He has performed on every continent except the Antarctic, sold millions of albums, landed nine Grammys and a Pulitzer, been handed prestigious honorary degrees, was named a UN Messenger for Peace and is a living jazz legend. But after every show he and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra perform, trumpeter, composer and bandleader Wynton Marsalis sticks around to greet any fans who want to say hello.
"Sometimes, he has been there as long as two or three hours after a concert," says JLCO saxophonist Victor Goines, who went to kindergarten with Mr. Marsalis in New Orleans and has performed with him for decades. "He is a part of the history of jazz music on the highest of levels, but at the same time, very accessible to the people."
That same warmth and communicativeness are also hallmarks of the music of Mr. Marsalis, who is performing a rare Chan Centre concert with the JLCO that will feature the music of Blue Note Records, from Thelonious Monk to Dexter Gordon to Herbie Hancock.
"Once he puts the horn in his hands, it's almost hypnotic in that it makes you come to it. It's like a potion, a spell," says Mr. Goines, who adds that Mr. Marsalis's breadth of ability is also what sets him apart. "He can play the most wildest of wild that you're going to hear on his instrument, and then he can play the sweetest of the sweet. And that's a rarity that few artists have had throughout the history of jazz music."
First formed in 1988 and featuring top jazz soloists, the JLCO regularly performs at Lincoln Center, commissions works from top jazz artists and tours around the globe. Passionate about music education, the group also runs youth programs in New York and offers workshops while on tour. But no matter where they happen to be on the planet, the musicians are most at home on stage, putting their masterful spin on jazz music.
"Jazz music is about life. It's about evolution. It's about the past, the present and future. We don't necessarily know where that's going to be every time we stand up to play a solo," he says. "But we are willing to take the risk that wherever we go, it's going to be better than where we were."
Jazz at Lincoln Centre Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis is at the Chan Saturday (chancentre.com).
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