Trumpeter Wynton Marsalis isn't sure how to describe the excitement he plans to generate with Jazz at Lincoln Center, the new $128 million arts complex in Manhattan's Time Warner Center. "It's like your first kiss," says Marsalis, 43, who spearheaded the six-year project. "It's the first time you danced with a woman, the first house party." For Marsalis, whose father, Ellis, and brothers—Branford, Jason and Delfeayo—are also jazz artists, this is the ultimate house party. It fulfills the vision of the man who has become jazz's ambassador—not only as a performer and composer (he won a Pulitzer for the oratorio Blood on the Fields) but as founding artistic director of Lincoln Center's ambitious annual jazz series and conductor for its orchestra, which until now performed in a scattered venue of halls. "This is his baby," says his friend, documentary filmmaker Ken Burns (Jazz). "He wants everyone tapping their feet to jazz. Wynton is passionately interested in spreading the gospel."
Alas, his sons—Wynton, 16, Simeon, 14, and Jasper, 8—seem less inclined to be preachers in his wake. "Simeon played clarinet but stopped," says the never married Marsalis with a laugh. "I told him, 'Man, get back on your horn so I can hear that soulful sound again.' I can't force him. I'll force him to do his homework. But your life is your own."
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