Although he is not yet 40, Wynton Marsalis has perhaps the most recognized name in contemporary jazz. In 1980, when the New Orleans-born trumpeter dropped out of Juilliard and began a brief but formative apprenticeship in bop drummer Art Blakey's group, the Jazz Messengers, few opportunities existed to play old-fashioned, acoustic jazz (as opposed to fusion or crossover pop). Within two years, however, he struck out on his own, developing a freewheeling blend of traditonal and modern jazz, inflected by avant-garde and classical music, as frontman for the Wynton Marsalis Quintet. By the time he won two Grammys in 1983 at the age of 23, Marsalis was a superstar. In the '90s, Marsalis has devoted himself to orchestral work with Jazz at Lincoln Center, a Manhattan program that he cofounded. Gourse (The Ella Fitzgerald Companion) traces Marsalis's controversies (during the '80s, for instance, he had a simmering feud with Miles Davis) and musical development in detail, and offers brief glimpses into his personal life: this clean-cut, natty intellectual with a homespun penchant for storytelling has refused to marry, making everything in his life, even the children he's fathered, secondary to his music, according to Gourse. But Gourse relies so heavily on quotations from Marsalis, his brother Branford and their fellow musicians that her story never gains any of the improvisatory momentum that so distinguishes her brilliant protagonist. Photos. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 08/30/1999 Release date: 09/01/1999 Genre: Nonfiction
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