Marsalis, Jazz Orchestra to Kick off Wolf Trap Fest

By Toto, Christian | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), June 16, 2001 | Go to article overview

Marsalis, Jazz Orchestra to Kick off Wolf Trap Fest


Toto, Christian, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


A musician of Wynton Marsalis' stature plays in some of the world's most impressive concert halls. So when the Pulitzer Prize-winning artist sings the praises of Wolf Trap, it resonates like the syncopating cymbals on a Buddy Rich drum kit.

"Wolf Trap is one of the greatest places to play," says Mr. Marsalis, artistic director of the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra. "The ambience and the feel when you play there, you never forget it."

It's fitting then - and fortunate for area jazz fans - that Mr. Marsalis and his orchestra will open the 2001 Wolf Trap Jazz & Blues Festival on Wednesday at the Filene Center.

The five-day celebration will feature 15 musical acts. They include the Robert Cray Band, Susan Tedeschi, George Benson, Cesaria Evora, Bebel Gilberto, Dianne Reeves, Little Feat, the Joshua Redman Quartet, Arturo Sandoval and the Chicago Rhythm & Blues Kings.

Mr. Marsalis, speaking on the phone from New York City, promises a lively blend of ballads and festive pieces for his orchestra's latest visit.

His orchestra will perform jazz pieces composed by Charles Mingus, Thelonious Monk, members of the highly acclaimed orchestra and the band leader himself.

"I've been at this a long time," he says flatly, as if talking about collecting stamps or another hobby. "I've influenced a lot of musicians. . . . I'm grateful for it."

The festival is part of the orchestra's 17-city summer tour. Mr. Marsalis and company will travel through the United States, Canada and Spain.

The frenetic schedule will allow some time for Mr. Marsalis' troupe to make educational house calls at various schools to spread the gospel of jazz.

"My father was a musician and a teacher," he says of Ellis Marsalis, a noted jazz pianist. "It's what I do."

The reaction of young audiences to jazz can vary wildly.

"It can range from, `What do you have in your hand?' to `What do you think about rap?'" he says of the feedback.

But he knows the impact such music has had on his life, so he powers on with his educational duties. Students would be hard-pressed to find a more accomplished teacher. Mr. Marsalis, winner of the 1997 Pulitzer Prize for music for his oratorio "Blood on the Fields," began playing trumpet at age 12 and later studied music at the Juilliard School in New York City. …

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