The two sides of Wynton Marsalises

Two Wynton Marsalises appeared Tuesday at St. Norbert College. One was a natty gent who, talked with his trumpet as he played jazz with his sextet before more than 1,100 people in two evening performances.

The other was a guy who a few hours earlier plopped onto a chair wearing sweats and sneakers and talked about The Philosophy of Wynton for more than an hour in front of 80 high school and college students and teachers.
In the afternoon, he said: “Every night before we go on a gig, we (in the band) get together and we say a little prayer. Not just a prayer. Just remind ourselves we are fortunate to be on the bandstand.
“There are many musicians who are’ out there in the world practicing to play who don’t have a chance to play. And we listen to each other to try to work as a unit to make everybody else sound good.”

As he showed in concert, Marsalis is very much a team player, not “The Star” with eight Grammy Awards. Everyone soloed, and everyone snared in making the others sound marvelous. Players would slip into and out of the unit with ease. It was obvious these guys are comfortable with one another.

Earlier, the 28-year-old Marsalis said: “We don’t believe in the generation gap. Once you get past that faulty perception, you begin to open to the riches of the majesty of all of history.”

At night, his band often savored the riches of the past of Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker, Jelly Roll Morton, Caravan, Cherokee, Someone to Watch Over Me and assorted other sounds. Familiarity carried to Winter Wonderland, in keeping with the season.

In the afternoon, Marsalis said his past style would have been to play fast and loud, with the sound getting muddled. “Our music is a lot more mature (today),” he said. In concert, there was nothing blasting or bizarre. There were no jagged edges. Everything was played with finesse.

It wasn’t a “Wow!” concert with high C’s rattling around on the ceiling. It was an “Ahhh” concert enhanced by the clean acoustics of the Byron L. Walter Theatre.

In Marsalis’ key solo in the first show, he played the standard Where or When with gentle care. In other featured spots, he favored making sense with the flow of a tune over hot-dogging with dazzling pyrotechnics. While Marsalis showed restraint in concert, he was sometimes a tiger in the afternoon as he rambled through his collection of opinions.

Ranking high with him is the serious study of music. He feels priorities are out of whack – lots of them. He took on public education, Tina Turner, racism, commercialism, the media and distorted beliefs.
“There’s a breakdown in discipline and a breakdown in an understanding of maturity and the belief in practice, the belief in music “ he said. “Now the belief is in money and commercialism”.

He ripped Turner for calling pop-rock stars as herself and the Rolling Stones “the Bachs and Beethovens of our era.” Marsalis said, “I’m not German, but that makes me sick.”

By Warren Gerds
Source: Green Bay Press-Gazette

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