Jazz legend Wynton Marsalis kicked off the citywide celebration of Jazz
Appreciation Month at the Kimmel Center on Tuesday. Smithsonian National
Museum of African Art director Johnetta B, Cole introduced Marsalis by
saying she loves “jazz as much as the devil loves sin.”
The trumpeter then delivered a moving lecture, interwoven with
musical performances and highlighting the value of arts to our society.
Marsalis had originally written this mixed performance piece when he was
asked to give the prestigious Nancy Hanks Lecture, the nation’s
foremost forum for arts advocacy at the Kennedy Center in Washington,
D.C. Some of the audience squirmed in their seats when he reminded them
of America’s history of slavery, racism and misogyny and mocked both the
white face and black face versions of the minstrel show. His speech
mostly focused on the current denigration of arts in society. He asked
the audience to ponder, “A financial inheritance can be accurately
assessed in dollars, but what is the value of an artistic heritage? Who
calculates the value of ‘Amazing Grace’ or ‘Yankee Doodle’ or ‘Go Down
During the Q&A, Marsalis encouraged kids to go to college and
study more than music, and he made commitments to local schools. He
promised to provide music to one local school and come to another “even
if it took two years.” He gave detailed tips to aspiring musicians.
“Practice is the price that you pay to be good,” said Marsalis, who
recommended practicing your weakest skill the most. “Playing all the way
through, do not stop for the parts that you stumble.”
Luckily for Philadelphians, there will be
more chances to hear world-class jazz at the Kimmel Center, which
Downbeat magazine named one of the top venues in the world to hear jazz.
Matt Wolf, vice president of programming at the Kimmel Center,
highlighted an upcoming April 14 tribute by Grammy winner Danilio Perez
to the music of Philadelphian McCoy Tyner.
“Many do not realize the rich history of Philadelphia jazz: Johnny
Coltrane, Benny Golson, Charlie Biddle, Terrell Stafford and the Heath
Brothers,” he said.