Keep Houston Press Free

Get Lit: Moving to Higher Ground: How Jazz Can Change Your Life By Wynton Marsalis with Geoffrey Ward

In addition to his long career as one of modern jazz's finest trumpet blowers and composers, Wynton Marsalis has waged a sort of one-man PR campaign for jazz education. He extols the virtues of the music as a current and lively art with a rich history - as opposed to a genre whose best days and practitioners are behind - in all sorts of settings both musical and academic. In the wide-ranging Moving to Higher Ground, Marsalis argues that jazz can also teach life lessons based on his own experiences as well as those of a who's who of jazz giants, many known by just one name: Bird, Monk, Pops, Prez, Duke, Miles, Dizzy, and Coltrane. It's a quick read that also touches on race relations, traditions, and the relation of jazz to other musical forms ("The biggest mistake a jazz musician can make," Marsalis argues, "is to run from the blues."). He also takes the reader into the seemingly arcane and inscrutable ways of the jazz musician, whose world is rife with terms like "cutting session," "vamp," and "head chart."

Marsalis is also not afraid to spout his current opinions (don't ask about his view of Miles Davis as a rock sell-out), or revise those that have evolved since his Angry Young Black Man days.

As an overall philosophy for life-coaching, Rocks Off is not convinced that jazz can help someone any more than Buddhism, Sigmund Freud or Dr. Phil. But when it comes to aurally reaching a spiritual level, there are few more moving churches to attend. And not just on Sundays.

Random House, $16, 208 pp.

I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Houston and help keep the future of Houston Press free.

Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the Press community and help support independent local journalism in Houston.


Join the Press community and help support independent local journalism in Houston.