A Distinctive Style Magazine

Issue 13

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I just want to come out there swingin’! Keep it movin’...keep it groovin’! ~Delfeayo Marsalis By Jane Waide we’d rather begin our New Year Celebration with than this “Renaissance Man of the Arts.” The year 2011 is expected to be one of unsurpassed achieve - ment and expression for Delfeayo. Beginning on January 11th, along with his father, Ellis, and brothers Branford, Wynton and Jason, he will be accepting The National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Masters Award: the first group award of its kind to be bestowed by the NEA in its 29 year history. A week later on January 18th, his latest CD, Sweet Thunder, will be released. The following day Delfeayo rolls out the crowning jewel as he launches his Sweet Thunder Tour: a theatrical jazz production that will be presented in 36 cities across the U.S. i understand the music on the CD is a revisiting of a work by Duke ellington? Yes. In 1957 Ellington was commissioned by the Stratford Shakespeare Festival to write music based on any aspect of Shakespeare. At that point in his career, Ellington was working on a lot of different things simultaneously. So what he chose to do was to create a number of monologues. What you basically have are sonnets, almost like a collection of individual solos with accompaniment. How did you become interested in this particular work of music? When I was matriculating on my Masters Degree, I visited the Smithsonian and researched a lot on Ellington. Really, I became consumed with his trip to England and his work with (Billy) Strayhorn. They actually had all the original scores at the Smithsonian. As I looked at Ellington and the way he composed, it made sense that it could be transformed to a smaller ensemble. In addition to that transformation, I’ve extended the work. I’ve added solos and melodic material. I think that when Ellington composed it, he was thinking that one day down the road a student of the music is going to find this and do something with it. So I think he actually wrote it specifically for me. The overwhelming response from our readers to our 2010 Summer Edition interview with Delfeayo Marsalis has led us back for a reprise. We can think of no one is the sound on the CD different from ellington’s original work? Oh yeah! It’s way different. To use Ellington’s music as my own: to keep the pertinent but to add my own voice to that. It’s hard to have music where improvisation is included in the dogma of the work and to make it as cohesive as this. Sometimes I add an improvisation and actually enhance the music. If you listen to Ellington’s version you hear a big suite, and it’s more intro - spective. But what we’ve done is more of an extroverted version. Can you describe for us what the theatrical production is going to look like? The set will be divided. One side will be Ellington’s neighbor- hood. We’ll recreate Harlem Brownstones and the Cotton Club. The other side will be Shakespeare’s neighborhood with Juliet’s balcony, The Globe or an Elizabethan-style dwelling. We have Ellington’s sphere and Shakespeare’s sphere, and the idea is that these are two great houses, both alike in dignity. So my love for literature, for Shakespeare, having studied that, everything is coming together for this project. It was especially designed for me. Having produced and/or performed with so many other jazz notables like brothers Branford and Wynton, Harry Connick Jr., Terence Blanchard, Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, Elvin Jones and Slide Hampton, Delfeayo has command of each aspect of the presentation process. He’s understandably proud of this project and is anxious to commence. This has been such a pleasure. in closing, would you share with us your wish for the New Year? I just want to come out there swingin’! Keep it movin’….keep it groovin’! In addition to his work as a professional musician, composer, producer and writer, Delfeayo Marsalis is the Director of Jazz for Divas World, a not-for-profit dedicated to integrating art forms and enhancing the musical arts experience. For more information on the Sweet Thunder Tour, including dates and cities, please visit http://www.delfeayomarsalis.com

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