Michelle Obama and all that jazz.

This report by Mike Maddenof salon.com provides with further evidence – if further evidence were needed – that the current White House occupants are about as cultured as any who have taken up residency in place. The Kennedys made a great show of being cultured, but, to my mind, the Obamas are cultured, and they do it with real style.

File this remark by Michelle Obama today as yet another in a series of lines you hadn’t heard from the First Lady before Barack Obama became president: “I brought my own family with me today because I want to keep them alive and aware of all kinds of music other than hip hop.” If Laura Bush (or Hillary Clinton) was concerned that her daughters were letting hip hop crowd out other genres in their personal music libraries, she certainly didn’t say so at the time……….

Of course, this, as you’d expect, was to be no ordinary lesson. It was a lesson organised by the First Lady, and it showed. Who else – without a small fortune to spend – could have the America’s first family of jazz, the Marsalises, to pop around for an afternoon’s jamming with each other and with a group of young students?

The highlight was in the East Room, where a band of Marsalises — trumpeter Wynton, saxophonist Branford, trombonist Delfeayo, drummer Jason and their dad, pianist Ellis — was teaching a lesson for high school-aged musicians from New Orleans. Fourteen students from the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts and the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz had come to Washington for the event. Paquito D’Rivera sat in on clarinet and saxophone with the Marsalis family. Leading the session, Wynton Marsalis had the students come up on stage and play a chorus each with the band. Some of the kids had dejected looks on their faces after they finished playing, possibly because they missed notes. But Marsalis told them afterwards they had to keep a positive attitude. “You played good,” he said. “Sometimes the people who played the best had the worst attitude.”

Then Marsalis started playing riffs on his trumpet, which he had Branford Marsalis repeat on his sax; Delfeayo Marsalis and D’Rivera did the same thing, with Branford Marsalis copying them note for note each time. The students then came up and tried the same thing, with the sax players following Branford Marsalis and D’Rivera, the trumpet players following Wynton Marsalis and the trombonists following Delfeayo Marsalis. If any of them were intimidated, they didn’t show it — instead, they ripped through the jam session with confidence, smiling more than they had the first time they played……

If  Sasha and Malia Obama, who were the main targets of this afternoon’s lessons,  think that jazz not worth checking out, they will get a chance to check out something else later in the year.

The next music lesson, sometime in July or August, will focus on country music.


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