Originally released on VHS in 1988, “Wynton Marsalis: Blues &
Swing” is now available as a 79-minute DVD, from the Pioneer
Artists label. This disc included performances by Marsalis
(1961 – ) and members of his Jazz Quartet, which at that time
featured pianist Marcus Roberts (1963 – ). The other talented
sidemen were bassist Robert Hurst III (1964 – ) and drummer
Jeff Tain Watts (1960 – ). The set included various Jazz classics,
such as “Caravan,” “Do You Know What it Means to Miss New
Orleans?” and some original Marsalis tunes.
Interspersed between songs were film clips of Marsalis listening
to and coaching young musicians, from the Duke Ellington
School of the Arts and Howard University. One of these
coaching sessions featured his guidance of the last
movement of Johann Nepomuk Hummel’s “Trumpet Concerto,”
composed in 1803. Hummel (1778-1837) was famous as a
pianist and composer. This clip illustrated the breadth and depth
of Wynton Marsalis’ knowledge and talent, which transcends
musical genres. After all, he’s a multiple Grammy Award winner
for his Jazz and Classical recordings.
I can’t think of anyone else who possesses better “chops” on
his instrument in both Jazz and Classical music fields, and
Marsalis’ performances with his highly skilled band mates
provided an ample display of these talents. As far as the
musical ideas expressed during the concert footage, I suppose
those would be a matter of opinion. Nevertheless, due to his
down-to-earth, vernacular communication skills, Marsalis was
very easy to watch.
This disc provided a nice sample of what Wynton Marsalis does
best; i.e., playing and teaching. Presumably, all of the footage
was from 1987, and demonstrated his abilities as an
ambassador of the Jazz art form and the importance of
continuing the grand traditions therein.