Cyber Press Conference on the 2001-02 United in Swing tour, featuring JALC Artistic Director Wynton Marsalis

Question 1 (Julia LaBua/Iowa City Press-Citizen/Iowa City IA): Is the United in Swing program intended as a primer for people who want to learn about jazz, or is it geared more toward people who already know and love the music?

Answer: It’s entertainment for those who are interested in jazz music. So we have educational programs and materials, and we will be doing some education on tour, but the concert is strictly about entertainment. A first-class jazz performance.

Question 2 (Yvonne Wingett/The Detroit News/Detroit, MI): Has Detroit’s music scene influenced your music or interpretation of music, and if so, how?

Answer: I’ve known many great Detroit musicians, starting with master trumpeter Marcus Belgrave. Bob Hurst, the great bassist played with me for some time. And in the LCJO, our current bassist, Rodney Whitaker, is from Detroit. I’ve seen the development of many great Detroit musicians, from James Carter to Ali Jackson to Walter White, and Detroit is, and will always be, one of the centers of swing in the universe.

Question 3 (Bob Needham/The Ann Arbor News/Ann Arbor, MI): Did your participation in “Ken Burns’ Jazz—spending so much time thinking and talking about the masters—lead you to rediscover or revisit any particular pieces you might showcase on this tour?

Answer: I think about the masters and about the music all the time. My participation in Ken Burns’ series did not take that much time—only two days of interviewing and four or five days of consulting. The large bulk of the work was done by Mr. Burns and his wonderful staff.
We always play selections from the entire history of jazz—we have over 1,100 pieces of music in the J@LC library—and we believe that all jazz is modern.

Question 4 (John Kenyon/Iowa City Gazette/Iowa City, IA): This tour finds the LCJO performing the work of Mingus and Coltrane after spending time celebrating Armstrong and Ellington. What does this shift in style and era do both for the performance and for how you educate your audience?

Answer: It’s not a shift in style for us, because we are always playing the music of Monk and Mingus and our own compositions. When we play concerts, we are more interested in entertaining our audience than educating. We have programs specifically designed for education. My contention is that people like music from the entire history of jazz and the main question for us is not “When was it written?” but rather “How well can we play it?” Thank you.

Question 5 (Cam Miller/North County Times/Escondido, CA): Since you are so dedicated to preserving and perpetuating the music of Duke Ellington, does the prescence of Ellington alum Joe Temperley take on any particular added significance?

Answer: Joe’s significance is in the magnificence of his sound and the intensity of his work ethic. Joe is a member of our family and our relationship, though mainly expressed on the bandstand, is of a much deeper, personal significance. As our oldest member, Joe has taught all of us how to maintain our professionalism and love of music. Joe has great integrity – he is the first one in the hall at night, warming up and getting his instruments to feel right. He is always on time. He consistently improvises with fire and elegance. Cam, Joe is somethin’. Just saying his name is an act of soul.

Question 6 (Roland Brammer/Jamaica Weekly Gleaner/Jamaica, NY): You opened the door for people like Terence Blanchard, your brother Branford, James Carter, Roy Hargrove and others. Looking back on their achievements how does that make you feel?

Answer: I’m grateful for having the opportunity to play with and present great musicians. That’s one of the greatest things about Jazz at Lincoln Center. We have presented over 830 musicians, and commissioned new compositions from younger musicians, like Christian McBride and Nicholas Payton, and masters like Geri Mulligan and Jimmy Heath.

Question: Wynton Marsalis, after 30 albums, 9 Grammy’s, a Pulitizer and other honours, what’s next?

Answer: Trying to learn how to play some music and write some, too.

Question: Do you think you have accomplished all you have set out to do?

Answer: No.

Question: What were your feelings when you won the Pulitzer?

Answer: I was very happy.

Question: Would you have chosen a different career path if not influenced by all the music surrouning you while growing up?

Answer: Probably. The only reason I knew about jazz was because my father played it.

Question: Of Miles Davis, Count Basie, Cliff Brown, Louis Armstrong, Freddie Hubbard to name a few, which ones influenced you the most?

Answer: Ellington, Monk, Jelly Roll Morton, Miles Davis, Freddie Hubbard, Clark Terry, Fats Navarro, and Clifford Brown have influenced me the most.

Question 7 (Linda Ann Chomin/Observer and Eccentric Newspapers/Livonia, MI): I’m an arts and entertainment reporter for the Observer & Eccentric Newspapers in Livonia, Michigan. On past tours I’ve interviewed Rodney Whitaker and Wycliffe Gordon. My question for you is what aspect of the United in Swing Tour are you most excited about and why?

Answer: I’m always excited about playing with the great musicians in the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra. I am excited about playing for those who have been long time supporters of our music. I am excited about playing for new fans and the undecided. I love hearing students that I have not heard. And I love the home-cooked meals and impromptu ball games that take place.

Question 8 (Isoul Harris/Urbanstyle Weekly/Atlanta, GA): What up and coming jazz artists do you think have the ability to transmit the legacy of jazz to this younger generation? Who are you looking to help you bridge the gap?

Answer: First, I don’t think there is a gap. There is a belief that someone has to be sixteen to talk to a sixteen-year-old or forty to talk to a forty-year-old. I don’t think that this is true. That said, there are many great young jazz musicians – Seneca Black, Jimmy Greene, Marcus and E.J. Strickland, Ruben Rogers, Erika VonKleist, Mike Rodriguez, Ariel Bresson – I could go on and on.

Question 9 (Reed Aaron Dunn /Iowa City Press-Citizen/Iowa City, IA): The LCJO is said to be performing a different program each night. Can you talk about the program variation, and what the Iowa City audience could expect?

Answer: We have a library of over 1,100 scores, we generally take out about 100 scores on a given tour. Of those, we play about 16 a night. We will be playing some of Mingus’s music, some of Coltrane’s, and some of our own original compositions—maybe some Monk, too. Maybe a smidgen of Jelly Roll.

Question 10 (Roland Brammer/Jamaica Weekly Gleaner/Jamaica, NY): Did your father have any influence on your deciding to play Jazz, or for that matter, to study music?

Answer: Yes. In my generation, no one really knew about jazz, but because my father played, I was around it all the time. A lot of the musicians who were teenagers in the 1970s came to jazz through their parents—Ted Nash, Wess Anderson—and even some younger musicians—Walter Blanding, Jr., Wycliffe Gordon, Ryan Kisor.

Question: If you were to do more collaborative CD’s who are some of the musicians you would work with? Would you also do more classical pieces like you did with Kathleen Battle?

Answer: I like a lot of musicians, too numerous to mention. And yes, I would love to do another recording with Kathleen Battle.

Question: After opening the door for your brother, Branford, are you still opening doors for him or is he now on his own?

Answer: My brother has been on his own for quite some time and is doing very well.

Thank you again for taking part in the Cyber Press Conference for the United in Swing LCJO 2001-02 Tour. We hope to see you in the audience real soon.
Keep swinging!

Wynton Marsalis, Artistic Director,
Jazz at Lincoln Center

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