The CD includes 16 new compositions by Marsalis, the trumpeter and artistic director of Jazz at Lincoln Center, as well as Marsalis's recordings of music by W.C. Handy and Jelly Roll Morton. It features a number of Marsalis's regular sidemen, including clarinetist Victor Goines, trombonist Wycliffe Gordon, pianist Eric Lewis, bassist Reginald Veal, and drummer Herlin Riley.
Unforgivable Blackness, which will be broadcast on PBS in January 2005, tells the story of boxer Jack Johnson, the first African American heavyweight champion of the world. Marsalis also collaborated with Burns on his 2000 PBS series Jazz, serving as senior creative consultant and appearing as an on-screen commentator.
Jazz at Lincoln Center hosted a Jack Johnson Festival earlier this month, presenting clips from Burns's film and music from Marsalis's score.