Wynton Marsalis has held a central place in the jazz pantheon for more than three decades. Stanley Clarke (not always his biggest fan) said, "He has brought respectability back to jazz." Wynton Marsalis was born in New Orleans on October 18, 1961, second son (after elder brother Branford) of notable pianist Ellis Marsalis. At six, he received a gift trumpet from Al Hirt, but didn't start playing in earnest until high school, where he studied classical and played in bands. In 1979 he started two years at Juilliard. From 1980 to 82 he was a member of Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, also gigging with Herbie Hancock. He founded the famous quintet with Branford, Kenny Kirkland, Charnet Moffett and Jeff "Tain" Watts in 1982...which morphed into the 1985 version with Marcus Roberts and Robert Hurst.
His classical recordings in 1983 and '84 garnered Grammy Awards - a revelation after his DownBeat wins in 1982 - Trumpet, Musician and Album! Heads were turning all over the world. He established Classic Jazz at Lincoln Center, becoming Artistic Director in 1996. His NPR series Marsalis on Music was a big hit followed by Making The Music, which won a Peabody Award. He won a Pulitzer for Blood on the Fields in 1997; was 2001 UN Messenger of Peace; National Medal of Arts 2005; National Humanities Medal; NEA Jazz Master; Edison Award; Grand Prix du Disque; 9 Grammys; DownBeat Hall of Fame in 2017.
Wynton Marsalis has sold millions of records and played with virtually everybody. But his negative stance on rap and hip-hop has earned him some vociferous detractors... His response is quintessential Marsalis: "You can't enter a battle and expect not to get hurt."