JAZZ MESSENGER Wynton Marsalis, the forty-year-old jazz trumpet player and the artistic director of jazz at the Lincoln Center, will be in five Texas cities beginning January 31. The first Texas stop for the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra’s United in Swing 2001-2002 Tour will be at the Paramount Theatre in Austin.
A lot of fans of jazz say it still hasn’t gotten the respect it deserves. Do you agree? I don’t think that it hasn’t gotten the respect; I just don’t think that we’ve had enough education in place and exposure to the art form. Because when people encounter it, they love it and respect it.
This tour emphasizes education in addition to performances. Will you be visiting any schools while you’re in Texas, maybe scouting for another Roy Hargrove? We’re always visiting schools and participating in education of different kinds. The last time we were in Fort Worth we did a Jazz for Young People concert. And I went to Roy’s school when he was in high school. We also have a jazz curriculum that we’re rolling out for fourth- to eighth-grade students, with a CD and a booklet that uses analogy to teach kids about how jazz is connected to things we encounter in everyday life.
You’ll be playing the music of Coltrane and Mingus, but you’ll also change programs nightly. Will you feature any Texas jazz artists when you’re in the state? We never know who’s going to come to the concert. Sometimes people bring their instruments, and they play. But in terms of specifically programming music that’s from Texas, we haven’t planned on it. You know, that’s a good idea. I think I’m going to look into that.
You have said that the goal of this tour is “to see America truly United in Swing.” Would you elaborate? Many nations create a national sound. Brazil has the samba. Argentina has the tango. I think that the American sound is swing.
I’m a little confused then, because Coltrane and Mingus are not necessarily swing musicians. All of the jazz musicians are swing. They’re not all from the swing era, but swing is not only an era. It’s the description of a style of music, a verb, and an activity. Like when you say, “We were swinging.” It doesn’t make a difference what the style is—it could be Mingus’ music and still be swinging.
Why do you think New York City is still it as far as jazz towns go? New York is jazz. It’s home to many different types of people. It has a type of energy and syncopated drive and the feeling of people working things out. That’s what creates the feeling of jazz. That’s why jazz was born in New Orleans, a port city, which had a history of religious people and promiscuous people. This music always seeks out an environment that’s diverse and has a lot of agendas.
What excites you about the future of jazz? That people all over the world want it, and there are many young musicians who want to play it.