On the current Southern tour of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, the 16-piece band is focusing on the 70th anniversary of the original Blue Note records. The New York-based label, founded by Alfred Lion and Max Margulis in 1939, became seminal for musicians like Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane, and Herbie Hancock, who all cut albums for it during their fruitful careers.
In addition to that project, they have been working on a lot of material generated by the band members themselves. "We have a really large repertoire of music," trumpeter Marcus Printup explains via phone while preparing for a performance. "For the past year, Wynton [Marsalis] has been featuring different arrangements from the cats in the band, and we're starting to expand our own book as well as music from bandleaders like Stan Kenton, Count Basie, and the like."
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Printup doesn't seem intimidated by playing his horn next to the band's famous director — they have been playing together for well over a decade, and Marsalis' professionalism helps to keep things in the right place. There are some moments, though. "I've been playing in the band for 16 years now, so it's like second nature to me," Printup says. "But every now and then, I look over and go, 'Wow, I'm playing with the guy who was my idol when I was in college.' But he's very down-to-Earth; he's just one of us — he's no male diva at all."