Wynton Marsalis: Five great things by the jazz trumpeter

Wynton Marsalis is a globally renowned trumpeter, in Wellington for the NZ Festival.
ROSS GIBLIN/ FAIRFAX NZ

Wynton Marsalis is a globally renowned trumpeter, in Wellington for the NZ Festival.

OPINION: American trumpeter Wynton Marsalis has just touched down in Wellington for a week of festival shows and talks.

He'll be speaking with children and performing shows for all ages across disciplines.

Marsalis, educator and player of jazz and classical music, author, soundtrack composer and consultant, part of one of the great musical dynasties, has visited New Zealand previously.

Wynton Marsalis and his Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra will be in Wellington for a residency during the 2016 NZ Festival.
FRANK STEWART

Wynton Marsalis and his Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra will be in Wellington for a residency during the 2016 NZ Festival.

His output across the last 35 years is prodigious, prolific and though there are some that like to suggest he presents only the 'safe' version of jazz, or that he denies the weird and wonderful, the way-out, the pros outweigh the cons as far as I'm concerned.

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Wynton Marsalis is a legend.
Chip East

Wynton Marsalis is a legend.

 

 

Marsalis has done many, many great things with and for music.

Here are some of my picks.

1. Black Codes (From The Underground) 

This is the album that made me realise that Wynton Marsalis was good. Really good.

This is the album that made me realise that Wynton Marsalis was good. Really good.

This is the album that made me realise that Wynton Marsalis was good. Really good. A great player and talent-spotter, superb band-leader.

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At a time when jazz was hung out to dry, certainly smelling funny, possibly even dead, Marsalis breathed new life into the old forms. Black Codes is, to my ears, the Kind of Blue or Tenor Madness of the 1980s. A good old blowing session from a crack band.

2. His book

To a Young Jazz Musician, Letters from The Road is an invaluable account from someone out there doing it.

To a Young Jazz Musician, Letters from The Road is an invaluable account from someone out there doing it.

To a Young Jazz Musician, Letters from The Road is an invaluable account from someone out there doing it.

One of very few books available, and written in an accessible style, that helps musicians to understand the emotional toll and mind-set necessary to work and live and (hopefully) succeed.

3. The Live at the Village Vanguard boxset

Jazz is still very nearly dead, but when you hear this, it's alive and thriving.

Jazz is still very nearly dead, but when you hear this, it's alive and thriving.

Across seven CDs we hear the evolution of his septet performing live across the years 1990-1994.

Again, it's not a particularly great time for jazz.  There are inflections, it's there, hip-hop, acid-jazz, dance music culture, sampling. But jazz is still very nearly dead. Not when you hear this. It's alive and thriving. The players here are breathtakingly good. The tunes sublime. It's a masterclass.

4. His book for kids

He's as clever with language here as when performing the dizziest (Dizzy-est?) of runs on his horn.

He's as clever with language here as when performing the dizziest (Dizzy-est?) of runs on his horn.

Jazz ABZ: An A-Z Collection of Jazz Portraits, with its illustrations by Paul Rogers, is wonderful. But each portrait of jazz music's legends is accompanied by a Marsalis-penned poem.

He's as clever with language here as when performing the dizziest (Dizzy-est?) of runs on his horn. A fabulous book that really is for children of all ages and sizes.

5. The soundtrack to Unforgivable Blackness

This stands up on its own and not many soundtracks achieve that.

This stands up on its own and not many soundtracks achieve that.

 The perfect score to the Ken Burns documentary. For all the grief Marsalis has been given as stuffy scholar he sure gets it right. This stands up on its own as album away from the film. Not many soundtracks – particularly documentary soundtracks – achieve that.

That's just five great things I immediately think of - his career boasts so many highlights. This week Wellington will get to hear the Swing Symphony and a performance by his long-runing Jazz At Lincoln Center Orchestra. We're lucky to have him. His work important – his best work sublime. Truly one of the greats of the last 35 years.

 - Stuff

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