Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Wynton Marsalis on Benny Goodman's 1938 Carnegie Hall Concert

On page 86 of the current issue  of DownBeat [April 2013], there is a half page report on a Wynton Marsalis master class held in New Orleans last October at Loyola University. Most of it is a fairly usual summary of Marsalis's expertise--the Tomasi Concerto, "Take the 'A' Train", and a brief comment on the New Orleans funeral all make their appropriate appearances. But lodged within these is an important paragraph. Jennifer O'Dell writes:

Marsalis pointed repeatedly to Benny Goodman's 1938 Carnegie Hall recording as being exemplary of jazz representing American society. "Notice what Goodman was saying about the United States of America when he played that concert," he said. "It had nothing to do with Twitter. It had to do with being human."
For the past three decades, Wynton has been a leading figure in defining the discussion of jazz, and for any jazz clarinetist, it is very good to hear such a seminal moment in our history pointed to so seriously. Last summer I made similar points about the Goodman Carnegie Hall concert--it was a transformative moment in the history of jazz, and symbolic of the very best aspects of our nation. That Wynton is emphasizing this is deeply gratifying on many levels. First, simply that it gives more exposure to that musical moment.  Perhaps more importantly, though, it encourages a reengagement with the music of that period, which is the closest in American musical history to a High Romantic Era.

Wynton has dedicated his career to revitalizing and continuing some of the greatest strains of our musical heritage. It's a good day for The Jazz Clarinet when he points out something so close to home.

So thanks, Wynton: it is much appreciated.


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