Entries in Wynton Marsalis (1)
Back in November, when I received a letter saying that I had won two tickets to attend a Wynton Marsalis Fan Appreciation concert, I was stunned.
Wow, they chose me? Big smile....
Over the years, I’ve seen Wynton Marsalis, the Grammy and Pulitzer Prize winning trumpet player, who is also the Artistic Director of Jazz at Lincoln Center, perform in various venues across the country. I’ve witnessed him give soaring tributes to his hometown of New Orleans, to the music of little-known American jazz composers. At the end of every concert, I’ve always come away learning a little bit more about jazz music, than I ever knew before.
I discovered the music of Wynton Marsalis quite by accident. One afternoon, when I lived in Philadelphia, I ran into a friend of mine who was volunteering at the Free Library, as I walked home from work. She told me, “Deena, you should come, Wynton Marsalis will be here tonight to talk about his new book!” That book was Jazz in the Bittersweet Blues of Life, a chronicle of his experiences of touring on the road during the 1990’s. Mr. Marsalis was engaging, and even took the time to talk to members of the audience during his book signing with his co-author Carl Vigeland.
The appreciation concert was held at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola, one of the three main performance venues located in Jazz at Lincoln Center’s home, Frederick P. Rose Hall in the Time Warner Center in Manhattan. Affectionately called “The House of Swing” by Mr. Marsalis, it is has been the official residence of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra where they have performed at the Rose Theater for more than six years.
Dizzy’s is an intimate jazz club, with a spectacular view of Columbus Circle. Anytime I’ve been there for a night performance, the city looks like a gorgeous jewel box, with all of the glittering lights from the nearby skyscrapers. In addition to it being a jazz club, it is also a modern, and well-appointed full-service restaurant, where patrons are able to order dinner before the show.
There were 130 contest winners from 12 states, and even Canada. It was thrilling, because it was the first time that Mr. Marsalis had ever given a fan appreciation concert, and those of us who won felt pretty honored to be there. I was able to bring my mom along as a guest!
And what was the best part of this experience? We were seated at a table in the front of the venue, only seven feet away from the stage!
In addition to Mr. Marsalis, the quintet included current JALC Orchestra members: tenor saxophonist Walter Blanding, bassist Carlos Henriquez, pianist Dan Nipper, and drummer Ali Jackson Jr. Throughout evening, they took a trip down memory lane, and selected many fan favorites including: “Free to Be,” “Do Your Thing,” “Sparks,” “Big Fat Hen,” “Moscow Blues,” and “Knozz-Moe-King.”
One of the reasons why people enjoy seeing Wynton Marsalis perform live in concert is because he is the consummate storyteller. He loves to impart his knowledge about jazz history, and gives detailed, rich explanations about the reasons why he chooses to perform certain songs. The playlist included the Gershwin classic “Embraceable You” which Mr. Marsalis noted that his mother always sang around the house (he jokingly said she was slightly off-key, but never told her). He said his father, the legendary pianist Ellis Marsalis, that it was one of his father’s favorite standards.
Mr. Marsalis, explained why he decided to give the concert:
“My fans have stuck with me through many styles of music - from modern burnout to standards to New Orleans music to baroque and beyond. They have embraced all of my bands - from small groups of various sizes to the big band, and they have celebrated the diverse personalities of those ensembles. My fans are of all nations and kinds, ages and beliefs. Every day, I recommit to creating a better music for their enjoyment. I strive to justify, through my work, the unwavering faith and trust they have shown through these years. At every performance and sometimes just in the streets, someone gives me the inspiration and confidence to become a better musician and person. It is a blessing.”
Overall, it was a magnificent treat, and words will never describe the joy that I felt. It definitely was one of those evening’s that will stand out in my mind forever. It was an incredibly rewarding experience to be equally honored by someone who has contributed so much, and has the found time to show such genuine gratitude, by giving us yet another extraordinary gift.