Wynton Marsalis & Georgian American Friendship Makes Hamptons Swing
On a recent Saturday night, Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra performed at the Southampton Arts Center as part of the Hamptons Jazz Fest to celebrate 30 years of Independence for the Republic of Georgia and to honor thirty years of Georgian-American friendship; and, like all things Georgian and all things Wynton, it exceeded all expectations.
There were speeches by Joe Diamond, General Manager of the Southampton Arts Center and Claes Brondal, co-founder of the Hamptons Jazz Fest, which spoke to the importance of collaboration, partnerships, and the support shown by this evening; as well as speeches by Giorgi Rtskhiladze, co-founder of the US- Georgia Legacy Foundation, and Logical Strategies LLC; George Ramishvili, founder of The Silk Road Group and Chairman of the Board of Silknet Mobile Communications; David Zalkaliani, the recently appointed Ambassador of Georgia to the United States; and Avi Shoshani, Co-Founder of Georgia’s Tsninandali Classical Music Festival and its Pan-Caucasus Youth Orchestra. And, finally, Frank DiGiacomo of Billboard, who announced the launch of Billboard Georgia.
It was a special evening, made all the more memorable because of the expansive spirit of Wynton Marsalis. This was the last night of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra 2022 tour, the final performance of 120 nights, and Marsalis waxed philosophical about the importance of Georgian Independence, Georgian-American friendship, Democracy and a politics that embraces our differences. Marsalis explained in a potent analogy that the members of his orchestra were not of the same race, the same religion, or even of the same politics, yet to perform together, they need to play as one. That same spirit, Marsalis said, should inform global politics. He spoke at length about each member of the band and how much he respected and loved them.
The Orchestra performed an evening of music mostly by Duke Ellington, giving opportunities for each band member to solo. They opened with “Jack the Bear,” Ellington’s mixture of blues and swing with its dynamic Bass solos, performed by the mighty Carlos Henriquez, as well as a furious trombone section of Chris Crenshaw, Vince Gardner and Jacob Melsha . The Orchestra played selections from such Ellington Compositions as his Peer Gynt Suite, New Orleans Suite, Shanghai Suite and the Afro-Eurasian Eclipse.
The Orchestra was filled with veterans such as Sherman Irby on alto sax, soprano sax, clarinet, and flute (it was particular fun to watch Irby’s feet keeping time to the music), master Trumpeter Ryan Kisor and Victor Goines on saxophone and clarinet; as well as several young graduates of Julliard such as piano prodigy Joe Ford, and the searing Abdias Armenteros on tenor sax, and soprano saxophone.
Throughout the evening although Marsalis never put himself forward as more important than the other members of his orchestra (Marsalis is fourth chair on trumpet), he filled the space between songs with history, musicology and personal anecdotes, as well as his appreciations of the other band members.
Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra filled the room with good feeling and good fellowship that was, indeed, a perfect complement to Georgian goodwill and hospitality, in perfect solidarity with a celebration of 30 years of Georgian-American friendship.
by Tom Teicholz