- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 16, 2001

A musician of Wynton Marsalis stature plays in some of the worlds most impressive concert halls. So when the Pulitzer Prize-winning artist sings the praises of Wolf Trap, it resonates like the syncopating cymbals on a Buddy Rich drum kit.
"Wolf Trap is one of the greatest places to play," says Mr. Marsalis, artistic director of the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra. "The ambience and the feel when you play there, you never forget it."
Its fitting then — and fortunate for area jazz fans — that Mr. Marsalis and his orchestra will open the 2001 Wolf Trap Jazz & Blues Festival on Wednesday at the Filene Center.
The five-day celebration will feature 15 musical acts. They include the Robert Cray Band, Susan Tedeschi, George Benson, Cesaria Evora, Bebel Gilberto, Dianne Reeves, Little Feat, the Joshua Redman Quartet, Arturo Sandoval and the Chicago Rhythm & Blues Kings.
Mr. Marsalis, speaking on the phone from New York City, promises a lively blend of ballads and festive pieces for his orchestras latest visit.
His orchestra will perform jazz pieces composed by Charles Mingus, Thelonious Monk, members of the highly acclaimed orchestra and the band leader himself.
"Ive been at this a long time," he says flatly, as if talking about collecting stamps or another hobby. "Ive influenced a lot of musicians. … Im grateful for it."
The festival is part of the orchestras 17-city summer tour. Mr. Marsalis and company will travel through the United States, Canada and Spain.
The frenetic schedule will allow some time for Mr. Marsalis troupe to make educational house calls at various schools to spread the gospel of jazz.
"My father was a musician and a teacher," he says of Ellis Marsalis, a noted jazz pianist. "Its what I do."
The reaction of young audiences to jazz can vary wildly.
"It can range from, 'What do you have in your hand? to 'What do you think about rap?" he says of the feedback.
But he knows the impact such music has had on his life, so he powers on with his educational duties.
Students would be hard-pressed to find a more accomplished teacher. Mr. Marsalis, winner of the 1997 Pulitzer Prize for music for his oratorio "Blood on the Fields," began playing trumpet at age 12 and later studied music at the Juilliard School in New York City. His more than 30 jazz and classical music recordings have earned him nine Grammy Awards and the unofficial title as jazzs standard bearer.
Recently, he heavily influenced Ken Burns documentary, "Jazz," lending the multichapter saga his vast reservoir of jazz lore.
Spreading his love of jazz comes naturally, and halls such as the Filene Center make that dissemination a joy. But a new concert venue in New York will be the showcase venue for jazz music, if all goes according to his meticulous plans.
The Frederick P. Rose Hall, named after the first major contributor for the facility, is being built above New Yorks Central Park. It promises the worlds first stage built exclusively for jazz performances, in addition to providing a new home for the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra. Halls designed for classical, or other styles of music, tend to produce muddy sounds when jazz is performed.
"Its going to have a phenomenal impact," he says of the building, which is still looking for funding to cover its $115 million price tag. "It will be a landmark destination, like Carnegie Hall.
"Itll be like a festival every day," he says of the hall, set to open in 2004.
He understands, in a sense, why no existing halls were dedicated solely to jazz. "Its hard to get a grip on what it is," he says of his cherished art form.
In describing his own creative output, he says:
"Every time I write a piece, I try to do something different and unique. Its not something to fall into a category."
Perhaps it is that unscratchable itch, and a respect bordering on mania for jazz, that powers his muse.

WHAT: Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra at Wolf Traps annual Jazz & Blues Festival
WHERE: Wolf Traps Filene Center, 1624 Trap Road, Vienna
WHEN: 8 p.m. Wednesday; call for other show times, dates
TICKETS: $28 in house, $18 lawn; prices vary for other shows.
PHONE: 703/255-1860

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