Irvin Mayfield

Strange Fruit

Strange Fruit can best be described as a truly American jazz opera. Composer Irvin Mayfield, who has a lengthy body of work as a jazz man, has taken one of America’s darkest moments and turned it into an exploration of race and love, justice and injustice. Combining narration with nine musical movements performed by the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra and the Dillard University Choir, Mayfield tells a love story between a white woman and black man that ends in the violence and tragedy of the south. At turns exhilarating, as in “Ballad of the Hot Long Night,” and terrifying, as in “The Lynch Mob (You’d Better Run Boy Run),” Mayfield melds traditional jazz with variations on a theme. It ends with a piece called “Ah Yes the Blues,” an apt description of both the history and the music our nation has bequeathed us.