Friday, Febuary 1, 2002 Volume 67, Issue 84


 
 









 

Ellis Marsalis to tickle ivories at jazz festival

By Chris Goodier
Daily Cougar Staff

Jazz fans should take note of this weekend's first annual Trinity Jazz festival, to be held in midtown at the corner of Holman and Main
(1015 Holman St.). Trinity Episcopal Church will host performances from Friday through Sunday.

Headlining Saturday night will be the legendary jazz mentor and accomplished pianist Ellis Marsalis. Opening for Marsalis will be
Austin-based sax player Elias Haslanger.

Friday, the festival kicks off with acclaimed soprano sax man Carlos Garnett and is followed by Latin-jazz-inspired Ed Calle on tenor
sax.

Trinity Church's motivation for sponsoring the event is rather unique. As church rector Rev. William B. Miller puts it, "Jazz in the sacred
context may be rare, (but) it is a pairing that makes much sense theologically, historically, and liturgically ... this art form is rightly at
home in the sacred context."

Sensing the pulse of a "cultural and spiritual awakening" in Houston, Trinity aspires to become "a place where creative expression
and creativity flourish." This coincides with the historic developments of jazz music.

Originating from large meetings at Congo Square in New Orleans, the music developed from a synthesis of African slave retentions
found in America and the Caribbean. It was then adapted to brass and wind instruments for funeral marches, which celebrated the
passing of loved ones.

From there, it traveled up the Mississippi River to Chicago and then to New York. It was during the Harlem Renaissance that jazz
became the uniquely American cultural art form we know today. This stemmed from the meeting of music and soul elevation.

The festival provides a good opportunity for local fans of jazz since the scene here is so gentrified. Formal jazz venues in Houston are
so ubiquitous, it seems you can't go anywhere without having to tuck in your shirt (see Cezanne and Scott Gertner's SkyBar). Those
tired of jazz shows tailored for the yuppie classes will be pleased to discover this function was created for the working masses.

Hailing from the Crescent City, Ellis Marsalis started playing the piano at age 11. Now 67, Marsalis has played with greats such as
Cannonball Adderley, Al Hirt, Ornette Coleman and Ed Blackwell (just to name a few).

He emerged during the post-war years as the forerunner of modern jazz (bop and post-bop) in New Orleans. Now in the twilight of his
astounding career, Marsalis' playing style has been described by author Jason Koransky as "(interpretive of) the blues freshly
rethinking the dynamics of stride, swing and bop."

With such acclaim, you're probably wondering why you've never heard him mentioned next to names like Miles Davis and John
Coltrane. That's because of Marsalis' humble manner.

"I never had a 'jazz career,'" Marsalis said. "When the phone rang and somebody had a gig, you went on it. I don't consider myself a
survivor."

Marsalis has "survived" long enough to release an entire catalogue of music and be considered the patriarchal piano-playing father of
the modern jazz world.

To start, the Marsalis family name parallels Rolex in the context of jazz. His sons Branford, Wynton, Delfeayo and Jason are all
formidable names internationally (Branford, saxophone, and Wynton, trumpet, are already legends in their own right). The Marsalis
unit can be held responsible for summoning the jazz renaissance of the last 20 years.

Marsalis has also become the incubator of non-familial talents such as Harry Connick Jr., Terence Blanchard, Donald Harrison and
Nicholas Harrison all current trend-setters in modern music. It is in the realm of instruction that Marsalis has become New Orleans'
most prominent educator of jazz.

Out of the necessity to find something "a little more constant (financially)," Marsalis has been a teacher at Xavier University, Loyola
University and the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts, as well as Director of Jazz Studies at the University of New Orleans and a
board member of the National Endowment of the Arts. It is the emphasis on art in American education that distinguishes Marsalis.

"I don't foresee the day when I won't be a teacher," he said.

Tenor, alto and soprano sax player Halsanger, a former pupil of Marsalis, will open for the piano legend on Saturday.

Friday's show will be a fireball of Latin passion, featuring renowned tenor sax player Calle of Miami. He has played with everyone
from Frank Sinatra to Gloria Estefan and has a versatility applicable to rock and pop.

Born in Caracas, Venezuela, Calle is formally versed in Latin jazz and when studying at the University of Miami aimed to "play the sax
and play it until it smokes." He draws from a vast pool of influences including Coltrane, Parker and Gillespie.

Playing before Calle will be tenor sax soloist Garnett of Panama. Having played with names like Hubbard, Art Blakey, Mingus and a
'70s-era Davis, his more recent acclaim has been for 1996's Fuego en Mi Alma, released on the High Note label.

Sunday rounds out the festival with a jazz-inspired mass led by local legend Paul English (also accompanying others on Friday and
Saturday night). English is a 25-year veteran of the Houston jazz scene and has worked with Dizzy Gillespie and Arnette Cobb. He
has also written for the Houston Symphony.

Sunday's mass will focus on connections of creativity, diversity and spirituality.

There will also be a master class taught by Marsalis for aspiring musicians, held Saturday from 1 to 3 p.m. So come out and
participate in the first annual jazz-packed festival gracing midtown from Friday through Sunday.

Ticket prices for Friday and Saturday night's concerts will be $30 ($20 with a student ID). A special rate of $55 will be given for those
wanting to attend both concerts. The master class on Saturday afternoon will cost $15 ($10 with a student ID).

For directions and information, call (713) 528-4100 or visit the church's Web site at www.trinitychurch.net.
 
 
 
 
 

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