Marsalis: All That Jazz

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As second-born in the familial pecking order, Marsalis began playing trumpet at an early age and continued to pursue this interest at the Julliard School.  His brother, Branford, is also a musician. In 1980, Wynton joined Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers.  Two years later, he released a number of jazz and classical recordings under Columbia and Sony Classical, selling nearly eight million recordings both nationally and internationally.

Currently Marsalis serves as Artistic Director for the Jazz at Lincoln Center program in New York. He co-founded the program and it has distinguished itself under his leadership.  The vastness of the Jazz at Lincoln Center (JALC) project is astounding. It’s vision spectacular.  It encompasses the spectrum of jazz art and education like no other in the world.  While it is nearing completion, and once concluded in the fall, it will be a jazz aficionados dream.  It will be the climax of every jazzman, every student, and every seasoned and aspiring jazz artist’s dream.  It is a colossal monument to architectural grandeur.   The Jazz at Lincoln Center vision is to dish up an ambrosia for the senses; taste, smell, sound, sight and touch.

“Most concert halls were designed for symphonic music, not jazz,â€? says Marsalis.  “Most of the time we play in halls that have too much echo for jazz music.  The tail of the echo is so long that it makes the music muddy.  We have the drums playing all the time, which is not the case in symphonic music.  We have a cymbal ringing, all in the high register.  And the bass is playing all the time in the very low register.  It’s something like a sandwich, sandwiched between these two extreme frequencies.  So, now, as a result of this project, we’re going to have a hall where the sound is more pure and is made for us and our sound.â€?

The venues which exist within the Jazz at Lincoln Center project are the Frederick P. Rose Hall and Rose Theater—named after its leading benefactor.  It is a 1,200-seat concert theatre designed specifically for function and also creates an ambiance for jazz music.  Also, it can be easily converted from concert hall to theatre, thus, making the Hall, fully functional for a variety of artistic presentations such as: theatre, dance, film and opera.  There is also the Allen Room, a 300-350 performance space.  This space offers intimacy between artist and spectator, wherein the dance floor is part of the stage and the seats wrap around in tiers.  Another room, Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola, offers a nightclub atmosphere and seating for approximately 140 people.  It is unique in the fact that during the day it will offer educational programming and at night it will convert into a performance venue.  Sky gazers will be treated to a stunning view of the Central Park and the Manhattan skyline. Not to be outdone is the Irene Diamond Education Center, a 3,500 square foot space, which is also part of the Jazz at Lincoln Center vision.  The Center offers classes, lessons, films, lectures and jam sessions as part of its resources.

The grand opening of the Frederick P. Rose Hall is slated for October 30, 2004. It’s conveniently located on 60th Street at Columbus Circle and is adjacent to Lincoln Center.  “This $128 million dollar endeavor is a jazz cosmos that will offer New Yorkers the first performing arts center that is acoustically designed specifically for the pure sound of jazz.  The Center is wired for recording webcast and broadcast as well,â€? adds Marsalis. “It is my mission and the mission of the Center to produce a year-round roster of broadcast and concert performances that reflect education, tours –national and international-weekly national radio and television programs, publications, a band leader academy, a jazz appreciation curriculum for children, advanced training through the Julliard Institute for Jazz Studies, lectures, adult education, workshops and film programs, etc.â€?

“It also houses the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra which is comprised of 15 extraordinary jazz soloists and ensemble players,â€? continues Marsalis. “The Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra (LCJO) has over the years performed both nationally and internationally.  They have performed in river boats, churches, with symphony orchestras, in concert halls, public parks and with ballet troupes, etc.  JALC also features a weekly radio series entitled Jazz From Lincoln Center which is hosted by Ed Bradley.   A vast repertoire of rare historic compositions has been commissioned by the JALC and the LCJO will, and have performed, the works of such greats such as: Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Dizzy Gillespie, Benny Goodman, Thelonious Monk, Billy Strayhorn, Charles Mingo, etc.  Guest conductors have included Benny Carter, John Lewis, Jimmy Heath, Ray Santos, et al.â€?

Wynton Marsalis has helped propel jazz to the forefront of American culture and his achievements have been innumerable.  He is the first jazz artist to be awarded a Pulitzer Prize in music for his work Blood on the Fields.  Marsalis, who also plays classical music, has earned 8 Grammy awards for his jazz and classical recordings. His recordings include Joe Cool’s Blues; Blue Interlude; Uptown Rules Thick in the South; The Resolution of Romance; Tune In Tomorrow; Black Codes (From the Underground); Hot House Flowers; Live at Blues Alley; the Majesty of Blues and his latest recording “Magic Hour,â€? to name a few. He has been given keys to cities across the country and received honorary doctorates from Rutgers, Amherst College, Howard University and a host of other educational institutions.  Marsalis has been presented with the Essence Award and the Young Audiences Children of the Arts Medal Award.  He conducts, lectures educational classes and has appeared in the BET Jazz series Journey with Jazz at Lincoln Center.  Among his credentials is the fact that Marsalis was named one of “America’s 25 Most Influential Peopleâ€? by Time Magazine and one of “The 50 Most Influential Boomersâ€? by Life Magazine.  He was awarded the “Messenger of Peace Award,â€? a United Nations designation by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan in tribute for his humanitarian efforts. Marsalis is also the holder of the Congressional “Horizon Award.â€?

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