Thread: Wynton Marsalis
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Old 12-18-2010, 10:42 PM
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Default Re: Wynton Marsalis

Marsalis came up at a time when the great heritage of jazz was seen as a past occurrence, when great innovators like Armstrong, Duke and Parker were gone. He blamed it on the over-commercialization of music, like everyone did. And there is some credence to that.

In New York, in the 1950s you could go into clubs and they would be jamming until three or four in the am. Everyone was high and the smell of reefer filled the air. Never mind those dodged up on junk. You could be at a gig and Byrd, Diz or Coltrane would walk in and just start playing. Now you go in to the club, have dinner, hear a set, pay your bill, and make it home before 10pm. If you stay the whole night, you can spend $150-200.00. There's big money in it. You can still get some of that experimentation; but you have to know where it's happening.

I liked his early stuff, someone mentioned Black Codes from the Underground, and his playing with Herbie and Blakey. But then he just got too old, too quick. Truthfully, I never found his classical playing to be very moving. He saw/sees the music as a black expression, and there is a undertone of racism and African Nationalism that has underscored his belief. There was a time when his orchestra was all male, all black. That has changed.

What he is doing is bringing jazz into line with the western heritage of music, like Ellington, Billy Taylor and John Lewis had done before, though I wouldn't compare him to those musicians. In that sense, it can be integrated into that process. It is a part because European composers like Stravinsky, Weill, Milhaud were influenced by it. And American composers like Gershwin, Copland and even Elliot Carter saw it as a fundamental to the compositional process. You have musicians who are overly commercialized like Ramsey Lewis, Bob James or Kenny G. Then you have the guys who are just out there playing like Vijay Iyer, Joe Lovano, Dave Liebman or Joshua Redman and putting out good albums. But you have guys like Jason Moran, Brad Meldhau and Ethan Iverson who are finding that blend or composition and free jazz. All those guys are really doing that.

Marsalis has a very limited perspective on jazz; but it is also a perspective that many have adopted to some degree. It's uptown jazz. Jazz with a mink coat. I don't mind it; but I don't prefer it. There was a time when he railed against Free jazz and fusion saying that is was not really jazz. It's a bit different now because he's had Ornette Coleman and John McLaughlin to visit at JALC. I've heard people whom I respect call him a modern day Beethoven. He must pay them well to play at that Theater.

I went to the theater once, to see John Mclaughlin. It is not acoustically sound. Dizzy's club is really nice because the band plays on a band stand that overlooks Columbus Circle. There is a statue of Columbus and Central Park in the background. You can see the the Big Yellow taxis going by with the red taillights. It's certainly a place where the history of jazz is celebrated; but not a place where innovation will take place.

You have the boppers in the 50s, the politicians and political activists of the 60s, the rock stars in the 70s and the software innovators of the 80s and early 90s. What is captivating the idealism of young people today? I love this clip. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Crgzp...layer_embedded
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