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Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra Makes Waves In The U.K.

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Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra may hang their hats inside the House of Swing at Columbus Circle, but they're also musical ambassadors around the world. NY1's Stephanie Simon tagged along on the orchestra's recent tour of Great Britain, and found out that life on the road isn't easy — no matter how well you play.

"You miss your family and your kids," Winton Marsalis says of life on the road. "There are long drives everyday; concerts finish at 10:30 and then you sign autographs until maybe 2 or 3 o'clock; you leave maybe at 7, and you do that 5 or 6 days in a row."

In late September, Marsalis and his 14-member jazz orchestra traveled to Great Britain to perform his original composition "All Rise" with The London Symphony Orchestra. But there was more than just the music to deal with.

"London is so expensive," says LCJO bassist Carlos Henriquez. "You thought New York was expensive? London is really expensive."

"I bought breakfast across the street," says trumpeter Marcus Printup, "and I think it was actually 40 dollars."

But who has time for breakfast? The hectic schedule takes you from runway to rehearsal before a short break — then it's back to rehearsal.

"It's crucial for us to keep it together," says drummer Ali Jackson. "Between the conductor and myself, we're the glue that tries to hold it all together."

Rehearsal lasts for three long days, then the orchestra is off to the first stop on the tour: Birmingham. But only after the bus is delayed on its departure.

"About this time in the trip, we get silly," says Enriques. "You act the fool the first hour we're on the bus, and then everyone falls asleep."

The bus arrives a little behind schedule, but things get back on track once everyone is checked into the hotel and the soundcheck begins.

The music is composed by Marsalis, but his handwritten notes are transferred to computer and expanded into a full orchestra score by music copyist Jonathan Kelly.

"If he writes something and I'm absolutely positive that he's written it wrong, then I don't have to call him and say 'Hey, measure 75, do you really mean D flat?'" Kelly explains. "So if I'm positive that I'm correct then I'll just change it."

Sometimes Kelly will work for 48 hours straight — although Marsalis will sometimes interrupt the work for a middle-of-the-night game of chess.

After Birmingham, the group moves on to Cardiff, Wales, where Enriques loses his cuff-links. But nothing stops the music, which saxophonist Ted Nash says is a blend of camaraderie and competition.

"Jazz music has its own kind of competitive quality to it because we stand up and solo," Nash explains. "We want to sound good, so when Walter Blanding stands up and takes a solo that's killing, you want to stand up and do the same thing."

Back in London the orchestra members enjoy a quick game of Yankee football before baritone sax player Joe Temperley takes some of the group on a tour of London. The native Scotsman started his career here, but left London because of a certain popular music group.

"The Beatles probably drove me out of London more than anything," Temperley says, laughing. "You know, waking up in the morning to see what color Ringo's wallpaper was and things like that — and they weren't that good! To me, they weren't that good."

Finally the group arrives at London's Royal Albert Hall for the biggest show of the tour.

"Our role and our job is to try to give the energy we feel for music and the love we feel for music back to the audience," Printup says. "And for those two hours they become our family. They're in our house and we're playing for them."

—Stephanie Simon
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