Wynton Marsalis is a celebrated jazz trumpeter, composer, bandleader and educator and the managing and artistic director of Jazz at Lincoln Center. He’s also a “CBS News Sunday Morning” commentator on topics ranging from music, of course, to football and gumbo. (He also performs the show’s theme music.) The first jazz artist awarded a Pulitzer Prize in music, he was named one of the 50 greatest leaders in the world for 2014 by Fortune magazine. If you’re wondering how he manages all this, consider that Marsalis believes he has enough time in his day to add another position. This month he becomes the director of jazz studies at Juilliard.
Reached by telephone at his Lincoln Center office, Marsalis said he’s glad to have been given the chance to work with musicians in the 18-24 age bracket. “It’s an important period in the life of younger musicians. These are high-level performers, and we’re going to give them a holistic education. They will know how to conduct, arrange, do business plans and deal with nonprofits, teach, and be diplomats. In three to four years, they will have an impact on the jazz scene,” he explained.
The nine-time Grammy Award winner will lead the 15-member Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra in a performance at Wolf Trap on Wednesday. It’s been more than a decade since Marsalis has appeared at Wolf Trap, which he calls one of his favorite venues. “I like the location, the layout, the wood, and the spirit of the people,” he said. “Although it’s large, it has a warmth.”
Don’t look for a program listing for the concert — Marsalis will announce and introduce compositions from the stage. He attributes this flexibility to the skill of the orchestra members, who have a repertoire of hundreds of jazz pieces. But he promises a festive feeling at Wolf Trap’s outdoor venue, with likely compositions from the jazz record label Blue Note, which is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year, and a tribute to Horace Silver, the legendary pianist, composer, and bandleader who died last month.
Marsalis maintains that jazz is America. When it’s suggested that this is quite a claim, he provides a poetic response about the music he has so successfully devoted his life to: “It’s an art form that best shows the complexity, the diversity, the similarity of our citizens.”
Greer is a freelance writer.
Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis 8 p.m. Wednesday at Wolf Trap. Tickets, $25-48. Tickets.com or 1-877-965-3872.