Jazz at Lincoln Center Doha

We speak to Grammy-winning composer Wynton Marsalis ahead of visit Discuss this article

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Wynton Marsalis is a busy guy. The composer and trumpet player has won nine Grammys in both classical and jazz, as well as becoming the first jazz musician to ever win the Pulitzer Award for Music for his music and oration masterpiece, Blood On The Fields. Over his career, he’s also been involved in several books, films and mini-series about jazz, including Ken Burns epic documentary, Jazz, that explores the history of the musical style. Born and raised in New Orleans, he knows good jazz. Today, he’s the artistic director at Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York, and that’s what’s brought him to Qatar with his band, for the official opening of Doha’s own version of the iconic concert hall. Jessica Davey-Quantick sits down with him to find out what’s going on behind his horn, and what he has in store now he’s coming to the GCC.

What drew you to jazz?
My father, Ellis Marsalis, is one of New Orleans’ great jazz musicians. His dedication to the music is something that always stayed with me.

What has kept you playing, teaching and fighting for this music for so many years?
When I go out on the road people constantly tell me how they’ve been affected by Jazz for Young People concerts we did ten or twelve years ago. They might not have become a professional musician but it’s affected their lives positively and that’s what we strive for.

Jazz at Lincoln Center is coming to Qatar! We’re very excited (clearly). But we have to ask: why bring jazz to the Middle East?
Throughout its history, jazz has connected with different races, cultures, religions and generations. This is an especially important time to communicate the sanctity of our collective human heritage. Jazz is a perfect tool to do this.

So give us a sneak peek: what’s it going to be like?
You’ll hear some of the world’s greatest jazz musicians. My quintet is a group of talented and dedicated musicians; all come from musical families and are committed to swinging as hard as possible all night long. Our goal is to uplift everyone who sets foot in this club.

Jazz 101: What do people absolutely need to know to really get the most out of the performances?
Research the artists and get an understanding of who they are and what their music is about.

You’ve said you love the blues, but what about the rest of the band? Do you stick to jazz?
Everyone in our band plays so many different types of music. For our concerts last weekend I arranged the scherzo from Beethoven’s 7th symphony and a Sly Stone song!

What’s your favorite part about performing?
After a gig I have so much energy from the communal good feeling, it’s impossible to sleep.

Do you think people in Qatar are ready for this? Will people here ‘get’ jazz?
Sometimes people in the West don’t get jazz. That’s why there’s a need for Jazz at Lincoln Center - because jazz is certainly worth getting. When I visited Doha last year, I was honored to play in Mr. Omar Alfardan’s home for some of his closest friends. Most of his guests spoke about their experiences hearing jazz in various clubs around the world. They loved the music and were genuinely excited about Jazz at Lincoln Center Doha. As a young boy growing up in Qatar, Mr. Alfardan listened to his father’s jazz records. Thanks to this transformative experience, he has decided to bring the music closer to the people.

It might be worth getting, but a lot of people are intimidated by it. Why is that?
You have to follow it to understand it. Many times they’re hearing jazz that is not well played. That intimidates me also.

What’s the best way for people to learn more about jazz?
A great start is to check out Duke Ellington’s Far East Suite, Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue and John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman. Technology provides us all with greater access to every imaginable type of music: Jazz at Lincoln Center webcasts live performances from our Dizzys Club Coca-Cola. And of course it’s always best to hear the music live.

So much of jazz is improvisation, made up on the spot. Is that as hard as it looks?
My father used to always say “It’s just like talking. It’s not hard at all. It only becomes difficult if you want to sound good.”

Jazz at Lincoln Center Doha opens at the St. Regis Doha with special performances by The Wynton Marsalis Quintet led by Wynton Marsalis on Oct 5, 6, 8. The first 70 minute set starts at 8pm, with the second kicking off at 11pm. Tickets are QR500 or QR675 including a three-course meal at Opal or Vine, either before or after the performance. After that, it will host a variety of jazz performers, Monday, Tuesday and Saturday from 7pm-2am, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 7pm-2.30pm. Live acts will each perform two sets, the first from 9pm-10pm, the second from 10.30pm-11.30pm, with an extra third set Wed-Fri from midnight-1am. Call 4446 0105.

Jazz 101

Jazz at Lincoln Center is about more than just good music and good times (although it’s that too): they’re also hosting Jazz Music Talks, weekly sessions with Jonathan Batiste. This Jazz at Lincoln Center All-Star has performed in over 40 countries and appeared at Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, and The Kennedy Center. His Stay Human Band is a modern jazz ensemble noted for their world-class music, high energy and uplifting spirit. Sessions are QR240, including mocktails and snacks.

Oct 10, 13: How to Listen to Jazz
Learn what to listen for in a jazz performance and how to determine what is happening between the musicians on the bandstand.

Oct 16, 20: The Blues in Jazz
The Blues is essential to Jazz music and without it Jazz wouldn’t be the same. Learn why everyone should have the blues.

Oct 22, 24: Muse as Inspiration
Many times great artist are inspired by other people. This is not only the case in Jazz, but also in other art forms too. This session explores some of the history behind who inspired what and why.

By Time Out Doha staff
Time Out Doha,

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