Wynton Marsalis is one of the jazz world’s most renowned trumpeters. He is the winner of eight Grammy Awards for classical and jazz compositions, and has authored the book jazz in the bittersweet blues of life (Da Capo, written with Carl Vigeland).
Reuben Jackson at NPR says the book “gives the reader a sharper, more accessible glimpse of Marsalis” and “shatters any remaining romantic images about a jazz musician’s life on or off the road…It is must reading for anyone who thinks jazz musicians do little more than pull this music out of the air.”
Marsalis has a full life away from the concert halls and the jazz clubs and the recording studios and opens the door on his other self with this book. Initially noted as a classical musician, he is credited with helping bring jazz back into prominence. In 1997, he received the first Pulitzer Prize award ever for nonclassical music.
Born into the “first family of jazz” in New Orleans, Marsalis first began playing the trumpet at age 12. Two years later he was a trumpet soloist with the New Orleans Philharmonic Orchestra and won an award at the prestigious Berkshire Music Center for his classical musical abilities at age 17. After studies at the Julliard School of Music, he joined Art Blakey’s and Herbie Hancock’s jazz groups, touring and recording in Japan and the U.S., before forming his own group in 1981. With a classical album in 1984, Marsalis became the first instrumentalist to win simultaneous Grammy awards as the best jazz AND classical soloist.
Since his debut, he has sold over five million records worldwide and has toured 36 countries, averaging more than 120 concerts a year. He has also shown a flair for dance compositions, recording ballet scores and working with some of America’s finest choreographers.
Co-founder and artistic director of Jazz at Lincoln Center, Marsalis is an internationally respected teacher and advocate for arts education. He has evolved to become the ambassador and historian of jazz, visiting more than 1,000 schools in the last decade introducing young people to jazz.
Refusing to conform to the media and public stereotypes for jazz and black artists, Marsalis rejects some of the theories on the roots of jazz. “Jazz critics are more concerned with race than with music … Beethoven was Beethoven. He wasn’t ‘the German’,” he says in a Washington Post interview.
Outspoken and sometimes controversial, the talent of Marsalis has never been questioned. Perhaps the most ambitious composer alive, according to The Nation, he is the master of jazz.
Carl Vigeland has written about music and other subjects for many magazines and is the author of three books, including In Concert: Onstage and Offstage with the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
Wynton Marsalis was interviewed at Kentucky Author Forum by Robert Siegel, host of NPR’s “All Things Considered.” Siegel is a 20-year veteran of radio and appeared previously at the Author Forum as interviewer for John Updike and Ted Koppel.
While in Louisivlle as guest of Kentucky Author Forum, Wynton Marsalis taught a a morning session downtown with students at the Brown School. He followed that with a class at the University of Louisville, in the Bird Recital Hall, School of Music, on the Belknap Campus. Marsalis was assisted by Mike Tracy, director of the U of L Jazz Studies Program, and Harry Pickens, noted jazz pianist and educator.