Author: Wynton Marsalis

Brief Info: American trumpeter, composer and teacher

Years Lived: 1961-

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Quotations


Balance is Required to Maintain Democracy

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Our current lack of respect for the swing can be likened to the current state of our democracy. Balance is required to maintain something as delicate as democracy, a subtle understanding of how your power can be magnified through joining with and sharing the power of another person. When that is no longer understood, it becomes a battle to see who is the strongest, who is the loudest, who can get the most attention.

From the book Moving to Higher Ground: How Jazz Can Change Your Life

— 2008


The Challenge of Swing

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Swing–the dance and the music–bespeaks the flexible nature of American life. In jazz, the bass walks a note on every beat. The drummer rides the cymbal or plays brushes on every beat. And everybody else invents melodies and sounds that sway with, against, and upside every beat. Every beat requires musicians to reassess their relationships to one another. This is what makes swinging so challenging. You are forced to be constantly aware of other people's feelings.

From the book Moving to Higher Ground: How Jazz Can Change Your Life

— 2008


Inextricably Linked in Freedom

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The originators of jazz were only two generations removed from slavery. They were victims of rigorous forms of segregation that routinely and institutionally denied their humanity. So freedom was much more than a word to them. These pioneering musicians were exuberant about exhibiting this newfound personal freedom through their art. But they were also excited about hearing other people do the same thing. They understood that all were inextricably linked in freedom, just as they had been inextricably linked in bondage. And it wasn't theory; it was life as they lived it.

From the book Moving to Higher Ground: How Jazz Can Change Your Life

— 2008


Integrity and Conviction

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The best jazz had always been the embodiment of integrity and conviction. Because the musicians' skills and competence were so hard-earned, it was difficult to get them to compromise. Once jazzmen began making the decision to water down their artistry for notoriety, publicity, or money, our art began to face the same challenges that our government and many businesses face: dearth of leadership, lack of quality, loss of meaning, insensitivity to people–ultimately a wholesale loss of faith: ‘Well, what is jazz, anyway?’‘What difference does it make what I play?’

From the book Moving to Higher Ground: How Jazz Can Change Your Life

— 2008


The Love of What We are Doing

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It's a labor of love for all of us. It's not contrived or fake and it's not about money (it's too much work to be about money). It's about the love of what we are doing. That's the center of what it is about, and that's the center of what anything of great human value is always about. It's about that love that you have for humanity in our commonality. And to experience all of the things that are in this music like heartbreak and joy and many other things – a certain type of striving and struggle – it's a part of the life we all live together.

From the book Moving to Higher Ground: How Jazz Can Change Your Life

— 2008


The Philosophy of Jazz

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Jazz is the most flexible art form ever because it believes in the good taste of individuals. It believes in our ability to make reasonable choices. It takes a chance on our decision-making skills instead of legislating our freedom away with written restrictions and restrictive hierarchies. In jazz, the size of your heart and your ability to play determine your position in the band. The philosophy of jazz is rooted in the elevation and enrichment of people, plain ol' folks.

From the book Moving to Higher Ground: How Jazz Can Change Your Life

— 2008


The Power of Art

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When I started learning about jazz, I wasn't into any kind of art. I had no idea it could have a practical purpose. Now, more than thirty years later, I testify to the power of art, and more specifically jazz, to improve your life–and keep on improving it.

From the book Moving to Higher Ground: How Jazz Can Change Your Life

— 2008


The Undisputed Sovereignty of the Human Being

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Jazz insists on the undisputed sovereignty of the human being. In this technological era we can easily be fooled into believing that sophisticated machines are more important than progressive humanity. That's why art is an important barometer of identity. The arts let us know who we are in all of our glory, reveal the best of who we are. All the political and financial might in the world is diminished when put to the service of an impoverished cultural agenda. We see it in our schools, in our homes, and in our world profile: rich and fat, lazy and morally corrupt, with wild, out-of-control young people.

We all know that civilization requires a supreme effort. Our technology will become outmoded, but the technology of the human soul does not change.

From the book Moving to Higher Ground: How Jazz Can Change Your Life

— 2008

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