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Time apart strengthens bluegrass trio Nickel Creek Marsalis trumpets youth, musical diversity

LONDON, July 4, (Agencies): The solo played by US jazzman Wynton Marsalis to close his now-annual residency at London's Barbican this week was a rare personal moment in what was otherwise a master class in sharing the limelight.

In lieu of a full-fledged encore with his 14-strong Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra (JLCO), Marsalis entertained with a small combo, delighting an already bouncing crowd with swooping scales of trumpet.

But for much of the time over the three nights, Marsalis allowed his band and guests to shine in performances that ran the gamut from Pakistani sitar jazz to reflections on the '50s and '60s music of the legendary Blue Note jazz record label.

Wednesday's Blue Note tribute of tracks by the likes of Wayne Shorter, Joe Henderson and Woody Shaw, for example, involved arrangements by nine different members of the band, solos from all, and Marsalis himself sometimes only playing fourth trumpet.

There were also guest performances by young jazz musicians, brought on by Marsalis both to highlight and develop their skills -- a tip to the 52-year-old Marsalis' other persona as a mentor and teacher.

"My father is a teacher and as I grew up he had classes in the community. When I started to go on the road with (jazz drummer and bandleader) Art Blakey when I was 18, I started to do classes," Marsalis told Reuters in an interview.

Sometime he teaches music -- but not always.

"I try to teach them mythology so they can recalibrate how they look at the world," said Marsalis, who has served as a United Nations goodwill ambassador.

British jazz newcomers -- vibraphonist Lewis Wright and saxophonist Nathaniel Facey -- both more than held their own with the longer-standing JLCO professionals on the Wednesday, while Tuesday's performance featured the British-based Young Jazz East Big Band, which rehearsed with New York-based JLCO via Internet.

Monday's gig was different altogether -- a joint concert between two established bands -- Marsalis' and Pakistan's Sachal Jazz Ensemble. The East meets West involved trombones, saxophones, sitars and tabla, naal and dholak drums.

Such ranges in performance style is trademark Marsalis, who as well as his father, Ellis, counts three jazzmen among his brothers -- Branford, Delfeayo and Jason.

He has worked with acts as diverse as Sarah Vaughn, Dizzy Gillespie and Eric Clapton, and won a Pulitzer Prize for music and numerous Grammys for jazz and classical albums, including one for best spoken word album for children.

"With my music I try to always have it have some type of rooting and a meaning," the New Orleans native said.

"Maybe I have 70, 80 records that are out but I have another 60 or 70 that are not out. Each time I do another record I try to have another objective or try to do something I didn't do before."


The trio of musicians in Nickel Creek grew up performing together, but ultimately it was the nearly seven years spent concentrating on their own separate musical interests that made returning the stage together all the more exciting.

Fiddler Sara Watkins, her brother and guitarist Sean Watkins and mandolin player Chris Thile reunited last year in Los Angeles with the modest goal of a small 25-city tour to mark 25 years since the band formed and an EP of new songs. They wondered if their fans would return nine years after their last record.

"It's really easy to lose fans these days," Sara Watkins said.

Instead, the reunion resulted in a full-length album, sold-out shows and an expanded tour, which includes performances this month at Forecastle Festival in Louisville, Kentucky, and the Newport Folk Festival in Rhode Island. "A Dotted Line" debuted at No 7 on the all-genre Billboard 200 this spring -- a strong showing for a bluegrass album that answered the question about fan interest.

They built that fan base for more than a decade before stepping away. Starting out in southern California as pre-teens hitting the bluegrass circuit, the trio achieved a Grammy Award, two gold albums and popularity outside the genre by the time members reached their 20s. But they took a break after realizing they couldn't fit all their musical interests and pursuits under the Nickel Creek umbrella.

"I think we were kind of imposing the width and breadth of our individual musicianship on the project at all moments," Thile said. "And no single project can stand that kind of intensity."

Two of American country singer Garth Brooks five sold-out comeback concerts at Dublin's Croke Park stadium this month were cancelled on Thursday after objections were raised by local residents.

Brooks, who retired from recording new music and touring in 2001, chose Dublin for his five-night "Comeback Special Event", selling a record 400,000 tickets, equivalent to almost 10 percent of the population, ahead of a wider tour later in 2014.

However residents of the densely populated area surrounding the 82,000-seat Gaelic sports stadium objected to the holding of five successive shows and the local council refused permission for the concerts scheduled for July 28 and July 29.

"The cumulative effect on residents and on some businesses would lead to an unacceptable level of disruption to their lives and livelihoods," Dublin City Council said in a statement.

Brooks, who has sold more than 125 million albums and is best known for hits such as "The Thunder Rolls" and "Friends in Low Places", has played the occasional one-city run of shows and benefit concerts during his retirement but has never toured.

No act, including Ireland's U2, has ever played five shows in a row at Croke Park, the country's largest venue, and concert promoters had said some 70,000 of the 400,000 tickets sold were bought by people living abroad.

Ticket holders took to social media and the national airwaves to voice their disappointment.

"I queued for two days and two nights for these tickets. I'm so annoyed, it's just terrible," Carol McDonald, who had bought a ticket for the July 29 date, told a popular phone-in show on national broadcaster RTE.

"It's making a show of Ireland, he (Garth Brooks) is probably over in America saying what the hell's going on."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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