Monday, October 03, 2005

Wynton Marsalis: Classic Jazz Integrity

Tonight, I met an individual whose beauty and integrity profoundly moved me: his name is Wynton Marsalis and he is a Jazz musician, by trade and by soul.

Mr Marsalis looked even younger than his already youthful age of 43. His golden-cufflinked dress shirt was a snazzy striped affair which, along with his magnetic smile and his blue baseball cap, made a charming youth of this seasoned and handsome gentleman. His warm brown eyes were the kind and passionate windows-into-the-soul that one hopes for but rarely ever finds in musicians anymore.

He spoke to us for over an hour and in between the history, the passion, and the inspiration which he offered of himself to us, he charmed us with his pure and honest talent. I had never seen a trumpetist accompany himself on the piano before, one hand at ease on the trumpet, one had in sync at the piano. I would have loved the chance to sing some Jazz with him, a little Sinatra, some Ella -- anything -- what an honor it would have been!

Jazz music, he said, is a sound and movement that comes from the depths of "plain spoken people" and its heartbeat is the spirituality that comes of their history. His closeness with his homestate of Louisiana was evident when he spoke of how, because of its unique history in the United States, it provided a climate of unity that did not exist anywhere else because of the French influence there -- thereby producing an ideal environment for the honest sounds and emotions of Jazz music. "The difference between French people and British people," he said, was that both enslaved Black people "but the French also married them."

In the span of an hour or so, Mr Marsalis taught us many life lessons -- when he spoke of how his father treated "prophets and bums alike" -- when he spoke about the importance of remembering history -- when he spoke about relating to people and being able to communicate with them -- when he spoke about love. A clearly well-read and learned man, he conveyed to us that he himself had learned three important things in life: to be a person of integrity (a dying trait, he was sad to say), to have respect for others, and last but not least, to believe in romance.

Mr Marsalis, you helped us believe in romance tonight. Thank you.

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