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Wynton brings Lincoln Center jazz orchestra to Vancouver

Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis, March 1, 2014

The Province

by Stuart Derdeyn

Founded in 1988 by artistic direc­tor, trumpeter/composer Wynton Marsalis, the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra is one of the finest jazz big bands in the world today.

The 15-piece ensemble is respected for its exceptional performances of the works of such jazz orchestra greats as Duke Ellington, Count Basie, and Fletcher Henderson as well as being a vehicle for adaptations of other classics and new commissions.

Based out of New York City’s Jazz at Lincoln Center (JALC) arts complex, the group runs many educational initiatives.

Tenor saxophonist Victor Goines plays in both the orchestra and the Wynton Marsalis Septet, and assumes the spokesman roll when the boss can’t make the call.

“Having a place like Jazz at Lincoln Center for this music is something so special it’s hard to describe,” Goines says. “The members come from all across the country to the Mecca for the music that is New York City, and this becomes a focal point for them because it is such a renowned and well-run organization. I’m at a loss for words to describe how well things are set up for us well in advance of tours.”

Featuring three different venues, the JALC arts complex often hosts orchestra members in different configurations. Goines has performed his small group commissions there and sat in with combos drawn from New York City’s vibrant community of players. The orchestra is a different animal.

“Anytime we come back together after a break, we’re back on it,” Goines explains. “Somewhere in the tour, we might get tired. Usually key members or Wynton won’t hesitate to tell us to get back to work. It’s always so high quality.”

The upcoming Vancouver show is the Music of Blue Note, which Goines says that the jazz orchestra has done a few times covering artists as varied as vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson to pianist Horace Silver.

Drawing from jazz’s rich legacy is part of the orchestra’s mandate. It regularly features new commissions from Marsalis and other composers. Key to it all is that the music be true to the freewheeling marvel of musical democracy that is jazz.

“They’ve been trying to kill jazz off for years,” he says. “But the music seems as alive and vigorous as ever. There are certainly a wealth of talented players and places all over the world to showcase at.”

Key to the continued health is the reversal of what Goines calls the “tragic” decline in music programs.

As a former mathematics teacher, he says you should never take for granted the importance of how music makes your mind and your relationships work: “It makes better people and better lives.”

Tue Feb 25, 2014