Wynton Marsalis (b. 1961) is an internationally acclaimed musician, composer, bandleader, educator and a leading advocate of American culture. He is the world’s first jazz artist to perform and compose across the full jazz spectrum from its New Orleans roots to bebop to modern jazz. Famed classical trumpeter Maurice André praised Marsalis as “potentially the greatest trumpeter of all time.” Marsalis has performed with Sarah Vaughan, Dizzy Gillespie, Sweets Edison, Clark Terry, Sonny Rollins, Ron Carter, Herbie Hancock, Tony Williams and countless other jazz legends; and he studied under master drummer and bandleader Art Blakey. Marsalis’ love of the music of Bach, Beethoven, Mozart and others drove him to pursue a career in classical music as well. Marsalis has produced over 70 records that have sold over seven million copies worldwide.
Marsalis has won nine Grammy Awards® for both classical and jazz records. Marsalis has performed with leading orchestras including the New York Philharmonic, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Boston Pops, The Cleveland Orchestra, Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra, English Chamber Orchestra, Toronto Symphony Orchestra and London’s Royal Philharmonic. Marsalis is a prolific and inventive composer. His inventive interplay with melody, harmony and rhythm, along with his lyrical voicing and tonal coloring assert new possibilities for the jazz ensemble. Marsalis received The National Medal of Arts, the highest award given to artists by the United States Government (2005). United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan proclaimed Marsalis an international ambassador of goodwill for the Unites States by appointing him a UN Messenger of Peace (2001).
Marsalis was the first jazz musician ever to win the Pulitzer Prize for Music for his epic oratorio Blood On The Fields. Marsalis co-founded a jazz program at Lincoln Center. In 1996, Jazz at Lincoln Center was installed as new constituent of Lincoln Center, equal in stature with the New York Philharmonic, Metropolitan Opera, and New York City Ballet – a historic moment for jazz as an art form and for Lincoln Center as a cultural institution. Marsalis presently serves as Artistic Director for Jazz at Lincoln Center and Music Director for the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra.
Blues Symphony (Symphony No. 2) celebrates the blues through the prism of different moments in American history, and is the first work by Marsalis composed exclusively for symphony orchestra without his on-stage participation and without an improvising jazz combo. Each movement is designed to be in the form of 12-bar blues choruses with variations and specific sounds related to historical reference points. According to the composer: “It incorporates the call and responses, train whistles, stomp-down grooves, big-city complexities and down-home idiosyncrasies of Afro-American and American music. Like most New Orleans musicians, I grew up surrounded by vernacular music and love the plain-spokenness of it all.”