A National Endowment of the Arts Jazz Masters Fellow and the first Pulitzer Prize winner in music for jazz musicians, Wynton Marsalis has become somewhat of a modern day Renaissance man. With nine Grammys under his belt, Marsalis, who has played with everyone from Eric Clapton to Mark O’Connor, is a master trumpeter who has fostered his inclination for classical jazz since the tender age of eight.

Now the conductor and artistic director of Jazz at the Lincoln Center Orchestra, Marsalis has become the global icon from trumpeters and tours globally to spread the versatility of jazz. On Thursday, Nov. 5, however, Marsalis will perform close to home when he leads the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra at the Klein Auditorium in Bridgeport.

Since his induction as a prominent band leader in 1982, Marsalis has stolen the hearts of countless jazz enthusiasts for his authenticity and devotion to his mentors of whom range from Dizzy Gillespie to Gerry Mulligan. But in 1987, Marsalis launched Jazz at Lincoln Center with his first self-directed ensemble aptly dubbed the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra in 1997.

Almost 20 years later, Marsalis still leads this pack of 15 profound musicians, which showcases legendary trombonists from Chris Crenshaw and Vincent Gardner to piano aficionado Dan Nimmer. While the group tends to rotate players, Marsalis has been able to retain the core elements of his jazz roots and masterfully pieces the group together.

With a New Orleans flair and sound of the 40s New York jazz scene, Marsalis crafts songs that are not only complex, but mesmerizing, as he lends his trumpet to lead his orchestra of unwavering musicians. Look to albums such as the fast-tempoed “Black Codes” or his 1981 debut “Wynton Marsalis” to grasp a view of this passionate performer and composer.  Although, I must say that “When or Where” has become a hallmark of his repertoire by far, as it calls upon the styles of the great Louis Armstrong and Charlie Parker.

While often criticized for his simplistic playing style and lack of any progression throughout his career, Marsalis makes up for his slack with repertoire and swagger, of which has attracted the likes of Pedrito Martinez and Norah Jones. Understandably, Marsalis is sort of a mission from god just as the Blues Brothers were; but instead of a 1974 Dodge Monaco, Marsalis is delivering his sermon with a trumpet in one hand and one of the greatest modern jazz ensembles in the other.


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