The title of Wynton Marsalis’s new book, Moving to Higher Ground: How Jazz Can Change Your Life, evokes both post-Katrina New Orleans and a self-help book, drawn together by a remarkable pedigree, the most acclaimed jazz artist of his generation.
Geoffrey W. Ward, Marsalis’s assistant with the book, is the author of a noteworthy jazz history book, a companion to the Ken Burns television documentary, “Jazz,” that included extensive commentary by Wynton Marsalis, suggesting a simpatico collaboration. The book’s back cover includes endorsements by Yo Yo Ma and Maya Angelou, so you might find this review unnecessary if you find them sanguine reviewers. If you’re curious about another point of view, read on.
Like many jazz historians and critics, I have the deepest regard for Wynton Marsalis as a remarkably eclectic and imaginative musician. But not content to be known solely for his musicianship, he has fashioned an identity as the most publicly loquacious jazz musician ever. For two decades he has positioned himself as an educator and advocate for his particular jazz slant. This book amplifies that advocate identity, one also reinforced by five previous books.