Diaa Bekheet | Washington, DC – If you love jazz, America’s most distinctive art, and you want someone to take you back in time and then bring you back to the future, you must listen to musical prodigy, Wynton Marsalis. The prolific trumpeter is probably the only man who could start a New Orleans-style street jazz parade anywhere he goes – according to music critics.
Some critics describe Marsalis , 49, as “a living legend,”. Others say he’s “America’s best jazz ambassador now.” CBS television describes him as “the best known living jazz artist and leader of Jazz”.
Marsalis recently spoke with VOA’s Jazz America about his music and his historic two-night stand at Lincoln Center with country star Willie Nelson:
The 2007 joint event was called: Two Men With The Blues:
The son of New Orleans jazz great Ellis Marsalis, Wynton Marsalis started on trumpet at the age of six, and performed with the New Orleans Philharmonic in 1975 at age 14. When he was 17, Marsalis became the youngest musician ever to be admitted to Tanglewood’s Berkshire Music Center. Despite his young age, Marsalis was awarded the school’s prestigious Harvey Shapiro Award for outstanding brass student.
Marsalis’ real professional career started when he joined the The Jazz Messengers band, headed by legendary jazz drummer and bandleader Art Blakey. The distinguished musician, who has won nine Grammy awards, says on his Web site it was from Blakey that he acquired his concept for band leading and bringing intensity to each and every performance.
Marsalis has also performed with other jazz icons like Sarah Vaughan, Dizzy Gillespie, Sweets Edison, Clark Terry, Sonny Rollins, Ron Carter, Herbie Hancock, Tony Williams and Duke Ellington who described him as “a decorated hero and a symbol of glamour.”
Several Books have been written about Wynton Marsalis, who was born in New Orleans, the ‘Cradle of Jazz,’ in 1961. The books highlight his life from rising star to music icon in the making in the 1980s.
In 1990, Wynton Marsalis was pictured on the cover of Time magazine. The magazine celebrated him as one of America’s 25 most influential people in 1995, and 1996. Time magazine says Marsalis is “an original in so many ways and has a tremendous influence on the popularity of modern jazz and its deep roots in New Orleans history. We share a love for our universally beloved hometown and were shattered by its recent destruction.”
In 2001, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan proclaimed Marsalis an international ambassador of goodwill for the United States. Annan later appointed Marsalis a U.N. Messenger of Peace.
Wynton Marsalis, who became the first jazz musician ever to win the Pulitzer Prize for Music in 1997 for his epic oratorio, “Blood On The Fields”, is now Director of Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra and Opera.
For more on jazz music, listen to VOA’s Jazz America