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To a Young Jazz Musician: Letters from the Road Paperback – November 8, 2005


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks; Reprint edition (November 8, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812974204
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812974201
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.3 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #874,695 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

America's foremost jazz classicist assesses the state of the art in this impassioned epistolary manifesto. Marsalis, now the artistic director of Jazz at Lincoln Center, answers critics who denounce him as the "gatekeeper" for a fossilized middlebrow establishment with a spirited defense of standards against both post-bebop modernist abstraction and the contemporary trend toward promiscuous fusion with other pop styles. As conservator of the Armstrong-Ellington legacy, he champions a jazz grounded in melody, blues, romantic feeling and, above all, swing rhythm—a "democratic, quintessentially American concept" that "channels the spirit of the nation." He urges young musicians to take their art seriously through constant practice and a stern work ethic: "practicing is a sign of morality in a musician." Marsalis and amanuensis Hinds (Gunshots in My Cook-Up) sometimes sound like a motivational tape ("unleashing your personal power is the result of codifying... your own hard-earned objectives"), and their occasional mystic invocations of musical self-discovery and "the emotion of the sound" can confuse. Also, Marsalis's jazz traditionalism shades, at points, into a jeremiad about modern "decadence" and "corruption," inveighing against what he sees as our culture of absurdity, with its sexually precocious children and jeans-wearing jazz men. But musicians, aficionados and casual listeners alike will enjoy this lively polemic.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From the Inside Flap

In To a Young Jazz Musician, the renowned jazz musician and Pulitzer Prize—winning composer
Wynton Marsalis gives us an invaluable guide to making good music–and to leading a good life.
Writing from the road "between the bus ride, the sound check, and the gig," Marsalis passes on wisdom gained from experience, addressed to a young musician coming up–and to any of us at any stage of life. He writes that having humility is a way to continue to grow, to listen, and to learn; that patience is necessary for developing both technical proficiency and your own art rather than an imitation of someone else's; and that rules are indispensable because "freedom lives in structure." He offers lessons learned from his years as a performer and from his great forebears Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker, and others; he explores the art of swing; he discusses why it is important to run toward your issues, not away; and he talks about what to do when your integrity runs up against the lack thereof in others and in our culture. He poetically expresses our need for healers: "All of it tracks back to how you heal your culture, one patient at a time, beginning with yourself."

This is a unique book, in which a great artist offers his personal thoughts, both on jazz and on how to live a better, more original, productive, and meaningful life. To a Young Jazz Musician is sure to be treasured by readers young and old, musicians, lovers of music, and anyone interested in being mentored by one of America's most influential, generous, and talented artists. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Frizzante on October 28, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I am neither particularly young, nor able to justifiably call myself a jazz musican and yet I found this book to be both enjoyable and enlightening. It is rich in wisdom and brimming over with the love Wynton Marsalis has for Jazz and Jazz Musicians. It contains much practical advice and covers his philosophy on music and life.

The book comprises ten letters; each is amusing, stimulating, thought provoking and most engaging. It is particularly well written. He has a way with words that makes the reader feel a conversation is being conducted face to face.

The letters cover defining a musical objective, retaining humility, being yourself, freedom vs rules in music, the importance of swing, avoiding arrogance, being a custodian of taste and morals, music as art, leadership and friendship. In my view his ideas are masterful and inspiring.

It is not written for children, but rather is directed at teenage and young adult musicians. I recommend that those who enjoy this book also buy Wynton's book "Sweet Swing Blues on The Road".
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By cyga on October 31, 2014
Format: Paperback
Is it alright to be me? This is but one of the questions that Grammy award winning trumpeter Wynton Marsalis is often asked during his encounters with people across the globe. To a Young Jazz Musician is his response to that and other questions, as well as an opportunity to share his ideas, insights, and experiences of jazz greats such as Art Blakey, Sonny Rollins, and Charlie Parker. Like memories frozen in ice, words on a page preserve the conversations, advice shared, and lessons taught by those who have gone before.
Believing that letter writing between two people offers a more intimate way of communicating than the telephone, Marsalis imparts wisdom, admonitions, and anecdotes to an aspiring jazz musician named Anthony. The book, written from Marsalis' side of their conversation, provides counsel on playing, practice, persistence, and productivity. Although much of the dialogue focuses on the art form, lessons, and dignity that jazz offers, the discussion adeptly also ventures into life lessons on humility, arrogance, and morals. Although the chapters are a bit uneven, this bolster's Marsalis' claim of writing from the road, between gigs, sound checks, late nights and early mornings. Throughout the book, Marsalis is opinionated, knowledgeable, unflinching, yet heart felt and nurturing. In this treatise from master to acolyte, jazz musicians, jazz lovers, and ordinary folk will find this an invaluable asset for the journey ahead--whether through jazz or life.
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Format: Paperback
I'm a musician who has played mainly rock, but dabbled frequently in traditional and modern jazz. After watching Ken Burn's great "History Of Jazz", in which Wynton did running commentary, I was very moved by his passion, encyclopedic knowledge, and hip, conversational delivery. Hearing him, you really get the feeling that you're hanging out with the band between sets at The Savoy, Birdland, or Minton's Playhouse. I haven't read this yet, but am completely confident that the positive reviews are justified, and hope that it will be published soon in audio format - with trumpet intervals, of course!
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By HappyCustomer on June 24, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I can relate to the boy Marsalis is talking to in this book. It contains some solid advice and allows you some insight into how Marsalis views jazz.
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By John Tziallas on January 26, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I've never been in America. I was born and raised in Greece, I leave in Paris and I make a living doing "this and that" and I'm trying to play some Jazz. I don't have much in common with mr. Marsalis except... the Jazz.

Having said that, you see why I might not fully understand (or, to put it better, "feel") everything that Mr. Marsalis writes in his book about the American society, the situation of the black americans, the segregation etch, but I understood well that he is a man of great dignity and taste and I deeply respect that.

He has a deep knowledge of Jazz and through the pages of his book the reader can sympathize with the writer, with the difficulties and the anxieties that are involved in studying and playing music but also feel the great joy of it.
The book was very interesting, fun to read (I read it in 2 days time) and it spoke deeply in my heart and soul.

The last 10 years I've been thinking that when I'll reach 50 (in about 20 years), I would like to write a book according all the difficulties and joys, the pressure and joys, the frustration and joys of studying Jazz (if you know what I mean)... ;)
But Mr. Marsalis has already done it. And he has done an excellent job!

Oh well... perhaps I'll think of something else! Mean wile BUY THE DAMN BOOK! IT"S GREAT!
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