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Clinton and Marsalis Talk Jazz

On Friday, conversation king Charlie Rose hosted an evening of jazz-n-politics talk at a Jazz at Lincoln Center-organized panel discussion that featured trumpeter Wynton Marsalis (natch) and former U.S. President Bill Clinton.

Clinton kindly left his saxophone at home and didn’t play along with Marsalis, pianist Cyrus Chestnut, bassist Carlos Henriquez, and drummer Joe Farnsworth when they opened the night’s festivities with a musical performance. After the music discussion began, with the official topic being “Jazz and American Democracy.” The group of panelists, which also included educators Michael Kammen (Cornell University), Jack Martens Jr. (San Francisco Unified School District), Farah Jasmine Griffin (Columbia University), Frances Rauscher (University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh), discussed the impact of jazz on American culture and politics. Sounding like a broken record, Marsalis told the panel that “jazz is America’s unique music form. It’s an important and essential part of what I like to call the American mythology.” And, sounding like a politician, Clinton said something without saying anything at all: “There’s a reason that this music is so closely identified with the whole spirit of America, the whole way democracy works, the whole give-and-take and everything.”

Rauscher, who studies cognitive development, talked about a recent study she conducted that examined the effects of music instruction on Head Start preschooler’s academic abilities. Surprise, surprise: She says that early instruction in music, specifically jazz, has a positive effect on brain development. So now you can play Bird for baby, as well as Beethoven. Martens, who teaches music in the Bay Area, spoke about how he has seen his students’ ability to express themselves improve as a result of jazz education.

When the yakking was done Marsalis led the band through another performance, and Clinton was presented with an honorary seat in Frederick P. Rose Hall, Jazz at Lincoln Center’s future home.

In the picture, Marsalis, Jazz at Lincoln Center President and CEO Hugh Fierce and Clinton (L-R) pause for the camera while admiring each other’s ties. For more information on Jazz at Lincoln Center and its programs, visit

Originally Published