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Wynton Marsalis

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Seeing that Wynton Marsalis was born and raised in the birth place of Jazz music; it is no surprise that he was inspired by some of the greats of the Jazz genre and himself turned out to be a great musician in the world of Jazz. Wynton was born October 18, 1961 in New Orleans, Louisiana. He was born into a musical family. Although his mother Deloris was not a musician, his father Ellis was a pianist and also a teacher of music. His older brother Bradford was a musician as well. As a child he would always hang around at different gigs his father would play at or listen in at rehearsals. He was not really into the type of music they were playing but he liked the players as people and what music meant for them. At that time in history, it took a great deal of character and integrity for southern musicians. Playing music was like a stab and segregation and he really admired all of them for that. (Wyntonmarsalis.org, December2012) At the age of six, Wynton received his first instrument; a trumpet from his father’s member Al Hirt. He was amazing from the moment he played his trumpet. He practiced every single day. By the time he was eight years old he played classical jazz in his church band with Danny Barker the banjo player. Jazz came very natural to Wynton; living in New Orleans which was oozing with jazz had a lot to do with that. From that point on Wynton played in every youth orchestra and community band that he could find to fit into his schedule. He had a passion for playing and loved to work at his sound. Not only did Wynton work hard at his music but also in the classroom. He maintained a 3.98 grade point average all throughout high school and he was a finalist for the national scholarship. Wynton had scholarship offers from Ivy League schools like Yale but he turned them down for a full ride scholarship to Juilliard School of Art in New York in 1979. Once he reached New York he started getting gigs left and right and made a name for himself rather quickly. In 1980 he was asked to play with and study under Art Blakey and The Messengers. This is where his career really started to take flight. (Wynton Marsalis: Skain’s Domain, Gouse, Leslie.) Wynton’s move to New York was not only good for the development of his reputation but also for Jazz music as a whole. Some look at Wynton Marsalis as the savior of Jazz music. By the late 1970’s, Jazz was in a bit of a crisis. It had nearly lost all of its audience. Although it had been a while since Jazz was music was pop music, the rise of Rock and Roll in the late 1960’s had made the fall of Jazz complete. The new electrifying sounds of screaming bass guitars and funk beats had taken over. There was no longer a market for jazz and a lot of jazz musicians had to either play out of the country or get a normal day job since there was no longer a market for that type of music. But, all that soon changed when Wynton moved to New York in 1979. (Jazz, A History of America’s Music. Ward and Burn p460.) One of the reasons why Wynton Marsalis was so successful in bringing Jazz back to life is because unlike the avant garde music that was played slightly before him; his music was easy for most people to digest. Because of the influence that people like Miles Davis, Freddie Hubbard, Duke Ellington and Woody Shaw had on his style, Wynton’s music provoked past glories of original jazz. (Marcel Frank Simon, Usenet post, June 13, 1996.) Off all the names listed above, Wynton was most compared to trumpet player and composer Miles Davis. Miles Davis was born on May 25, 1926 in Alton, Illinois but later moved to East St. Louis, Illinois where his father became a successful oral surgeon. Miles had it good as a child; he came up in a wealthy family, they had nice things, and they lived in a very nice neighborhood. Although he lived a very sheltered life as a child, he took on a tough guy act that would stick with him for the rest of his life. Miles began playing the trumpet at the age of thirteen. By age nineteen he moved to New York to play in Charlie Parker’s Band. Miles Davis acquired a lot of fame throughout his career. Although he was not a peoples person, people still flocked to him because of his swagger and his extraordinary music. Miles had a style largely based on timbre and melody. Once he teamed up with Gil Evans and started to compose with him, he began to create a certain type of atmosphere when he played. His sound was unique. It was very intense because of the fact that it was so emotional, yet icy and armored at the same time. His music, in a way, reflected his bitterness and anger he had built up because of the truths he could not escape. Miles hated the fact that no matter how successful he was, society would always remind him that he was a black man living in a white man’s world. (Ken Burns: Jazz.) The fact that Wynton was largely compared to Miles Davis was both a blessing and a curse. In the beginning, the familiar sound of Miles Davis was good for Wynton. It grasped the listener’s attention and made them tune in to what the young man was playing. The fact that Wynton was rooted in original New Orleans Jazz and classical music made him a genius in the eyes of the fans. But, as time went on people started to criticize how much he focused on traditional music. Critics inferred that he did not have his own musical identity and was only good at playing the music of those who came before him. (The Downside of Wynton Marsalis. Harvey Pekar, July 2010.) Despite what all the critics had to say about his music; Wynton Marsalis still turned out to be a very successful musician. In 1983 he became the first and only artist to win both classical and jazz Grammy Awards in the same year. He immediately repeated this accomplishment the following year. To date he has won six Grammy awards for his jazz recordings and two for recordings of classical music. Wynton has received five Musician of the Year awards, and his recordings regularly sell hundreds of thousands of copies. In 1987 Wynton co-founded Jazz at Lincoln Center to sponsor jazz performance and educational programs at New York's premier performing arts center. Since 1992, Wynton has served as the organization's Director, and as leader of the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra. He continues to tour throughout the country to this day and he will have a lasting impact on both Jazz and Classical music. (African American Heroes: Wynton Marsalis. Feinstein p15)

Work Cited

• Davis, Francis. "Born Out of Time." The Atlantic Monthly Apr. 1988. Web. 5 Dec. 2012.

• Feinstein, Stephen. African American Heroes: Wynton Marsalis. Enslow Pub Inc, 2007. Web. 8 Dec. 2012.

• Gourse, Leslie. Wynton Marsalis: Skain's Domain. Music Sales Corporation, 2000. Web. 12 Dec. 2012.
• Pekar, Harvey. "The Downside of Wynton Marsalis." Isthmus Apr. 1998. Web. 5 Dec. 2012.
• http://wyntonmarsalis.org/about/faq
• Wynton Marsalis Biography. Web. 7 Dec. 2012. .

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