If you’ve already experienced Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, then you probably don’t need to be persuaded to buy tickets for Wednesday’s concert. You probably bought them the day they went on sale.
For the rest of you, let’s get some testimony from someone in the audience the last time the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra played Spokane, in 2004:
“Seeing Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra in concert would make anyone think he can go to a pawn shop, buy a horn and start blowing the soul out of it,” wrote The Spokesman- Review’s critic, Isamu Jordan. “Marsalis and company make it look that easy.”
He went on describe the players as “stupefyingly impressive” and the rhythm section as “mind-boggling.” He said the orchestra played “whimsically but flawlessly.”
Pardon the gushing, but superlatives are unavoidable when talking about the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. This 15-piece group is the big band in residence at New York’s cultural mecca and probably the finest jazz orchestra in the world.
The orchestra is certainly made up of the finest jazz players anywhere. Here’s the current lineup: Sean Jones, Ryan Kisor, Marcus Printup, Vincent R. Gardner, Elliot Mason, Chris Crenshaw, Sherman Irby, Ted Nash, Walter Blanding, Victor Goines, Joe Temperley, Dan Nimmer, Carlos Henriquez and Ali Jackson.
And that other guy, over in the corner, blowing a horn? That’s music director Wynton Marsalis, the first Pulitzer Prize winner for jazz and a virtuoso in both jazz and classical music.
During the 2004 concert, Marsalis began the concert “tucked into one corner of the stage,” throwing out phrases on “Free to Be.” He ended it center stage, accompanied by a sextet, inventing a new tune by alternately whistling and blowing on his trumpet.
Yes, that’s right: Marsalis is a man who can hold an audience enthralled with a whistle.
Some numbers are played with the full orchestra, while others are performed with more intimate combos. In 2004, the orchestra played two sets, one celebrating European jazz, and the other dedicated to Count Basie. Who knows what they’ll do this time around?
The program is typically not announced until the orchestra takes the stage. In other words, the orchestra remains true to the spirit of improvisation even when it comes to the set list.
Back in 1988, the Jazz at Lincoln Center program was established as a way to give America’s popular cultural export its due. The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra plays a regular season on its home stage, but – fortunately for us in the hinterlands – also spends more than a third of each year on tour.
You can’t exactly take the A train to the INB Performing Arts Center, but the region’s jazz-lovers will get there by whatever conveyance necessary.