Perhaps the hardest-working man in jazz, Wynton Marsalis has accomplished more in 45 years than most manage in a lifetime—30-plus albums, nine Grammys, 29 honorary degrees, and a Pulitzer for his 1997 oratorio on slavery, Blood on the Fields. Cofounder of New York’s Jazz at Lincoln Center, where he serves as artistic director, Marsalis keeps his performance calendar packed: After touring Europe through July, the horn player starts preparing for a full season at Lincoln Center. Here, a few of his life’s high notes.
• The Dance by Henri Matisse is ritualistic, lyrical, elegant, primitive, barbaric, refined, and sensual—I love it.
• My musical idols are many: Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Charlie Parker, Bach, and Beethoven. They're the five I've studied the most.
• I keep my Grammys and Pulitzer in my office. I don't know where the honorary degrees are. I used to hang them up, but it just seemed too ostentatious.
• If I'm flying, I pass the time playing chess with Walter Blanding, one of my orchestra saxophonists.
• My trumpet is by Dave Monette. I have just one—after all, I can only play one at a time."
• The service at the Hotel Adlon in Berlin is incredible. And the price is terrific, too. It's my favorite hotel.
• Everything I wear—suits, shirts, ties—is from Brooks Brothers. I love Claudio Del Vecchio, the CEO there. He has an understanding of tradition, but he also knows how to be innovative.
• I keep coming back to The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell for its breadth of knoweldge. I've read and reread it.
• When you drink just a little bit, you're nota drink. We call that as mile. When I want a smile, Armagnac is my favorite.