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Marsalis, Jazz Orchestra return Saturday

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June 11, 2011 |

Trumpeter Wynton Marsalis will bring his Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra to the Mondavi Center's Jackson Hall at 8 p.m. Saturday, June 18. Courtesy photo

Trumpeter Wynton Marsalis will bring his Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra to the Mondavi Center's Jackson Hall at 8 p.m. Saturday, June 18. Courtesy photo

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What: Wynton Marsalis and his Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra

When: 8 p.m. Saturday

Where: Jackson Hall, Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts, UC Davis

Tickets: $35-$68 regular, $30-$58 subscriber add-on, $17.50-$34 students; http://www.MondaviArts.org or (530) 754-2787

He’s coming back for another visit, and he is by now a familiar face at the Mondavi Center: Trumpeter Wynton Marsalis will bring his Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra to Jackson Hall for another visit on Saturday, June 18, at 8 p.m.

For the uninitiated, the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra is composed of 15 leading jazz soloists under the leadership of Marsalis. Founded in 1987 and drawing from an extensive repertoire that includes original compositions by Marsalis and others, as well as venerable standards from the Jazz Age and classics recorded for the Blue Note Records label, the Jazz for Lincoln Center Orchestra is possibly the best big band in the world at the present time.

Born and raised in New Orleans, Marsalis grew up playing in the jazz tradition (including a youthful stint with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers) and the classical realm (attending the renowned Tanglewood program as a teenager).

His recording career began in 1981, the year he turned 20, and during the 1980s, he won multiple Grammy Awards, in both jazz and classical categories. He’s also a celebrated composer, winning the Pulitzer Prize for music in 1997 for his oratorio “Blood on the Fields.”

Now a veteran performer, Marsalis will mark his 50th birthday in October. He continues to be a prolific recording artist — his most recent album being a collaboration with country singer Willie Nelson and jazz singer Norah Jones titled “Here We Go Again: Celebrating the Genius of Ray Charles” (released in May 2011 on the Blue Note/EMI label).

He expresses the mission of the Jazz for Lincoln Center Orchestra in words that are both straightforward and ambitious: “We don’t just play jazz — we teach it, we write it, we dance it, we sing it, we present it, we photograph it, we film it, we produce it, we archive it, we record it, we broadcast it, we commission it, we celebrate it, we love it, we share it.”

Saturday’s concert at Mondavi comes in the early portion of a long summer tour for Jazz at Lincoln Center. The first stop (June 10) was in Greensboro, N.C. Stops after Mondavi include Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco (June 19) and the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles (June 22). The tour moves on to Europe in July, with stops in Spain, Italy and France.

Saturday’s concert also represents something of a new venture for the Mondavi Center: summertime concerts, performed indoors. Since the Mondavi Center opened in 2002, Jackson Hall has typically gone into “summer hibernation” as the spring quarter at UC Davis ends in early June, with the new concert season beginning in late September or early October.

Typically, the region’s other large concert hall, the Sacramento Community Center Theater, likewise has observed a seasonal siesta during most of July and August. The conventional wisdom has been that locals head for the mountains or the coast for their summer vacations, rather than attending concerts close to home.

Last summer, however, a private promoter rented Jackson Hall for a July 15 concert by rock icon Neil Young. Despite stratospheric ticket prices (starting at $89.50 and going as high as $199), that show came very close to selling out.

This strong attendance at a midsummer event was not lost on the Mondavi Center management, and two Mondavi-sponsored concerts are in Jackson Hall this summer — the other being Pink Martini on July 5. Both are part of Mondavi’s “Just Added” offerings.

Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra have been a reliable draw for Mondavi audiences during the regular concert season (October-May) in the past. Ticket prices for Saturday’s concert — $35-$68 regular, $30-$58 subscriber add-on, $17.50-$34 students — are pretty much in line with the group’s 2008 and 2000 appearances here.

As of Friday, seats were still available in various price categories. Visit http://www.MondaviArts.org or call (530) 754-2787.

— Reach Jeff Hudson at jhudson@davisenterprise.net or (530) 747-8055.

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