Wynton Marsalis

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About Wynton Marsalis

At the close of the 20th century, Wynton Marsalis became the primary ambassador for jazz music to a wider audience. Born to a musical family in New Orleans in 1961—one of his brothers is celebrated saxophonist Branford Marsalis—the trumpeter entered Juilliard at the age of 17 with dexterity in both jazz and classical playing. After making a name for himself as a member of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, Marsalis found crossover stardom with his bandleader recordings of the ‘80s and ‘90s, showcasing his pyrotechnic trumpet chops and penchant for traditionalism. Through a snowballing résumé of high-profile performances and television appearances—from Sesame Street to Ken Burns’ Jazz—he became a ubiquitous pop culture figure, using his platform to advocate for jazz as “serious” music. Perhaps his biggest cultural contribution is founding Jazz at Lincoln Center, one of the most successful jazz performance institutions in the world. Marsalis is also an accomplished composer of concert music; his epic, two-and-a-half-hour 1997 oratorio, Blood on the Fields, was the first jazz composition to win the Pulitzer Prize.

New Orleans, LA, United States
October 18, 1961

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