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    Default Jazz at Lincoln Center - Time Warner Center

    From the December 24, 2001 issue of New York Magazine.

    Wynton Center


    "Let the ass-whipping begin," Wynton remarked, a bit of opening commentary as he walked onto the 65th Street project courts. Nothing personal, Wynton said; with him, ass-whipping need not be adversarial. It can be more a statement of loving engagement with the material at hand, be it Mahler, "East St. Louis Toodle-oo," or a supposedly friendly game of one-on-one.

    Still, it was probably a mistake, snickering when the musician started in about his jumper, how sweet it was. Somehow it seemed unlikely, unfair, creepy even, that Wynton -- only 40 but already into his second decade as the semi-officially anointed "most important musician of his generation," the only jazzman ever to get a Pulitzer Prize (for his symphonic-size Blood on the Fields), winner of both jazz and classical Grammys on the same night, one of Time magazine's "25 most influential Americans" -- might be good at basketball too.

    But here they came, the jumpers raining down. "Money in the bank," Wynton noted, canning his seventh in a row, a bitch when you're playing winner's out, the way Win-tone, as he is sometimes known, likes to play. There was nothing to do but watch the perfect ball rotation and flawless follow-through, all that immaculate Apollonian form. Then again, a lot of things, nasty and nice, have been said about Wynton Marsalis since he arrived on the scene with his brother Branford back in the late seventies, a Jazz Messenger with an unbeatable New Orleans pedigree, formidable upper register, and decided lack of shyness in matters of cultural-aesthetic polemicizing. No one, however, through twenty years of workaholic touring and nearly 50 CDs, has ever knocked Marsalis's technique. Except now our contest had taken a critical, potentially calamitous turn. You see: When Wynton's got that J going, you've got to play him close. In such proximity, a defender's elbow might, inadvertently, come in contact with the jazzman's wry, moon-shaped face. That elbow might even bash into Wynton's lip. Hard.

    "Uh," Wynton grunted, checking for blood.

    "You all right?"

    Wynton did not answer, only smiled, that chubby-cheeked best-boy-in-the-class smile, so down-home sincere, so full of you're-going-to-get-yours. In the face of such a smile, you can forget the business at hand. Like those scowly gym rats uptown. They took one look at the trumpeter's somewhat stumpy body and scoffed, "Hey, Winston, where's your flute?" But once Wynton unfurled the grin and canned a dozen or so in a row, those boys just shook their heads in genial surrender. That's the secret of Wynton's game. The way he does it, you don't even mind the ass-whipping.

    This was a relief, because you don't want to be the guy who split Wynton Marsalis's kisser. Only the night before, in the claustrophobic kitchen-dressing room at the Village Vanguard, after playing three sets of (mostly) bop with Charles McPherson's quartet, hot on "Night in Tunisia," mournful on "Pork Pie Hat," Wynton had been talking about his lip, how sore it was. It happens to trumpet players, that puckered stress on the obicularis oris. During the thirties, Satchmo's own immortal chops were beat for years from hitting those high C's every night. But throughout a history that includes the classic lips of Roy Eldridge, Sweets Edison, Clark Terry, Rex Stewart, Dizzy Gillespie, Clifford Brown, Miles Davis, Lester Bowie, and a hundred other bugle geniuses, never has so much been riding on singular embouchure.

    So much was clear a couple days later, 100 feet above Columbus Circle, amid the swing of giant cranes and the hot blue blind of welding torches. They're building the new Twin Towers here, a pair of 80-floor, 750-foot-tall spires, on the former site of the squatty old New York Coliseum. The biggest construction project under way in post-September 11 New York, the $1.7 billion complex will include the new headquarters of AOL Time Warner, a five-star hotel, 200 or so condos (with Trump-priced penthouses), and a vast, no doubt brutally upscale shopping mall. Also there will be the new home of Jazz at Lincoln Center, Wynton Marsalis, Artistic Director. And today, Wynton, hard hat over his close-cropped hair, has arrived along with other J@LC board members and officials to inspect the progress of their $115 million, 100,000-square-foot facility.

    Whether it first arrived channeled through the singing horn of Buddy Bolden and soon became "the most abstract and sophisticated music anybody has ever heard, short of Bach," as Wynton contended, among several hundred other things throughout his near-omnipresent appearance on Ken Burns's nineteen-hour documentary Jazz, the music of Mingus, Monk, and Charlie Parker has never seen anything like what's happening here on Columbus Circle, where, in 1910, a new music then called ragtime made its New York debut at Reisenweber's café, with its $1.25 blue plate of fried frog.

    Touted as "the world's first performing-arts facility built specifically for jazz," this joint, when it opens sometime in 2004, will have three separate performance spaces: the 1,100-seat, concert-style Rose Hall, named for the late, civic-minded Frederick P. Rose, who provided funds for the new planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History; the 600-seat, nightclub-style Allen Room; and a smaller "café" slated to accommodate 140 fans. Also in the plan are recording and rehearsal studios, plus a large jazz-education center. On square-footage alone, you could fit twenty Village Vanguards in here, the whole Cotton Club, several Five Spots, Slugs and Minton Playhouses, and still have hall space for strung-out musicians to fix in, not that any Wynton-fronted organization, however tradition-minded, is likely to condone such self-destructive habits.

    Wynton has long been thinking about a "permanent home" for the music he first played marching through the Vieux Carré streets with Danny Barker's Fairview Baptist Church Brass Band. The topic often came up back in the eighties, during the semi-legendary conversations-plotting sessions Wynton engaged in with his great friends and mentors (some say Svengali figures): the combative yet pithy essayist Stanley Crouch and the novelist-philosopher Albert Murray, a longtime confidant of Ralph Ellison and Duke Ellington, who called the dapper 85-year-old Murray "the most unsquarest man in the world."

    It was up in Murray's apartment on 132nd Street and Lenox, surrounded by "all these books, Faulkner, Hemingway, Malraux, most of which Stanley and Albert had actually read," Wynton says, "that I began to envision my life on a bigger scale than I previously thought possible . . . I mean, you go to the bathroom and there's a photograph of the Army Air Corps, 1943. There's about 200 uniformed officers, and Albert -- the only black guy in the picture . . . I knew a few things about music because my father was a musician. I'd grown up around jazz musicians. But I was just a kid, from New Orleans, with a New Orleans education, which is basically no education. This was something else altogether."

    Amid much holding-forth on the issues of free will in Thomas Mann and the majesty of Louis's solo on "Potato Head Blues," conversation always came back to the future of jazz, how this priceless heritage would survive the dark ages of ascendent pop idiocy and fusion. The need for the establishment of a jazz canon and a place where the music could be preserved through both repertory performance and instruction was paramount.

    Already involved with a Lincoln Center "Classical Jazz" series, Wynton was the logical point man. Armed with Crouch's social critique of how to play Establishment (read: white) organizations, that smile and country-boy manner (even though Kenner, where he grew up, is a New Orleans suburb), Wynton offered an undeniable package. He was, after all, the ultimate crossover artist, arguably the best single jazz and classical trumpet player in the world, a most presentable and courtly young black man who had performed Haydn's Trumpet Concerto with the New Orleans Symphony at 14 -- someone to whom race and class barriers simply do not apply. "That really amazed me," says one old-line Lincoln Center board member, "watching him play Purcell. I said to myself, 'This is a once-in-a-lifetime individual.' If we ever wanted to do something with jazz, he had to be the one."

    "Look," Wynton told the blue-blood board of Lincoln Center, his voice so deep and smoky, the informality of his manner only adding moral authority, "I play classical and I play jazz and jazz is harder." There was no reason, Wynton said, no reason at all, that jazz, America's "greatest art form, a democratic triumph of order and beauty over chaos," shouldn't be accorded the same status as "European" Lincoln Center "constituents" like the Metropolitan Opera, the New York City Ballet, and the New York Philharmonic.

    Jazz at Lincoln Center was accorded full Lincoln Center constituency status in 1996. However, it wasn't until 1998, when un-hepcat mayor Rudy Giuliani idiosyncratically mandated that any plans submitted for the highly sought-after Coliseum site include a performance space for JLC, that Wynton devised his "Ten Fundamentals of the House of Swing."

    Written on cocktail napkins during a red-eye flight, "The Vision," as Wynton calls it, reads like what it was intended to be: "the metaphorical blueprint of a groove, to be articulated into design." According to Fundamental No. 1, "the entire facility is the House of Swing . . . we want all 100,000 square feet to dance and sing, to be syncopated and unpredictable, but not eccentric." Fundamental No. 5 says, "The two main performance spaces should represent two sides of the same thing, like night and day, or like a man and a woman." The Rose Hall, representing "woman, or night (this is not Jazz at Lincoln Center's main hall, because like a family we play no favorites), should sound like Lester Young, Billie Holiday, Paul Desmond, and Miles Davis." The front, or "male," Allen Room "should have the feeling of a street parade . . . an ancient Greek theatre . . . there should be a question of where the band ends and the audience begins . . . the room should feel like Duke Ellington's Orchestra -- sensuous, spicy, and able to accommodate all tempos."

    The project's lead architect, the flamboyant Uruguayan Rafael Viñoly, who jokes that he's a former Tupamaro revolutionary and is noted for designing massive convention centers, found Wynton's manifesto to be "immediately translatable into the language of art and love." A copy of the "Fundamentals," accompanied by Viñoly's plans, now fills a bedroom wall in Wynton's homey and spacious river-view pad on 66th Street, directly behind the Juilliard School he once attended as a 17-year-old trumpet prodigy. It is a minute's stride, gig bag at his side, from Wynton's place, past Balducci's, to the stage door of Alice Tully Hall, where he's conducted the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra for the past decade. Columbus Circle will mean a longer walk to work, but it will be worth it. "Sometimes I'll get up in the middle of the night and look at the plans," Wynton says. "It's like a dream, one I always knew would happen."

    Truth be told, however, Wynton, unhappy with heights and deep water, isn't thrilled be on the rickety catwalks of the rising House of Swing. Still, he looks slick, in his Brooks Brothers casualwear. It is part of being the star, the front man, the artistic director. Brooks Brothers is a corporate sponsor. This is no problem, since Wynton, who'd rather play backup for Kenny G than be caught dead in Phat Farm, is pretty much Brooks Brothers to begin with. Hands on, he does all his own ironing, the board in the cedar closet of his bedroom, alongside twenty or so hats, each on its own hook. On the road, he sometimes irons the clothes of the guys in the band, too. "They bring them to me because they know I'll crease them right," Wynton says.

    "Jazz steel," Wynton notes, clutching a naked girder as the late-fall wind whips through the open superstructure. It is a phrase he likes, "because we're not after something that is going to disappear. We're building an institution." That's what people don't understand, Wynton says -- the need for permanency. It is an issue, after all -- this notion of an institutionalized House of Swing, especially a $115 million one crammed into the middle of the commercial colossus of the AOL Time Warner corporate headquarters.

    "Institutions create institutional music, and that is not what jazz is about. This is a music where nothing is ever played the same way twice," says Howard Mandel, a writer who's president of the Jazz Journalists Association, echoing the often-heard objection against the supposed canonization of what is referred to as "the Marsalis-Crouch-Murray version" of the music. Not that anyone doubts Marsalis's 100 percent dedication to the future of jazz (of the opinion that knowing the chord changes to "C Jam Blues" will absolutely save your soul, he's a tireless jazz educator, offering several dozen lectures and demonstrations each year). Problems arise with Wynton's alleged "neo-traditionalist," anti-avant-garde bias against everything he personally deems as "unswinging" -- i.e., much of the past four decades. The fear is, while the legacies of Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington will be forever celebrated on Columbus Circle, such post-Coltrane artists as Cecil Taylor, Don Cherry, Albert Ayler, and Sun Ra will be written out of the music's history.

    Some just can't stand the imprimatur of the uptown big-money squares. For her part, Lorraine Gordon, who owns and operates the Vanguard, the club started by her husband Max 66 years ago, says, "I love Wynton; he's my favorite. But jazz in a shopping mall? What's that about?"

    Even Ellis Marsalis, father of Wynton, Branford, Delfeayo, and Jason, reveals mixed feelings. Ellis, considered by some observers to be the "hippest" of the Marsalis clan, once drove all the way to Los Angeles to see Ornette Coleman, whose "harmolodic" approach has been found deficient in swingingness by the JLC brain trust. Accompanied by fellow New Orleans player and teacher Alvin Batiste, Ellis told Ornette he dug him, then got in the car and drove home. Now, standing in the crowded Vanguard dressing room, Ellis, a large, friendly man, casts a loving gaze at his famous son and says, "Jazz at Lincoln Center is a great thing. A lot of musicians are going to get work because of it. But this New York, you know, it's not my New York. My New York had clubs, little places to go, to relax and just play. This New York, it's kind of cosmetic. But times change; you have to accept that."

    Wynton, of course, has heard it all before. Like a jazz Howard Roark bestride six-inch-thick rubber "isolation pads" that will muffle the rumble of the A train Billy Strayhorn said was the quickest way to Harlem, he decries, "Who could be against this? . . . Jazz is about both change and tradition. Who says it has to be played only in dark rooms filled with curls of cigarette smoke? Always on the margin. That outlaw thing. That's a romantic, limiting fantasy. This is the greatest music ever produced in this country, made by the greatest musicians. You think it doesn't deserve something first-class, like any other great art?"

    Yet even now, with people talking about him as one more Balanchine or Bernstein, a New York cultural leader-commissar, there is another kind of permanency to think about: the tenuousness of life around here these days. Wynton was in L.A. during the WTC nightmare, getting ready to put on his most recent magnum opus, All Rise, at the Hollywood Bowl: "I saw it on television. The planes, over and over. All I could think about was how perishable everything was."

    Indeed, our little tour of the future home of Jazz at Lincoln Center was held up for about half an hour that very morning. Bruce MacCombie, the JLC executive director; Laura Johnson, the general manager; and Jonathan Rose, the chairman of the building committee, were there. But Ted Ammon, the chairman of the board, was not. It was strange, everyone said, because Ted, the investment banker-jazz fan who had contributed more than $2.5 million to JLC, was not the type to be late. It wasn't until the next morning that people heard Ammon was dead, murdered in his Hamptons home.

    A week later, at a memorial service for Ammon at Alice Tully Hall attended by several representatives of the Suffolk County homicide squad, Wynton eulogized, "We want to know the particulars of death -- it repulses us, it calls us, it fascinates us . . . but only the dead know the facts of death, and they never tell." Then, along with Wycliffe Gordon, Victor Goines, Walter Blanding Jr., and others from the LC Jazz Orchestra, Wynton broke into "Didn't He Ramble" -- "Didn't he ramble . . . Rambled all around, in and out of town . . . till the butcher cut him down" -- a tune that has been played at New Orleans jazz funerals since the days of Bunk Johnson, 100 years ago. They really ripped into the tune, with Wynton, seemingly on the verge of tears, playing the happiest music he could think of. It was a priceless kind of thing, because even if Ammon's much-battled-over estate was worth $100 million, no amount of money could buy this: being sent off by Wynton Marsalis. Except the people at Alice Tully didn't quite get it. They sat there mute. Eventually Wynton said, "You know, you don't have to be so quiet."

    A couple hours later, Wynton, up in his apartment overlooking the Hudson playing chess with saxophonist Walter Blanding, remained a little puzzled. "To me," he said, "death is not morbid; it's people's reaction to it that's morbid . . . nothing lasts, that's a given, but that's exactly why you've got to keep on working." It was like on the final cut of the album Last Date, when Eric Dolphy, who would die less than a month later, says, "When you hear music, after it's over, it's gone in the air forever. You can never capture it again." It was like Charlie Parker dying at 34. If you're a player, you take that as an inspiration to keep playing, harder than ever. Impermanence only increases urgency, said Wynton, whose first extended work was Griot New York, a 1991 three-movement piece performed in collaboration with the Garth Fagan Dance company.

    "That summed up how I felt about New York," Wynton says. "In the middle, the city is destroyed. Then the lovers, the two dancers, build it back up again. Heal it. I really wanted it to have this feeling of myth, urban myth, ultimate danger and redemption. To me it is a heroic story."

    The challenge is to battle disorder, things flying off into meaninglessness. There has to be a center, says Wynton, paraphrasing Yeats, his favorite poet. That's how it is in music, and buildings, too, Wynton said, especially "a temple" like the new JLC. Wynton addresses the issue in No. 8 among "The Fundamentals of the House of Swing." It says: "We must have an icon that serves as the symbol for the facility everywhere."

    Certainly that icon will be the jazz temple's most spectacular design feature, the 50-foot glass wall facing Central Park South that will rise above the bandstand of the Allen Room. It will be something new to see in this beleaguered, beloved city. Soon a guy and his girl will be able to stroll through the park, ride west in a taxi or hansom cab, incline their eyes, and look at what Wynton has called "this gleaming jewel, a beacon of civilization and American expression . . . one more beautiful vision of New York."

    "They will see Wynton," says architect Rafael Viñoly, who invented the idea of the glass wall after reading No. 8 of the "Fundamentals."

    "Wynton in the window, blowing his horn."

    Sitting on the ledge that surrounds the fountain in the middle of the Lincoln Center campus, Wynton is contemplating what Albert Murray, in his book The Hero and the Blues, refers to as the epic "journey . . . the fundamental commitment" of the artist, a heroism "measured in terms of the . . . complexities of the obstacles it overcomes." In a few hours, he'll be inside Alice Tully Hall, leading the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, including Victor Goines, Wess Anderson, and Herlin Riley -- musicians Marsalis has known most of his life -- to play in a 75th-birthday-celebration concert for saxophonist Jimmy Heath. But now he is remembering when he first came to 66th Street, in 1979, to try out for Juilliard.

    "I was nervous. My teacher thought I could make it. But you never know. I just wanted to do good on my audition, get a good scholarship. I didn't want to stay in New Orleans, the shit I had grown up around. The segregation. I thought it would be better in the North. As I found out, New York was a segregated town, too, in a different way. I performed all my music from memory. I played the Haydn Trumpet Concerto. I played the Brandenburg, played Petrushka, overtures from Beethoven, Mahler's Fifth. The common repertoire, what you have to know if you play orchestral trumpet."

    Wynton would be out of Juilliard by 1980, touring with Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers along with his brother Branford -- a whole other kind of education.

    "That was exciting," Wynton says, ticking off, with his usual total recall, the various apartments he lived in during those early, wild times when he first made his name. "I lived at 137th Street near Lenox, 108th between Broadway and West End, 99th and Broadway, 20th and Park, Bleecker and Broadway, in Brooklyn . . . I loved Harlem, I loved Brooklyn. The musicians looked out for me. Art Blakey. John Lewis. Philly Joe Jones came and picked me up in his car. We'd pass a place and he'd say, 'There's where this musician lives, there's where to get the best suits, the really good Italian sausages.' He wanted me to know these things, thought it might be useful to me."

    One of the dumber, more patronizing misconceptions about Wynton is that he arrived in New York a malleable Mr. Natural, a Willie Mays-Joe Hardy tabula rasa of the brass section, to be molded by the neocon-ology of whatever mentor he encountered. The fact is, Wynton has always had a sense of his own destiny, from the time Al Hirt, the Bourbon Street tourist macher his father was playing with, gave him his first trumpet at 6: "Trumpet playing is as old as dust, you know . . . Joshua didn't knock down Jericho with a saxophone. A trumpeter announces himself, a trumpeter is a priest, a shaman. It gives you power."

    We were talking about "Psalm 26," the cut that both opens and closes Wynton's 1988 disc Uptown Ruler. Looking through a Bible as we sat beside the Lincoln Center fountain, I wondered what so interested Wynton about this particular Psalm of David. Well, he said, it wasn't this George W. riff about hating "the company of evildoers," how "I have not sat with the wicked." How else would you learn the ways of the wicked unless you sat with them? No, what mattered to Wynton was the phrase "but as for me." "But as for me, I walk in my integrity. Redeem me and be gracious to me. . . . My foot stands on level ground, in the great congregation," Wynton read aloud.

    "But as for me . . . like in all this magnificence, all creation, one individual voice could still be heard. That really jumped out at me."

    That's why, Wynton says, "you've got to work on your legend," something the jazzman did most notoriously in his long-running feud with Miles Davis. Wynton (named for Miles's onetime piano player Wynton Kelly) had been viciously attacking Davis, claiming the inventor of "the cool" -- an early influence on Marsalis's own playing -- was "tomming" by playing his Bitches Brew-style fusion. In retort, Davis said that Wynton was a "nice young man but confused" who should "mind his own f*ck
    ing business."

    "You're afraid of Miles," mocked Wynton's band members, betting him $100 apiece that he would not confront the irascible Davis when the two trumpeters played a festival in Vancouver, Canada. Taking the dare, Wynton jumped up onto stage right in the middle of Davis's show.

    Wynton recalls: "Miles was playing the organ on a blues song, 'C.C. Rider,' when I got onstage. 'I've come to address the dumb shit you have said about me and my family,' I shouted. But Miles just keeps playing. Doesn't even look up. I had to say it again. 'I've come to address the dumb shit . . . ' Finally, Miles says, 'Come back tomorrow.' " Then we got into it, him telling me to get the f*ck
    off the stage, which I eventually did. But as I was going, he picked up his horn and played. I guess he was trying to put me in my place, show me who was boss, but he played some sad shit. He had nothing left. That made me unhappy, to see a great player challenged like that and be without a response."

    Not that Wynton regrets the incident: "No, man. Miles knew what was up. He knew the Oedipal deal, he'd done enough of it himself when he was young. Besides, it was fun."

    Other incidents, generally falling under the rubric of "the jazz wars of the nineties," have been less amusing. In 1993, reports leaked of an "artistic decision" by JLC to hire "an entire band of guys under the age of 30." Given the JLC credo, firing people like altoist Jerry Dodgion, trombonist Art Baron, and baritone man Joe Temperly, who had played with Duke Ellington's band, was a strange, possibly illegal (and soon to be withdrawn) move that opened Marsalis up to accusations he was packing the band full of easily controllable crony-clones.

    More inflammatory have been recurring charges of so-called reverse racism at JLC. In 1996, much was made of the fact that of all the musicians given "nights" at JLC, only one, Gerry Mulligan, who had already died at the time of the show, was white. What happened to Bix Beiderbecke and Bill Evans? critics asked. "Blacks invented jazz, but no one owns it," complained Whitney Balliett in an oft-quoted New Yorker piece.

    Marsalis was floored by the criticism: "I'm thinking to myself, This is Lincoln Center and they're talking about no white people?" To this day, Marsalis discounts the race issue, saying it was "all about resentment, about me using my power as artistic director, which is what I was hired to do." Today (when five of the fifteen LC Orchestra chairs are held by whites, including saxophonist Ted Nash, trumpeter Ryan Kisor, and the thankfully still-extant 72-year-old baritone-sax player Joe Temperly), Wynton insists, "I just want to have the best players who I feel good playing with."

    This skirmishing led to much intemperate commentary. New-wavist saxophonist David Murray slammed JLC's reliance on standards as "f*ck
    in' macabre necrophilia or some shit." Pianist Keith Jarrett said Wynton was "jazzy the same way someone who drives a BMW is sporty." Wynton gave as good as he got, even if sometimes "I had no choice but to laugh." Case in point is an Internet page titled "Livingston Squat . . . a place devoted to mirth at the expense of Wynton Marsalis and Stanley Crouch," in which one finds the one-act play Branford Tells Wynton, a retelling of the traumatic 1985 scene when Branford informed his earnest younger brother he would be leaving the Wynton Marsalis Quintet.

    "That's cool, Steeplone," Wynton (referred to as "Minton Bursitis" says. A jazzman should broaden his horizons. "Will you be going with some legendary veteran of the bebop tenor battles on Central Avenue in Los Angeles . . . or perhaps an underappreciated modern giant who cut his teeth during the fertile period of swinging sixties modernism?"

    "Well, no," Branford replies. Actually, he says, he is going to play with Sting, describing the former Police singer as "a down cat," adding, "I can't be doing that historical shit all the time!"

    Wynton wails: "Pop music! Pop music! My own brother!"

    Nowadays, Wynton claims he doesn't read what people write about him anymore. "There was a really bad article in the Times, and I wrote this long letter of rebuttal. I was wondering, should I send it? My son, Wynton Jr., said I had to send it. 'Daddy', he said, 'if you don't, then they'll write it all over again.' After that, I couldn't take it seriously anymore."

    Besides, Wynton says, stretched out in his bedroom, he doesn't have time for jazz wars. He's just gotten back from a month on the road with the LC Jazz Orchestra and another two weeks with his septet. "Playing, every night, playing." That's the easy part, he says, going from town to town, driving in the bus, playing ball, scheming a way to beat Walter Blanding in chess, spreading jazz love along the highways and byways. What's hard is "working for free . . . this nonprofit thing. When you're working for free, you're tired all the time."

    Looking at the plans of the new building on the wall, Wynton says, "First, everyone was talking about $50 million. Then it was $74 million, $81 million. Now it's 115 . . . $115 million! When I was growing up, if you got 115 pennies for jazz, you were doing good. Now we need $115 million, and have around 80, maybe 85. That's $30 more million. Got to get it."

    Chances are he will, since, along with the other things Wynton Marsalis can do really well, raising money is one of them.

    Gordon J. Davis, founding chairman of JLC (and until his recent resignation Lincoln Center's president), testifies to Wynton's magic with "lead donors." "He's kind of the ultimate weapon," says Davis, who has drummed up "untold millions" for a variety of groups and causes. "You open the door, and in walks Mozart. Fund-raising-wise, that can be a compelling argument."

    It worked with Herb Allen, the fabulously secretive broker of such high-stakes media deals as the Disney-Capital Cities/ ABC merger and Seagram's $5.7 billion purchase of MCA. A fraternity brother of Allen's at Williams back in the early sixties, Davis once managed to get Allen to write a $250 check for a campus civil-rights campaign. But Allen had little interest in jazz until Davis, as a personal favor, asked him to have breakfast with Marsalis.

    "Wynton came over and started talking, the way he does," Davis said. "As it turned out, Wynton and Herb had similar views on the corrosive nature of today's popular culture, how it undermines everything." Allen said he might speak to Steve Case, the AOL founder, who had also attended Williams and was often present at the Sun Valley confab Allen hosts annually for the likes of Bill Gates, Sumner Redstone, and Rupert Murdoch. Case was a jazz fan, Allen said.

    "I told my secretary, 'If Herb Allen calls, get me, no matter what,' " Davis recalls. "My heart sank, because he said he hadn't gotten the money from Case. He didn't feel right about asking him. I was about to hang up when Allen says, 'So I'll give you the money myself.' Ten million bucks. He said it was meeting Wynton that did it. He believed in him."

    The grand jazz patroness Baroness Pannonica de Koenigswarter may have sent her personal car to bring the junked-up Bird to the Stanhope and put up Monk in her Weehawken estate, but Wynton's philanthropic reach far exceeds that. Watching Wynton work a room, as he did the other night at JLC's gala "Tribute to Tito Puente," pausing unhurriedly at every single $1,000-a-plate setting, is to see another bit of marvelous Marsalis class-defying technique. The contact of the winking eye, the squeeze of the genius's hand upon the shoulder, the wordless Chaplinesque dance with the head and spreading cherub smile -- you could call him Wynton Clinton, how he fits it all together with his understated preacher's zeal, how he listens. It is a jazzman's gift, after all, listening to others. How else can you play? Talk to Wynton on the phone, and there will be a pause. A silence on the other end. "You still there?" is the question. "Yeah," Marsalis says, "I'm listening to what you're saying." Oh, you say, surprised and pleased at the novelty of it all.

    Yet you wonder how long Wynton can stay in the window of the jazz temple he's building over on Columbus Circle, and what might happen without him. "They've painted themselves into a corner at Lincoln Center, pushing Wynton so far out front," says one prominent jazz critic. "He's very good, but he's not Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington rolled up into one, as they'd have you believe. Everyone knows, including Wynton, I bet, those long compositions like All Rise don't work. They've set up a cult of personality, Wynton and the Wyntonettes, and there's no turning back now."

    Certainly, JLC is exceedingly Wynton-centric. Jonathan Rose, son of Frederick, says, "The whole idea of the facility is to make it welcoming and warm, the way Wynton is -- for it to be a manifestation of Wynton's personality." Russell Johnson, the noted famous acoustician working on the new JLC, says, "It is rare a hall is built so clearly for one artist." Asked shortly before his death if Wynton was so central to JLC that the organization would be robbed of identity without him, Ted Ammon said, "No one is indispensable. No one. But to lose Wynton . . . that would leave a big hole, a very big hole."

    Even Albert Murray, who has an opinion about everything, demurs when asked if Wynton's extra administrative duties might be hampering his playing. "That's my boy," Albert says. "Don't ask me to say anything about my boy."

    Wynton, who says he's "a scrub, like everyone else," figures he can take the weight. Besides, he's too busy checking over this new translation of The Iliad and convincing me he is right about the popular culture and I am wrong to worry about his own mortality. It is part of a long-running conversation, the kind Wynton likes. I contend that if Sonny Rollins could work with "Surrey With the Fringe on Top," current musicians should be able to make jazz from today's pop songs. Wynton, who hates anything with even the hint of a backbeat, disagrees because "all the pop songs they make now are so sad you can't even mess with them."

    Isn't there one he likes? One single tune? "No," Wynton says. What about Nirvana's "Come As You Are" -- that's got an interesting line. Wynton considers this, singing through Kurt Cobain's changes. "No, man," he says. "I'm looking to play the melody, and there's none."

    So it goes. Wynton says the definitions of hip and square have never changed: The jazzmen remain eternally cool. "That's the reason I can't get with the so-called avant-garde. All jazz is avant-garde. Sidney Bechet is still avant-garde. The squares are those fools on MTV, with gold teeth and the baggy prison pants. Minstrel-show shit. I won't let my kids watch it. 'But it's Jay-Z', they say. I tell them, 'I don't care if it's F-Z, you ain't watching.' Not when I'm around. Let them sneak their shit. That's what I had to do. My parents were strict. We always had to sneak our shit."

    Then the phone rings, which it often does. You can always tell when it is a babe, especially one Wynton, who has never yet had to say he doesn't get around much anymore (and has never been married), doesn't exactly want to talk to. His voice gets low and his eyes roll about in their sockets. "I didn't say I didn't want you to call anymore. I said I didn't want you to call me 30 times a day," he says. When he hangs up, I say, "Don't make any entangling alliances."

    "What?" he asks.

    "Don't make any entangling alliances." The quote is from Thomas Jefferson.

    " 'Don't make any entangling alliances' -- Wynton repeats, writing it down in his looping handwriting on a napkin, which he shoves into his pocket. "Thanks," he says. "I'll remember that."

    It is a nice day, so we walk across the Lincoln Center campus, as Wynton has been doing for more than twenty years. You forget how stitched into this community he is. He knows everyone, cops, maintenance guys, doormen. By Avery Fisher Hall, we run into Brandon Lee, whom Wynton introduces as "from Houston, one of the baddest motherf*ck
    ers on trumpet out here." Seventeen and rail-thin, Brandon attends the new jazz program at Juilliard. Largely because of Wynton and Victor Goines, who now heads the school, Brandon did not have to play Mahler or the Brandenburgs at his audition. He could choose from tunes like "Cherokee," "Round Midnight," "Con Alma," and "Willow Weep for Me."

    Approaching Wynton's apartment house, we run into Beverly Sills, the former diva who now runs Lincoln Center. With a deft side step, Wynton slips ahead, opening the door for her. Rumors have been flying about that Sills was instrumental in pushing Wynton's friend Gordon Davis from his job as president, but the jazzman claims to want no part of the culture-industry politics that has recently beset Lincoln Center, calling it, perhaps disingenuously, "grown-up people's business." (Both Davis and Sills deny that she had anything to do with Davis's exit.) Kissing Sills on the cheek with a great flourish, he says, "She's always been great to me."

    From the moment the elevator door opens on Wynton's floor, you can hear the music. Someone's almost always playing something at Wynton's, a horn or his grand piano. The sound beckons you forward, into this zone of sanity, this world where art lives. Why isn't your house like this? you wonder. Maybe Marsalis is a genius, maybe not, but this vibe might be his greatest achievement.

    As usual, the pad is packed. Tony Parker, the gray-eyed cop from Detroit, is here. Ditto Mo the cook from New Orleans, dishing up mounds of gumbo and jambalaya. In the living room, where the LSU game is on the TV, Wynton has left notes for a composition he's been writing on top of the grand piano. "Emphasis on these elements," it says on a pad: "1. strength, 2. speed, 3. glamour, 4. pain, 5. heaven." A few minutes later, Jumaane Smith, a Juilliard trumpet student, arrives with a tallish, cornrow-sporting 13-year-old.

    "This is Steve," Jumaane says, introducing the kid, who's come down from the Bronx with his mother and sisters. It is a bit of a continuum, since Jumaane has been one of Wynton's protégés and Steve, a young trumpet player, is now under Jumaane's wing. Jumaane has been talking about the kid for several weeks, touting his moves to the basket as well as his horn tone.

    "How good are you?" Wynton demands. "In basketball?"

    Not bad, not bad at all, Steve answers, attempting modesty, looking Wynton in the eye, the way his mom told him to. He's got an outside shot, can also go to the hole.

    "Why don't we go over to the court," Wynton says, getting that look. "Beat me, I'll do 200 push-ups. I beat you, you got to practice your horn two hours a day."

    Steve thinks that will be fine, taking the ball and bouncing it between his legs.

    An hour or so later, the boy returned. How'd he do? it was inquired.

    "It was an ass-whipping," Steve remarked glumly. Then, brightening, he said, "So it looks like I got to practice two hours a day. That won't be so bad."

  2. #2

    Default Jazz at Lincoln Center

    Information and pictures from Jazz at Lincoln Center

    Jazz at Lincoln Center's new home: a multi-room facility perched above Central Park, with bandstands posed against soaring walls of glass and a dance floor laid out beneath the moon and stars. Scheduled to open in fall 2004, the $128 million, 100,000-square-foot facility will be the world’s first performing arts center designed specifically for jazz.

    The Allen Room

    A 600-seat performance atrium, also named The Allen Room, provides an informal and intimate setting, with views through a 50-foot-high glass wall overlooking Central Park. Recalling a Greek amphitheater, tiered platforms ascend from the stage level to a dance floor with movable tables and chairs, allowing the audience to interact with the musicians. Beneath a skylight open to the stars, the musicians play against the backdrop of the Manhattan skyline.

    Concert Theater

    The 1,100-1,300-seat concert theater, also named Frederick P. Rose Hall, is designed for jazz but also accommodates opera, dance, theater, film, and orchestral performances, while maintaining a sense of intimacy and involvement between performers and audience. Through the use of movable seating towers, the hall can be set up with a proscenium for opera and dance or can provide the immediacy of a jazz setting by surrounding the musicians with the audience, seated on three levels. The full 90-foot fly and rigging can be closed for concerts so as not to compromise the acoustics. The stage, at 111 feet by 65 feet, is large enough for a full opera production, while the audience chamber measures only 80 feet from stage to uppermost tier.

    Jazz/Orchestra Mode

    Opera Mode

    Jazz Cafe

    A 140-seat jazz café in an irregularly shaped room with a traditional balcony level, offering views to Lincoln Center and Central Park. Designed with the intimacy of a nightclub, it provides a venue for ensemble performances and education, as well as informal gatherings, seminars, and other events.

    Floor Plan

    1. The Rose Room
    2. The Allen Room
    3. Jazz Cafe
    4. Lobby and the Ertegun Jazz Hall of Fame
    5. Education, Rehearsal, and Recording Studio
    6. Education and Rehearsal Studio
    7. Classroom
    8. Production Office
    9. Lobby
    10. Technical Operations Center
    11. Back Stage Entrance
    12. Green Room
    13. Dressing Rooms

  3. #3

    Default Jazz at Lincoln Center

    I don't know what else to say, except wow! *This is amazing. *I love it!!

  4. #4


    October 2, 2003

    Architect Named for Hall of Fame at Jazz Center


    A computer rendering of the Jazz Hall of Fame envisioned by David Rockwell.

    A hall of fame planned for Jazz at Lincoln Center in the new AOL Time Warner headquarters will be designed by David Rockwell, responsible for the look of the Kodak Theater in Los Angeles, the restaurant Nobu in New York and the hit Broadway show "Hairspray," center officials say.

    "I think it is going to be a sacred place in our hall where we pay our respects and present the greatest of our musicians and celebrate their achievements," said Wynton Marsalis, the artistic director of Jazz at Lincoln Center.

    Jazz at Lincoln Center has so far raised $108 million for its $128 million new home on Columbus Circle, due to open in October 2004. In January, the Coca-Cola Company agreed to give $10 million.

    The hall of fame is being financed in part by Ahmet Ertegun, who founded Atlantic Records and serves on Jazz at Lincoln Center's board. He made a $2 million gift in honor of his late brother, Nesuhi, founder of Atlantic Records' jazz division.

    "I really wanted to have a space which would celebrate the history of jazz," Mr. Ertegun said in an interview, "and would do that in the name of my late brother, one of the people who produced more varied jazz records than just about anybody else."

    Each year, Jazz at Lincoln Center will induct a new group of jazz greats into the hall of fame and have displays to honor them. A seven-member nominating committee will propose 16 candidates, and the inductees will then be selected by an international panel of 65 jazz experts — writers, producers, impresarios. Their names will be inscribed on glass panels flanking a 24-foot-long video wall that will show historical clips and will also be able to take a live feed from the concert hall. The first hall of fame group is expected to be announced in April.

    Mr. Marsalis said the inductees would be selected based on their "historical significance, the quality of their playing and the impact of their recordings."

    Mr. Rockwell, the designer, said he was using elements in the 1,200-square-foot space to evoke musical instruments — for instance, a rosewood bench curved like a guitar and a ribbed ceiling that contains projection and sound equipment. "The design in some ways plays a supporting role to the leading role of the music," he said.

    The Jazz at Lincoln Center complex, designed by Rafael Viñoly and called Frederick P. Rose Hall, is to have three performance stages — the 1,100- to 1,220-seat Rose Theater, which can also accommodate opera, dance, theater, film and orchestral performances; the 300- to 600-seat Allen Room, with a glass wall overlooking Central Park; and the 140-seat Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola for smaller concerts and special events.

    For its extensive educational programs, the group has created the 3,500-square-foot Irene Diamond Education Center, which includes two studios and a classroom.

    Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

  5. #5
    Forum Veteran
    Join Date
    Jan 2003
    Garden City, LI


    I wonder how this will impact the proposed National Jazz Museum being planned (for years) in Harlem. Was kinda looking forward to that one.

  6. #6

  7. #7


    Rose Hall Model

    Model Section

    Allen Room - Rendering

    Jazz at Lincoln Center is one of 12 constituent organizations at Lincoln Center in New York City. The program, which is headed by Wynton Marsalis, is a leader in jazz performance and education sponsoring numerous programs throughout the year geared towards music education. The new facility will emphasize the educational mission of the organization by providing ample rehearsal space and facilities for webcasting events worldwide. The design is constrained not only by the technical requirements of a performance hall but also by its location within another structure.

    The facility will house a 1,220-seat multi-use concert theater. Although designed for jazz performance with seating on all sides of the performers, the hall can be converted, through the use of moveable seating towers, to stage productions that require a proscenium such as opera, dance and drama. The stage is large enough for a full opera production but the seating is no more than 80 feet from the stage at the uppermost tier maintaining an intimacy familiar in jazz clubs but rarely found in large concert venues.

    The 600-seat performance atrium provides a less formal setting for small ensemble performances. Moveable tables and chairs are arranged in tiers and can be moved to provide space for dancing and educational activities. In front of a glass wall, musicians will play with the Manhattan skyline as a backdrop. A 140-seat jazz club is an irregularly shaped room for hosting small events like ensemble performances educational programs, seminars, informal gatherings and others. The facility will also contain the Irene Diamond Education Center with two rehearsal studios and one classroom. The Ertegun Jazz Hall of Fame, a multimedia installation, will provide an interactive history of jazz for all age groups.

    Scheduled to open in 2004, this 157,000-square foot facility will be the world’s first performing arts center designed especially for jazz music. The multi-room facility will be highly flexible, allowing new forms of interaction between the audience and the musicians and creating an experience informed by the unique, often improvisational, sound, function and feeling of jazz.

  8. #8


    May 12, 2004

    A Hall With Jazz on Its Mind


    Wynton Marsalis, artistic director of Jazz at Lincoln Center, plays as construction continues at the site of the center's new home.

    Jazz at Lincoln Center's first season in its $128 million new home in the Time Warner Center at Columbus Circle will be a dialogue between the music and where it will be played. It's a program — starting in the fall and to be announced today — that has been carefully thought out from the moment the organization began to conceive the hall's physical space six years ago.

    Jazz at Lincoln Center's Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra will perform in a space that accommodates dancing. There will be simultaneous concerts in larger and smaller spaces dealing with single-composer themes: Dizzy Gillespie in October and Thad Jones next May. For jazz collaborations — with dance companies, with the Boys Choir of Harlem, with Bill Cosby and with the librettist and author Diane Charlotte Lampert — Rose Theater, the largest of the three performance spaces, will be adjusted accordingly. The ceiling can be dropped; towers of seats can be moved to offer a choice between theater in the round or the more conventional proscenium arrangement.

    "What we've done for the hall is to design it to our needs," said Wynton Marsalis, the trumpeter and artistic director of Jazz at Lincoln Center. "Alice Tully Hall is designed for another art form. It's there, and it's great for its function. But our hall is based on different principles."

    Mr. Marsalis, wearing a suit and a hard hat and clutching a trumpet bag, spoke during a walk through the site on Monday as a few hundred workers continued to ready the hall for its Oct. 18 opening. It is expected to be substantially completed in July. Over whining power saws and the crackle of welding torches, Mr. Marsalis occasionally stopped to play the trumpet to test the acoustics in various spaces.

    Since 1991, when it became an official constituent of Lincoln Center, Jazz at Lincoln Center has used Alice Tully and Avery Fisher Halls for most of its concerts, respectable cultural landmarks that are nevertheless physically hostile to the sound of jazz percussion. No proper concert hall had ever been built specifically for the sound of jazz.

    The new jazz center, collectively known as Frederick P. Rose Hall, contains two, the 1,100-to-1,231-seat Rose Theater and the 310-to-550-seat Allen Room, which has a 50-foot-high glass wall overlooking the southern edge of Central Park from the fifth and sixth floors of the new Time Warner Center. A third space, Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola, will seat 140 in a nightclub setting and present nightly shows, including Tuesday-to-Sunday engagements of a single band, the practice common to New York's jazz clubs. Together, the three theaters will represent a staggeringly large addition to live jazz in New York.

    But Mr. Marsalis says the organization would not change its programming philosophy to ensure that seats are filled. The hall's first season, kicked off by a three-week festival, will instead expand on the ideas that Jazz at Lincoln Center has historically put forth in its programming. There are few obvious bookings, the sort of "off the rack" touring acts that jazz festivals around the country regularly present. You will not see many of jazz's biggest names, like Sonny Rollins, Keith Jarrett, Ornette Coleman or Diana Krall.

    Mr. Marsalis and his staff have developed Jazz at Lincoln Center as a "producer," organizing special semi-educational concerts around performers and commissioning new works from them. They have less interest in acting as a "presenter," putting established musicians onstage to do what they normally do. Understanding that distinction is crucial to understanding what the organization is trying to do.

    "Insofar as what people might say when they look at this schedule," Mr. Marsalis said, "there are a lot of people. That means a lot will be said. The question is: Who do you listen to? But we don't program based on that. We have objective style programming, we have categories of programming, we have meetings where we discuss the pros and cons, and then we go out and try to get what we can. The one thing we don't want to do is to cut ourselves off from the glorious achievement we already have made."

    Mr. Marsalis said he was also steadfast in his commitment to jazz as the central focus of the hall and would not incorporate other kinds of music — from Latin music to opera — without acknowledging a jazz connection. A large proportion of concerts will feature the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra or its newer band, the Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra. And a remarkable number of concerts feature new works by Mr. Marsalis himself. One is "Suite for Human Nature," which will have its premiere in concerts on Dec. 16 to Dec. 19. Mr. Marsalis based the piece on a libretto by Ms. Lampert.

    The invitation-only opening concert of the festival, on Oct. 18, includes Mr. Marsalis's brother Branford Marsalis, the saxophonist, and the singer Abbey Lincoln as guest performers; the fall gala on Oct. 20 includes the singer Patti Austin; Bill Cosby will be master of ceremonies for another Jazz Orchestra concert, on Oct. 21; a show on Oct. 25 addresses the music of Count Basie and Duke Ellington; "Let Freedom Swing," from Oct. 28 to Oct. 30, sets famous human-rights speeches to newly commissioned pieces of music; and "Jazz in Motion" (Nov. 3 to 5) pairs the orchestra with various dance companies.

    An ambitious series of concerts on the blues will be held on Oct. 25 to 27. They will span African roots music, country and soul and will feature performances by Taj Mahal, Randy Weston, Mamadou Diabate, Mark O'Connor, Ricky Skaggs, the Holmes Brothers and Houston Person. The singers Cassandra Wilson, Dianne Reeves and Freddy Cole will perform in separate late-October concerts, as will the idiosyncratic Brazilian musician and composer Hermeto Pascoal, who seldom performs in America.

    The first big event of the season proper is on Nov. 12 and 13: a jazz-and-film presentation of clips from Ken Burns's new documentary on the boxer Jack Johnson and some new original music written for it by Mr. Marsalis. In February comes a new series of concerts dealing with the impact of great American songwriters on jazz. The first (Feb. 17 to 19) features the pianist Bill Charlap. The guitarist John Scofield and pianist Brad Mehldau will join forces in a group on March 11 to 12; the SF Jazz Collective, a formidable group convened by the San Francisco jazz presenter SF Jazz, will also perform in March, as will the singers Kurt Elling and Luciana Souza.

    The pianists Marcus Roberts and Jason Moran bring in their trios for an evening of new commissioned work on April 22 and 23. And the Jazz Orchestra's trombonist Ron Westray will pilot the band from May 5 to May 7 in a new piece he has written based on stories from Cervantes's "Don Quixote."

    Concerts for younger audiences and lectures on music dot the schedule as well. The Ertegun Jazz Hall of Fame, open to the public, contains changing education kiosks, outlining the history of jazz on computer screens and in glass cases. A number of classrooms and a large recording studio have been built on-site, specifically addressing the needs of jazz.

    Through the season, and in the summer months, other Lincoln Center constituents and outside arts producers will be renting the halls for their own use; most of the available dates have already been reserved through the end of this year.

    Tickets for all events go on sale at noon on Friday on the organization's Web site, jazzatlincolncenter .org. In some ways the programming is running ahead of the construction's financing; $14 million is still to be raised. But Lisa Schiff, chairwoman of the organization's board, said there was strong interest from many potential donors.

    "The closer we get to opening," she said, "and the more visual it is, where it's not just a mass of concrete and you're stepping over wires and boards, then it's easier for investors to grasp."

    For the Coolest Vibes: Accentuate Acoustics, Eliminate City Noise


    A glass wall behind the stage of the Allen Room in Jazz at Lincoln Center's new home faces Central Park.

    Graphic: Earful of Swing

    Only an acoustician would have second thoughts about getting a new home with floor-to-ceiling, 50-by-90-foot windows overlooking Central Park. Those windows, at the center of the fifth and sixth stories of the Time Warner Center on Columbus Circle, will be both the public face and the most serious acoustical challenge for Jazz at Lincoln Center's new home, the Frederick P. Rose Hall.

    As the world's first performance center built for jazz, the hall represents a milestone for jazz as an American art form. "Everybody was aware that we were doing something historic," said Wynton Marsalis, the artistic director of Jazz at Lincoln Center, who calls the organization's new home "the House of Swing." Construction is scheduled to be completed in July, and opening night, after a summer of private "tuning" concerts and adjustments, is set for Oct. 18.

    The project commits $128 million and prime real estate to recognize the lasting importance of music that was born in the streets. "There is no precedent for it," said Rafael Viñoly, the project's architect. "It's not an easy thing, and it's not a sure thing."

    Placed in the middle of the Time Warner Center, just above upscale stores and swank restaurants, the hall could be taken as a symbol that jazz is a luxury. Mr. Marsalis rejects that notion. "Since we began, we have done all we can do to reach out into the community to say that this music is here and it's music for the people," he said. "And this is the people's hall. It's built with the people's money." New York City provided $28 million of the $128 million budgeted for Rose Hall, while New York State contributed $3.5 million and the federal government $2.2 million. Jazz at Lincoln Center has already raised all but the final $14 million from private donors.

    When the Time Warner Center was being planned, the city required that it include a significant presence for the arts. Under the opera-loving Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, that initially was to mean an opera house. Through successful politicking, Jazz at Lincoln Center was awarded the 100,000-square-foot space with the support of Mr. Giuliani and his successor, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. Part of the new jazz institution will still be able to stage full-scale operas. But it has been designed around jazz and jazz education. Unlike most performing arts centers, the complex will also be a state-of-the-art recording and broadcast center for audio and video, wired for anything from radio to high-definition television to distance learning via the Internet.

    Since 1991, when it became a constituent of Lincoln Center, Jazz at Lincoln Center has presented most of its Manhattan concerts at Alice Tully and Avery Fisher Halls. Those auditoriums are far from ideal for jazz because they were built to fortify unamplified classical music. The same reverberation that makes a violin section sound full-bodied can blur the crispness of a jazz ensemble and turn all but the quietest drumming into a ping-pong of unwanted echoes.

    Jazz needs rooms that are less reverberant than classical halls but not so absorptive that the warmth of the instruments is lost. Rooms with good acoustics for jazz groups have by and large been discovered by accident: basement clubs, ballrooms filled with dancers, small European opera houses. Mr. Marsalis, who has toured the world with large and small groups, has kept an eye and ear on the places that sounded best. And those are the models for the House of Swing.

    Rose Hall will include a concert hall, a ballroom-cabaret and a small club where jazz musicians will appear every night. The concert hall, Rose Theater, was inspired by the small Italian opera houses. "People are stacked in close, and there was a great feeling of community in those houses," Mr. Marsalis said. "We knew that feeling worked for us." The theater was designed for flexibility; it is also intended to be used for film, dance and theater as well as opera. Other performing-arts groups are already eyeing the space.

    The theater includes 11 movable towers holding tiers of seats — Mr. Marsalis likens them to porches in New Orleans — so that audience size can vary from 1,100 to 1,231 seats. For jazz shows, part of the audience can be behind the musicians, the setup Mr. Marsalis prefers. But for opera and theater productions, the towers can be left backstage while scenery and backdrops are lowered from the 83 feet of fly space overhead. An elaborate system of movable acoustical baffles and curtains is being built in to vary the resonance of the room for different kinds of performances.

    But as in an intimate opera house, no one in the audience will be more than 95 feet from the performers. "It's very difficult to go wrong in this size of a room," Mr. Viñoly said.

    Unlike Carnegie Hall and its basement annex, Zankel Hall, which contend with subway vibrations, Rose Theater is being acoustically isolated from the rest of the Time Warner Center (and the subway station that rumbles below Columbus Circle). The theater's background noise will be below the threshold of human hearing, or what is technically designated an NC-1 noise criteria level. Recording studios are typically far less insulated, having noise criteria levels NC-20 to NC-25. "What is a simple concept in thought becomes very complicated when you try to build it," said Paul Logan, the architect who is the project director for Jazz at Lincoln Center.

    Sound travels easily through solid material, so Rose Theater is a box within a box, floating on complex assemblies of steel and neoprene padding. Every structural connection, every doorway and every conduit into the room has to be properly insulated. "It's unbelievably expensive," Mr. Viñoly said.

    Next to Rose Theater is the room with the view: a 310-to-550-seat ballroom-cabaret, the Allen Room, with its big window on Central Park. Loosely modeled on both a Greek amphitheater and the Rainbow Room, it has seven tiers of seats that can work like bleachers; alternate tiers can be raised hydraulically to make four tiers that are wide enough for banquet tables and dancing. (The building structure supporting the room has been reinforced to support dancers.) Parties and corporate events are expected to share the schedule there with jazz performances.

    Because sound bounces harshly from a hard, flat surface like a glass window, the glass in the Allen Room is tilted slightly upward to reflect sound toward the ceiling. Then, to prevent the energy of the music from disappearing overhead, there are diffusers above the audience: geometrically shaped pieces of black Styrofoam that will reflect sound downward, scattering it at predictable angles. And on the side walls, covered by acoustically transparent fabric, is a checkerboard pattern of absorbers and reflectors, intended to retain sound without directly echoing it.

    The room's sound system has also been designed to be more directional than typical amplification, "so it doesn't spray extra energy on the glass," said Damian Doria of Artec Consultants, which collaborated on the acoustics design with the Walters-Storyk Design Group.

    Next to the ballroom is a 140-seat jazz club, Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola, which will have jazz every night of the year. (The Village Vanguard, the Stradivarius of jazz clubs, has a capacity of 123.) The club also overlooks the park through a glass window, but it's a narrower room with a lower ceiling than the Allen Room and will have its own diffusers and absorbers.

    There are classrooms, dressing rooms and the Ertegun Jazz Hall of Fame, a multimedia exhibition on jazz history; the first members will be named on Sept. 30. Rose Hall also houses a combined rehearsal hall and recording studio that is big enough to hold a full-size orchestra and choir; a sprung floor will accommodate dance rehearsals there.

    In an era of music constructed by computers and overdubbing, studios that can hold large ensembles have been disappearing from New York City. Jazz at Lincoln Center's two repertory bands, the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra and the Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra, will be able to record on home turf, and there is room for the New York Philharmonic to join them. The studio will also be acoustically isolated to the NC-1 level.

    All the performing, rehearsal and classroom spaces will be connected by copper and fiber-optic cable to allow audio and video recording and broadcast from anywhere in the complex. A third of the conduits being installed will not be used immediately but will be in place to accommodate future technological upgrades. To make more room for music, Jazz at Lincoln Center chose not to use any of the 100,000 square feet of the complex for office space; instead, it took a long-term lease in an office building across 60th Street.

    Egalitarian ideals are designed into all three rooms, which deliberately have lower stages than classical halls. "Our main concern was proximity — how close people could sit and how inviting it was," Mr. Marsalis said. "I didn't want the stage to be too much above the audience. We want people all around us, so the art just grows out of the middle. I like the feeling of not knowing where one thing starts and the other one begins."

    Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

  9. #9


    NY Sun
    October 15, 2007

    Finding a New Audience for Jazz


    Adrian Ellis, who for over a decade has been a sought-after consultant to cultural institutions from New York City Opera to the British Museum, has a new mission these days: building the audience for jazz.

    As the new executive director of Jazz at Lincoln Center, which opens its season on Friday, Mr. Ellis is taking the reins of the organization at a uniquely important moment in its development. JaLC has just completed a period of enormous growth, with its budget tripling in five years, to nearly $40 million this season. It owns a spectacular facility in the Time Warner Center — the Frederick P. Rose Hall — where, in and around its own programming, a busy schedule of theater rentals contributes around a third of the organization's income. it runs vibrant educational programs, both for jazz listeners and for high-school-age musicians. Its own musicians, the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis, regularly tour around the country. JaLC also sends other jazz ensembles around the world, performing in countries not regularly visited by American musicians, as part of a State department program called American Music abroad.

    But here in New York, in Mr. Ellis's view, JaLC hasn't figured out how to reach all the people who might enjoy its concerts. "Knowing who [our] audience is and how to reach them is an area that we're still experimenting with," he said in a recent interview. "How do we encourage people who are on the brink of thinking about jazz?" He continued, using a metaphor possibly inspired by the situation of rose Hall within the Time Warner Center: "How do we coax them onto the elevator that will take them up and give them a long-term relation to the music?"

    Average ticket sales are at a healthy 80% of capacity, but Mr. Ellis said he would like to see the audience demographic be younger and more diverse.

    Currently, around 50% of the audience is between the ages of 45 and 65, with only 11% coming from the prime rock-concert-attending age group of 18-to-34-olds. almost 80% of the audience is white, and 12% is African-American. Nearly 60% of the audience has completed some graduate study. So how do you attract young audiences? Based on his experience consulting for and observing performing arts organizations, Mr. Ellis said, he believes that two things about an organization are most important for attracting audiences: a welcoming physical home and a powerful presence in the online world.

    Although JaLC's three theaters are individually beautiful and enjoyable spaces, Mr. Ellis said he would like to see Rose Hall cohere into a destination that is more than the sum of its parts — a place where people come and then decide what they're going to see, rather than the other way around.

    Being British, he invoked an example of a London venue, Southbank Centre, which encompasses several buildings on the south side of the Thames and offers music, dance, art exhibitions, and literary events. "It has a vibe; there is a sense of occasion," Mr. Ellis said. "We want the same thing here."

    Creating that energy, he added, depends on what hours the facility is open and what happens in the spaces outside the theater, which at Rose Hall include a large atrium with a view of Columbus Circle, and a Jazz Hall of Fame. Informal performances in the atrium, free preconcert talks, as well as the retail and catering presence all make a difference, he said. The high number of rentals — to other Lincoln Center programs, other nonprofits, or commercial productions — makes creating this cohesive experience more challenging, he acknowledged. Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola is the only of the three venues that features jazz seven nights a week, 355 days a year. The Rose Theater is used for JaLC programming 25% of the time, and the Allen Room only 18% of the time.

    But as important as the organization's physical presence is, Mr. Ellis said, the key to attracting young music audiences is online. He is particularly optimistic about the potential uses of collaborative filtering — the "you liked x, so you might like y" algorithm that allows Netflix to recommend you movies based on how you have rated previous rentals, combined with the collected tastes of other users.

    "The one thing you want in culture is for people to experiment, and that's extremely difficult," Mr. Ellis said. Particularly with something as diverse as jazz music, audiences "need and want un-patronizing help in navigating it, so that they can find things they want with some degree of confidence," he continued. Collaborative filtering can give people that confidence, that "even if they don't know exactly what they're getting into, it will be an experience they'll enjoy." There are various models, he said, for how collaborative filtering could yield recommendations of live performances. The ratings system could be tied to ticket purchases, so that when you buy a ticket for an event online you are asked to rate the last event you went to, or it could be based on an online community of people "who don't mind wasting five minutes" rating the various things they've attended.

    "That's really the way things are headed," Mr. Ellis said of collaborative filtering. "It's certainly the way music is headed."

    As the audience grows, Mr. Ellis said, he would like slowly to expand the amount of JaLC programming in the theaters relative to rentals. The programming, he said, should reflect the future of jazz, as well as continuing to maintain and create an audience for the jazz canon.

    "People's love of the music is deepened by their understanding of the music, and that requires some historical perspective," Mr. Ellis said, pointing to a poster on the wall of his office, titled "Highlights of the Jazz Story in the USA," showing the history of jazz music as a giant family tree.

    Accordingly, the season opens with concerts on Friday and Saturday by the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra celebrating the music of Benny Carter, who is enjoying his centennial. "Right at the center of Jazz at Lincoln Center's mission is to showcase and create an audience for that historical music."

    © 2007 The New York Sun, One SL, LLC

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