Victor Goines and Marcus Printup on Half a Lifetime in the JLCO


News | May, 3rd 2019

This 2018–19 concert season we celebrate Victor Goines and Marcus Printup, two Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra (JLCO) veterans who have now been in the band for more than a quarter century! We asked them to share a few thoughts on the experience and to tell us about what they’re up to outside of the JLCO.

MARCUS PRINTUP

Jazz at Lincoln Center: In your first years with the JLCO, did you have any idea of its potential or the likelihood that it would become what it is today?

Marcus Printup:

Wow, no, I had no idea whatsoever. But there was already a big buzz around the time that I joined in 1993. I had met Marcus Roberts, the great pianist, at my college at the University of North Florida in 1991, and I actually left school to go be his road manager. That was my college—studying with Marcus Roberts—and he schooled me and taught me so many things. He was always in Wynton’s ear about hiring me to be in the band. A few years after the band started, he was like, “Wynton, you have to check out this young cat in Florida.” So that’s when Wynton called me, at the end of 1992, to do his ballet Six Syncopated Movements with him. Then Marcus said to me, “I think he wants you to be in the band at some point, too.” I was like “the band? What band?” And my friend Kevin Bales, a great jazz pianist down in Georgia, where I’m from, he said “Man, Wynton left his quintet and he started this band, and they play Duke Ellington’s music, because Wynton wants to be a student of the music and he wants to learn. That’s the band that Marcus is talking about. They’re in New York.” And I’m like, “Wow, really?”

All these older cats who have now left us, like Brit Woodman on trombone, Norris Turney on the alto saxophone, and Marcus Belgrave, all these musicians, that’s what it was then. I never thought 26 years later that I would still be doing the same thing. It was just a gig for me, but there was something very special about it, looking back. There was something special in the air, and I knew that I was part of something that was already big. But I had no idea how far they would go, and it’s still going. It’s been a great ride.

We used to only play Duke Ellington’s music, which was great. But now we play so much more. Different styles from all eras of jazz and other genres as well. Maybe the biggest difference is that we all compose and arrange for the band. I’ve never seen anything like this in the history of jazz. It’s a wonderful thing. When I first joined the band, I was one of the youngest members. Now I’m one of the oldest [laughing]. It’s been a dream life come true. Playing alongside Wynton and the numerous elite musician over the years. That was 26 years ago. I’m now 52. I’ve been here half of my life. Crazy, right?

Jazz at Lincoln Center: Do you have any upcoming projects in the works for the JLCO? Or is there anything you have in mind that you’d like an opportunity to create?

Marcus Printup: 

Oh man, that’s a good question. Yeah. I love playing with strings. You know, that’s one of the things about being in the band—you have to sacrifice for the greater good, because everyone in the band is great, we can all play, we can all write. And one of my favorite things to do is to play ballads, and I’ve never really had a ballad feature in the band. I would love to have one of those at some point. But I’ve written some music for strings. It’s kind of reminiscent of Clifford Brown with Strings. I’ve written seven or eight arrangements, and maybe at some point we can do those. Piano, bass, drums, harp from my wife Riza [Printup], myself on trumpet, and then just a small chamber orchestra with strings, tuba, two bass clarinets, flute, piccolo, regular clarinet, and French horns. I did a small concert in Atlanta with a pickup orchestra there, which went great, so my dream would be to do that in The Appel Room.

Jazz at Lincoln Center: You were saying that your college experience was primarily being on the road with Marcus Roberts. When did you learn to write and arrange for that large range of instruments?

Marcus Printup:

When I was at the University of North Florida, I did one big band arrangement. I took arranging for one semester. And I was going to take it for a second semester, but that’s when Marcus Roberts came, and I left school to go travel with him. But I did that one arrangement, and I’m kind of proud of it, because I was in what we called the “baby arranging class,” because I was a first-year student, and the second-year students were in the top arranging class. Our band director decided to record a CD with all of the student arrangements from the top class, but he heard my arrangement and decided that he wanted it on the CD as well. It was an arrangement of Kenny Durham’s “Lotus Blossom.” That was in 1990, I think it was, and to be honest, I didn’t touch a pen and write music for a large ensemble again until around 2008, when I did my first one with the JLCO.

I was talking to my JLCO bandmate Ted Nash, and he said, “Hey man, just write. You write for small groups, so just go to the piano, and basically, if you play a series of notes in a chord and it sounds good, then just choose who’s going to have which note. So, for example, if I played this chord—it’s a pretty weird chord—[plays piano] I would give Vincent [Gardner] this note, I would give Chris [Crenshaw] this note], I would give Elliot [Mason] this note, and I’d give Paul [Nedzela] the bass note. So that kind of thing. It’s just learning how to voice the different notes that are in the chord for the musicians. That’s all it is. And the rest is composition.

Really, the rest of it is improvisation. That’s the way that I like to look at writing. I like to look at it as improvisation, because it’s something that I am creating on the spot. I don’t want to get tied up into thinking I have to do a drop-2 voicing, or worry about this technical talk with arranging. I don’t like to think like that. I can think that way, but I prefer to make it a creative effort, and that’s how I write music for a big band or a small group. It’s a blessing to write for such a large ensemble of great musicians, because everyone has a sound that’s great, and everyone has something that they do that’s special, so it’s kind of like being an artist and having a canvas. Being able to write anything I want and know that it’s going to come out great, and that’s how we all feel about writing for this band.

Jazz at Lincoln Center: Are there any instances where you write a chord to be played by one of the sections, and they’ll come back and say, “Actually, we’re going to trade these notes” and shift who takes which part in the voicing?

Marcus Printup:

We all really respect each other’s writing, so we never try to change anything around. During rehearsal, we’ll ask “Hey, did you mean for this Ab to rub against this A?” If you say “Yeah, I meant to do that,” then that’ll be it. And what we can do is show them on the piano, the Ab here, and the A here, those two notes, it’s like this.” So just that kind of thing. But we all really respect each other’s writing and each other’s decisions, so we basically just play the music the best that we can.

Jazz at Lincoln Center: Are there any kinds of music or artists that you love, but you try not to let your JLCO bandmates catch you listening to?

Marcus Printup:

Oh no, man. I’m open about my stuff. A lot of music. I just taught this four-week Miles Davis course as part of Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Swing University, and I went from Miles’ first recordings, from 1944 and 1945, all the way to his hip-hop recording in 1991. I played it all for the class. I’m not afraid to be me. And I think that’s the thing I get from Miles Davis. Miles was who he was and he didn’t hide anything. I think that when we hide what we love, it makes us lose a portion of ourselves. I love Stevie Wonder’s music. I love Marvin Gaye’s music, Michael Jackson’s music, at least from the ‘70s and early ‘80s. There’s a lot that I love. I love gospel music. We just did a show on country music. I mean, I actually like some country music now.

Jazz at Lincoln Center: You say “now.” Was that new to you?

Marcus Printup:

Yeah. I just hadn’t really checked it out. The JLCO just did the Ken Burns Country Music concerts [in Rose Theater on April 25–26, 2019], and it really kind of opened my eyes. I mean, it’s very similar to the blues. You listen to Ray Charles play “I Can’t Stop Loving You,” and it’s country, but he puts his own thing on it and makes it him, so it’s all good music. I have no qualms about playing any music in front of anybody. As a matter of fact, the JLCO was on the road during our last tour, in China I think it was, and we had about an hour-long drive to the hotel from the airport. I got my speakers out and started playing music. I played some Eric Dolphy. I played some comedy for the band. I was the DJ for the whole ride. Then I played some Prince and some Michael Jackson, and everybody in the band was grooving to it. So I’m not afraid. That’s what I love. Life’s too short to be afraid.

Jazz at Lincoln Center: Are there any unique opportunities the JLCO has given you that you feel you otherwise might not have pursued or experienced?

Marcus Printup:

I’ve seen the world with this orchestra, and I am so blessed. It still feels like a dream. We just returned from China, Australia, and Singapore. I climbed up the Great Wall for the second time. We were also there in 2003. I got my first taste of the European audiences when we played in Prague back in 1994. They love the music and treat us like royalty. We played two complete sets, and after the last tune, we played five encores! They wouldn’t let us off the stage. It was so wild. Every city in Europe was like this.

One of my favorite JLCO moments was a concert with the legendary John Lewis. He was very ill, and his doctors advised him to cancel, but we were performing his original works, and he was insistent on conducting us. Musically and spiritually, it was one of my favorite concerts with the band. Shortly after the concert, Mr. Lewis passed on. But the music gave him strength, and we are grateful. Another moment was when the band travelled to Arkansas and played a private concert for our musical father and original member of the JLCO, trumpeter Clark Terry. He was in the hospital. We assembled and played a complete set of Duke Ellington’s music for him. A few months later, we played at his memorial. Sad, but great and unforgettable moments.

Plus, I’ve also changed a lot as a person and as a musician through my time in the band. I only arranged one big band tune while in college. Now I’m arranging at least five every year for the band. I’m also passionate about teaching. I remember being part of one of the first educational residencies with a sextet from the JLCO in 1995. I instantly fell in love with the process of passing along information to youth. I’ve been to every Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Competition & Festival. It is my favorite time during the season. The level of musicianship and musicality has so vastly improved through the years. If you’ve not been a part of this festival, please join us this May! It’s going to be a good one. I’m looking for Dillard High School to do something special. They have a lot of really strong seniors this year.

Jazz at Lincoln Center: Can you tell us more about how you have changed as a musician?

Marcus Printup:

I’ve become more confident, and a lot of that is due to Wynton Marsalis. The first piece that he wrote for jazz band and orchestra was called All Rise. The first time we performed it was with the New York Philharmonic at the end of 1999, and we were going into the studio to record it in 2001 with the Los Angeles Philharmonic. We were working on parts in the hotel, and he said, “This solo that I wrote for you, I’m kind of thinking that I want it like this.” And he tried to demonstrate how he wanted it compared to how we did it with the New York Philharmonic, and he was trying to tell me how to change my solo, but then he says, “You know what? Man, don’t change anything. You have your own way of playing. So just play it the way that you play.” So from then on, you know… Wynton is a big part of the reason that I have my own sound. Of course, my upbringing and my experiences, too, but Wynton as a leader knows how to encourage his band members to be the best that they can be, not for him, but for us, and so I think that’s the mark of a great leader. When you can make your flock be the best that they can be. It’s kind of like a great athlete. Michael Jordan was that way with the Bulls. He made all the other cats on the team great. Wynton does that for us as well. And for me to admire him from afar when I was younger and have him be my idol, and then, you know, to meet him and now to play alongside him, and for him to tell me that I am my own man, and that I should be me, that was kind of cool. That’s been a big perk, and it makes me want to keep going.

Jazz at Lincoln Center: For fans who only know you from the JLCO, which projects or albums or concerts of yours would you recommend they check out?

Marcus Printup:

1993 was a dream year for me, not only for my joining Wynton, but also because I signed a four-record deal with Blue Note and was approached by the great Betty Carter to perform at her inaugural Jazz Ahead event. I’ve been blessed to have recorded 12 albums as a leader and over 50 albums as a sideman. I just recorded a duet cd with my lovely and talented wife, Riza Printup. She’s a fantastic harpist, and we recorded a ballad CD that will be our later this year on the Steeplechase label. Stay tuned for that!

And speaking of Betty Carter, you know how we just put out her live concert album [on Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Blue Engine Records]? She also started the annual Jazz Ahead event, where she would choose about 20 students across the U.S. that she had met, and she would fly them all to New York City to hang and perform a concert. That’s still going on even though she passed years ago. And I’m honored to be one of the clinicians at this year’s Jazz Ahead, which is at the Kennedy Center. The crazy thing for me is that it overlaps with the shows I’m playing here at Dizzy’s Club with the Georgia Horns, which is [JLCO trombonist] Chris Crenshaw’s group. He organizes everything for the group, and he does a masterful job, and he’s from Georgia as well. We’ve played a few gigs. We played the Atlanta Jazz Festival last year, and it was really successful. So we’re playing at Dizzy’s from May 31–June 2, and I’m going to have to drive back and forth or fly back and forth between Washington DC and Dizzy’s Club to do both. I’m going to hit everything. I can’t miss the gig with Chris and the Georgia Horns, and I can’t miss doing this for Betty! I’m really honored to be able to do this for Betty, because she taught me so much. I talk about my mentors so much; I talk about Marcus Roberts and Wynton Marsalis as the key ones, but I don’t talk often enough about Betty Carter. I mean, she saw me playing at a club during my first gig with Wynton and asked me if I would be a part of her Jazz Ahead program. I accepted, and she flew me to New York. I met so many great musicians. I met Rueben Rogers, Cyrus Chestnut, Andre Hayword, all these great musicians. We performed a concert at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. And now, 26 years later, it’s still going on, and I’m a clinician. So I’m honored to be able to impart the wisdom that Betty gave me to this new flock of students who want to play jazz for a living. Betty is amazing. Sherman Irby, from the JLCO, he did that program, too. Plus so many other people. Greg Hutchinson came through that program. Christian McBride was there with her. Jacky Terrasson. So many great musicians. Betty Carter was an ambassador of education and really pushed us into shape, so I’m honored to be doing that for her.

VICTOR GOINES

Jazz at Lincoln Center: How has the JLCO has held your interest and/or dedication for so long?

Victor Goines: 

Well it’s not a short answer, but the foundations of what we do are music performance, education, and advocacy, which are all very important to me, and which I’ve dedicated most of my life to. Advocacy, and freedom of speech and expression for all people.

Music education has been important to me. Even when I was a student I had great teachers, so it’s always been something I’ve participated in as a student and as a teacher. Those roles are interchangeable, because students are also teachers, and teachers are students. And from a performance point of view, I’m in the band because I want to be part of a great tradition, which is what jazz is. Jazz at Lincoln Center is important for it, because it represents the highest level of excellence that exists in the industry, and it has for the past 25 years that I’ve been here and since the outset of the organization over 30 years ago.

Jazz at Lincoln Center: For fans who primarily know you from the JLCO, which other projects of yours would you recommend they check out?

Victor Goines:

Well hopefully they’ll check out as many as they possibly can, because they’ll see an evolution. Just like if they check out our JLCO recordings they’ll see an evolution; they’ll see where we come from and where we’re at, and that gives them a vision of where we could possibly go. No picture is complete if you just look at one small pixel of it, so I’m optimistic that they will look at the entire picture to get a feel for who I am and what contributions I might have to offer to musicians who come behind me.

Jazz at Lincoln Center: Would you say that your own work and the JLCO have evolved in similar ways over the years?

Victor Goines:

Well, being at JALC has been a total education. That’s the great thing about the institution: everything we do is based upon research from a historical perspective and the inclusiveness of all. So when you put all of those ingredients together it is a recipe for learning. Whether you like it or not, you’re going to learn something!

Jazz at Lincoln Center: If you’re asked to think back on your favorite concerts with the JLCO, which ones come to mind first?

Victor Goines: 

We’ve done so many, it’s challenging, I really need to reflect. I’d say the relationship of getting to know the great John Lewis. The opportunity to be in a big band that supported Joe Henderson. I really think that no individual part was more important than another one. The whole is what has made the experience extraordinary. The meeting of so many great musicians over time through our performances as an orchestras. Also, through our galas, meeting people from other genres of music who do all sorts of other things, artists like Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles, B.B. King, Eric Clapton, Crosby, Stills & Nash, James Taylor, Marcus Roberts, Branford Marsalis… we just go across different periods of time. It’s like time travel, in a way. And I should also say Joe Temperley, Milt Grayson, James Moody, Frank Wess, Frank Foster, Britt Woodman… It’s just been the opportunity of a lifetime to have had the opportunity to know and speak to these people and to bring their legacy to the next generation of musicians who didn’t have that opportunity to meet them.

We are all like devices that transport information through time, whether it be a recording device or a video or an oral tradition, we all are carrying information. Recordings are an ideal way to do this, which is why Jazz at Lincoln Center and Wynton are so focused on the idea of getting recordings of the band in place, not only for generations in this time period to hear, but also so people in future generations can know what this actually sounded like. We don’t want to be like the legend of Buddy Bolden. We don’t want to be a legend, we want it to be documented that this existed and this is what happened at this time. And that way, whatever takes place in the next 25 years, people will be able to compare it to these past 25 years.

Jazz at Lincoln Center: When the JLCO was first starting, back when you were in Wynton’s smaller groups and he was conceptualizing the orchestra, did you have any idea of the potential or the likelihood that it would become what it is today?

I was fortunate, because when I came into the band the potential of what could be was already starting to be. But I remember a story Herlin Riley once told me about the Jazz at Lincoln Center building, what we call the “center of the jazz universe.” Herlin said they were on the road one day, and Wynton said, “Man, I’ve got this idea to build a facility for us in Manhattan. It’s going to be our concert hall. It’s going to be a place we can call home and perform and invite people into our space. It’s going to have education involved in it, and it’s going to have all of the many different components it takes for Jazz at Lincoln Center to do what we do today. It’s going to be hip.” And Herlin looked back at Wynton (and we all grew up together in New Orleans), Herlin said, “Really, man?” See, Herlin knew Wynton was a great thinker and a great motivator, and that he could get things done at that time. And Herlin said, “Wow, okay, I look forward to it.” But of course, you say that with the thought that, “Yeah, it would be great if that could happen,” but not really with the reality that it will happen, and especially in such a short time period. So that was sometime in the ‘90s, when Herlin was having that discussion with Wynton about it.

“And lo and behold,” Herlin said, “before you knew it, it was 2005, the building was completed, we were having the grand opening of the Rose Theater and Dizzy’s Club and The Appel Room,” known at the time as The Allen Room. And for me, it’s always… I’m at a loss of words for what it really is because of our history before Jazz at Lincoln Center—Wynton and my history before Jazz at Lincoln Center—to see the kind of drive and commitment and sacrifice Wynton has made not only to the organization, but also to the art form, because he could have done a lot of different things that would have yielded a lot of resources, but he chose this path. Wynton as a leader of Jazz at Lincoln Center has made many sacrifices, in his life and in his career, for those successes that we’ve celebrated. He could have easily gone out with a small ensemble and capitalized financially and also on his own artistic level, but he decided that he wanted to sustain the big band, and so, as a result, Jazz at Lincoln Center and the JLCO have since been in existence.

Jazz at Lincoln Center: Do you feel like you’ve also made sacrifices to stick with the band for so long?

Victor Goines:

Yeah, I think I’ve made sacrifices. I think everyone who’s been in the organization has, both in the orchestra and in the administrative staff, because no individual part is greater than the whole. It’s sometimes overlooked, the type of commitment and sacrifices that people make inside the office, whether it be in terms of the time commitment they spend after hours or the commitment they make for lesser wages to be a part of this non-profit organization. And all of those sacrifices are extraordinary, and we could not do what we do without those type of sacrifices.

Jazz at Lincoln Center: What’s your next new work with the band? I know we’re also reprising your Untamed Elegance this coming season.

We have an idea for a commission that will maybe be presented in the 2020–21 season, something with… well I’m going to keep that a secret! I’m going to let people hear about that later, but overall, I think as a band we’re trying to get our recordings up as individuals. So what I’m focusing on right now is Crescent City, which was with the JLCO and Branford Marsalis. That work is special to me not only because it came to fruition as a Jazz at Lincoln Center commission, but also because it’s with Branford, and he and I have such a long history together. When I was asked about doing that commission and who I would like to have on the show, Branford’s name came right out of my mouth without hesitation. Most musicians have influences who are part of the legacy of jazz music. It’s rare that somebody has an influence who is part of their own peer group, and Branford has been that influence for me since our first meeting years ago. So I’m working to get that concert’s recording produced so that we can release it through JALC’s Blue Engine Records. And then the second one is Untamed Elegance, which we are performing here at JALC on January 11 and 12, 2020, and those live concerts will become an album.

Jazz at Lincoln Center: It’s great to have a show like yours, where we can just say to an artist, “who do you want to play with?” Like we have Chucho Valdés coming up in the 2019–20 next season, and we asked him, “Who’s someone you’ve never played with before who you want to play with?” And he said “Chick Corea.”

Victor Goines:

Oh wow. That’s going to be a great show! A once-in-a-lifetime thing. That’s going to be good.

Jazz at Lincoln Center: Over the years, have you noticed the attendance increase? These days the shows in Rose Theater pretty much all sell out.

Well that’s the luxury of Jazz at Lincoln Center. We’ve had very good attendance throughout my time in the band over the years, and it’s very rare to be part of an organization and a band where you’re afforded the luxury of having people always being in attendance at your concerts. Occasionally, we travel to an area that maybe does not sell out to capacity, but that’s also why we attend there—so that we can develop that audience and hope that when we return, it can be a greater presence and audience attendance. So it’s a luxury to be with a band where you just walk in, and there’s so many people, and that’s been built by a combination, I think, of Wynton Marsalis the individual and Jazz at Lincoln Center. There are people who come back all the time. I received an email the other week from a professor at Harvard University, and he told me a story about his son who came to see us play music all these years ago. His son was so influenced by a chance meeting with me. I spent a little time talking with him, and he went on to do some great things. He’s working on his PhD now, I think, but not in music! His dad was talking about how influential the meeting was, and he was grateful for the time that I spent with his son, and he’ll be at our concert in Boston.

Jazz at Lincoln Center: Ellis Marsalis also recently spoke to us about his pride in influencing people who find personal success, even if they don’t pursue music.

Victor Goines:

As an educator, we don’t teach for the masses. While we would love for the masses to be successful, we teach for the opportunity to expose people to things. That should be the norm for education. Exposure, interaction, advocacy—all these things are supposed to be what education is all about. And those types of opportunities… it’s even more meaningful, sometimes, when a young person doesn’t go on to be a musician in our field but an educator.

You know, Mr. [Ellis] Marsalis, for me, is not just an educator. He has been a mentor. He’s been a role model. He’s been a friend. I had the privilege of studying with him as a student and playing in his band for almost ten years. I have only played in three bands consistently. One was with Ruth Brown in an R&B band. The second is Ellis Marsalis’ band. And the third is Wynton Marsalis’ band[s]. So Ellis Marsalis has meant more to me than probably all of the education I’ve had, and not just in terms of being a musician, but in terms of being a person. His whole thing about education was about encouraging people to be thinkers. To be visionaries. To look ahead. You have to be looking far beyond your destination to arrive at it. And that’s the perfect case if you think about Wynton; his ability to build Jazz at Lincoln Center is because he’s looking far beyond just a gig in New York or any other place in the world. He’s looking at something that’s more important than any and all of that. It’s not just about a short period of time with your teacher, but about a lifetime of experience far beyond the brief period of time that you’ve spent with them. One of the great things I learned from being with Mr. Marsalis, and it wasn’t even necessarily in a lesson or anything like that, was that it’s important for you to learn how to learn and what to learn, as opposed to just being confined by the information that your teacher gives to you. It’s the realization that students are supposed to succeed their teachers and be able to go far beyond them without there being any concern or envy of any type. You should want your students to be great, and you should want your students to be greater than you.


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The Department Store Painting that Inspired Ornette Coleman and 5 Other Interesting Facts About His Life

Ornette Coleman led a life as fascinating as his music. Read up on some interesting facts about this jazz legend!

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Joe Temperley, by Frank Stewart for Jazz at Lincoln Center

Notes from the Road: Remembering Joe Temperley

Before his passing in May, Joe Temperley spent 29 unforgettable years as the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra's baritone saxophonist and its beloved elder statesman. Between performances on their recent mini-tour of Canada, several JLCO members shared their memories of Temperley, who left behind an indelible legacy and a whole lot of stories.

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6 Underappreciated Jazz Artists You Should Check Out

April is Jazz Appreciation Month, so we thought we'd celebrate by delving into the careers of a handful of underappreciated jazz artists. Explore the careers of six musicians who deserve more accolades and learn the best places to start with their discographies.

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