Live at Lincoln Center with Wynton Marsalis and the New York
Philharmonic April 7, 1999.  Review by Greg Waters, Music Critic

April 8. 1999 New York, New York

Lincoln Center the most prestigious place in music in our town
had another night of music featuring the tunes of Duke Ellington
and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis as its
musical director and arranger.

What a night of music with everybody dressed up in their best
outfits,  It made the New York Philharmonic look more human,
almost happy, than just a group of serious musicians playing
their hearts out. The dress of the orchestra was a happy change
for me anyway.

This brings up the concept, if the public would ever stop using
music for social events and really learn to enjoy it or
understand it more. It is a nice thought and something the public
should take into considerations. Readers take some time and think
about how one should listen to music.  It is a very abstract
subject and it comes down to knowledge and learning.  But I have
come across learned people who have completely different views
about what I would believe about music.  So the subjective state
of music is a large open space idea waiting to be discovered. So
writing a review about an artist can be objective and subjective
at the same time.

Do people go to the concert to be there or to enjoy the music?
Anyway the church threw serious music out of their services a
few centuries ago so the musician moved over to the concert hall
to pay their tribute to God.  The music at Lincoln Center was
this traditional transformation forced on by the contradiction
between the mass and the power of music.   The joy of music this
evening was apparent with the mixing of races, customs,
harmonies, rhythms, orchestrations and themes.

This has been the wonderful thing about jazz that the serious but
informal nature of the music brings about changes that would
normally never take place.  The work of Benny Goodman, Stan
Kenton, Woody Herman, Count Basie, Jerry Mulligan, Duke
Ellington, Maynard Ferguson all were there last night, not in
name, but in their spirit of their own music and contribution to
jazz history.  Now if we could only have a jazz orchestra in each
city in our country promoting different jazz artists from
different areas of music would really be a wonderful idea. Wynton
has chosen to promote Duke Ellington, but let us not forget the
many other artists who contributed to our jazz legacy.  To me it
is like the Met promoting one composer throughout their hold
season.  This is one of the big problems in music is the
functional aspect of the performance and the presentation.  There
is so much to chose from and not many opportunities to present
music.  And for Wynton to concentrate so much effort on
Ellington, no matter how deserved, is doing injustice to the
music and our culture. But when art is ruled my money and not art
how can it be any different.  Since the many artists and business
community are so tuned to the public and not to the music.

It is such a shame that the management aspects of music are so
much more powerful than the artistic possibilities  in music.
Last night's concert made me think what is jazz anyway and what
is Wynton trying to accomplish with his orchestral work with big-
band?  Does a big-band need an orchestra is my question?  I
suppose you could have many different view points about this.  My
disappointment was that one could not hear the big-band as a
separate unit, it was so blended in with the orchestra.  Was this
jazz? Was this movie music? Was this classical music?  I believe
it was all of the above. It certainly was not a new form of
music.  I personally would have loved to hear more jazz. Or was
it another attempt at classical jazz like Paul Whitman and
Gershwin promoted in the 30's.  In a painting there usually is
one central idea and so much mixing.

I have been waiting for Wynton to come out and be his own artist
to play his own music and be his own composer. He keeps falling
back on his heros and living off their legacy.  Mr. Marsalis is
such a wonderful musician and has such great knowledge of music
in both classical music and jazz music.  I have always thought
that he was a better instrumentalist in classical music.  When he
plays jazz he always seems to be lost in the idiom searching for
who he is and what he stands for.  If he plays another one of
those plunger solos over the bell I'll die.  What ever happened
to the melodic line that was so wonderful from people like Chet
Baker.

My object today is not to go over every note of the concert, but
to come up with a jazz concert concept that would let
improvisation be a strong part of the performance and not just
short token solos. Or should we call it a classical concert with
a few parts of jazz included.  Jazz solos are always being
covered up by formal composing and arranging. Wynton is always
stating how he is a jazz artist.  Well Wynton lets hear some hard
core jazz or is this just another job bringing a certain level of
entertainment jazz to the upper class that attends Lincoln
Center?  Yes give the public something of what they like, but
open up their hearts and minds to some new music too.

What was exciting about the concert was the orchestra's blending
of the harmonies from some of the chord textures that were
presented.   Though the rhythm was the weakest aspect of the
concert.  Jazz is suppose to be rhythm and not melody or harmony.
Last night was a festival of melody, orchestrations, and
different concepts of harmonic effects. However, because Wynton
is a trumpet player the orchestrating would be the most important
aspect of his arranging where as a drummers or piano players were
arranging it the blending would be accented with more rhythm and
not much melody. The orchestrations were the most exciting part
of the concert for me. Bernstein had a lot of orchestrators work
on some his music I wondered if Wynton did it alone? Not having a
program I do not know. Was this concert in the tradition of
classical jazz concert music or was it a jazzy Broadway Show
style concert. In this day of marketing concepts I can only ask
this question and also for jazz and its history. Remember the
Stan Kenton Classical Jazz Concert it wrote. I thought it was
very exciting concert jazz music with a jazz sound.  What I am
trying to say let jazz live, let improvisation live, let's follow
jazz in an improvisation context too. This is what was left out!
What was it?  Well, what to say about the concert last night, it
was the same as with all of Wynton's concerts ,Wynton" give up
your heros and spend some time presenting yourself to the public
or present other artist who have their ideas about creative
music."  Jazz as far as I know is a creative art form more than
it is an interpretive form with most classical musicians.  I am
always looking and waiting for Wynton to come out and introduce
the real Wynton to us.

Greg Waters (Home Page)
Music Critic
Copy Rights Reserved April 8, 1999