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Wynton Marsalis: Skain’s Domain by Leslie Gourse

Regardless of one’s personal tastes in music, no one can deny that Wynton Marsalis has made a deep impression on the recent jazz scene. A flawless musician, he grabbed everyone’s attention early on with his ready adaptability to both hard bop and the most challenging literature in European formal music.

At the time of his rapid ascendance to critical acclaim in the early and mid-1980s, he was being hailed as the next major successor in a line of young trumpet giants going back to Clifford Brown. But, actually, he knew very little of this heritage. He was fond of Freddie Hubbard and early 1960s Miles Davis, but according to pianist James Williams, “he didn’t seem very well versed in Lee Morgan, Booker Little, Blue Mitchell, Thad Jones, or Dizzy Gillespie.” Obviously, he must also have been unfamiliar with Louis Armstrong, Roy Eldridge, Cootie Williams and Rex Stewart, not to mention Hot Lips Page, Buck Clayton, Harry Edison, Charlie Shavers, Bix Beiderbecke, Bunny Berigan and Bobby Hackett. Yet, at age 19, he was playing with the hottest pure jazz band in the world, Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers.

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