October 18, 1961
New Orleans, Louisiana, United States
One of the most popular and prolific figures in jazz music for more than four decades, trumpeter and songwriter Wynton Marsalis sought to define, often in controversial terms, the boundaries of the genre through the prism of American history with such works as his Pulitzer Prize-wining album Blood on the Fields (1997) and tributes to music giants like Ray Charles, Thelonious Monk and Willie Nelson. Born October 18, 1961 in New Orleans, Louisiana, he was raised in a musical family: his father, Ellis Marsalis, was a pianist, while brothers Branford, Delfeayo and Jason all pursued careers in jazz. Wynton received his first trumpet at the age of six from Al Hirt, with whom his father played; he was soon performing with local school and church groups before graduating to jazz and funk bands. At 17, he was admitted to the Berkshire Music Center, where he trained with Woody Shaw before joining Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers in 1980. His tenure there, along with tours with Herbie Hancock and performances with major figures like Dizzy Gillespie and Sarah Vaughn, led to a record contract with Columbia, which issued his debut LP in 1981. The following year, he teamed with his brother, Branford, for a formidable quintet that included Kenny Kirkland and Jeff "Tain" Watts, while also recording albums of classical trumpet. Both outlets helped to boost Marsalis to the forefront of the jazz and classical worlds, before Marsalis brought the group to a close in 1985. He subsequently launched a second group, a septet with four horns and pianist Marcus Roberts that allowed him to explore more complex songwriting and arrangements. During this period, he was also involved in numerous projects, including the PBS series "Marsalis on Music," which explored the jazz and classical worlds. More significantly, he launched the Jazz at Lincoln Center venue in 1987, which provided a world-class performance and education space for year-round jazz and classical concerts. In 1995, he disbanded his septet to work on a sprawling oratorio, Blood on the Fields (1997), which became the first jazz-related work to win a Pulitzer Prize. Though his opinions on what constituted "jazz" were often controversial - he was dismissive of free jazz, fusion and most other trends after the 1950s - Marsalis remained one of the form's most prolific and enthusiastic supporters, through a dizzying array of published works, concerts, documentaries like Ken Burns' "Jazz" (2005) and most importantly, his recorded work. Marsalis paid tribute to figures and moments of historic and social significance with an exhaustive series of releases in 1999, from the iconic pianist Thelonious Monk with Standard Time, Vol. 4: Marsalis Plays Monk and singer Pearl Brown on Goin' Down Home. He followed these with explorations of America's conflicted soul in From the Plantation to the Penitentiary (2007), the music of Willie Nelson on Two Men with the Blues (2008) and Ray Charles on Here We Go Again (2011). Marsalis also recorded with Eric Clapton on the concert album Play the Blues: Live from Jazz at Lincoln Center (2011) and took the Center's Orchestra to Cuba for a two-disc concert recording in 2015. The following year, Marsalis honored the 200th anniversary of Harlem's Abyssinian Church with The Abyssinian Mass (2016) while also finding time to oversee Julliard's Jazz program.
Song of LahoreHimself
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