Born October 18th, 1961. New Orleans, LA.

Son of Ellis Marsalis (1934-2020). Brother of Branford (aug. 16th, 1960), Delfeayo b. July 28, 1965, and Jason b. March 4, 1977.

Wynton’s father, Ellis Marsalis, was a pianist and tenor saxophonist. He earned a music degree from Dillard University and then served in the U.S. Marines. There, he worked for the AFO (All-for-One) record label, recording for Nat and Julian “Cannonball” Adderley in 1962. Ellis was also trumpeter Al Hirt’s pianist during in the late 1960’s.

Ellis began teaching in 1974 at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts. His pupils included future luminaries Harry Connick, Jr., Terence Blanchard, Donald Harrison, Nicholas Payton, as well as his own six sons, four of whom became celebrated musicians. The success of his sons resulted in Ellis’s attaining stardom in the 1980s, and he recorded steadily thereafter.

Wynton Marsalis was the first in his family to achieve national fame. He was given his first trumpet by Hirt, Ellis’ close collaborator in the 60’s. Wynton played locally and regionally around New Orleans. He was featured by the New Orleans Philharmonic at 14. He studied both classical and jazz and as he matured, played all genres as a working, gigging, musician.

In his early 20’s, Wynton became devoted to jazz while studying at Juilliard School (1979–81). At Juilliard, he became recognized as one of the most gifted musicians at the institution despite playing primarily jazz and not classical music.

While at Juilliard, Wynton met Art Blakey and began playing in Blakey’s Jazz Messengers. He soon began touring with Herbie Hancock. By age 20, Wynton had established himself as one of the most reliable jazz trumpeters of the late 20th Century. He had brilliant, virtuosic technique, and was dedicated to making a mark in traditional, acoustic jazz at a time when the genre was ceding ground to funk, fusion and R&B. His style, unlike many at the time, was influenced by classical technique, which was unusual for someone who also was dedicated to the preservation of acoustic jazz and blues at a time when it was being radically transformed.  Wynton became known as a principal “Young Lion”, a group of young players in the 80’s who updated the hard bop tradition.

Wynton led a quintet that included his brother Branford during 1982–85. Pianist Marcus Roberts was a featured player in a later combo that eventually grew to be a septet and proved to be the best vehicle for Wynton’s playing and composing. In 1987 Wynton cofounded the ongoing Jazz at Lincoln Center program and undertook the leadership of the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra. In this capacity he became a lightning rod of controversy because of his championing of traditional jazz styles and his dismissal of most musical developments after 1965. Since he developed his own distinctive style in the late 1980s, however, he consistently ranked among jazz’s all-time great trumpeters, playing everything from New Orleans jazz and swing to hard bop. In the 1990s he wrote many extended works (such as Blood on the Fields, which won the Pulitzer Prize for music in 1997), toured the world extensively, and became a prominent spokesman for jazz and music education.

Wynton also worked closely with documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, notably on the 2001 miniseries Jazz. In addition, he wrote the music for Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson (2004) and provided the soundtracks for the miniseries The War (2007) and Prohibition (2011). He continued to perform and record prolifically both with his band and on his own, including with such collaborators as Willie Nelson and Eric Clapton. His publications included Moving to Higher Ground: How Jazz Can Change Your Life (2008; with Geoffrey Ward). Wynton was awarded the National Medal of Arts in 2005 and the National Humanities Medal in 2015.

Wayne Shorter

born August 25, 1933, Newark, New Jersey, U.S.

Composer, a major jazz saxophonist, among the most influential hard-bop and modal musicians. Pioneer of jazz-rock fusion music.

Shorter studied at New York University, graduating in 1956, and served in the U.S. Army from 1956–58. He spent brief periods in the Horace Silver quintet (1956) and the Maynard Ferguson big band (1958) before his first major association, with Art Blakey’s hard-bop Jazz Messengers, from 1959–63. He joined Miles Davis’s modal jazz quintet in 1964 and stayed with him during Davis’s early fusion music experiments, most notably on the album’s Bitches Brew and In a Silent Way.

Shorter was indebted to John Coltrane in terms of influence, but Shorter’s grand experiments in funk and fusion paved new ground for saxophonists. After pioneering work in Weather Report, Shorter returned to explorations in lyricism. He found renewed interest in acoustic forms. His compositions continued to be avante garde, with sophisticated formal structures. His solos incorporating concerted melodic patterning in order to enhance the form, perhaps creating at times, kinds of ‘moment-forms’ within works.

Super Nova (1969)

Throughout the 1970s and much of the ’80s, Shorter and keyboard player Joe Zawinul together led Weather Report, a fusion band that explored an uncommon variety of sound colours. He returned frequently to the tenor saxophone and in later years led his own fusion music groups.

Directions, from I Sing the Body Electric

Weather Report included a number of great musicians of the funk / fusion era including Miroslav Vitouš (bass), Jaco Pastorious (bass), Eric Gravatt (drums) and John Scofield (guitar)

Shorter continues to perform, and his later albums included Atlantis (1985), High Life (1995), Without a Net (2013), and Emanon (2018); the last two were among several that featured the quartet of Shorter, Danilo Pérez (piano), John Patitucci (bass), and Brian Blade (drums). Shorter received more than 10 Grammy Awards, including a lifetime achievement award in 2015. He was named a Jazz Master by the National Endowment for the Arts in 1998 and received a Kennedy Center Honor in 2018.

Shorter’s Legacy: works by John Scofield and Jaco Pastorius:

John Scofield, Grace Under Pressure (1992)

John Scofield – electric guitar
Bill Frisell – electric & acoustic guitars
Charlie Haden – bass
Joey Baron – drums

Jaco Pastorius. Portrait of Tracy

Victor Wooten and Steve Bailey perform Portrait of Tracy