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Wynton Marsalis

The most famous jazz musician since 1980, Wynton Marsalis had a major impact on jazz almost from the start. In the early '80s, it was major news that a young and very talented black musician would choose to make a living playing acoustic jazz rather than fusion, funk, or R&B. Marsalis' arrival on the scene started the "Young Lions" movement and resulted in major labels (most of whom had shown no interest in jazz during the previous decade) suddenly signing and promoting young players. There had been a major shortage of new trumpeters since 1970, but Marsalis' sudden prominence inspired an entire new crop of brass players. The music of the mid-'60s Miles Davis Quintet had been somewhat overshadowed when it was new, but Marsalis' quintet focused on extending the group's legacy and soon other "Young Lion" units were using Davis' late acoustic work as their starting point.

During his career, Marsalis has managed to be a controversial figure despite his obvious abilities. His selective knowledge of jazz history (considering post-1965 avant-garde playing to be outside of jazz and '70s fusion to be barren) is unfortunately influenced by the somewhat eccentric beliefs of Stanley Crouch, and his hiring policies as musical director of the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra led to exaggerated charges of ageism and racism from local writers. However, more than balancing all of this out is Marsalis' inspiring work with youngsters, many of whom he has introduced to jazz; a few young musicians, such as Roy Hargrove, have been directly helped by Marsalis.

Marsalis' trumpet playing has been both overcriticized and (at least early on) overpraised. When he first arrived on the scene with the Jazz Messengers, his original inspiration was Freddie Hubbard. However, by the time he began leading his own group, Marsalis often sounded very close to Miles Davis (particularly when holding a long tone), although a version of Davis with virtuosic technique. He was so widely praised by the jazz press at the time (due to their relief that the future of jazz finally seemed safe) that there was an inevitable backlash. Marsalis' sometimes inaccurate statements about jazz of the '70s and the avant-garde in general made some observers angry, and his rather derivative tone at the time made it seem as if there was always going to have to be an asterisk by his name when evaluating his talents. Some listeners formed permanent impressions of Marsalis as a Miles Davis imitator, but they failed to take into account that he was still improving and developing. With the 1990 recording Tune in Tomorrow, Marsalis at last sounded like himself. He had found his own voice by exploring earlier styles of jazz (such as Louis Armstrong's playing), mastering the wah-wah mute, and studying Duke Ellington. From that point on, even when playing a Miles Davis standard, Marsalis had his own sound and has finally taken his place as one of jazz's greats.

The son of pianist Ellis Marsalis, the younger brother of Branford and the older brother of Delfeayo and Jason (the Marsalis clan as a whole can be accurately called "The First Family of Jazz"), Wynton (who was named after pianist Wynton Kelly) received his first trumpet at age six from Ellis' employer, Al Hirt. He studied both classical and jazz and played in local marching bands, funk groups, and classical orchestras. Marsalis played first trumpet in the New Orleans Civic Orchestra while in high school. He went to Juilliard when he was 18 and in 1980 he made his first recordings with the Art Blakey Big Band and joined the Jazz Messengers.

By 1981, the young trumpeter was the talk of the jazz world. He toured with Herbie Hancock (a double LP resulted), continued working with Blakey, signed with Columbia, and recorded his first album as a leader. In 1982, Marsalis not only formed his own quintet (featuring brother Branford and soon Kenny Kirkland, Charnett Moffett, and Jeff "Tain" Watts) but recorded his first classical album; he was immediately ranked as one of the top classical trumpeters of all time. His quintet with Branford lasted until late 1985, although a rift developed between the brothers (fortunately temporary) when Branford finally quit the band to tour with Sting's pop group. By that time Wynton was a superstar, winning a countless number of awards and polls.

Marsalis' next group featured pianist Marcus Roberts, bassist Robert Hurst, and drummer Watts. Over time the group grew to become a four-horn septet with trombonist Wycliffe Gordon, altoist Wes Anderson, Todd Williams on tenor, bassist Reginald Veal, drummer Herlin Riley, and (by the early '90s) pianist Eric Reed. Marsalis really developed his writing during this era (being influenced by Duke Ellington) and the septet proved to be a perfect outlet for his arranging. Although Marsalis broke up the band by 1995, many of the musicians still appear in his special projects or with the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra.

In 1997, Marsalis' marathon Blood on the Fields (which was released as a three-CD set) became the first jazz-based work to win a Pulitzer Prize. Standard Time, Vol. 5: The Midnight Blues followed a year later. With the passing of so many jazz giants, Marsalis' importance (as a trumpeter, leader, writer, and spokesman for jazz) continued to grow. Standard Time, Vol. 4: Marsalis Plays Monk followed in 1999 to coincide with the popular PBS special. Then, as if eight proper recordings in 1999 weren't enough, Columbia and Marsalis released an amazingly affordable seven-disc set entitled Live at the Village Vanguard. Mid-2000 saw the release of Marciac Suite and Goin' Down Home. Two years later, Marsalis celebrated the blues on All Rise. Next up was his first album for Blue Note, The Magic Hour, an album of original material released early in 2004. Later that year, the label released Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson, Marsalis' soundtrack to a Ken Burns documentary. Marsalis' second studio effort for Blue Note, the politically and socially aware From the Plantation to the Penitentiary, followed in 2007.

In 2008, Marsalis teamed up with country icon Willie Nelson for the live album Two Men with the Blues which featured the duo performing over a two-night stint at Lincoln Center. The following year, Marsalis released the concept album He and She in which he explored the theme of relationships between men and women. In 2011, he returned with the live album Here We Go Again: Celebrating the Genius of Ray Charles which once again paired him with Nelson as well as vocalist Norah Jones. Also in 2011, Marsalis, who had previously guested on guitarist Eric Clapton's 2010 album Clapton, again paired with rock/blues master for the concert album Play the Blues: Live from Jazz at Lincoln Center. Marsalis also contributed the score to Burns' 2011 documentary, Prohibition. ~ Scott Yanow, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

Comments

I think his classical may be better. Who cares. We're lucky to have him. Thank you.
I rediscovered the Horn...Brass . . w i t h Chris Botti...Wynt o n Marsalis..Ri c k Braun...the list goes on and on...Thank you..Johnny. . . f o r Turning my back on to Pandora....m y brother in music...
alohakghi
I have a bone to pick with Scott Yanow. In the bio he says, 70s fusion was barren. The 70s might not have produced any ground-shaki n g horn men, but Weather Report, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Zappa (to name only a few), are significant in the annals of fusion history. To say it was a barren time seems to lack insight into the zeitgeist of the times. My apologies to Mr. Marsalis.
dee.childres s
wow never been to the Big Easy but you make me feel I AM THERE sitting watching you play & seeing the sights !
Such a prominent heavily inspiring voice. Definitely a master at expressing himself and conveying emotion
I love this type of music. It makes me want to go back and actually meet the wonderful musician(s) who performed it. So mellow
Very Cool! Mellow!
Wow
zoehare
Three months after Katrina hit New Orleans I had the honor of attending the annual Jazz Mass celebration at an old Catholic church in the city (cant recall the name now). Wynton was not present but Ellis, the patriarch, Branford, several other siblings and friends of this amazing musical family were there, it was an emotional day and and an unforgettabl e experience.
...... Wow
So young, but he sounds like he's been around for eons. Vintage.
One of our modern masters. First saw him with Art Blakey when him and Brandford were just starting out. They were already in-demand and monsters even then. He has developed into such an outstanding player.
Very nice!
billalfred15 4
Heaven sent! Keep on doing it
corwolfna
I don't know if there's anyone else to safely qualify for the master this man is! Genius, the way his mind wraps around each note and delivers an interpretati o n like no other! I remember his very short stay as leader of the Tonight Show band. His dreams were far bigger than that and he soon left, further making his mark on the industry and in the lives of so many youths and the general public at large, through his philanthropi c efforts! What a great and brilliant man, an example for us all.
i saw him perform in memphisand was blown away
wynton is amusic gen
I've seen him perform live twice. Great musician! Many years later, I still remember him playing the New Orleans Function. Also, a blistering version of Cherokee.
I enjoyed his live on FB session once and it became my total cloud of peace as I floated above each expression called simply in my world...LOVE . . .
jrw2july, right on! I also like Wynton's version of Sister Cheryl! Man, he uses some creative melody and rhythm in a key on the trumpet that is not easy to solo in. I believe it is the key of C#(B Concert). Saw him perform last year in Chicago at Symphony Center with his large group. Wow, what a life changing experience. He comes to Chicago often. I own Hot House Flowers, I'll have to listen to it again. Haven't listened to it in about 10 years.
jrw2july
Hot House Flowers is still my favorite of all his albums, but what sold me on the upside of his talents during the 80's was his two songs on his first album: his version of Sister Cheryl, and the last song on side 1 called I'll Be There (When the Time Is Right).
He is sooo amazazaing!! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! !
frankgpotter
Life is better with this MAN !!
Love his classical side as well!
Just had dinner with him last night. He's an awesome guy. And the show afterwards was PHENOMENAL. Great time.
the technique... t h e sound...the soul...pure heaven
teachmoore
I especially enjoyed the CD with the entire Marsalis clan performing in celebration of Ellis Marsalis's retirement as a music educator. Some marvelous performances there including the duet: Cain and Abel featuring Wynton and Branford.
lebaron71
How do you have review of a Wynton's work and not mention In This House, On This Morning A Master Piece!!
HOW ABOUT SOME YUSEF Y RASHAN, PO FAVOR! ROSS.
RECORDS ALSO!!! ROCKSTEADY.
APPERENTLY, I CAN'T SPELL SINCERELY EITHER! BUENOS DIAS!
P.S., MUCHOS APOLIGIOSOS POR LOS ERRORS GRAMMATICA. (I CAN SPELL BRANFORD Y GREAT) I UNFORTUNATLY SUFFER FROM PARKINSONS. IT KILLED MI HOCKEY CAREER, & AFFECTS MI TYPING, BUT NOT MI ABILITY 2 BLOW. SINCERLY, ROSS!
I AM AN ALL ORIGINA JAZZ SINGER, COMPOSER, ARRANGER, PRODUCER, Y MULI-INSTRUM E N T A L I S T . U WYNTON, YOUR FATHER, Y GRAN HERMANO BRAFORD HAVE BEEN A MAJOR INFLUENCE ON MI MUSICA Y CAREER. MUCHOS GRACIAS MI MUSICA MATES Y MENTORS! I RECORD 4 A SMALL LABEL BASED OUT OF SEATTLE ENTITLED INSYDORS RECOREDS. UNDER LOS TITLE OF ROCKSTEADY ROSS Y LOS ERROL FLYNNS. I USED 2 BE A PRO HOCKEY PLAYER. MI GREST GRAN PADRE WAS OSCAR P. HE Y YOUR PADRE HAVE BEEN MI MAJOR INFLUENCES ON PIANO. LUV U R SHOW! ROSS.
photoruff_pw h s
I was going to write something about another Artist, but this piece just took over, and I could not write anything but listen.
erikadockery
aaaahhhhh
howardsburto n
NICE
zeanincun2
rain....red wine....jazz with Wynton Marsalis.... N o w !
blackworkwor m
BRILLIANT - REAL COOL CAT TOO.
selkie108
Love love love Wynton Marsalis.
Wynton ALWAYS delivers. I have never been disappointed by any of his music and I'm certain I never will be.
A "musicologis t " - carries on in the tradition and into the future. His Lincoln Center exploits ensure Jazz will live on beyond our time. America's gift to the world. BF.
The spirit of Duke Ellington lives on through Wynton Marsalis. Wynton's name means The best Jazz has to offer.
A living jazz legend. 'Straight on' classic jazz at it's best!
I used to frown on Wynton Marsalis and his "elitist" attitude towards jazz. But, then I saw his Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra play with Willie Nelson of all people - and they GOT DOWN!!! Dirty jokes and all. Since then I've seen the Orchestra a couple of times and they have been consistently SUPERB... Some fantastic writers and players in that group. Wynton plays a mean trumpet too. It seems as he gold older, he grew up and learned to just BE HIMSELF rather than dissing the "crossover".
Another member of a "royal" family in the jazz world. Marsalis is simply an exquisite prodigy with boundless talents. His father, Ellis, is proof that the "apple does not fall far from the tree". What a pleasure to listen to his music.
A musician who's melodies I can write to. Gives me an extra sense of expression.
Wynton is an amazing trumpeter... h e uses fusion in Jazz and the result comes out heavenly...
Wynton Marsalis has raised the bar for trumpet playing, but not necessarily for the art of jazz.
An amazing talented musician...P a p a Marsalis should get the credit...I am from the old jazz school of Miles Davis..., but in 1984 when I listened to the "Think Of One" album"...I was blown away...then I hopped on his bandwagon.
solodown
I have been a fan of Wynton Marsalis for quite some time. There may be some particular tracks that I might not understand or admire from time to time. However, the overall jazz that he produces more than meets my need for relaxing jazz. As long as he produces, I will buy.
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