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Wynton Marsalis

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Wynton Marsalis

Biography

Wynton Learson Marsalis (b. 18 October 1961, New Orleans, La.) is an American trumpeter, composer, teacher, and artistic director of Jazz at Lincoln Center.

Marsalis is the second of six sons born to Dolores Ferdinand Marsalis and Ellis Marsalis Jr., a pianist and music teacher. He was named for jazz pianist Wynton Kelly. While sitting at a table with trumpeters Al Hirt, Miles Davis, and Clark Terry, his father jokingly suggested that he might as well get Wynton a trumpet, too. Hirt volunteered to give him one, so at the age of six Marsalis received his first trumpet; however, he did not practice much until he was 12.He attended Benjamin Franklin High School and the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts. He studied classical music at school and jazz at home with his father. He played in funk bands and a marching band led by Danny Barker. He performed on trumpet publicly as the only black musician in the New Orleans Civic Orchestra. After winning a music contest at fourteen, he performed a trumpet concerto by Franz Joseph Haydn with the New Orleans Philharmonic. Two years later he performed Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 in F Major by Bach. At seventeen, he was the youngest musician admitted to Tanglewood Music Center.

In 1979, Marsalis moved to New York City to attend Juilliard. He intended to pursue a career in classical music. In 1980, he toured Europe as a member of the Art Blakey big band, becoming a member of The Jazz Messengers and remaining with Blakey until 1982. He changed his mind about his career and turned to jazz. He has said that years of playing with Blakey influenced his decision. He recorded for the first time with Blakey and one year later he went on tour with Herbie Hancock. After signing a contract with Columbia, he recorded his first solo album. In 1982, he established a quintet with his brother Branford Marsalis, Kenny Kirkland, Charnett Moffett, and Jeff "Tain" Watts. Three years later Marsalis formed another quartet.

When asked about influences on his playing style, he cites Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, Harry Sweets Edison, Clark Terry, Dizzy Gillespie, Jelly Roll Morton, Charlie Parker, Wayne Shorter, Thelonious Monk, Cootie Williams, Ray Nance, Maurice André, and Adolph Hofner.

Wynton Marsalis has promoted classical and jazz music, often to young audiences. He has won at least nine Grammy Awards, and his Blood on the Fields was the first jazz composition to win the Pulitzer Prize for Music. He is the only musician to win a Grammy Award in jazz and classical during the same year. He has won the National Medal of Arts, the National Humanities Medal, and been named an NEA Jazz Master.


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