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Wynton’s Blog

  • In 1998, I was commissioned by JALC to write a new piece called Big Train

    Posted on December 28th, 2015

    In 1998, I was commissioned by JALC to write a new piece called Big Train.  It was composed during a 3-week tour of Asia, Australia, and Europe. Victor Goines was the copyist, and the work was so constant and unrelenting that it nearly killed both of us. When creating long pieces (that are certain to have limited listenership at best) I always work on the outline for a long time to make sure the structure makes absolute sense. Then, when it’s late, I start actually writing music. By this time, the necessity to finish quickly creates an intense pressure and a critical energy that forces me to concentrate. The music begins as a trickle and soon, it pours in.   Keep reading »

  • “Big 12” is my take on the 12 beat cycle (compas) of Bulerias

    Posted on December 27th, 2015

    Big 12 is a movement from the Vitoria Suite. Even though the entire suite was recorded in 2009 and released a year later, this section was composed for our first concert with Chano Dominguez and the Flamenco Jazz ensemble in February, 2003. Dedicated to the great festival in the Basque region of Spain, I took a 4 year course in Spanish music in a week of hanging with Chano. He is a troubadour, bard and teacher as well as a conservator, communicator and innovator. He taught and played with our Juilliard students this year and showed up for some classes he wasn’t even scheduled to teach! Chano is absolutely for real about music in all of its functions.   Keep reading »

  • I was blessed to record several albums with the English Chamber Orchestra

    Posted on December 26th, 2015 | 1

    I was blessed to record several albums with the English Chamber Orchestra under the baton of Maestro Raymond Leppard. The Orchestra was fantastic to work with and very collegial. They were enthusiastic and committed and would work as hard as possible to get the very best results. Their playing was crisp and disciplined but still flexible and free. I loved hearing them go back and forth about how to play a particular phrase using words, like crotchet and quaver, that American musicians don’t use.   Keep reading »

  • The most wonderful and wonderous day of the year….. every year

    Posted on December 25th, 2015

    The most wonderful and wonderous day of the year….. every year. Regardless of age or perspective, so many of us are excited (or trying not to be excited) about so many things. It is the opportunity to give or to receive whatever we have wanted or needed, or would never have considered. It is a chance to demonstrate, without awkwardness, longing, love, loyalty or any combination of the three. For some, it is the rare occasion for well deserved rest, for others it is a quiet time to work in peace and be relieved.   Keep reading »

  • Joe Temperley and Wycliffe and everybody came to my house on 18th street to run over the music

    Posted on December 24th, 2015 | 2

    This is from a 1989 concert that was aired on PBS under the banner of Live at Lincoln Center. It was called Ray Charles in Concert, A Classical Jazz Christmas with Wynton Marsalis.   Keep reading »

  • These two pieces are from Blood on the Fields. They represent opposing religious perspectives.

    Posted on December 23rd, 2015

    These two pieces are from Blood on the Fields. They represent opposing religious perspectives. What a Friend We Have in Jesus, speaks of granting forgiveness, being accepting and waiting for the afterlife to be fulfilled. God Don’t Like Ugly, speaks of retribution and of fire and brimstone descending on evil doers. For me, both together represent a single 360 degree viewpoint on how religion can alleviate pain and create consciousness in a very difficult circumstance.   Keep reading »

  • I first met Walter Blanding in a master class at LaGuardia High School

    Posted on December 22nd, 2015 | 1

    I first met Walter Blanding in a master class at LaGuardia High School for the Performing Arts in New York City. It was 1986 or so, and he was a dread locked 15/16 year old playing a whole lot of saxophone. We played Take the A Train. Yeah… A year later, I conducted an all-star high jazz band with him, Christian McBride, Farid Baron, Lil John Roberts, and other fantastic young musicians from Philly, New York and Washington D.C.   Keep reading »

  • In 1992, I wrote a ballet for the fantastic New York City Ballet. One movement had to be a train

    Posted on December 21st, 2015

    I grew up with the Mississippi River on the southern end of my block and a train track on the northern end. I loved both. In 1992, I wrote a ballet for the fantastic New York City Ballet. One movement had to be a train. It is called Express Crossing and features all kinds of train onomatopoeia train and goes different tempos and moods.   Keep reading »

  • Psalm 26 represents my first attempt to write for more than two horns

    Posted on December 20th, 2015

    Because I spent my high school years largely playing funk, jazz funk, and some of my father and drummer James Black’s music, my understanding of the blues and American vernacular music came through whatever was to be found in these styles and the few other gigs I would stumble upon from time to time: church gigs that required knowledge of hymns like The Old Rugged Cross, clubs that required songs like Blueberry Hill, parades that required songs like Panama or Lil Liza Jane.   Keep reading »

  • All Rise: Movement 12 - I Am (Don’t You Run From Me)

    Posted on December 19th, 2015

    Luigi suggested that I pick 14 of my compositions that I feel are relevant to the holiday season and have some degree of sophistication. We will post these pieces from 7 days before Christmas through to the New Year. I have picked pieces that span my career and we will culminate with some unreleased sections of the Abyssinian Mass which will be available in the New Year.   Keep reading »