We Always Swing series brings Wynton Marsalis, other jazz legends to Columbia

The series will include artists like Pulitzer Prize winner Wynton Marsalis and Cuban jazz pianist Chucho Valdes.
Casey Purcella / Graphic Designer

Starting Tuesday and continuing over the next several months, the We Always Swing Jazz Series is bringing world famous acts to Columbia.

Among these acts is the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra performing with Wynton Marsalis, who will be performing Tuesday at Jesse Auditorium. Marsalis was the first jazz artist to be awarded the Pulitzer Prize for music and has also earned nine Grammy awards, according to a biography provided by JLCO.

“Wynton is arguably the face of modern jazz,” We Always Swing spokesman Josh Chittum said. “It really doesn’t get much bigger than him.”

The series will also include Cuban piano player Chucho Valdes.

“It’s really exciting to have him in town because he’s a Cuban native, so due to the trade embargo and travel restrictions he can’t just come to America whenever he wants,” Chittum said. “The fact that we’re getting him is pretty special. “

Other acts include Ravi Coltrane and John Scofield, among other artists. One of the performances will be by Tia Fuller, who plays saxophone for Beyoncé when she's not leading her quartet .

The jazz series also works year-round to educate students about jazz.

“We have a large education program for our organization, dedicated to jazz scholarships for local students,” Chittum said. “Junior high, high school and university students do summer camp through jazz band. We also have children’s concerts with local artists to expose them to jazz."

Chittum said the jazz series also has an artist-in-residence every year and they teach a master class open to university students and the public.

The series has a history of working with MU. They team up with the MU Concert Jazz Band in an annual concert, said Arthur White, director of Jazz Studies at MU.

“Throughout the year, the series provides a variety of master class opportunities for our students, and, in turn, the MU Jazz Studies program helps the series through ushering, ticket taking and other volunteer services,” White said. "It's a wonderful relationship."

Sophomore Will Lyons, a drummer in the MU jazz band, is looking forward to the meeting with guest artists during the series.

“I sometimes have the chance to sit and play with some of the artists, which is a fun learning experience,” he said in an email.

The concerts are available to all students and the public, not just jazz students.

“We don’t try to cater to any market, just the jazz fan and then the potential jazz fan,” Chittum said. “The person who doesn’t know that inside lives a jazz fan, they just need to let it out”

He said these concerts can help students learn the value of jazz.

“I think it’s an art form that’s distinctly American and I think greatly under-appreciated by younger people,” Chittum said.

White said exposing students to new music helps them become more well rounded. He said jazz is a way of introducing them to music they might not normally listen to.

“What we’re want to do is encourage the general student population at large to start attending concerts because we think the experience will be a positive one,” White said. “We bring the best players in the world so they’re going to get an equivalent musical experience. They’re also going to be exposed to music they probably don’t listen to on a normal basis or that they may have never heard before.”

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