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Wynton Marsalis
Written by Dan Miller

(born 1961) The most important and influential jazz trumpet player on the scene today. Wynton is a true virtuoso with a complete mastery of his instrument and a uniquely individual stylistic approach. His tone is broad, dark and rich; he sings, shouts and screams--a master communicator. Wynton has embraced the use of mutes (an unfortuate lost art), especially the plunger. Initially inspired by Freddie Hubbard and Miles Davis, Marsalis worked toward absorbing the genius of Louis Armstrong and the music of his native New Orleans.

Assuming the trumpet chair with Art Blakey' Jazz Messengers in 1980, Wynton helped form a young, brash frontline with Billy Pierce and Bobby Watson. Blakey seemed re-energized and his new band was creating headlines and making exciting records (Album of the Year and Straight Ahead). It was also during this time that Wynton recorded and toured with Herbie Hancock's V.S.O.P. group.

Marsalis garnered much mainstream attention from the simultaneous release of jazz and classical solo projects for Columbia. Wynton's growing popularity raised the profile for acoustic jazz music exponentially. He began his twenty year relationship with Columbia in 1980, and released many excellent records: Think of One, Live at Blues Alley, Black Codes from the Underground, J Mood, Standard Time Volumes 1-6, Thick in the South, Joe Cool's Blues and Live at the Village Vanguard.

Marsalis is an ambitious composer, tackling a variety of forms in various mediums: small groups, big bands, string quartets, orchestral, ballet and film scores (In this House on this Morning, Citi Movement, Mariac Suite and Blood on the Fields).

Wynton also helms the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra. It is his work with Lincoln Center that has given Marsalis the opportunity to bring jazz music across the world and further the cause of jazz education. In 1996, Wynton produced an ambitious, educational series for PBS and Sony (Marsalis on Music) that brought the music of Duke Ellington and the concepts of form and rhythm to television.

Marsalis is a tireless worker, who finds himself performing, touring, conducting, teaching or composing virtually non-stop. This tremendous work ethic enables him to focus not only on the present, but provides him with a springboard toward the future.


© 2002 Dan Miller
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