Lovers of live jazz didn’t have to drive to a New York City venue last week, thanks to the Mayo Performing Arts Center (MPAC) hosting the world-renown Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra (JLCO) with Wynton Marsalis.
Wynton Marsalis, born into a musical family from New Orleans, has had and continues to have one of the most amazing musical careers. Legendary trumpeter Al Hirt gifted him with his first trumpet at age six. However, Marsalis, winner of nine Grammy Awards and a Pulitzer Prize for Music, isn’t just a trumpeter; he’s a composer, teacher, and Artistic Director of Jazz at Lincoln Center.
According to the MPAC program, “JLCO, comprising 15 of the finest jazz soloists and ensemble players today, has been the Jazz at Lincoln Center resident orchestra since 1988 and spends over a third of the year on tour across the world.” It is good fortune for Morristown residents and visitors to attend such an esteemed event.
Starting the evening, middle and high school students from Morris County were on stage to receive the Music Student of the Month award for their dedication to the performing arts. After acknowledging the group, Marsalis said, “Congrats to the young people. We should get them up here. Shouting, “Let’s get to it,” Marsalis and his players did just that, and they thrilled attendees from the beginning.
Carlos Henriquez was on bass to the tune Shout ‘em, Aunt Tilly, with Marsalis performing a dynamic rhythmic solo. Concert-goers erupted with applause. Sitting in the audience, Mike Jones said, “Now you know why he’s the greatest trumpeter in America.”
Marsalis remarked the group of artists in the evening performance had written over 1200 arrangements, many influenced by some of the greatest jazz performers of all time, like Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, and Mary Lou Williams.
The group performed Sherman Irby’s Movement VI: The Great Deceiver/Finale: The Shores of Mount Purgatory, a Dante- inspired piece that was written by the alto and soprano saxophone, flute, and clarinet player Irby and is part of a seven-song composition entitled Inferno. It was a sweeping and twisting melody, opening with snare drums, heavy brass, and bass, and showcased Irby’s astonishing musical talent.
The audience heard Jo Jo’s Mojo, a tune from Rock Chalk Suite, with 15 movements that took inspiration from the different University of Kansas basketball legends. According to Marsalis, “both basketball and jazz reward improvisation and split-second decision-making against the pressure of time.” Written for the 25th anniversary of the Lied Center of Kansas, a popular venue for the arts in Lawrence, Kansas, Marsalis, and crew paid homage to his love of basketball and jazz with this outstanding composition.
Up next was Duke Ellington’s Queen Suite, written after he met Queen Elizabeth when he performed at The Leeds Music Festival in 1958, and In The Land of Oo-Bla-Dee, composed by the great Mary Lou Williams.
After intermission, the group opened with ragtime and jazz pianist Jelly Roll Martin’s 1915 hit Dead Man Blues, then Marsalis told the story of how he met Ella Fitzgerald at Carnegie Hall for the first time. Fitzgerald said, “I know who you are, and it’s going to be very hard for you.” To which Marsalis replied, “Yes ma am.” Marsalis spoke to heaven as he openly thanked the Queen of Jazz for how she influenced him and everyone else who performs in the genre. After being rewarded with this magnificent performance, no one would deny why Marsalis and JLCO have been so popular for over 30 years, as the music touches audiences young and old.
Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis, featuring Ryan Kisor, Kenny Rampton, Marcus Printup, Vincent Gardner, Chris Crenshaw, Elliot Mason, Sherman Irby, Ted Nash, Chris Lewis, Abdias Armenteros, Paul Nedzela, Dan Nimmer, Carlos Henriquez, and Obed Calvaire.
Mayo Performing Arts Center, 100 South Street, Morristown, New Jersey 07960. Tickets can be purchased at https://secure.mayoarts.org/events?k=Main-stage or call the box office at 973-539-8008.