22, at 10:00 P.M. ET/PT.

That is not just because John is an accomplished chef, and Thanksgiving is all about food. It is also because both artists focus on giving and receiving in terms of both theirs Arts and their communities. Both are native sons of New Orleans and have known each other for some time.

Winton Marsalis' Congo Square The program follows John to New York City, where he joins Wynton behind the scenes at Jazz at Lincoln Center, where Wynton is Artistic Director. Wynton is conducting a composition called "Congo Square," after a historic section in New Orleans. During rehearsal, discordant music blares, reminiscent of kitchen chaos. John remarks, "I wish I could say I was the Wynton Marsalis of food": through the course of the show, it becomes clear that Wynton considers John his equal.

Winton Marsalis

In New Orleans, Wynton joins John to discuss issues facing the city after Hurricane Katrina. Each have tried to help the city. They visit Congo Square as they wander the streets, examining the collaborative nature of their art and their deep connections to the "Big Easy." John joins Wynton at the Montreal Jazz Festival for a performance of the "Congo Square." The earlier warm-up has led to an amazing performance, much as food prep leads to presentation.

John Besh, photo by Lori Waselchuk for The New York Times

Wynton goes with John to eat his food and to the restaurants John has helped rebuild. They watch fried chicken in preparation at Willie Mae's Scotch House. John talks about his newest restaurant, La Provence, which he bought from his mentor Constantin "Chris" Kerageorgiou. Attached to the restaurant is a small farm where John practices sustainable farming techniques to raise pigs, chickens, and vegetables. Sustainability took on new meaning for him after witnessing the hurricanes of 2005, unprotected by the former marshes around the city.

Winton Marsalis and John Besh talk on Iconoclasts Season 3

The two artists discuss their mentors and large families, segregation and poverty, and the need to continue to learn. Both lament the fact that New Orleans is not producing the talent that it once did. They fret over the need for youth's connection to culture, food, and music.

These are mere highlights of an episode that transcends Iconoclasts's mismatching of Mikhail Baryshnikov and Alice Waters in its second season (see previous article).

So, come 10:00 PM on Thanksgiving, settle back and digest with these two gifted artist.

Related news:
New York Times, New York Post, MediaBistro

Previous articles:
Next Iron Chef Winner: Michael Symon
Next Iron Chef Bets?
Iconoclasts: Mikhail Baryshnikov and Alice Waters
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