Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz Mouse

Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz Mouse

The backstage door to Le Capitole theatre in Québec City popped open and Miles saw his chance. He dashed in and would have run right across the stage if somebody hadn’t grabbed him by the tail and yanked him back behind the curtains.

“What’s the rush little mouse?” Miles turned to see a big, old rat giving him a toothy grin. “Can’t you see it’s the opening show of the Quebec International Jazz Festival?”

“The what?” Miles was confused.

“Jazz,” said the rat. “You know what jazz is, don’t you?”

“Well, not really.”

“Jazz is a style of music. It has flexible rhythms, lots of solos and it really grooves! Wynton Marsalis is performing tonight. That’s him playing the trumpet. See that shiny brass thing that looks like a horn? Wynton’s won nine Grammy Awards. He’s even won a Pulitzer Prize. He’s a legend. Wynton is leading the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, 15 of the best jazz musicians around. They’ve been called the greatest big band in the world.”

“You sure know a lot about jazz.”

“They don’t call me Jellyroll just because I love donuts. I travel with the band, help them out by arranging their music, that kind of stuff. What’s your name kid?”

“Miles.”

“No kidding? Okay, quiet down, they’re going to play “Epistrophy” by Thelonious Monk. It’s a classic from 1942. Monk was one of the first creators of modern jazz and bebop. He was a snazzy dresser and he played the piano like nobody else, some people even say he played like an elephant! Not everyone appreciates his music, but many of his compositions are jazz standards today.”

Wynton Marsalis with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra

Wynton Marsalis with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra

Miles and Jellyroll sat back in the wings and watched the rest of the show. The orchestra played “Tones for Joan’s Bones”, Matrix” and “Straight Up and Down” by American jazz pianist Chick Corea, I Left My Baby (Standing in the Back Door Crying)” by Count Basie and a couple more songs by Thelonious Monk, “We See” and “Ugly Beauty”.  They also performed “Manhattan Reflections” by Ahmad Jamal and “Mood Indigo” by composer, pianist and big bandleader Duke Ellington, writer of over 1,000 compositions.

“What’s that noise?” asked Miles.

“That’s just Wynton, he really gets into the music and likes to clap or hum along. See the other musicians nodding their heads? They’re really digging the improvisations of their fellow musicians.”

“Improvisations?”

“Yeah, the solos. Everyone takes turns making up a new melody based on whatever song they’re playing. The trumpets, saxophones, trombones, drums, piano and even the big double bass all get a chance to create something new. Many of those guys have arranged the music we’re hearing tonight, they take popular jazz tunes and make them work for their big band ensemble. Like Wynton said, ‘If it was good, it is good’ and he should know, he’s played and hung around with the likes of Benny Goodman, Ray Charles and too many more to mention. The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra is really keeping this music alive, and it still sounds fresh today.”

Wynton Marsalis thinks he hears something backstage.

Wynton hears a noise backstage.

“Jellyroll?”

“Just a minute kid, did you see that? Remember at the beginning of the concert when Wynton said that the trumpet was the noblest of all instruments? Well look at him, he’s sticking a rubber toilet plunger in his horn.”

“Yuck! Hey, all the trumpets are using plungers and the trombones too!”

“Heh heh, I’m just messing with you. Don’t worry; those plungers have never been used on a toilet. Brass players use them for the plunger technique; it makes their instrument sound a bit like a human voice.

“Sounds like they’re growling, I’m going to go check it out.”

“No, wait, it’s the encore!

Miles ran out just as Wynton was coming back on stage. With no place to hide, the little mouse ducked under a white bowler hat that was lying beside the piano. Wynton scooped up the hat and started using it as mute for his last song. When Wynton finished, he put the hat on his head, took a bow and left the stage. It was the beginning of the adventures of Miles, the Jazz Mouse.

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Are you a jazz lover? The eighth edition of the International Jazz Festival in Quebec (Le Festival International de Jazz de Québec) has more than 80 shows with musicians from over 10 countries. The festival runs from October 13 to November 2 with concert venues all over Quebec City. For more information, visit their website at www.jazzaquebec.ca.

Categories: Arts & Culture

About Author

Jason Enlow

Jason Enlow is a Special Education Technician at an English elementary school. He was born in Montreal, Quebec and grew up in Burlington, Ontario. Jason studied Radio and Television at Ryerson University in Toronto. His previous employers include CityTV, CBC, The Weather Network, and Global Television. He’s worked as a DJ, camera operator, musician, teacher, translator and video game content designer. Jason moved to Quebec City in 1997 where he still lives today with his wife and three sons.

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