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To a Young Jazz Musician


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WYNTON MARSALIS was born in New Orleans, and went on to study at the Juilliard School of Music. He is now the artistic director of Jazz at Lincoln Center. Marsalis has won nine Grammy awards in both jazz and classical categories. In 1987, Marsalis's oratorio on slavery and freedom, Blood on the Fields, became the first and, to date, only jazz composition to win the Pulitzer Prize in music. SELWYN SEYFU HINDS is the former editor in chief of The Source magazine and is currently the executive editor of Savoy magazine. He is the author of the memoir Gunshots in My Cook-Up: Bits and Bites from a Hip-Hop Caribbean Life, and his articles have appeared in Vanity Fair, Spin, Vibe, and other publications. From the Hardcover edition.


America's foremost jazz classicist assesses the state of the art in this impassioned epistolary manifesto. Marsalis, now the artistic director of Jazz at Lincoln Center, answers critics who denounce him as the "gatekeeper" for a fossilized middlebrow establishment with a spirited defense of standards against both post-bebop modernist abstraction and the contemporary trend toward promiscuous fusion with other pop styles. As conservator of the Armstrong-Ellington legacy, he champions a jazz grounded in melody, blues, romantic feeling and, above all, swing rhythm-a "democratic, quintessentially American concept" that "channels the spirit of the nation." He urges young musicians to take their art seriously through constant practice and a stern work ethic: "practicing is a sign of morality in a musician." Marsalis and amanuensis Hinds (Gunshots in My Cook-Up) sometimes sound like a motivational tape ("unleashing your personal power is the result of codifying... your own hard-earned objectives"), and their occasional mystic invocations of musical self-discovery and "the emotion of the sound" can confuse. Also, Marsalis's jazz traditionalism shades, at points, into a jeremiad about modern "decadence" and "corruption," inveighing against what he sees as our culture of absurdity, with its sexually precocious children and jeans-wearing jazz men. But musicians, aficionados and casual listeners alike will enjoy this lively polemic. Agent, William Morris Agency. (Oct.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

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