Wynton Marsalis :

The Flight of the Bumblebee

(Wynton Marsalis, cornet)

Wynton Marsalis, Portrait of..., 1983

IC: Is it Harry James? I know it's 'Flight of the Bumblebee' (laughs)

TC: It's not Harry James.

IC: He did it first though, on the trumpet. Was it a jazz player?

TC: Yes, but one who got famous imitating a different jazz player than Harry James.

IC: I've no idea who it was at all.

TC: Wynton Marsalis.

IC: Well, I'm disgusted with him (laughs). I really am disgusted with him for doing that!

TC: Because of what it is?

IC: Yes, because of what it is; when Miles Davis wanted to insult someone he said " You might as well try playing 'Flight of the Bumblebee'" (laughs). I'm surprised Wynton Marsalis did it actually, I really am. When you think he plays the Hummel and various trumpet concertos, why did he do that? There are lots of trumpet players who could do that, and it didn't have to be Marsalis, and I didn't recognise Marsalis' playing from that. It sounded just like some guy with facility playing a trumpet: in terms of individuality, I would rate it zero.

TC: Is Marsalis simply trying to relive the '50s Davis band?

IC: Well, I think Marsalis has been under too much influence from Stanly Crouch, who seems to be his guru, because Crouch is by no means the ultimate authority on music, let alone jazz. A lot of these statements by Marsalis seem to echo those of Crouch, who doesn't like Miles Davis at all, for example. Anybody who advised Wynton Marsalis to go on stage with Miles Davis and ask for a blow did him a great disservice. To ask Davis for a blow after insulting him was very foolish. Davis stopped the band and said "Get out of here; get off, go away."

There's something obscene about a twenty-odd year old musician advising a person like Miles Davis what to do with his life. It's like a young guy going up to Picasso and saying "Why are you doing ceramics? A genius like you? How could you waste your time doing ceramics?" Picasso made ceramics because that's what he wanted to do. Whatever interests him, he wants to do it. And with Miles Davis, it's the same. Marsalis wasn't the first young musician to try to tell Miles what to do; there's a big difference between a twenty year old and a forty year old, particularly in jazz.