Wynton’s Blog

Transcript from the Q&A on June 24th

In case you weren't able to join me for the Q&A, here are the questions and the answers I gave.


Nick Jolly wrote
I'm coming to see you at the Barbican in London on 24th of July. What is on the set list?

Wynton Marsalis replied to Nick's post
I'm not sure what the set list is yet, but I do know it will be swinging!

ill Dowling wrote
Hi Wynton,
I have been consciously trying to get away from the standard forms, and would like some ideas on how to proceed.
Your early compositions Phryzzinian Man/Black Codes employ less thematic material and seem more orchestral in structure.
Would you have any ideas on how to develop in this direction without ones compositions sounding like an exercise?
Thank You,

Wynton Marsalis replied to Bill's post
Early bluesmen sometimes change the form on every chorus. Ragtime had a four-part form. Charles Mingus experimented with many interesting forms. Our form is constructed with the erector set model. I write pieces like The Magic Hour to demonstrate Jelly Roll Morton's conception of sectional form in our musical language. Monk is also a master of form. From simple songs like "We See" to "Brilliant Corners". Use your imagination

Khiyon Hursey (Sprayberry High School) wrote
how does one get to be a member of the Jazz at The Lincoln Center Orchestra?
thanks for your time

Wynton Marsalis replied to Khiyon's post
Practice, get around the music and the musicians, learn the music we play.

Jacob 'Craig' Bluebaugh (Kansas City, MO) wrote
I have been playing trumpet for 10 years. What was the most difficult thing you had to learn on trumpet and how did you learn it?

Wynton Marsalis replied to Jacob's post
The most complicated aspect of trumpet playing for me is sound. Every musician is different. Some have great sounds and slow tongues. My tongue was fast, but my sound was not complex enough. Over the years, I've always concentrated on enriching my sound.

Brian Clardy (Nashville, TN) wrote
Mr. Marsalis……wouldnt you say that "Black Codes from the Underground" was one of the more influential albums of the mid 1980s? That is how I categorize it….it was fantastic. What is your take on the making and significance of the album.

Wynton Marsalis replied to Brian's post
I know a lot of musicians have comment on this album. I'm glad they enjoy it. Audiences responded very favorably to the septet music we began playing in the late 80s. I try to embrace all of periods of my music and all periods of jazz.

Julian Bell (Columbia College) wrote
I would like to know, what you think the most important thing as a music student, should know or take away from learning the craft of music?

Wynton Marsalis replied to Julian's post
An abiding love for music and a more developed taste.

Jacob Sampson (Knoxville, TN) wrote
Earlier you mentioned focusing on your sound. One thing I have been trying to accomplish is gaining a darker tone. Any suggestions?

Wynton Marsalis replied to Jacob's post
Do soft, long tones, one minute per note. Deep breaths. Make it a meditation. Meditate on getting the richest, most honest sound you can.

Jason Parker (Seattle, WA) wrote
PS…say "hey" to my Seattle boy Tatum Greenblatt for me!

Wynton Marsalis replied to Jason's post
Tatum can play…always could.

Phillip Colwart (New Orleans, LA) wrote
Will you come back to New Orleans for the De La Salle class of '79 high school reunion? We all want to catch up with you!

Wynton Marsalis replied to Phillip's post
Good to hear from you, man. I always liked you.

Zaki Habib-Gómez (Drexel) wrote
First of all, i wanted to say thank you very much for this opportunity to talk to you, you have been quite an inspiration to me as a musician. Ok, so here is a question that has stumped a lot of music educators in my life:
So i like to figure out the chords to songs by ear on the guitar. I have been playing for several years and am pretty good at it, but i keep feeling like i am a blind person in a dark room and i am just really good and finding the light switch without really knowing how i got there. For now the only tools i possess are triads, and the idea that one of the notes in the chord has to be the note in the vocal melody. The rest is just feel. Can you help me? I am trying to figure out what it is about the vocal melody that makes the chord the "right" chord.

Wynton Marsalis replied to Zaki's post
Any chord can be the right chord. That's what's confusing. Harmony is like math, many combinations can add up to the same number. Continue working on your ears, learn more complex songs, sing the bass progression as if it is also a melody. Learn any 30 of Thelonious Monk's tunes. Each one is a harmony lesson. Get Bach's chorales and learn how to analyze them. Good luck. Always develop your natural hearing before your theoretical knowledge. Take a simple song like "Lil Liza Jane" and play it in all of the keys. "Happy Birthday" is good too.

Daniel 'Krusty' Turner (Ball State) wrote
Mr. Marsalis,
When I choose a new piece to perform, I like to "get into the mind" of the writer as I practice. By this I mean: learn about their technique, their studies, their influences, their past and present, their hobbies, etc. Do you think this is an effective tool to do the song justice, or am I just blowing smoke and wasting time?

Wynton Marsalis replied to Daniel's post
The more you know, the more you sound like you know.

Lady Dale Denise McClenton (Philadelphia, PA) wrote
Greetings Mr. Marsalis,
My name is Lady Dale and I am from Philadelphia, PA. I am a Jazz Vocalist trapped in a Special Education Teaching position. My true desire is to sing Jazz. However teaching pays the bills at this time and has allowed me to expand myself as a vocalist and an educator. I have worked with many great Philadelphia Jazz Musicians, have recorded a demonstration CD and have a video on youtube singing an original arrangement of “The Boy From Ipanema.” Just as a precious stone is appraised to find out its value, I would like to have my talent appraised by a true Master Jazz Appraiser. If it is not too much trouble, can you look me up on youtube.com under “Lady Dale part “ 2 and let me know what you think? My e-mail address : dmcclenton@aol.com Thank you!

Wynton Marsalis replied to Lady Dale's post
I will look you up. Thank you. Good to hear from you. Love to your students.

George Morton (University of Sheffield) wrote
Hi Wynton, Just wondering have you got any plans to come over here to the UK in the near future…would love to see you live! also are you just doing JAzz these days or are you still performing classical?

Wynton Marsalis replied to George's post
I haven't played classical music in years. I will be in the UK on the 23rd or 24th of July. I still love classical music, of course.

Justin Gamache (A Crosby Kennett Senior High) wrote
Hey Wynton! I am a big fan of Jazz, and of you as well. I am a drummer, and I was wondering if you have any tips for me on starting a jazz trio?
thanks, justin.

Wynton Marsalis replied to Justin's post
Have music and gigs.

Bethany Brinton (Lake Country Lutheran) wrote
any tips on beginning composing? jazz or otherwise? also, any tips on beginning trumpet? thanks!!

Wynton Marsalis replied to Bethany's post
Always begin imitating what you like. Then, add your own in there as soon and as much as possible.

Melissa Marie Mendoza (SIU Carbondale) wrote
hello wynton Marsalis my name is Melissa I was wondering if you can pass by southern Illinois at southern Illinois carbondale so we can have a clinic for the trumpet here show us how you really play a trumpet ;)

Wynton Marsalis replied to Melissa's post
I've been there before. I would love to come back. Some students cooked us a wonderful Chinese meal at 2 in the morning some years ago. All the cats in the band still remember it.

Justin Myers (Dreher High School) wrote
Hi Mr. Marsalis. I just wanted to know what inspires you to write your various genres of music?Like Jazz, Classical, Blues ect. Isnt it kinda difficult?

Wynton Marsalis replied to Justin's post
Yes, it's difficult but it's fun. Like finishing a complex puzzle or beating some computer game. All of the genres are related, like people. It's a matter of looking for the connections and finding them.

Carlos Fernando Parra Tepedino wrote

Wynton Marsalis replied to Carlos's post
I had a great time there and look forward to coming back. Viva El Sistema!

James Neal (Albuquerque, NM) wrote
Mr. Marsalis,
I am a fan of the tune Big Fat Hen in part for that trance like piano vamp from Top Professor Eric Lewis. Do you see any future collaborations with Eric. Why is he no longer with you?

Wynton Marsalis replied to James's post
He is like a little brother or son to me. I met him when he was 12. He has gone on to do other things, but I will always love him and respect his musicianship.

Mark Litzinger (Middlebury) wrote
I'm getting married in a few months; do you have any recommendations for some jazz to play at the reception? Maybe even an appropriate song for our first dance? We haven't decided yet, haha

Wynton Marsalis replied to Mark's post
All Duke. First Dance: "A Flower is a Lovesome Thing" from the Unknown Sessions

Cameron Fegers wrote
Dear Wynton,
My name is Cameron. I am a 15 year old student entering my sophomore year at Dillard Center for the Arts, located in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. It would make me pleased to know how you would approach the idea of gigging for some decent money. I have many needs at home and not the capital for which to purchase things I need for my music education. Any ideas would be greatly appreciated! Thanks =)

Wynton Marsalis replied to Cameron's post
Gigging is a matter of hustling. Approach any place that you think could possibly provide a gig. Be thoroughly prepared and appropriate to whatever situation.

Evan Bullington (The North Broward Preparatory School) wrote
Mr. Marsalis,
I'm a junior in high school, and have been studying trumpet for some 10 years now. I was wondering what sparked your ideas for "From the Plantation to the Penitentiary"? Also, can we expect the mustache to make a comeback? :]
Thanks so much for doing this.

Wynton Marsalis replied to Evan's post
No, the mustache is retired forever. haha
The ideas for the album come from what's going on out here and what has gone on.

Garrett Dean (Denver) wrote
Huge fan… with a standard question: what is your all-time, most favorite piece of music to play? Jazz, blues, classical – whatever. What do you like to play most?

Wynton Marsalis replied to Garrett's post
The blues

Rajendra Narula (West Midlands) replied to Wynton Marsalis's post
Hi Wynton. Hope you are well!
As a semi pro 'bone player in the UK, am always on the look out to challenging existing techniques and the more "traditional" aspects of our wonderful range of instruments!
I was wondering what your take is on a metal mouthpiece against (for example) a plastic one such as a Kelly's?
all the best, and always keep blowing out more tunes for us to revere!

Wynton Marsalis replied to Rajendra's post
I'm not partial to plastic mouthpieces. Only in a very cold parade.

Matthew Johnson (The University of Akron) wrote
Who's your favorite players on the scene right now?

Wynton Marsalis replied to Matthew's post
I'll only name some piano players. Marcus Roberts, Bill Charlap, Danillo Perez, Dan Nimmer, Eric Reed, Eric Lewis, Hank Jones, Eddie Palmiere, Monty Alexander, Kenny Barron, Renee Rosnes, Jeri Allen, Jonathan Batiste, Aaron Diehl. There's so many, that's just a few.

Elizabeth Newton replied to Wynton Marsalis's post
Hi Wynton,
Congratulations on an inspiring career to date. I'm curious: when do you feel most creative? What inspires you?

Wynton Marsalis replied to Elizabeth's post
When I wake up or right before I go to bed.

Stephen Exnicios wrote
SAy Wynton , Steve Exnicios here DLS class of 79. We are planning the 30th yr class reunion for some time in October. All the guys asked if you think you might be able to attend. We all would love to see you and catch up on old times.

Wynton Marsalis replied to Stephen's post
If I can make it, I will definitely try to.

Glenda Butcher (Fort Lauderdale, FL) wrote
Wynton ……. I have followed your music for many, many years. My concern is about your health!!!…. Please try to get into some natural health foods – like juicing raw vegs and all natural vitamins from health food stores (sometimes you can go off course) but please try as I would like to grow old(er) listening to your beautiful sounds and looking at your lean cusine…….Smile.

Wynton Marsalis replied to Glenda's post
Thank you. I need that advice.

Robin Kemp wrote
Hey, Wynton—given the new admin, what's your opinion of the outlook for wider arts funding over the next 4-8 years? Yes, the NEA has steadily gotten more funding since the FY '96 slashing-in-half. Thinking just about music initiatives, what areas do you think are in greatest need of more dollars? What do you think is the most effective way to translate those dollars into music education and support for emerging performers?

Wynton Marsalis replied to Robin's post
This is a much more exciting time for the arts. I believe that the government sets a tone for the nation. We have to continue our grassroots advocacy for the arts and seek always an increasing commitment from the government.

Jacob Rosenberg (Ellington School Of The Arts) wrote
hey man i was at the white house and didn't get to see you b/c i was with sean jones (it was the most amazing experiece being surrounded by household name jazz musicians!)but I was wondering if you could swing by duke ellington school of the arts next time you're down in dc. I know that the kids (and Eric Macmillan and Yarborough) would be glad and inspired by a clinic or show or anything. I understand that you came once before and didn't like it much but we have a whole new dedicated trumpet section and band. I hope you consider coming by. I appreciate you're consideration
Jacob Rosenberg

Wynton Marsalis replied to Jacob's post
I'm sure I'll be at Ellington. I've been knowing Davey for years. Good luck.

Vitaliy Kiselyov wrote
Hom many years old you was when you began to playing trumpet?

Wynton Marsalis replied to Vitaliy's post
6 years old.

Clate Bowen (Dallas / Fort Worth, TX) wrote
Historically..there is nothing better than looking at old B/W photos of the jazz legends just playing away.
With iphones and technology today, the ability to capture great moments and performances is easier than ever.
The conflict seems to be the cross of informal video & audio together.
Recently I have encountered several jazz musicians( in NOLA) not wanting to be recorded. I understand the threat of bootlegs, however it seems the jazz genre needs to embrace video posts on you tube and FB. It captures the talent, energy, heritage, and reputation of the players.
Whats your take?

Wynton Marsalis replied to Clate's post
I think all of the technology is better for jazz musicians. We play live and don't need a lot of post production. For me, the closer people can get to what we are playing, the better.

Tom Barnes (Reading Blue Coat School: Holme Park) wrote
Hello Wynton!
To start off I would just like to say what you are doing is amazing and on behalf of everyone here, I really respect you giving your time, there aren’t enough leading jazz artists like yourself! I am a massive fan and my favourite track is with you on ‘Time Will Tell’ with Blakey’s Messengers on the Round ‘Bout Midnight album. My question to you considers the future for a jazz musician and I’m sure you have heard many scenarios like mine. I am a young jazz musician from the UK, nearly 16 years of age, and play the piano.

I am obsessed with music, I dream about harmonies and sounds, and jazz allows me enough scope to explore music. I practice and practice as I was a late starter (about 12), and even now have an income through it, and am getting better and better, but still not where I want to be. So what I am asking you, is what I have to do to get there; To be playing at the top venues all around the world and to make a good living off it. Is it just a lifestyle for the gifted, or can hard work and determination get me there? I wish not to become some lobby pianist (like I do currently) or chase the dream forever and end up playing weddings every weekend, but spread the joy of improvisation with other great musicians in packed places with great energy!

Tom Barnes

Wynton Marsalis replied to Tom's post
You already have expressed what it will take. What you do is what you will do. Get out there.

Robert E. Bohrn (Charlotte, NC) replied to Wynton Marsalis's post
Hello, my name is Robert Bohrn. I discovered the 19 african american civil war soldiers from the 55th Massachusetts that were reburied in Beaufort in 1989. You were kind enough to be there and to play taps. I would like to send you artifacts from the 55th's camp that I found. Is this possible? Thank you for your participation in that most historical event!

Wynton Marsalis replied to Robert's post
Meghan will get in touch with you. Thank you very much.

Juan Diaz (Jacksonville, FL) wrote
Hi Wynton, I just want to know, what are the two most important things to do or remember about playing a solo ? ( it doesn't have be two things,I just figured it's a practical number ).

Wynton Marsalis replied to Juan's post
Develop your thematic material, make the rhythm section feel good about accompanying you.

Ted Carrasco wrote
Hi Wynton… do you have any advice on how to get fellow musicians to get along? I know and am involved with some great players… but competition and one-upmanship have tainted many of these relationships to the point where the music is suffering, people using below average musicians to fill out their band because they feel they are in competition with others. I appreciate that some personalities will never match, but how could i bring these people together instead of them breaking off into below par situations…. I don't want it to be just a big competition.

Wynton Marsalis replied to Ted's post
Give them the opportunity to play gigs, don't try to counsel them, treat them with respect, pay them on time, set an example with your actions. Then people will be people. A little bit of dysfunction always makes for interesting music.

Stephen Exnicios wrote
How will we be able to let you know the details?

Wynton Marsalis replied to Stephen's post
Meghan will get in touch with you.

Artie Gold (Austin, TX) replied to Wynton Marsalis's post
Met you briefly a bit over twenty four years ago when you paid a condolence call at my uncle Shelly's apartment after his death. The sad but funny story is that one of my grandmother's contemporaries — a hardly enlightened fellow in his late eighties — saw you come in with your horn in a case and, mistaking it for a tool box of some sort (which, of course, in a way it is) said, "What…is the [elided] here to fix something?" A few minutes later, the man's son, in his sixties and rather more enlightened said, "I can't believe how bigoted my father is…Wynton Marsalis walks in and he says that?"
You were particularly kind to my cousins that day — which I suspect was and remains well within character.
Good luck on all future endeavors. It's all about the teaching — and all about the playin' — in both orders.

Wynton Marsalis replied to Artie's post
Yeah, the past, present and future are all embodied in every passing moment.

Daniel Boeke (Netherlands) wrote
I would like to ask what it is you love the most about music. what it is that makes it THE special thing that you live for everyday.
thank you,

Wynton Marsalis replied to Daniel's post
I love the depth, humor and jealous nature of music. Todd Barkan says, "Take care of the music and it will take care of you." What does it do if you don't take care of it?

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