Smile Politely

Wynton Marsalis: The show wouldn’t be happening without him

Wynton Marsalis is easily the most visible contemporary jazz musician to the average American. I stress contemporary because when most of us think of Jazz, we think of musicians whose best work was done decades ago. But then again, the John Coltrane Quartet won’t be playing material from Giant Steps and My Favorite Things at Krannert tomorrow night. And just like that awkward kid from your high school who idolizes every classic rock band in existence but dismisses Doolittle as fickle crap, a great many jazz listeners are more in love with the idea of jazz than the actual music. This insular brand of fetishism/hero worship does nothing for jazz (it’s fairly antithetical to the entire idea of jazz, but that’s another whole article).

As a trumpeter, Marsalis is widely known for his near-flawless technique and tone. Here’s “Cherokee”, considered one of his signature tracks.

And as for the bio? At 49, Marsalis has still got his youth (guy even has a Twitter, natch), he’s played with artists ranging from Art Blakey to the Grateful Dead, won nine Grammies and first Pulitzer Prize for Music ever given to a jazz recording…you get the idea. More importantly, he’s been the major player in canonizing jazz as a legit, concert-hall genre. the kind of thing you can sip wine and eat cheese to at Krannert. He’s also done extensive work with NPR, and the jazz program he founded at New York’s Lincoln Center recently installed the first concert hall designed specifically for jazz. Speaking of which, here’s a video of Wynton with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra (if you want to call it that, tomorrow’s ensemble will be made up of roughly fifteen performers). The concert will feature, among other things, newly arranged Chick Corea material.

Ultimately, without Marsalis’ work to legitimize jazz as a genre, there’s a good chance that shows like this wouldn’t even be happening at Krannert. If that isn’t a solid reason to make it out in this ridiculous weather, I don’t know what is.

The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra featuring Wynton Marsalis performs tomorrow (Thursday) at the Tryon Festival Theater in Krannert Center. The show begins at 7:30 p.m., and ticket prices range from $10-48

Related Articles