Wynton Marsalis on ‘The Magic Hour’ for CNN
(CNN) — Before he’d finished high school, Wynton Marsalis was already a legend in his hometown of New Orleans, Louisiana.
In the years since, he’s become internationally known, leading the New York-based Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra and releasing more than 25 albums. His 1997 work, “Blood on the Fields,” won the Pulitzer Prize.
Marsalis recently released his latest album, “The Magic Hour,” on the celebrated Blue Note label. CNN’s Daryn Kagan talked to Marsalis about the new work and how it came about.
DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: “The Magic Hour” is the special hour of the day. It’s also a message that Wynton Marsalis — his first album on his [new] record label. The legendary musician joins us live from San Francisco to tell us more about that and the music.
Wynton Marsalis, our guest live. Good morning.
WYNTON MARSALIS, MUSICIAN: All right. How are you?
KAGAN: I’m doing good. Always a great way to wake up with your music.
MARSALIS: Thank you very much.
KAGAN: Let’s talk about “The Magic Hour.” There’s a family influence here. And you’re saying “The Magic Hour” depends on which member of the family you ask.
MARSALIS: That’s right. “The Magic Hour” is one hour before kids go to bed and for the parents it’s one hour after they go to bed.
KAGAN: Exactly. How many kids do you have at home?
MARSALIS: I have three kids but I’m always on the road so I don’t really live with my kids.
KAGAN: There you go. That makes it easier in terms of wanting them to go to bed.
Let’s talk about this project, however. And the last project was really big, big scope. Over 200 people, performers. This one’s a lot smaller. This really is kind of is about family, isn’t it?
MARSALIS: That’s right. The last one is titled “All Rise.” And it took about six months to write. And this piece is more about the family influences on everything. The musicians on the album are younger musicians that I met when they were 12, 13, 14. And now they’re in their early 20s. And the oldest musician on the album is 30 years old.
And it really deals with all the trials and tribulations we’ve gone through. And it features lot of improvisations, very simple themes that are shot. And I wanted to come up with the type of music that shows how it feels for jazz musicians traveling on the road.
When we have parties and stuff, we just play tunes and we like to play around and clown and really improvise and make the improvisations flower and have a certain type of weight.
KAGAN: So you wanted to invite us to the party, so to speak?
MARSALIS: That’s right. We have parties at my house. And people always love it. And they say, man, you ought to record this kind of thing. And this is the first time that I have had the chance to record, kind of like a party album or album that’s just with very easy to hear themes.
KAGAN: So if you could get — snag an invitation to Wynton’s house with his jazz buddies, this is what it would be like?
MARSALIS: Kind of like that. And we have Bobby McFerrin singing a song called “Baby, I Love You” and Diane Reeves sings another one called “This Is the Feeling of Jazz.” And it invokes just a kind of downhome and a home feeling.
KAGAN: Interesting combination. You were talking about some of the young people that you brought along. You’ve known a lot of them since they were taking master classes in their early teens. But there are also some of these names that you mentioned like Bobby McFerrin who you probably feel like you’ve known your whole life.
MARSALIS: Right. Well Bobby and I — Bobby’s father’s a musician. And Bobby and I recorded a song called “BMW Blues” about 20 years ago.
And we see each other. The jazz community is really like a family. We’ve known each other for long periods of time. A lot of times we’ve grown up in families of jazz people.
And the music, you know it grabs you. And when we come together, like when I saw Bobby in the studio, it was like we were with each other for the 20 years because we know about the life and the struggles in the music and the beauty and the joy in the music also.
KAGAN: And then when you talk about bringing along these young people that you’ve known then since they were 14 or 15 years old, seems like it was just yesterday that you were the young up and comer. Now you’re the one bringing along the young people. It’s another passing of the torch, isn’t it?
MARSALIS: Right. I used to always joke that I was 19 for about 13 years.
KAGAN: Which isn’t such a bad thing.
MARSALIS: You know.
But I love teaching the young kids. And I love seeing them grow and develop and nurturing them and be part of that.
My father is a musician and a teacher. And jazz is something you can’t get close enough to the music live. You know we love the recordings and we always talk about how great the classic recordings are. But this is the type of music that’s passed down on the bandstand and through life experiences.
So, I love to be with the younger musicians and get them and bring them into the feeling of our music.
KAGAN: And just real quickly, the state of jazz today … hip hop, rap, [are] really what the young people are into. Are you confident that jazz will live on and continue to grow and thrive?
MARSALIS: I’m very confident because it’s great. It’s a great art. And we have an organization in New York, Jazz at Lincoln Center. We’re building the first ever home for jazz on 59th Street called Frederick P. Rose Hall. And it’s opening in October.
We have a lot of education and we always see a lot of young kids at concerts. We travel around the country to concerts that sold out. Parents come with their kids, kids come, people come with their dates.
Jazz is a music that’s inclusive. Everybody. It doesn’t appeal to one demographic. Everybody can join in and enjoy it.
KAGAN: OK, great. Wynton Marsalis. The new album is called “Magic Hour.”
by Daryn Kagan
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