“The finest big band in the world today.” —London’s Daily Telegraph
The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, founded by GRAMMY and Pulitzer Prize Winner Wynton Marsalis, is made up of 15 of the finest soloists, ensemble players, and arrangers in jazz music today. Every few years, group returns to the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium continuing to surprise with new repertoire from its talented musicians/composers, as well as presenting jazz classics from the likes of Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk and others. Considered the finest big band in the world today, the ensemble brings a fresh, ever-evolving glimpse of America’s music. The orchestra has been going steady for over 25 years celebrating all eras of jazz from traditional to modern, even expanding into the music of contemporary popular artists.
The son of New Orleans pianist Ellis Marsalis, Wynton Marsalis comes from a family long on talent. Saxophonist Branford Marsalis, trombonist Delfeayo Marsalis, and drummer Jason Marsalis are his siblings. It was Wynton and Branford who were the frontline for Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers in 1980, an association that exposed the brothers to the international jazz world. When he left Blakey to start his own quintet, Wynton’s career began a meteoric rise. He was the first musician to earn Grammy Awards (for 1983 and 1984) in both the jazz and classical music categories. The mainstream media began paying attention to the young man with a horn. His music stood in stark contrast to the previous decade of electric fusion groups. Although not without controversy in some quarters of the jazz community, Wynton was steadfast and unapologetic in his defense of the acoustic jazz tradition. In 1987, at the behest of Marsalis and others, Lincoln Center for the Arts began a series of summer jazz concerts, the genesis for the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. By 1991, Jazz at Lincoln Center was firmly ensconced at Lincoln Center with a regular radio program running on NPR. In 1996, JALC was inaugurated as a permanent branch of Lincoln Center for the Arts, with plans for its own performance venue., which opened in 2004 at the Jazz at Lincoln Center, a world class jazz and educational venue.
Marsalis continued to achieve success on the awards front, winning a Pulitzer Prize (1997) for his concert piece, Blood on the Fields, and another Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album For Children (1999). In 2004, his dream of a Lincoln Center venue dedicated specifically to jazz presentation was finally realized with the construction of the Frederick P. Rose Hall, which houses three concert sites: the Rose Theater; Allen Room; and Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola. As managing and artistic director for Jazz at Lincoln Center, Marsalis is as busy as ever performing with the JLCO in New York and on tour around the world.