Marsalis Wants Jazz on All Your Screens

The musician spoke to Ebony about bringing his music into the digital age.

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Twenty-five years ago, internationally acclaimed jazz musician Wynton Marsalis directed New York City’s “Classical Jazz at the Lincoln Center” concert series. According to an interview with Ebony, the Grammy Award-winning trumpeter is as dedicated now as he was then to spreading “the gospel of jazz” — a mission that means embracing the digital age.

He says his plan is to get JALC “on as many screens as we can get on.” Read an excerpt here:

EBONY: At what point in the beginning did you think that the concept of Jazz at Lincoln Center was going to be a success?

Wynton Marsalis: I think after the concerts we did in 1988, our board was coming into place. We were a department. We were getting critical acclaim. We had an audience base. We had an aesthetic; so very soon, we realized we could do something. When we hired [Founding Executive Director/Producer] Rob Gibson, I thought it would be a success. He brought a lot of energy, enthusiasm and insight with him.

EBONY: Regarding aesthetics, talk about the contributions of writer/authors Albert Murray and Stanley Crouch, the principle intellectuals involved with the formation of JALC.

WM: The conception of quality and performance was something that Crouch had [in mind]; bringing the different generations of musicians together. And Albert Murray laid out the four components of the organization: curatorial, producing concerts, lectures and events; archival, having a record of all the things we do; Educational, teaching about what we do; and ceremonial, giving awards, and doing things like jam sessions, battles of the bands, things that are a part of the ceremonies of the music.

EBONY: JALC weathered charges of cronyism and racism by musicians and the media.  What did you learn from that stormy period?

WM: For me, it wasn’t that much of a storm. I was always around controversies since I first came out here. When you create change with your point of view, you have to be ready for what comes with that.