Some might call nine-time Grammy Award winner Wynton Marsalis a musical genius. But that’s not a label Marsalis is interested in wearing.

“Well, I don’t know anything about genius, but I know to try to be serious about it [making music],” Marsalis told The Root. “I don’t know about no genius.”

The decorated jazz musician remains grounded and acutely focused on the work ahead of him.

Marsalis’ latest work? The Ever Fonky Lowdown a musical opus focusing on matters of race in America. Growing up in the South, Marsalis knows a thing or two about race in America. “I grew up in segregation. So just the whole dynamic of race was real to me,” Marsalis said.

Since rising to prominence, Marsalis has used music to explore race in America. In the mid-’80s he composed the Grammy Award-winning Black Codes (From the Underground). In 1994 he premiered Blood on the Fields, which later became the first jazz composition ever to win a Pulitzer Prize. In 2007 there’s From the Plantation to the Penitentiary. And this year, The Ever Fonky. Marsalis started writing The Ever Fonky Lowdown in 2015, and the composition made its world debut this week.

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