Wynton Marsalis

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Mike Broadman, Jul 19, 2002.

  1. Mike Broadman

    Mike Broadman Producer

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    Well, Wynton is probably the single most controversial figure in jazz in the past 20 years. Before recently, I've never heard his music; not because I didn't want to, just because I didn't get a chance to. But he's been on my mind lately for a few reasons:

    1. I saw the Ken Burns Jazz documentary which featured him a lot and read a funny editorial slamming it. I didn't agree with a lot of it, but it was still pretty funny.

    2. I just finished reading Miles Davis' autobiography (highly recommended!) and he slams Wynton too, but it seemed more of a retaliation for feeling slighted by Wynton's comments.

    3. My roommate bought a 7-disc live set of Wynton's band.

    Basically, it seems like this cat started real young and became huge because at that time (early 80s), there really was no acoustic jazz on the scene anymore. It had died. Somehow, Art Blakey's group was still around and Wynton was in that band. Some people feel he didn't really "pay his dues" because he got to the top so quickly, possibly before he really found his own voice and matured. I don't know, I have yet to hear his early material.

    Wynton shot himself in the foot when he vocalised his purist attitudes. He doesn't dig fusion or free jazz or any of that stuff. According to Miles Davis, this rhetoric included his music as well, especially since his 80s material had a big pop element. Wynton became the embodiment of jazz snobery.

    He has also been accused of racism, but I always question that claim. Maybe he's just very pro-black, and why shouldn't he be? After all... he's black, and jazz, especially the kind he plays, is black music.

    On the other hand, some in the black community have accused him of selling out and such. Miles laments his decision to perform European classical music. He also has held prominent positions in formal musical institutions.

    But, in the end, I never really care what anyone says. I used to really listen to what my favorite musicians had to say, but I discovered that their intimate knowledge of music has nothing to do with compatibility to my taste. Whether it's Mingus slamming rock music, R&B artists slamming jazz, jazz "purists," anti-prog punk... it's all quite silly to me. In his autobiography, Miles expresses dislike for a lot of Coltrane's musical decisions (while respecting his talent), free jazz, and most post-70s jazz. It was all quite surprising, but that's his opinions and that's it.

    So what about the music? Well, I'm finishing up the 3rd disc in Wynton's Live at the Village Vanguard box set. First of all, the band is great. It's a crisp, swinging rhythm section and a pleasure to listen to. These are just great musicians, and sound like they're having a lot of fun.

    There is some really great original material. Wynton did some concept album about American black history, and the titles of these songs seem like they're from that. They're full of energy and some sweet harmony, leaving room for the band to play.

    The covers are nice but not too impressive. They do fit in nicely mixed in with the original stuff and they make it sound their own, though they won't be ranking at the top performances of those songs any time soon in my book.

    Wynton's style is melodic and pleasant. He is aware of his audience and both his banter and his music are accessible. This conforms with his idea of a concert, which involves a good time and a friendly, sophisticated atmosphere (this is contrary to people like Mingus and Cecil Taylor who demanded full attention and open minds from their audiences).

    Basically, it's all very "safe." Wynton will not blow your mind, but he doesn't want to. He seems to want to play the music he likes well, and that is alright with me. While some are eager to raise him to the stature of the Greats, I personally would reserve that for those who were true groundbreakers, like Monk or Bird, who created their own musical language. Wynton's purist attitudes will prevent him from ever doing that. But not everything I listen to has to be mind-blowingly different and amazing. I love cats like Grant Green, Hank Mobley, and Freddie Hubbard who just do their thing so well.

    When I have the scratch, I'll pick up a copy of this box set for myself. I also want to get Hot House Flowers on CD and SACD. I also wonder what his classical performances sound like. Anyone hear any?
     
  2. Lee Scoggins

    Lee Scoggins Producer

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    He is also very good at classical recording, although the earlier recordings are sonic disasters.
    I love Wynton Marsalis. I met him and his brother Delfeayo back in the early 90s. He sometimes plays on Chesky under the name E. Dankworth. He has done a lot for Lincoln Center by bulding a new jazz concert hall and doing I think an excellent job with the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra.
    He is a straightforward classic jazz artist. His album Think of One is one of my favorite jazz albums. The Thelonious Monk title track is technically brilliant.
    Also, check out In This House on This Morning and Live at Blues Alley.
    I just put on Hot House Flowers Super Audio CD. Highly recommended. [​IMG]
     
  3. KeithH

    KeithH Lead Actor

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    Mike, I am a long-time fan of Wynton Marsalis. Frankly, I did not know a lot about his personal life and the behind-the-scenes stuff, but I never went looking for it either. I have a number of his classical and jazz albums on CD, as well as the London Concert (classical) and Hot House Flowers albums on SACD. One of these days, I will get Standard Time, Vol. 1 on SACD. For now, the CD, which I bought well over ten years ago, will have to do.
    Wynton Marsalis is incredibly versatile, being able to do jazz and classical so well. Over the past several months, I have listened to a lot of his jazz stuff, but just last night, I finally got around to listening to the Classic Wynton classical compilation CD that I bought over a month ago. It is great. His tone is to die for.
    My appreciation of Marsalis goes back to my days of playing the trumpet in high school. I'm going back to 1985, when I was a sophomore. Marsalis had a few classical and jazz albums out and was being praised as a genius. At that time, I took private lessons from a highly capable trumpet player who came from a trumpet-playing family. This guy knew the ins and outs of every trumpet player out there, and he always used to rave about Marsalis's versatility and brilliance with both classical and jazz. I bought into it. [​IMG]
    In 1987, when I was still in high school, I asked my dad to take me to a jazz performance of Marsalis and his group. Kenny Kirkland was on keyboard and Jeff "Tain" Watts was on drums. Man, could this group jam! My dad and I got to the concert hall early, so we walked around for a little while. As we were heading to the concert hall to get our seats, we came to an alley that bordered the concert hall. All of a sudden, a limo pulled up, and I stopped in my tracks. Marsalis, Kirkland, Watts, and the rest got out. Marsalis said hi to me, and they all walked briskly into a side door into the concert hall. I was like a kid meeting Michael Jordan. It was cool.
    There may be some controversy about Marsalis and his approach to jazz, but all I know is that he is an excellent trumpet player.
     
  4. Mike Broadman

    Mike Broadman Producer

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    Kenny Kirkland- R.I.P.

    I did notice Marsalis' reference for Monk (one of my musical heroes), both in the documentary and in his choice of set list on the box set. It makes him seem even more silly when he slams new directions in music, as Monk himself was criticised the same way. I mean, who the well was phrasing weird chords like that?

    By the way, have any Marsalis fans heard this set?

    I tend to avoid the personal stuff with musicians, but one can't help reading and hearing things about Marsalis if you're a jazz fan. But even if he said he wanted to eat children, it wouldn't matter to me. The more I read about musicians, the less I like them as people.

    I didn't realise Standard Time was on SACD. He also has a classical album on SACD.
     
  5. Lee Scoggins

    Lee Scoggins Producer

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  6. KeithH

    KeithH Lead Actor

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    Mike,
    Truthfully, I did not know that Kenny Kirkland was no longer with us. When and what happened? [​IMG]
    I have not heard the set that you are referring too, but I have seen it and have considered buying it.
    The classical Marsalis album out on SACD is The London Concert. It's pretty good. I am surprised Sony has not his first classical album on SACD yet. I'd love to see it on SACD.
    Lee said:
     
  7. Mike Broadman

    Mike Broadman Producer

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    All I know about Mark Isham and Chris Botti is their work with Bill Bruford, Tony Levin, and David Torn. David Torn's album "Cloud About Mercury" features Levin, Bruford, and Isham. Bruford Levin Upper Extremeties is Bruford, Levin, Torn, and Botti, and they have a studio album and live album. The emphasis is on Torn's guitar looping stuff and the rhythm section doing all sorts of groovy things. The trumpet players lay a melody on top, but oddly enough the melody is the "background." I like their tone and control, though. That kind of playing by itself rarely interests me, though.

    I don't know exactly what happened to Kirkland, just that he was found dead in his apartment in '98.
     
  8. Lee Scoggins

    Lee Scoggins Producer

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    The Chris Botti Super Audio CD is very good on both performance and sonics. Get it!
    [​IMG]
     
  9. KeithH

    KeithH Lead Actor

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    Mike,
    Thanks for all the information. You are an incredible resource for jazz. Any knowledge of Dave Douglas? What a said situation with Kirkland. [​IMG]
    Lee,
    I have the Botti SACD. It sounds great. Actually, the CD sounds great too. It's an excellent recording.
     

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