Saturday, Wynton Marsalis stepped up to join in with a high school band at the Vacaville, Ca., Jazz Festival. Read about it -- and catch some videos here.
Whether you're a Marsalis fan or a hater -- and there appears to be plenty of both -- you've got to give it up to a guy who takes every opportunity to teach. I first learned of this aspect of Marsalis' nature in the mid-1980s, when he was playing a concert in Billings, Mont. Hours befoe the gig, he stopped in at a local jazz club after calling area high schools to let the kids know he and his band would be there if anyone wanted to join him.
Aspiring to a career as a jazz musician can be a lonely undertaking -- doubly hard in land filled with cowboy honky tonks and redneck music. Can you imagine how inspiring it must have been for some of those kids to have a chance to sit in with such a band?
In the book he co-authored with Carl Vigeland, "Jazz in the Bittersweet Blues" (Da Capo Press, 2002), Marsalis time and time again shows his willingness to do more to help spread his love of jazz.
I've enjoyed much of Marsalis' work -- but not everything. And that's one of the things I like about him: he's not afraid to change or to try something new.
If we have a modern ambassador for jazz -- a Duke Ellington or Dizzie -- it's got to be Wynton Marsalis.