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A Place for Jazz

Mike Lawson • Archives • December 1, 2004

Wynton Marsalis, one of jazz music’s greatest performers, advocates, and visionaries, has not only taken the art of jazz to a higher level, but has established a new paradigm. As director of Jazz at Lincoln Center, he has overseen the development of the world’s first concert hall designed specifically for jazz performance, the Frederick P. Rose Hall in New York City. Just as there are world-class halls designed for opera, symphonic music, and chamber music, there is now a performing space for jazz of comparable stature to the greatest music halls in the world such as Bayreuth, Carnegie, and Royal Albert halls. Marsalis has been a tireless supporter for the genre of jazz and continues to support the notion that jazz is very much on the same level as classical music.

Though many of us think of smoky, crowded downtown clubs as being the rightful place for jazz and, admittedly, there is a certain intimacy in those spaces, there is also a downside to such venues. Poor acoustics, obstructed visibility, and of course, limited seating are some of the difficulties one would encounter in a small club. According to PR Newswire, Wynton Marsalis states that, “As artists, we’ve continued to evolve, but our performing spaces haven’t. So we’ve built a house that really swings with the way jazz works, the way jazz feels, and most of all, the way jazz sounds. The sophisticated sound of the Rose Theater, the communal embrace of The Allen Room, the down-home groove of Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola – each space invites the audience to become one with the music. Now everyone can truly experience the ‘democracy’ that is jazz.”

The new hall is actually comprised of three rooms, each of which is appropriate for certain types of music. Performance spaces include the 140-seat “Dizzy’s Coca Cola Club” which features an intimate setting for smaller ensembles, the intermediate-size Allen Room, seating 300 to 500 and overlooking Central Park, and the spectacular 1,100-seat Rose theatre designed for larger jazz bands and orchestras. All of these venues feature state-of-the-art sound reinforcement and recording capabilities, computer-aided acoustical design, and space for jazz education classes and workshops.

Marsalis should be congratulated on his efforts to elevate the stature of jazz in our culture, preserve the rich history of the genre, and also for moving it forward to the next generation. There are few people in music who are not only virtuoso musicians, but also educators, innovators, and spokespeople for music. Wynton Marsalis’s name will certainly go down in musical history as one whose efforts far transcended his considerable musical abilities.

Richard E. Kessel

Publisher

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