Wynton Marsalis

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Born: October 18, 1961; New Orleans, LA  
As jazz has become more frequently considered "America's classical music," its roots have become a subject of interest for an increasingly broad audience. With one foot in the European classical tradition and the other in the sounds of Jelly Roll Morton, Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, and their successors, trumpeter and composer Wynton Marsalis has been a prominent figure in an ongoing movement that has brought jazz music to the forefront of Read more American culture.

Marsalis was born into a musical family, in the musical town of New Orleans, on October 18, 1961, and was already demonstrating his proficiency on the trumpet in his early teens. His early musical experiences reflect the wide-ranging interests of his later years: during high school he participated in marching band, jazz band, funk groups, and classical ensembles. After finishing high school, Marsalis was accepted into the Juilliard School of Music. His virtuosity must have been apparent from the start; shortly after his arrival in New York City, he became a member of Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, and his own self-titled debut album was released soon after in 1982.

Marsalis became a household name in 1987, when he helped initiate the Jazz at Lincoln Center program. It was with this organization that Marsalis became the country's foremost jazz curator; in addition to performing some new works (including Marsalis' own), the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra recreated numerous legendary jazz works, often using transcribed charts and notated solos taken from surviving recordings of the original artists. Such musical resurrection infuses performances with what some might see as an odd irony: a tradition based on intuitive, in-the-moment improvisation, being faithfully re-executed note by note! At any rate, such projects aspire to raise jazz to the same arena of esteem as musical works of the classical tradition, placing both within the musical museum of the concert hall.

Other efforts have attempted a fusion of classical and jazz traditions. In 1997, he became the first composer to receive a Pulitzer Prize in music for a work of jazz orientation, his "epic oratorio," Blood on the Fields. Composed in 1994, this musical commentary on slavery garnered wide praise from the press (it was named one of the top ten highlights of the musical year by Time magazine). In 1998, Marsalis contributed to a musically ecumenical undertaking by the Lincoln Center ensembles entitled MARSALIS/STRAVINSKY. Commissioned jointly by the Chamber Music Society at Lincoln Center and Jazz at Lincoln Center, Marsalis' A Fiddler's Tale retold the story of Stravinsky's Le histoire du Soldat. In Stravinsky's original, a soldier on his way home from duty sells his soul to the devil; in Marsalis' recasting, which takes inspiration from Stravinsky's appropriation of early twentieth century jazz idioms, a musician sells his soul to a record producer.

In addition to jazz and "crossover" projects, Marsalis is respected as a performer of classical repertoire: In Gabriel's Garden, recorded with the English Chamber Orchestra, included J.S. Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 2, and Mouret's Rondeau (Marsalis' recording of which was chosen as the new theme music for PBS' Masterpiece Theater) are both notable releases. A subsequent release, Classic Wynton, rendered music from the Baroque to Contemporary, including a previously unreleased recording of twentieth century composer Alan Hovhanhess' Prayer of Saint Gregory.

The 1990s saw Marsalis also heavily involved in educational efforts, including frequent demonstrations at public schools; he won a Peabody Award in 1996 for his video series, "Marsalis on Music." Such efforts prompted one national magazine to identify him as among the 25 most influential people in America. His massive 2002 work for chorus, orchestra, and jazz band, All Rise, included such diverse elements as a massive fugue for strings and traces of Cuban and Argentine rhythms. Read less
Browse 1-9 of 9 Available Recordings
  • 1.
    The Music Of America / Wynton Marsalis
    Label: Sony   Catalog: 88697923972 Release Date: 01/24/2012   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Wynton Marsalis
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Orion String Quartet,  Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center
    CD: $18.99
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  • 2.
    Something To Sing About
    Label: Albany Records   Catalog: 1268 Release Date: 05/10/2011   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Charles Ives,  Paul Chihara,  John Corigliano,  Stanley Silverman  ... 
    Performer:  Lisa Kirchner,  Joel Fan,  William Schimmel,  Dwayne Burno  ... 
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    CD: $16.99
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  • 3.
    Stravinsky: Soldier's Tale; Marsalis: Meeelaan
    Label: Camerata Records   Catalog: 28062 Release Date: 04/13/2010   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Wynton Marsalis,  Igor Stravinsky
    Performer:  David Taylor,  Stefon Harris,  André De Shields,  David Shifrin  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Orion String Quartet
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  • 4.
    New York Now
    Label: Enja   Catalog: 9548 Release Date: 03/09/2010   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Leonard Bernstein,  Daniel Schnyder,  Paquito D'Rivera,  Wynton Marsalis
    Performer:  Ann Ellsworth,  Manhattan Brass,  Daniel Schnyder,  R.J. Kelley
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  • 5.
    The Essential Wynton Marsalis
    Label: Sony   Catalog: 709579 Release Date: 07/10/2007   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Jeremiah Clarke,  Jean Joseph Mouret,  Henry Purcell,  John Stanley  ... 
    Performer:  Wynton Marsalis,  William Bennett,  Neil Black,  Lin Cho-Liang  ... 
    Conductor:  Anthony Newman,  Raymond Leppard,  John Nelson,  Esa-Pekka Salonen  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  English Chamber Orchestra,  Orchestra of St. Luke's,  Philharmonia Orchestra  ... 
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  • 6.
    Accent On The Offbeat / New York City Ballet
    Label: Kultur Video   Catalog: 4152 Release Date: 11/21/2006   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Wynton Marsalis
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Wynton Marsalis Ensemble
    DVD: $23.99
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  • 7.
    Listen To The Storyteller - Marsalis, Meyer, Doyle
    Label: Sony   Catalog: 60283 Release Date: 09/07/1999   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Patrick Doyle,  Edgar Meyer,  Wynton Marsalis
    Performer:  Kate Winslet,  Graham Greene,  Jerry Douglas,  Edgar Meyer  ... 
    Conductor:  Steven Mercurio,  Robert Sadin
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Orchestra of St. Luke's
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  • 8.
    Marsalis: At The Octoroon Balls, Etc / Orion String Quartet
    Label: Sony   Catalog: 60979 Release Date: 06/15/1999   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Wynton Marsalis
    Performer:  David Taylor,  Edgar Meyer,  Ida Kavafian,  Wynton Marsalis  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center,  Orion String Quartet
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  • 9.
    Concert For Planet Earth / Domingo, Marsalis, Chang
    Label: Sony   Catalog: 52570 Release Date: 12/08/1992   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Antonio Carlos Jobim,  Joaquim Barroso Neto,  Leonard Bernstein,  Carlos Gardel  ... 
    Performer:  Antonio Carlos Jobim,  Gal Costa,  Placido Domingo,  Wynton Marsalis  ... 
    Conductor:  John DeMain
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Rio de Janeiro Municipal Theatre Orchestra,  Wynton Marsalis Septet,  Rio de Janeiro Municipal Theatre Chorus
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