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Having Fun and Learning Straight from the Masters

When Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra come to the Symphony Center, you make a point to see them. They are dynamic and masters at their craft. If your kids are uninterested and don’t want to attend a jazz show, don’t worry. Wynton Marsalis and The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra have something to bridge the gap.

The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, led by Marsalis, performed a Jazz for Young People show on Saturday morning to inspire children of all ages to learn about the jazz world. The show was half classroom instruction (with Marsalis playing the part of professor) and half a foot-tapping, swinging good time. With their incredible dedication and enthusiasm for jazz, Marsalis and his orchestra told the story of jazz legend Count Basie, making his life and his influences easy to understand to the young people in the audience while also having a fun time.

Marsalis recounted the stories from Basie’s lifetime; how he went from sweeping the floors to becoming a legend. Along the way there were life lessons including “if you have a job, always show up so nobody can take your job” and “If you are nice to people, people will be nice to you.” Definitely good things for children to hear.

But there were more than just life lessons, Jazz for Young People was also a pretty in depth musical lesson too. Marsalis used stories from Basie’s life to explain the difference, with the help of the rhythm section, between the Kansas City stomp style and the sounds that Basie would adapt with this “All-American Rhythm Section.”

Each time Marsalis made a musical point, he turned to the orchestra to demonstrate that point. And when the band started playing the lesson really came to life. For example, Marsalis explained that Basie was the first to use two tenor saxophone players at the time, whereas most bands of the time had just one. Basie, Marsalis explained, placed each of the saxophones on either side of the stage, and soon had the tenor players engaged in “duels,” at which point the band kicked up and Victor Goines and Walter Blanding took turns battling each other with their horns to the delight of the audience.

Marsalis also gave a lesson on improvising using “riffs.” Marsalis explained that a riff can be anything that repeats itself over and over again, like parents saying, “eat your vegetables, eat your vegetables” or “brush your teeth, brush your teeth.” And then he had the band demonstrate. The trumpets repeated a riff, the saxophones repeated a different riff and the trombones used a third riff to show how they could all bring it together into a beautiful jazz song. Which the audience went bonkers for.

Jazz for Young People show was so jam packed with information that even the adults in the audience learned a thing or two. Plus, the parents in attendance had to be awed that their children were getting a music lesson by the greats of the day: The Jazz at the Lincoln Center Orchestra and Wynton Marsalis – a Grammy and a Pulitzer prize winner. Having fun and learning lessons straight from the masters, well, there is no better way to learn.

by Keith Gerbosi
Source: Splash Magazine

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