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“Express That” – Wynton Marsalis at the Norton Center

Black And White Photo Of Wynton Marsalis Playing The Trumpet

Follow along as we celebrate our 50th Anniversary with 50 Years of Great Stories! These stories of impact are drawn from the past and present, told by our friends and neighbors to reflect the power of authentic connections and experiences.

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“Express That” – Wynton Marsalis at the Norton Center

He’s Pulitzer Prize and Grammy Award-winning, he’s released over 100 albums and sold over seven million copies, he’s known as one of the best trumpeters in the world… and he’s performed at the Norton Center for the Arts not once, but three times.

Wynton Marsalis, world-renowned jazz musician and Managing Director of Jazz at Lincoln Center (JALC), first graced the Newlin Hall stage on February 23, 1995. Backed by the Wynton Marsalis septet, Marsalis’ bold, traditional blues-based jazz was an infectious force for the sold-out crowd, many of whom stuck around after the show for autographs or a chance to talk to one of the most influential jazz stars of all time.

In September of the following season, Marsalis returned to the Newlin Hall stage, this time with the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra. The collaboration was nothing short of spectacular, showcasing Marsalis’s versatility as both a performer and an artistic director. The tour kicked off in Danville, marking the start of a 27-city extravaganza dubbed “Jazz’s Dream Team.”

Eric Reed, who had performed piano alongside Marsalis in both February and September, shared a special bond with the jazz virtuoso. Having played with Marsalis since he was just 14 years old, Reed regarded him not only as a mentor, but as a brother.

“He’s very direct, very focused about music and about art in general,” Reed remarked in a 1995 interview with the Danville Advocate-Messenger. “You can feed off his energy and his fire. Just that alone is something that motivates me.”

In 2003, Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra returned once again to the Norton Center, this time with a television crew in tow. A celebration of jazz in all its glory, the performance was recorded for Black Entertainment Television as part of the series “Journey with Jazz.” The series followed JALC across the country and celebrated the creativity of jazz and the talents of Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra.

 

Black and white photo of Wynton Marsalis speaking into a microphone in front of the Jazz at Lincoln Center orchestra

 

Marsalis’ impact has reached far beyond his performances. As the founding artistic director of Jazz at Lincoln Center, he played a pivotal role in expanding the organization’s reach and influence. What began as a summer concert series in 1987 blossomed into a full-fledged department of Lincoln Center by 1991, thanks to Marsalis’ vision and leadership. The program would continue to expand under his direction, including the addition of educational outreach programs to develop young music talent and inspire the next generation of musicians. 

Educational outreach became a primary focus of JALC, and they now work directly with schools around the world to bring jazz workshops, jam sessions, music lessons, hands-on learning opportunities and performances to students of all ages. Just this past Tuesday, Jazz at Lincoln Center’s newest tour Sing and Swing, featuring co-hosts Bria Skonberg and Benny Benack III and some of the best jazz musicians around, performed for hundreds of local K-12 students for a Norton Center student matinee, weaving audience interaction, humor and history into their swing jazz setlist.

Later that evening, the group came back for a public swing jazz performance, and JALC once again showed Danville the power of improvisation, talent and artistry.

“Through sound, jazz leads you to the core of yourself and says ‘Express that.’ Through jazz, we learn that people are never all one way.”

Quote from Wynton Marsalis’ book: Moving to Higher Ground: How Jazz Can Change Your Life 

Wynton Marsalis playing trumpet, with another musician playing trombone in the foreground.

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