Larry Roberts, Post-Gazette
Jazz trumpeter Wynton Marsalis discussed topics from New Orleans jazz to rap with music students at Duquesne University yesterday.
Wynton Marsalis has a way of covering a lot of ground musically, whether it's distilling the history of American music through the mouthpiece of a trumpet or, as in the case yesterday, through a microphone as he spoke to students at Duquesne University.
During a 45-minute or so question-and-answer session with about 175 students in the recital hall at the Mary Pappert School of Music, Marsalis was both candid and colorful.
He talked about jazz education and rap music's misogynistic lyrics, a subject he addressed in "From the Plantation to the Penitentiary," his latest recording, to his early disappointments as a young jazz trumpeter.
He also spoke about the difference between playing a style of music because you like it and actually being able to play it.
"I like Latin music, but I will never be able to play it," he said. "If you listen to all the great trumpet players in the Latin tradition, what chance do I have to play like them? Zero. I can survive in the clave, but if that's enough for you that's OK, but not for me."
Marsalis went on to talk about the devolution of music and how commercial interest has superseded artistic interest.
"If you doubt it, just look at rap music, something purely absurd. It's in our culture and endorsed by millions of people. If you had come to me on a bandstand in the 1970s and said, 'One day there's going to be a form of music that calls people the n-word and uses all this profanity and it's going to be available to kids in the sixth and seventh grade,' we would have started laughing at you. Now, if you don't endorse that music, people start wondering if you're black. Things are always evolving and devolving."
Marsalis was in town to receive an award from the Thea Bowman Foundation, which provides annual scholarships to African-American students at Catholic universities.
Nate Guidry can be reached at email@example.com or 412-263-3865.