Wynton’s Blog

Bolden is the rarest form of originator: one who invents an approach that is itself an entire universe

Dan Pritzker and Wynton Marsalis

When Dan Pritzker approached me to do a mythic version of Buddy Bolden’s life, I was excited for the possibility.
Though no recording of Bolden has ever been found, I tried to conceive of his style as a more advanced composite of:

1) Freddie Keppard’s powerful, ragtime-ish and vocal style.
2) King Oliver jazzier sense of syncopation; the personal dignity in his sound and his unique vocalisms.
3) Bunk Johnson’s straight lead playing and dark, emotional sound.
4) An idealized way of playing that addresses the selective technical virtuosity of individual cornet soloists of the period.

I strongly believe that Bolden played better than the these three disciples (all of whom heard him play), because no one plays an originator’s style better than the one who conceived it. Bolden is the rarest form of originator: one who invents an approach that is itself an entire universe. After a time, other innovators invent variations on the fundamental, like Armstrong did.

We don’t try to recreate styles. We try to fulfill the objectives of the group and speak in a contemporary language that indicates knowledge of these past styles and everything in between. Even with recordings of King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band and note for note transcriptions, no one successfully imitates them. There is a spiritual essence in the group improvised sound that can not be recreated in a vibrant way. I feel that doing so is also a waste of time. To go from improvising to reading these types of pieces is to refuse the very freedom that gave the music its vitality. We improvise. It takes years to learn how to stay in your lane in this polyphonic style, but if you stick with it, it’s a lot of fun.

We enjoyed playing this music and each musician was dedicated to playing it with the fire and intensity of the new. It is a labor of love and we hope you enjoy it.
It has been a pleasure working for and with Dan, because he is a musician as well, and he understands the truth of how music is to our collective identity – now and across time.

- Wynton

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