Wynton Marsalis: for the love of jazz and classical

New Orleans. This is the title of this composition. It is also the name of the birthplace of jazz and the birthplace of Wynton Marsalis. Named Wynton in homage to pianist Wynton Kelly, the trumpeter can also rely on an illustrious name. Like Branford, Delfeayo and Jason Marsalis, respectively renowned saxophonist, trombonists and drummers, Wynton is the son of pianist Ellis Marsalis Junior. It is he who gives the first trumpet lessons to his son and who accompanies him to the Conservatory of the city so that he studies the game and the classical repertoire. Without shying away from modal scales and paternal improvisations, the teenager fell in love with the accuracy of baroque and classical scores. He performs with the city’s symphony orchestras and even plays as a soloist in concertos by Bach and Haydn.

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Thanks to his hard work, six hours of trumpet a day, Wynton Marsalis perfected himself at the Tanglewood Music Center and then at the Juilliard School. At 18, he dreams of a career as a solo trumpeter. Despite touring with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers and acclaimed jazz recordings by audiences and critics, Wynton hasn’t given up on classical. In 1983, he recorded for CBS an album devoted to the concert music of Haydn, Leopold Mozart and Hummel which allowed him to become, at only 22 years old, the first musician to obtain a Grammy Awards in jazz and classical during the same year!




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But Wynton Marsalis not only shines in the baroque and classical repertoire of Bach, Handel, Haydn and Mozart. His numerous discs recorded with ensembles as prestigious as the English Chamber Orchestra or the London Symphony Orchestra also allow us to hear high quality interpretations of 20th century concertos by Henri Tomasi and André Jolivet. Like the latter, Wynton Marsalis likes to integrate elements from jazz into classical musical genres. I’m thinking of Blood on the Fields, one of Marsalis’ most famous compositions, a veritable oratorio with choir and arias that pays homage to the blues and the beginnings of jazz.

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Blood on the Fields, a vast oratorio for choir, solo singers and big band which won the Pulitzer Prize in the music category in 1997. A distinction that was until now reserved for classical works and which sounds obvious when it rewards Wynton Marsalis, a hyphen between classical and jazz and which still proves to us today that not choosing is sometimes good!




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Wynton Marsalis: for the love of jazz and classical