Wynton on Ed Bradley - Interview for CBS
STEVE KROFT: You remember the first time you met Ed?
WYNTON MARSALIS: I think the first time I ever met him that he would know me was in the early 1990’s.
STEVE KROFT: What was your impression?
WYNTON MARSALIS: Well, I grew up kind of in the 1970’s. I was a teenager then when Ed first got in 60 Minutes. Like all the other younger Afro- Americans, we were impressed with him and in awe of him really. His sense of culture, his intelligence, his clarity, and his soul. He had that combination, you know, of that soul and that deep sophistication.
STEVE KROFT: Tell me about his soul.
WYNTON MARSALIS: Oh, man. You know, they say that soul is when you have the ability to make other people feel better about being alive, regardless of their condition, and he projected that in such abundance. The level of his integrity as a man. And then, above those things, the sense of humor that makes you not be elitist or lofty. He was just as down home, somebody who could take their shoes off and sit and just talk to you like somebody in a barber shop. He could also be as erudite as the top professor in the halls of erudition and scholarship. He possessed that rare combination. And then the feeling, the humanity, the feeling and the sense of culture, of history, of the grandeur of being alive. He had that, and he was willing to give that to you.
STEVE KROFT: Did you spend time with him at Jazz Fest?
WYNTON MARSALIS: I spent time with in many different places. You know, a lot of times, it was at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. He would be up on the stage, you know; he wanted to be playing with cats. So he’d get him a tambourine. And then you had to hear about how he played with Dizzy. “Yeah, Dizzy called me up on the stage. And you know, Miles brought me out in 19 so and so. And I came out and I played with Miles.” He was trying to get on the bandstand.
STEVE KROFT: Why do you think?
WYNTON MARSALIS: I think he loved music. He loved a good time. And above all, he was a man of culture. The last time I saw him out with Patricia [Ed’s wife, Patricia Blanchet] was at Noche Flamenco, which is a great flamenco show that was downtown. I went. I didn’t know he was going. And I looked up, there he is. I would see him all around New York City. He’d be at the Met. He was a cultured, very intelligent cultured man. He’s comfortable everywhere. Either the outhouse or the penthouse. He could make it work.
STEVE KROFT: He liked to have a good time.
WYNTON MARSALIS: He brought a good time. He loved to have a good time, which we all like to have, but he loved to bring a good time.
STEVE KROFT: Music is one of the most important things in his life. What can you tell me about that? Ed and his music.
WYNTON MARSALIS: Well, Ed is a musician. He is a musician. He’s a jazz musician. He’s an improviser. He liked all kinds of people. He liked all kinds of music. He didn’t have like any kind of elitism. At heart, he was a jazz musician because he liked to improvise. That’s why he was so good at his job. He could accept a person for what they’re worth. He didn’t come to you trying to make you be a certain thing, and he would listen to you. A musician’s whole life is to listen. All musicians do is listen all the time. You’re not playing most of the time you’re on a band stand. You’re listening, you know, and he was such a great listener. He also had that heart of a musician, you know. That type of lyricism. It’s in his language.
STEVE KROFT: How well did you get to know him?
WYNTON MARSALIS: He treated me like I was his son or his brother. He embraced me personally. He embraced my organization [Jazz at Lincoln Center]. He did unbelievable work. He expended a lot of his energy for us and for jazz. He wrote our radio shows. He put up money for the shows. We would talk, just about culture, about American culture. This was a man of deep culture, completely lacking in any type of guile, any type of prejudice. He was a man that embraced the world, humanity. So I knew him and I respected him and I loved him, you know? As a person who’s in the spotlight or a person who’s in the media, he brought a sense of the culture of the world to all of us with such power and such realism. And he was so down home at the same time. So, yeah, I knew him. I mean, I loved him. I respected him. Every word he told me meant a lot, and he had a lot of advice. He always had words. “Think about this.” Or, “What do you think about this?” Or, “What are y’all doing?”
STEVE KROFT: You said he’d helped you. That he’d been a big help to you.
WYNTON MARSALIS: Oh, unbelievable. He was an unbelievable help to me as a man, because you need guidance and leadership all through your life. You can be 75 years old and you need some type of leadership, somebody to say, “Did you think about this? Did you see this? This reminds me of this.” You need them to give you that information and need to know that they love you. He loved our culture. Our people. By our people, I mean Afro-American people. I mean American people. And I mean people. Because ultimately, they’re one and the same. He understood that. He understood that thread that runs through humanity.
The things he did for us at Jazz at Lincoln Center: first, he made sure the radio show stayed alive. You know, he wanted to do that radio show. One time, we had trouble with the radio show, and we were going to have to cancel it because it was losing money, even though we were winning the Peabody Award and stuff like that, thanks to him. He sat up in a board meeting and he threw down some money for the radio show. He’d volunteer all of his time to do all of these shows, and it took a tremendous amount of time and effort and energy. That’s what he did for our organization.
I believe personally as a man, he started helping me before I was a teenager. When I was just looking at him, I was like, okay, you can aspire to be this type of man. Not just as an Afro-American; as an American, as a person because, like I said, he is a man of culture, of American culture. He would start talking about the Constitution. He would go into something about Ralph Ellison; he would say something about William Faulkner; he could talk about Jerry Mulligan’s music. Then, he started talking Dr John and the Neville Brothers. He embraced the totality of our way of life.
STEVE KROFT: How did people react to him?
WYNTON MARSALIS: Everybody loved him. You walk down the street with him, people loved him. You know, everybody loved him. They just give you a little sign. They give you some love. They look at you. They tap their heart. When you’re getting out of a place, people come to you to shake your hand. They don’t want to spend a lot of time. “Man, I love your work. I love you.” Everybody loved Ed. How could you not love him? You couldn’t help it.
STEVE KROFT: How did you react at the news?
WYNTON MARSALIS: Man, it hit me hard. I always try to be kind of stoic, but it hit me hard. Because I didn’t know he was that ill. I was up at like two o’clock, two thirty, three in the morning trying to find people to call. I started to call people on the West Coast. I said I got to call people to just talk about Ed. You know, the old people used to say, I’m gonna come sit with you. They just sit and let you talk. I got over eighty-something phone calls from people, [telling me] “We know that was your man.” It’s a great loss for all of us. Man, it was hard. It’s gonna be harder as it goes on. I mean, we lost a great champion of our way of life.
STEVE KROFT: I’ve talked to a lot of people in the last couple of days about Ed as being black. How did that fit into his life? How important was that? How did it shape him?
WYNTON MARSALIS: Well, being an Afro-American, yeah, it shaped him, because that was his culture. He embraced himself. He didn’t run from himself. He understood that the Afro-American culture is at the center of the American culture, and he was the type of person that embraced the totality of our culture, meaning Afro-American culture and American culture. They’re inseparable, and he understood that. And he represented that.
He was himself. He didn’t act any different when you saw him at your house than he acted on an interview you saw on national television. What you saw was what you got. So, it impacted him in that he understood what that experience was. The grandeur of that experience. He understood the richness that came from the legacy of slavery; it wasn’t all just pathology. He was always aspiring for greatness for the Afro-American people, because he understood that that would lead to greatness for American people. This was a man of a keen penetrating intelligence, and also of courage and fire. He had so much fire and courage.
STEVE KROFT: Tell me about Ed and Patricia.
WYNTON MARSALIS: You would always see him with her. He would always be out with her. He understood kind of the importance of that male-female relationship. They were like, you know, together. It was always beautiful to see. She was always so patient and cool. He relied on her a lot. I always liked to see them converse. I always liked when she would talk to him. I would notice how he would listen. I always think of her when I think of him.
STEVE KROFT: What have we lost, do you think?
WYNTON MARSALIS: Oh, man. We have lost so much information, and courage, and the dignity and integrity, and the type of moral leadership that’s so sadly lacking out here today. Above all, we’ve lost a profound connection to culture and a love for the dignity of human beings, and a man of such honesty and beauty.
With Ed, he wouldn’t be too much as far as crying over him, you know? Me and him actually have talked about that. He loved that funeral, they play a little something sad. Give me a tambourine.
STEVE KROFT: Tell me about that. Why do you think he liked New Orleans?
WYNTON MARSALIS: New Orleans aligned with his sensibility. You know, New Orleans is the type of city that’s wild. It’s elegant. It’s deeply soulful. It’s not stiff at all. It’s relaxed. It’s urgent. The home of the blues. He loved the blues. It lets you be yourself. I think that’s what made him so great as a person. For all of his greatness, his individual achievements, all of his hard work ethics, he would happily let you be you.
STEVE KROFT: Are there any stories you can tell?
WYNTON MARSALIS: The funniest stories to me are the ones where he would get mad. We did a concert one time that he didn’t like. It was a Louis Armstrong concert. So he didn’t say nothing. He calls me up later. He says, “Hey, man, this is Ed.” I said, “Yes, sir.” He said, “Are y’all all right up there?” I said, “What you mean?” He said, “I went to that concert. What are y’all doing?” I said, “Man, we trying to play the music.” He said, “Well, I’m not paying my money for y’all to try to play the music. Next time you go out there, play the music.” So, you know, it was all those kind of stories, but it’s delivered with love. You know, he’d say, you dig? You know what I mean?
STEVE KROFT: When you think about him, is there one image that will stay with you? A snapshot?
WYNTON MARSALIS: Man, the biggest snapshot I had with him is how he would look at you with those two eyes. You never knew like where to look, you see? Because he would smile after a point was made. That Ed Bradley smile. That laugh, the smile.
by Steve Kroft
Source: CBS News