Wynton Marsalis
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Wynton Marsalis

Wynton Marsalis
Wynton Marsalis 2009 09 13.jpg
Marsalis at the Oskar Schindler Performing Arts Center Seventh Annual Jazz Festival in 2009
Background information
Wynton Learson Marsalis
Born (1961-10-18) October 18, 1961 (age 56)
New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S.
Genres Jazz, classical, Dixieland
Musician, composer, educator, artistic director
Instruments Trumpet
Labels Columbia, Sony, Blue Note, Marsalis Music
Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, English Chamber Orchestra
Website wyntonmarsalis.org

Wynton Learson Marsalis (born October 18, 1961) is an American trumpeter, composer, teacher, and artistic director of Jazz at Lincoln Center. He has promoted classical and jazz music often to young audiences. Marsalis has been awarded nine Grammy Awards and his Blood on the Fields was the first jazz composition to win the Pulitzer Prize for Music. He is the son of jazz musician Ellis Marsalis Jr. (pianist), grandson of Ellis Marsalis Sr., and brother of Branford (saxophonist), Delfeayo (trombonist), and Jason (drummer).

Early years

Marsalis was born to a musical family in New Orleans, Louisiana. He is the second of six sons born to Delores Ferdinand and Ellis Marsalis Jr., a pianist and music professor.[1] He was named for jazz pianist and composer Wynton Kelly.[2] His older brother is Branford Marsalis and his younger brothers are Jason Marsalis and Delfeayo Marsalis. All three are jazz musicians. At the age of six, Wynton Marsalis received his first trumpet as a gift from Al Hirt, a trumpeter from New Orleans. He took lessons in jazz and classical music.[3]

He grew up in Kenner, Louisiana. He was given the trumpet because his father didn't want him to feel excluded after seeing Branford playing piano and saxophone. Although he got the trumpet at six, he didn't practice much until he was 12.[4]

When he was eight years old, Marsalis performed traditional New Orleans music in the Fairview Baptist Church band led by banjoist Danny Barker. At 14 he performed with the New Orleans Philharmonic. During high school, he performed with the New Orleans Symphony Brass Quintet, New Orleans Community Concert Band, New Orleans Youth Orchestra, New Orleans Symphony, various jazz bands, and local funk band called The Creators. In 1979, he graduated from Benjamin Franklin High School and the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts. At age 17, he was the youngest musician admitted to Tanglewood Music Center.


In 1979 he moved to New York City to attend Juilliard and performed at local venues while he was there. He received a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to study with trumpeter Woody Shaw, one of his biggest influences. He was also mentored by Herbie Hancock, with whom he often performed.

Marsalis reaching toward the camera
Marsalis backstage in 2007

Marsalis recorded for the first time in 1980 as a member of the big band Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers. One year later he went on tour with Herbie Hancock. After signing a contract with Columbia Records, he recorded his first solo album. In 1982 he established a quartet with his brother Branford, Kenny Kirkland, Charnett Moffett, and Jeff "Tain" Watts. When Branford and Kenny Kirkland left three years later to record and tour with Sting, Marsalis formed another quartet, this time with Marcus Roberts on piano, Robert Hurst on double bass, and Jeff "Tain" Watts on drums. After a while the band expanded to include Wes Anderson, Wycliffe Gordon, Eric Reed, Herlin Riley, Reginald Veal, and Todd Williams.[3]

When asked about influences on his playing style, he cites Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, Harry Sweets Edison, Clark Terry, Dizzy Gillespie, Jelly Roll Morton, Charlie Parker, Wayne Shorter, Thelonious Monk, Cootie Williams, Ray Nance, Maurice Andre, and Adolph Hofner.[5]

Jazz at Lincoln Center

Marsalis at Lincoln Center in 2004

In 1987, Marsalis helped start the Classical Jazz summer concert series at Lincoln Center in New York City.[6] The success of the series led to Jazz at Lincoln Center becoming a department at Lincoln Center[7], then to becoming an independent entity in 1996 with organizations such as the New York Philharmonic and the Metropolitan Opera.[8] Marsalis became artistic director of the Center and the musical director of the band, the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. The orchestra performs at its home venue, Rose Hall, goes on tour, visits schools, appears on radio and television, and produces albums through its own label, Blue Engine Records.[6]

In 2011, Marsalis and rock guitarist Eric Clapton performed together in a Jazz at Lincoln Center concert. The concert was recorded and released as the album Play the Blues: Live from Jazz at Lincoln Center.

Other work

In 1995, he hosted the educational program Marsalis on Music on public television, while during the same year National Public Radio broadcast his series Making the Music. Both programs won the George Foster Peabody Award, the highest award given in journalism.

In December 2011, Marsalis was named cultural correspondent for CBS This Morning.[9] He is a member of the CuriosityStream Advisory Board.[10] He serves as director of the Juilliard Jazz Studies program. In 2015, Cornell University appointed him A.D. White Professor-at-Large. [11]

Awards and honors

After his first album came out in 1982, Marsalis won polls in Down Beat magazine for Musician of the Year, Best Trumpeter, and Album of the Year. In 2017 he was one of the youngest members to be inducted into the DownBeat Hall of Fame.[12]

Marsalis received the National Medal of Arts from President George W. Bush in 2005.

In 1983, at the age of 22, he became the only musician to win Grammy Awards in jazz and classical music during the same year. At the Grammys the next year, he won again in both categories.

In 1997, he became the first jazz musician to win the Pulitzer Prize for Music for his oratorio Blood on the Fields. In a note to him, Zarin Mehta wrote, "I was not surprised at your winning the Pulitzer Prize for Blood on the Fields. It is a broad, beautifully painted canvas that impresses and inspires. It speaks to us all...I'm sure that, somewhere in the firmament, Buddy Bolden, Louis Armstrong and legions of others are smiling down on you."[13]

Wynton Marsalis has won the National Medal of Arts, the National Humanities Medal,[14] and been named an NEA Jazz Master.[15]

Statue dedicated to Wynton Marsalis in Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain

Approximately seven million copies of his recordings have been sold worldwide.[16] He has toured in 30 countries and on every continent except Antarctica.[17]

He was given the Louis Armstrong Memorial Medal and the Algur H. Meadows Award for Excellence in the Arts. He was inducted into the American Academy of Achievement and was dubbed an Honorary Dreamer by the I Have a Dream Foundation. The New York Urban League awarded Marsalis the Frederick Douglass Medallion for distinguished leadership. The American Arts Council presented him with the Arts Education Award.

He won the Dutch Edison Award and the French Grand Prix du Disque. The Mayor of Vitoria, Spain, gave him the city's Gold Medal, its most coveted distinction. In 1996, Britain's senior conservatoire, the Royal Academy of Music, made him an honorary member, the Academy's highest decoration for a non-British citizen. The city of Marciac, France, erected a bronze statue in his honor. The French Ministry of Culture gave him the rank of Knight in the Order of Arts and Literature. In 2008 he received France's highest distinction, the insignia Chevalier of the Legion of Honour.[18]

He has received honorary degrees from New York University,[19] Columbia, Harvard, Howard, Northwestern, Princeton, Vermont, and the State University of New York.[20]

Grammy Awards

Best Jazz Instrumental Solo

Best Jazz Instrumental Album, Individual or Group

Best Instrumental Soloist(s) Performance (with orchestra)

Best Spoken Word Album for Children

  • Listen to the Storytellers (2000)


Jazz critic Scott Yanow regards Marsalis as talented but has criticized his "selective knowledge of jazz history" and has said that he feels the fact that Marsalis considers "post-1965 avant-garde playing to be outside of jazz and 1970s fusion to be barren" to be the unfortunate result of the "somewhat eccentric beliefs of Stanley Crouch".[3]

Bassist Stanley Clarke said, "All the guys that are criticizing--like Wynton Marsalis and those guys--I would hate to be around to hear those guys playing on top of a groove!" But Clarke also said, "These things I've said about Wynton are my criticism of him, but the positive things I have to say about him outweigh the negative. He has brought respectability back to jazz." [21]



  • Sweet Swing Blues on the Road with Frank Stewart (1994)
  • Marsalis on Music (1995)
  • Jazz in the Bittersweet Blues of Life with Carl Vigeland (2002)
  • To a Young Jazz Musician: Letters from the Road with Selwyn Seyfu Hinds (2004)
  • Jazz ABZ: An A to Z Collection of Jazz Portraits with Paul Rogers (2007)
  • Moving to Higher Ground: How Jazz Can Change Your Life with Geoffrey Ward (2008)
  • Squeak, Rumble, Whomp! Whomp! Whomp!: A Sonic Adventure with Paul Rogers (2012)[22]



  1. ^ Stated on Finding Your Roots, PBS, March 25, 2012
  2. ^ Campbell, Mary (June 22, 1982). "Wynton Marsalis: Boy Wonder of Jazz Has Been 'Discovered'". The Day. AP. p. 21. Retrieved . 
  3. ^ a b c Yanow, Scott. "Wynton Marsalis". AllMusic. Retrieved 2018. 
  4. ^ Winkler, Alice (16 March 2018). "What It Takes - Wynton Marsalis". VOA. Retrieved 2018. 
  5. ^ "Frequently Asked Questions". wyntonmarsalis.org. Retrieved 2018. 
  6. ^ a b Russonello, Giovanni (13 September 2017). "At 30, What Does Jazz at Lincoln Center Mean?". The New York Times. Retrieved 2018. 
  7. ^ "History". Jazz at Lincoln Center. Retrieved 2018. 
  8. ^ Pareles, Jon (2 July 1996). "Critic's Notebook: Jelly Roll and the Duke Join Wolfgang and Ludwig". The New York Times. Retrieved 2018. 
  9. ^ "Wynton Marsalis". Cbsnews.com. December 15, 2011. 
  10. ^ "CuriosityStream Advisory Board". Retrieved 2015. 
  11. ^ "Wynton Marsalis". cornell.edu. Retrieved . 
  12. ^ Morrisson, Allen (December 2017). "Building the Cathedral". DownBeat. Vol. 84 no. 12. Elmhurst, Illinois. pp. 32-37. 
  13. ^ "Wynton Marsalis". www.atlantasymphony.org. Retrieved . 
  14. ^ "President Obama to Award 2015 National Humanities Medals". 
  15. ^ National Endowment for the Arts (June 24, 2010). "National Endowment for the Arts Announces the 2011 NEA Jazz Masters". Washington: National Endowment for the Arts. Archived from the original on September 17, 2010. Retrieved 2010. For the first time in the program's 29-year history, in addition to four individual awards, the NEA will present a group award to the Marsalis family, New Orleans' venerable first family of jazz. 
  16. ^ Berger, Kevin (February 6, 2011). "Wynton Marsalis swings for the fences". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2017. 
  17. ^ Burger, David (February 7, 2011). "Wynton Marsalis in Utah tonight". Salt Lake Tribune. Retrieved 2017. 
  18. ^ "Trumpeter Wynton Marsalis Awarded Legion of Honor". NBC Bay Area. Retrieved . 
  19. ^ "New York University Holds 175th Commencement". Nyu.edu. Retrieved . 
  20. ^ Lestch, Corinne. "Jazz legend Wynton Marsalis to be June commencement speaker". dailynorthwestern.com. Retrieved . 
  21. ^ Byrnes, Sholto. "Stanley Clarke: The Bass Line Heard Around The World". Jazz Forum: the magazine of the International Jazz Federation, Poland. Archived from the original on May 30, 2009. Retrieved . 
  22. ^ "Books". wyntonmarsalis.org. Retrieved 2018. 

External links

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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