Wynton Marsalis: breathing life back into jazz

If you love Jazz, then you should know the name Wynton Marsalis. A critically acclaimed musician and composer, the trumpeter has been performing across the entire Jazz spectrum for decades.

His recent accolades involve education. Marsalis has been working tirelessly with various organizations across the USA and Canada to help young musicians hone their craft and find their footing within the industry.

Wynton Marsalis performing with the Wynton Marsalis Quintet with Richard Galliano at Jazz in Marciac 2014.

 

Born in New Orleans, in the heart of the jazz scene and era, Wynton started performing at the age of eight with a church band led by the legendary banjo player Danny Barker. By the age of 14, Marsalis was performing with the New Orleans philharmonic. Through his youth, he studied music at various prestigious institutions, including Julliard. His work generated a buzz through the New York City jazz scene, and soon Wynton found himself picking up gigs and performing with jazz legends like Dizzie Gillespie and Tony Williams.

“I got my first trumpet from Al Hirt,” reminisces Wynton. “My father was playing the piano in his band, and as a Christmas present I received a trumpet – a LeBlanc.”

Down The Avenue – Wynton Marsalis Septet at Dizzy’s Club 2013

“My father was an example to me, because of the type of integrity he had when he would play. I also liked the musicians that my father played with. They were always around, and I always liked to hand {this word doesn’t make sense here.. do you mean hang around} at the gigs and listen to them play and see what was going on,” says Wynton. “Also, for that whole generation of Southern musicians – like my father, like Alvin Batiste – playing the music was a stab against segregation. It was a matter of their identity, of their high-minded nature and of them as men.”

Wynton carried this integrity into his career as he formed his own band in 1981, with which he performed over 120 shows a year for 15 years straight. Since then, Wynton has produced over 70 records, which have sold over seven million copies worldwide, including three golden records. Wynton’s prolific compositions have also gained him wide popularity in the dance world. He has been commissioned to write music for many production companies including the New York City Ballet and the Lincoln Centre Chamber Music Society.

Today, in addition to writing and performing, Wynton is giving back to the Jazz world. He devotes his talent and energy to working with conservatories and schools to uplift the next generation of artists and performers. Wynton teaches not only musical lessons but also gives entrepreneurial and leadership advice.

Wynton delivering Keynote address at Tulane University’s Commencement 2014)

Wynton is also the artistic director at the Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York, working to modernize jazz and bring it back to the forefront as a serious art form. “I’m really happy that we’ve successfully challenged the status quo of our music,” says Wynton. “When we started, nobody was thinking about the seriousness of jazz as an art form. We’ve been able to challenge a lot of that. We’ve done dances, we’ve brought musicians in from all over the world, and we’ve played concerts. We’ve commissioned pieces and done first-ever concepts, and I’m really proud of that.”

To learn more about Wynton and his current projects, please visit his website.

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