Jazz great Wynton Marsalis on creativity

Wynton Marsalis grew up in a family that is considered to be New Orleans royalty (Pianist Ellis Marsalis is his father; sax player Branford Marsalis is his brother.). He has recorded over 40 albums; made trumpeting cool again, revived acoustic jazz and is one of the loudest advocates for traditional jazz.

Gene: In an interview about your book, “Moving to Higher Ground: How Jazz Can Change Your Life,” you said, “Jazz allows people to find their creativity and focus it.” Would you expand on that?

Wynton: If we all have a thing that defines us; we have preferences and likes, tastes, and the art form of jazz celebrates individuality. So, when you hear our band play, each musician has a different sound and a different approach to music. We have four trumpeters and all four of us play in a different way and there’s no one correct way to play. There’s many ways to play and each of us has an individual imprint and the music teaches us to be proud of our unique characteristics. It doesn’t push us in a direction of sameness. To focus it means that you can put your creativity in a context. It’s a lot like when you put your ideas down on paper. You don’t have to be a musician. When you listen to people play, it focuses your attention. Listening is one of the most undervalued activities in our culture right now. To just sit down and listen to someone else play allows you to focus your own thoughts and ideas around how they expose their material. It works for families also.

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