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The Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra Stays Close to Tradition

Jazz in all of its flavors was alive and well at Jones Hall on the night of October 2nd in Houston. Presented by the Society for the Performing Arts, the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra directed by Wynton Marsalis played to a near capacity crowd that night. As one of the finest organizations in the United States, the LCJO is comprised of 15 of the best musicians in jazz today. In coming to Houston, Wynton Marsalis and company offered a multitude of commissioned originals and classic jazz of the highest caliber. Seldom is there an opportunity to see or hear a concert of this magnitude anywhere in the city. In addition, native son Andre Haywood returned home as well, amid much fanfare and adulation. To be more specific, Andre is the winner of the 2003 Thelonious Monk Jazz Competition for trombone. He competed with numerous musicians from all over the world for this very coveted award. As a product of HISD's High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, his return made homecoming all the more sweeter. It is a little known fact that Houston has some of the most prized jazz education programs in the United States. Andre's award is a testament to the city's contributions to his success. Collectively, he, Wynton and the rest of the orchestra provided jazz connoisseurs with a memorable night of traditional jazz. Another momentous side note of the night was an appearance by Conrad Johnson, one of Houston's foremost educators. His 37 years as an educator in Houston schools is most noteworthy and the contributions he has made to jazz are world-class. On top of that, he has played professionally with some of the best musicians in history. Conrad's 85+ years of age were an inspiration to those who witnessed his saxophone solo offering, as he performed effortlessly and energetically with the orchestra. His acknowledgement and inclusion by Wynton Marsalis is an indication of the respect he holds for this exceptional interpreter of sound.

Under the direction of Grammy Award winning trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra has been the Jazz at Lincoln Center resident orchestra for more than 10 years. They have taken the gospel according to the traditions of jazz all over the United States and around the world. Their trip to Houston is a major stop among the many they make throughout the year. Plus, the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra is an integral part of programming at Jazz at Lincoln Center. Numerous educational opportunities are also provided in and around the greater New York City metropolitan area. The orchestra has been seen in concert halls, riverboats, jazz clubs, public parks and churches; and with symphony orchestras, ballet troupes, local students and numerous guest artists. Jones Hall would prove to be yet another exceptional night of jazz amongst many, and Houston was all the better for the experience.

During the evening, the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra performed a number of compositions from the likes of Duke Ellington, John Coltrane, George Gerswin and other influences. Tunes such as 'Rhapsody in Blue', 'Big Train', and a 'Love Supreme' proved to be a welcome respite from the parade of smooth jazz concerts that frequent the city on a regular basis. Traditional jazz is a rarity, and when concerts such as the LCJO come to Houston, it is enlightening for jazz beginners and connoisseurs. The opportunity to hear this type of music brings to bear the works of some of the finest jazz legends in history. Although many of these individuals are no longer with us, their arrangements and compositions have continued to entertain and inspire countless generations since their passing. The Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra has been a major part of that endeavor. Their performance in Jones Hall was not only important for elevating the consciousness of jazz in Houston, it also disproved the notion that Houston is not a jazz town. Because the LCJO made a stop in Houston, the message was sent to naysayers and promoters alike that if the right artists and musicians are brought to the city, they will be supported. Jazz as an art form is one of America's greatest treasures, and Houston treated the genre with much enthusiasm and support.

Every year, the Society for the Performing Arts schedules jazz as one of its major offerings during its artistic season. The Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra and other opportunities are a breath of fresh air in a stagnant jazz environment. Quality concerts and shows provide an outlet for jazz hungry fans, who relish it as an artistic endeavor. In order for this kind of entertainment to continue, the art form must be supported. The music has survived for over 100 years, and its demise has been predicted since 1917. Wynton Marsalis said it best during the LCJO's performance in Houston: "Jazz is like a roach, it will always be here." When you listen to the music of the great masters, there is a reality check of sorts. "Jazz will never die!" It will live on in the thousands of compositions and arrangements that have been left and recorded for all the world to hear. Jazz at Lincoln Center, the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra and other outlets for jazz are the most effective way of exposing the general public to this great American art form. As one can see, it is all about tradition.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra
  • Concert Date: 10/2/2003
  • Subtitle: Houston Experienced a Rare Treat
  • Venue: Jones Hall
  • City State Country: Houston, Texas, United States
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