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Excerpts From the Bittersweet Blues of Life

By Wynton Marsalis

     All those days after we got back from rehearsals or recordings, continuing to work on the parts. Lost in the indulgent obsession of making the imagined, the invisible, and inaudible, physical.

     Then it was done. A big performance that you’ve been working to get ready for a long time, a packed auditorium, everyone dressed so fine, lots of stories in the newspapers. The strain of nerves that only attends a premiere. Something being born. The sense of everyone pulling together to surmount the inevitable glitches and unforeseen problems of the untested, untried. The triumphant wave of many emotions at the final curtain. Bows, flowers, and kisses for all. Then it’s over. The world stops, but it continues. You have to figure out how to get back on. Same headlines, same intrigues, same personal problems.

     Nobody even stopped you in the street to say, “Hey, man, saw the show. Yeah.” After all of that. Damn. In the bittersweet blues of life. That’s truly a homecoming. My boy Westray says if you want to be messed over, just go back to where you’re from.

• • •

     You spent years of time alone in a practice room, or over an empty piece of paper, struggling to blacken it with some sound or idea that will live. And your



About the Author

Wynton Marsalis has recorded more than eighty jazz and classical recordings, which have won him nine GRAMMY® awards and sold over seven million copies worldwide. Marsalis made history in 1997, when he became the first jazz musician ever to win the Pulitzer Prize for his oratorio Blood on the Fields. Marsalis serves as the Managing and Artistic Director of Jazz at Lincoln Center and the Director of Jazz Studies at the Juilliard School in New York City. 

Photo Credit: Joe Martinez for Jazz at Lincoln Center