As a child, Jason Marsalis watched old television shows as much for the music as for anything the characters were doing onscreen.
“I became a big fan of reruns of the tv show, The Monkees,” he tells Gwen. “My father thought it was just hilarious that I was into this. But when I look back on it, that was music from the 1960s.”
For an 11 year-old, there’s not much difference between the 1960s and the 1920s. And that’s why Marsalis became equally enchanted by Louis Armstrong’s Hot Five and Hot Seven recordings. The Hot Seven were particular favorites, because that group featured Warren “Baby” Dodds on drums. The meticulous Dodds remains a hero.
“The musicians back then were more like craftsmen, Marsalis says. “Music wasn’t a hustle for money. It wasn’t a ticket to stardom. It was a craft.”
Marsalis has adopted the same approach. Despite universally positive reviews for his five albums as a band leader, a platinum surname in jazz and a busy touring schedule, he frequently admonishes himself to practice more and do better by his instruments.
“I think if you are always a student of the music there is always something you can learn,” Marsalis says.”There is always something that you can push for. That’s something the real masters understood.”