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Marsalis on Jazz: His five favorite classic recordings

We caught up with Wynton Marsalis, the 43-year-old jazz trumpeter and composer, as he was preparing for the fall concert series at New York’s Jazz at Lincoln Center, where he is artistic director. The new program salutes the great cities of jazz; tonight Mr. Marsalis and other artists will perform in a hurricane-relief benefit concert for New Orleans. Here, the Pulitzer-winning musician tells us why he thinks these five albums deserve consideration as the finest jazz recordings of all time.

*John Coltrane Quartet *
Impulse (1964)
“It’s like a suite of pieces that are all related, and Coltrane does a masterful thematic improvisation on ‘Crescent.’ He had an original take on all the influences in American music: blues, Afro-Hispanic and swing.”

Billie Holiday
Lady in Satin
Columbia (1958)
“It’s the time she sings in and her range — not the range of her voice, but the range of emotion and the command she has over the nuances. Like when something makes you sad for a moment and you forget what it is. … It’s difficult to articulate, and it only happens in music.”

*Thelonious Monk *
Thelonious Monk Plays Duke Ellington
Riverside/OJC (1955)
On this recording, Monk, who was 18 years younger than Ellington, was “having a dialogue with the past while Ellington was still alive. … You can see the similarities and differences between their styles. I love that arrangement of ‘Caravan.’ Everywhere you look on that record, it’s great improvised music.”

*Duke Ellington *
The New Orleans Suite
Atlantic (1970)
“Duke was 71, but you can just hear the liveliness in the pieces. He brings the organ in and really captures the mysteriousness of New Orleans. ‘Second Line,’ a movement of the suite, is one of the greatest big-band arrangements there is.”

*Charlie Parker *
One Night in Birdland
Columbia (1950)
This rare album captures “a lot of masters all in one room”: trumpeter Fats Navarro, pianist Bud Powell, bassist Curley Russell and Art Blakey on drums. “You see a lot of the greatest soloists challenging one another.”

by Jess McCuan
Source: The Wall Street Journal

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  1. At the Monterey Jazz Festival this year, Wynton said he had a chance to hear Duke play “The New Orleans Suite” live because of his father but skipped it to watch a Raider game, something he said he now regrets.

    Mark on Dec 2nd, 2009 at 8:51pm

  2. I’d like to see the man’s toughts on Lennie Tristano, too. (I apologize if he have alredy talked about it somewhere… Just couldn’t find it)


    Rafael on Nov 19th, 2009 at 6:33pm

  3. Wynton and the JALC Orchestra did an outstanding rendition of Duke Ellington’s “The New Orleans Suite” at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival this year to celebrate the 40th anniversary of both – truly an indescribable treat to hear it live!

    Diana on May 15th, 2009 at 1:17pm

  4. Ah, the New Orleans Suite… 1970 was a year for the birth of fine things…

    Karen on May 13th, 2009 at 10:06am