Wynton Marsalis has high regard for the music of Ornette Coleman — as demonstrated by Jazz at Lincoln Center’s just-released 2009-2010 concert schedule, which begins next September 26 with a single performance by Coleman’s quartet featuring two bassists and his son Denardo on drums.
Marsalis also played his trumpet at a smaller Coleman-celebratory (but non-JALC) concert in 2004 at New York’s Merkin Hall in a manner proving he fully comprehends and can partake of the freedoms Coleman’s concepts encourage. He comes by his appreciation of Coleman from several directions. For one thing, his father pianist Ellis Marsalis was fascinated with Coleman’s iconoclastic music back in 1956, driving from New Orleans to Los Angeles with drummer Ed Blackwell, clarinetist Alvin Batiste and reedsman/composer/arranger/educator Harold Battiste to make Ornette’s acquaintance. That was before Coleman had recorded; Ellis Marsalis visited with him for two months. Ellis, Alvin Batiste and Ornette reunited at the 2003 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage festival.