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Wynton Marsalis and his orchestra light up the night in Santa Rosa

  • Wynton Marsalis, right, and Marcus Printup play “Dead Man Blues” with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra at the Wells Fargo Centerfor the Arts in Santa Rosa on Sunday. (ALVIN JORNADA / The Press Democrat)

Trumpeter, composer, bandleader and music scholar Wynton Marsalis brought his love for jazz and his vast knowledge of its history to Wells Fargo Center for the Arts in Santa Rosa Sunday night, to the delight of more than a thousand appreciative fans.

“He's bringing jazz to all kinds of people,” said retired English teacher Linda Sims, 63, of Rohnert Park, who goes to see Marsalis every time he comes to town. “He's a good ambassador for the music.”

Introducing each tune with a brief biography of the composer, Marsalis led the 15-piece Jazz at Lincoln Center orchestra from early 1920s New Orleans jazz through 1940s swing and into the bold experiments of the 1950s and '60s and beyond.

Wynton Marsalis

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The band sailed through Count Basie and Duke Ellington, straight into Charles Mingus, Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane, and Marsalis even threw in some humor.

Introducing a piece by Monk called “Skippy,” with its intricate changes, Marsalis said, “This is very hard to play. I'm sure you'll never hear us play it again.”

Millie Unti, 16, a junior at Healdsburg High School, came to hear the band play Monk's “Self-Portrait in Three Colors” and Marsalis didn't disappoint her.

“My dad's into jazz,” she said, “and I've been listening to jazz since I was little.”

Next came Coltrane's interpretation of Rodgers and Hammerstein's “Favorite Things.”

Two hours before the concert, about a hundred high school and middle school students and their parents got to hear Marsalis and the band during an open rehearsal at the center.

After the rehearsal, drummer Ari Jackson and trombonist Vincent Gardner fielded questions from the students.

Asked how he landed his position as drummer, Jackson said, “I was the only one brave enough to take the job. Everyone in this orchestra is a great soloist.”

Kyle Thompson, music director at Elsie Allen High School, brought some of his students and his 10-year-old drummer son, Logan, clad in a black suit and Frank Sinatra-style hat.

“It's great for the kids to see the professionals,” Thompson said.

Marsalis, 52, a nine-time Grammy Award-winner in the jazz and classical music categories, has been artistic director of Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York since he founded the program in 1996.

With a repertoire of 160 songs, the band's 2014 tour started in January in Philadelphia and ends in November in New York, with a series of dates in England during June. The California leg of the tour includes performances in San Francisco and San Diego this month.

You can reach Staff Writer Dan Taylor at 521-5243 or dan.taylor@pressdemocrat.com.

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