WYNTON MARSALIS: It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got swing

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Wynton Marsalis performs with the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra.

Being with Wynton Marsalis is always an education. He’s happiest when he can enthuse about something, or learn something new from whoever he’s speaking to. Right now, sitting over lunch in a Japanese restaurant in New York, he’s off on the topic of jazz’s Anglo-Celtic roots.

“Those folk songs and hymns the slaves learnt from their masters were the real basis, the African element was grafted on top, not the other way round,” he says very firmly, “and this is why African and jazz rhythms developed in a different way. Listen, if you clap a marching rhythm, one-two-three-four, you can fit a swing rhythm over the top, like this.”

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