Wynton Marsalis on Jazz at Lincoln Center’s New Home
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past month, jazz fans and in- dustry people have heard plenty about Jazz At Lincoln Center’s high-profile move to its own crib in the new Time Warner Center on Columbus Circle. JazzWeek caught up with Artistic Director Wynton Marsalis on tour in Chicago a month before the Oct. 19 grand opening to get his thoughts on the changes to come and how it happened.
JW: How did J@LC get involved with AOL Time Warner?
WM: There was the opportunity to develop the property where the conven- tion center was. Time Warner had the space and then-mayor Giuliani told them there would have to be an artistic component if they were gonna build. Different arts organizations applied, and Stanley Crouch convinced the mayor [that it had to be] jazz.
Must have been quite a long argument.
It wasn’t that long. I don’t know what he said. All I do know is that at the press conference [announcing the project] the mayor said, “Let’s get Stanley up here. He’s the reason I wanted ya all to do it.”
Is J@LC the only ones who have left the complex?
I think so. I’m not sure enough to make a definitive comment. I just want to point out that this is also part of the campus of Lincoln Center. We’re happy with our affiliation with Lincoln Cen- ter. The halls are designed to be halls for the arts. The arts through the spirit of jazz, but it’s for all the arts. It’s for
ballet; it’s for film. A lot of intellectual capital was expended to make sure that it could accommodate all the arts. We’ve collaborated with many of the constituents at Lincoln Center: With the Philharmonic; with the New York City Ballet; Chamber Music Society; The Film Society; with the Lincoln Center Institute; with the Juilliard School and Juilliard Institute of Jazz Studies, which is led by Victor Goines, who plays clarinet and saxophone in the orchestra. So we’re very close with all the constituents.
It’s a hell of a long way from 52nd Street to Columbus Circle, metaphorically speaking.
I don’t know. I can never understand why jazz is more equated with 52nd Street than with Aeolian Hall. Jazz musicians have played everywhere for so many years. The Modern Jazz Quartet played in concert halls all over the world for many many years. So did Dave Br- ubeck. So did Duke Ellington. Benny Goodman’s Carnegie Hall concert took place in 1938. Then there was Jazz at the Philharmonic. Miles Davis’s Carnegie Hall concert in ’61. These are all famous live concerts all in concert halls 40, 50, 60, 70 years ago. But of course there was 52nd Street and many other clubs. Anyone who has played jazz has played in many clubs in their life. I virtually grew up in clubs, so I love a club environment. There was a great club in New Orleans entitled Louie and Char- lie’s. I loved to play there. So we have a club in the facility.
It’s quite an amazing facility.
The music deserves it. I want to make one more point. The hall comes directly out of what we have done. There is no space in that hall that we at Lincoln Center have not filled already. A friend of mine asked me, “Are you afraid people won’t come?” I asked her how many concerts had she been to [at Lincoln Center]. She said about 40 of them. I asked her, “Did it ever seem like we had trouble selling tickets.” She said, “No.” “So why would I worry about that then?” I told her. [Not selling tickets] hasn’t been my experience.
With this change, are you going to be around more, less, the same amount?
I’m always around. Mainly to help. I try to avoid being a dilettante. I try to avoid being in situations where I have to make decisions about things I don’t know. I always joke with my staff: If you want to know about a different type of progression, or something to do with the harmonic inversion of a C7 chord, call me. If you want to know about renting the hall, don’t call me.
by Tad Hendrickson