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Marsalis celebrating jazz orchestra’s success

6/13/2013 - West Side Leader
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By Kathleen Folkerth

Wynton Marsalis will bring his Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra to Akron June 18.
Photo courtesy of Akron Civic Theatre
DOWNTOWN AKRON — The Jazz at Lincoln Center program is celebrating its 25th anniversary, and its managing and artistic director, Wynton Marsalis, is making a stop in Akron to celebrate.

The trumpeter and composer will bring the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra to the Akron Civic Theatre June 18 for an 8 p.m. show.

“For the institution, it’s good,” Marsalis said in a phone interview about the program’s milestone year. “A lot of what we do is educate. We have a library and archive; we do a lot of things. The orchestra is the face of the institution. There’s a range of things we’ve had the opportunity to do, different collaborations and styles of music we’ve played.”

Marsalis, 52, has spent more than 30 years in the jazz spotlight. He made his recording debut in 1982 and has since released more than 40 jazz and classical recordings. In 1983, he became the first and only artist to win both classical and jazz Grammy awards in the same year, a feat he repeated the following year.

In addition to performing, he’s also been commissioned to compose works for major dance institutions, such as The New York City Ballet and Twyla Tharp.

Marsalis cofounded Jazz at Lincoln Center in 1987. Nine years later, the Lincoln Center Board voted the program in as a full constituent to the New York City arts institution.

During the course of the organization’s history, Marsalis said its biggest success has been the building of Frederick P. Rose Hall, the world’s first performing arts center designed for the unique acoustics of jazz.

“Sometimes you do big things when you are a small organization, and the things you do can sink your organization,” he said. “The main challenge is to be true to the mission.”

The orchestra is made up of 15 musicians, and Marsalis said they are “world class.”

“We played with the Berlin Philharmonic, and they asked me, ‘Where did you find these people?’” he said. “They are all great teachers. The quality is of the highest level.

“We don’t have a lot of turnover,” he added. “It’s hard to get in, and when guys get in, they generally stay. They have to know a wide range of music, from New Orleans [style] to the music we write today.”

He said the audience in Akron will enjoy highlights of music the orchestra has played throughout its history.

“We play a lot of Duke [Ellington], [John] Coltrane, [Thelonious] Monk … and some original compositions — some people like those more than the classics,” he said. “We have really good composers. There are things you haven’t heard, but the quality of the playing is so high, people are impressed.”

Once the orchestra completes its summer dates in the United States, it has several shows lined up in Europe. Marsalis said the audiences there aren’t much different than those here.

“We generally get the same type of real warm reception wherever we go,” he said.

Coming up this year, Marsalis said he plans to work with Stephen Sondheim on a project this fall. According to a press release, the project is called “A Bed and a Chair: A New York Love Story,” and it will feature Sondheim’s music arranged and performed by the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra and Marsalis. There will be seven performances of the project in November in New York.

Marsalis added he also plans to work with a group of musicians from Pakistan this fall.

“There’s always a lot going on,” he said.

Tickets are $45 to $75 and are available at the Civic Box Office, 180 S. Main St., at all TicketMaster outlets or by calling 330-253-2488. For details, go to www.akroncivic.com.

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