Wynton Marsalis: Reader's Guide

(Reprinted from old DTM, originally posted December 2008.)

Wynton has had enough writers grill him about controversial topics.  I wanted to learn about his most recent large-scale work, Congo Square, an unusually successful combination of conventional big band and the West African group Odadaa!, led by Yacub Addy.

Frankly, I came away impressed and motivated.    Wynton is one of the most charismatic men I’ve ever met.   I can understand how he has obtained funding and respect for jazz at an unprecedented level.

Even before the interview, careful open-minded listening to Congo Square helped me decode Wynton’s contemporary artistry.  While I grew up on early Wynton Marsalis albums, I haven’t paid much attention to Jazz at Lincoln Center since its inception.  It was high time for me to check in and see what was really going on.

Interview with Wynton Marsalis (Part 1):  Detailed discussion with audio clips of Wynton’s latest major opus, Congo Square, a two-CD set combining the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra and Odadaa! (the West African drum ensemble led by Yacub Addy).

Interview with Wynton Marsalis (Part 2):  A casual blindfold test of classic trumpet solos including Wynton’s parsing of improvising procedures on the legendary “Knozz-Moe-King” from Live at Blues Alley.  This section also includes general thoughts on race and education from Wynton.

The “J" Word  explains my take on some of the controversies surrounding Wynton and introduces the following side posts:

1.  Young Lion Jazz of the 1980’s:  Wynton, Branford, Ralph, Tain, Mulgrew, Kirkland, Donald Brown, Garrett, etc.

2.  Four Early Wynton Marsalis/Jeff Watts Records:  Made over twenty years ago, they still sound fresh today.

3.  Current Perceptions:  A call for respect.

4.  On the AACM:  The other side of the coin. (This is the only piece heavily re-edited in 2010. It was originally called "An Old Feud.")

5.  Reading the Black Jazz Writers:  Murray, Crouch, Ellison, Baraka, Spellman, Lewis, etc.