Award-winning trumpeter brings classical jazz to Beijing
Seeing trumpeting legend Wynton Marsalis live in concert is high on the bucket list of many jazz fans. Now, the multiple Grammy Award-winner is on his third-ever visit to China, treating crowds at Beijing’s Forbidden City to his signature blend of sounds and rhythms. Our reporter Yang Ran was at the sold-out venue, and had a chance to speak to the jazzman.
Wynton Marsalis presented a comprehensive classical jazz night composed of pieces by masters like Miles Davis and James Rushing and Marsalis’ two compositions. The two compositions, the Monkey King’s March and Li Bai’s Blues, are Marsalis’ special tribute to China and his understanding of Chinese philosophy.
Marsalis has helped start the Classical Jazz summer concert series and Lincoln Center in New York City and has been leading the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra since 1991, and the big band backed him on his oratorio album Blood on the Fields, which won the Pulitzer Prize for Music in 1997. And Marsalis was the first jazz musician to win the award.
“Jazz music has the artistic cachet and value to marry that type of consideration. I just wanted to leave something lasting for people to celebrate the heritage of jazz… we started with very simple principles. No generation gap, we try to bring all the ages together. All of our music is modern. We don’t separate the younger from the older. And no segregation of people’s race, age and gender. All I think is about coming together,” Wynton Marsalis said.
In 1983, at the age of 22, Marsalis became the only musician to win Grammy Awards in jazz and classical music during the same year. And he won again in both categories the next year. Also he had won the Grammy trophies for five years in succession from 1983 to 1987.
“Those awards are not serious. It is good to put the tuxedo on, look good and smile. It’s fun. But it is not about substance, it is more about popularity. So at that time I was young and I got a lot of publicity. So people maybe they haven’t heard any jazz, but they recognize me and say let’s vote for him. It is not a testament of your artistic value. It was fun. It was fun but it doesn’t mean you beat anybody, “ Marsalis said.
Born in a musician and music teacher family, Marsalis has been dedicated to music education for decades. He started to host the educational programs on public television and National Public Radio in 1995 and he serves as director of the Julliard Jazz Studies Program. He gives hearty suggestions to the jazz students.
“I’ve seen more higher quality students than in the 1980s and ’90s. I see many students that can play. And I see many students from all over the world that are interested in the substance of playing. Also it is a challenge that those students have to make a livelihood. Anything in the art is difficult. Because you have to change people’s feeling about how they live in the world. Just by playing something or singing or dancing or acting. It is much easier to just do the most popular thing. This is an interesting time. Because there is such an emphasis on just entertainment, things that lack substance. So you have to be very patient,” Marsalis said.
Approximately seven million copies of his recordings have been sold worldwide. Wynton Marsalis has toured on every continent except Antarctica.
By Yang Ran