The talented trombonist Delfeayo Marsalis brings his New Orleans Jazz Jam Orchestra to round out the 2017 Jazz SLC series on Monday, May 22. Joining him onstage at the Capitol Theatre will be an 11-member orchestra featuring some of the hottest young musicians in the nation.
On a brief break between concerts, Marsalis said in a phone interview that he is unwinding and preparing for this concert.
"We’re really excited to bring some of the original New Orleans sound to Salt Lake City," he said. "It’s going to be the kind of concert that you haven’t heard before. It will be a celebration of joy and love from Africa to the audience.”
Gordon Hanks, the founder of the Jazz SLC concert series, was exuberant about having young Marsalis close out the season.
“When Delfeayo and I talked on the phone, I asked him what he wanted to do and he said he’d really like to bring his orchestra to Salt Lake City," Hanks said. "He’s such a wonderful young man and a great arranger that I couldn’t say no to him. That stage is going to be filled with good vibes because he brings such energy to the stage.”
Born in New Orleans, Marsalis grew up in a family of musicians and was raised on what he calls, “the original jazz form” that is infused with a deep sense of community and culture.
“Jazz is a uniquely African-American form of music," he said. "It’s completely original and free of any colonial influences. The sole purpose of this traditional jazz is to elevate, celebrate and bring joy to peoples’ lives.”
Marsalis graduated from the Berklee College of Music and received a master's degree in jazz performance from the University of Louisville.
“Ultimately, jazz is about everything," he said. "One needs to know where jazz originated from and understand the connection to our lives. It’s about struggle and redemption. It follows history and jazz musicians have a responsibility to reflect this journey in their music.”
The Marsalis name is synonymous with jazz. In 2011, Marsalis, along with his father and brothers Wynton, Branford and Jason, were the recipients of the NEA Jazz Masters Award. It’s one of the most prestigious awards in the world of jazz, but Marsalis feels his best work is still ahead of him.
“We all grew up in the height of the civil rights movement and it couldn’t help but shape us into who we are," he said. "It was a dangerous time and from that movement came great change and possibility. We all had opportunities in front of us that weren’t possible for the generation behind us and we took advantage of those circumstances.”
It’s evident in visiting with Marsalis how strongly he feels about his role as an educator, performer and composer. The impetus for starting his own orchestra came when he was in college and substituted for another trombonist in the performance of Duke Ellington’s "The Nutcracker Suite."
“The music was flat and boring and I decided as soon as I was done, I was going to find a way to start my own orchestra and bring the greatness of jazz music to the audience in the way it should be performed and I’ve been doing that ever since,” he said.
Marsalis said he's excited to bring his style to Salt Lake.
“Man, we can’t wait to get onstage and start playing," he said. "It’s going to be a tight orchestra ready to really light the place up in uplifting New Orleans-style jazz. This is a great jazz community and when I told Gordon Hanks that I wanted to bring an orchestra to Salt Lake, he didn’t hesitate at all before saying, ‘That’s a great idea. Let’s do it.'”
And this coming Monday, Marsalis and his New Orleans Orchestra will do just that.
If you go
What: Delfeayo Marsalis and the New Orleans Jazz Jam
When: Monday, May 22, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Capitol Theatre, 50 W. 200 South
How much: $29.50 general, $10 with student ID
Jeff Metcalf is a professor of English at the University of Utah and an avid jazz fan.