Award-winning radio host Richard Todd of 105.5 The Bridge recently talked with trumpet legend Wynton Marsalis, who will be performing April 23 and 24 at the Charleston Gaillard Center. You can hear the 17-minute interview on his podcast, The Toddcast, at 1055thebridge.com.
Richard Todd: How do you choose the pieces that you are going to perform?
Wynton Marsalis: With as many people in the band — we’ve been together for a long time — they have a lot of arrangements. It’s depending on who we have and who has or hasn’t played, what themes the presenter wants us to put on, what time of year it is. This year, we’re going to do a lot of freedom and justice — John Coltrane, A Love Supreme; Sonny Rollins, Freedom Suite; Charles Mingus, Medications on Integration; the stuff xI wrote, Democracy Suite. Sometimes it’s love songs. Sometimes we have a lot of New Orleans music, clap clap for the big band era. Sometimes original compositions, like Ted Nash’s Presidential Suite.
RT: Can you talk about the way it (COVID) has impacted artists as well as fans and consumers of music, but it also has inspired some art? There’s going to be an unleashing of so much music as the pandemic subsides.
WM: I think you’re right. People have been at home. It’s been a hard time for so many people, losing loved ones or not getting a chance to see them or send them out right. With many people, it’s been the loss of jobs, homes … I think there’s going to be a lot of good that comes out of it, just as there’s been a lot of tragedy and pain. For me personally, it was my father that was a great loss, but my father said at that time that a lot of people were losing loved ones and your loss is not any more tragic than anybody else’s.
We’re going to see a lot of creativity come out of this. Always when there’s some hardship, we as human beings, we rise to the challenge. Those of us who are inwardly driven, we just have to make sure we’re not overcome by negativity or that we don’t succumb to fear that makes us fear change.
RT: While you’re performing at the Gaillard Center, you’re right across the street from the Mother Emanuel A.M.E. Church where we had that tragic shooting many years ago. Is that something that’s ever-present that you’re aware of when you’re here in the Holy City?
WM: I’m aware of it. I was staying in a place across the street from the church before … I think it’s important when you go to different cities to know topical things that are going on … I always try to figure out what’s going on and how to better be a part of the ministry to the community.
RT: Jazz is the American music, isn’t it?
WM: It’s a music that comes directly out of the American experience and the search and need for freedom. Cultures and groups of a people don’t just get unlimited art. If you’re a culture and you are blessed with an art form and an ability to express it in art, it had to be studied to be understood. It can last across centuries and across time if it is tended to. We have a tendency to turn everything into a commercial venture. There are some parts of our civic life that are not about turning a profit but are about investing in our identity. And jazz is one of those things.