The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra led by trumpeter-composer-bandleader extraordinaire Wynton Marsalis stops in Atlanta Saturday, Feb. 9 at 8 p.m. at the Atlanta Symphony Hall while on its 25th Anniversary multi-city tour that began October 2012 and crisscrosses the country and Canada through June.
One of the three trombonist in the 15-member band, Chris Crenshaw will see many familiar faces in the audience from his hometown of Thomson Georgia, a small town of some 7,000 about 30 miles south of Augusta. He started playing piano when he was a mere three years old and did gigs with his father Casper's group The Echoes of Joy picking up the trombone at 11.
"We look forward to coming to Atlanta," offers the 30-year-old Crenshaw a graduate of Thomson High School, Valdosta State University with honors and who holds a master's degree in jazz studies from The Julliard School in New York. "It's always a good show and a packed house. Quite a few of our friends and family come to the show as there are two of us from this area." Trumpeter Marcus Printup is from Conyers Georgia but does not appear on the list of musicians playing tonight.
Over the years the band has toured around the world including Spain. and Europe. For him each city is an experience. Most memorable is a gig that they performed in California where it rained very hard but the band played and the audience stayed around to enjoy the performance.
Crenshaw says you never know who might join the group on stage for vocals. Often he says Audrey Shakir sits in with the group during performances in Atlanta and he expects she or another local vocalist will perform with the band tonight.
What numbers will be played tonight, he doesn't know. Often that decision is made the day of the show and the band is so well prepared they are ready to play whatever is on the schedule.
Asked about his first interactions with Marsalis and Crenshaw replied that the band leader is very meticulous, keen and astute. "When I first met him he was shooting hoops in the studio. He stopped to talk to me and said I had a lot of soul. He knew a lot about me and I had played with him only a few times. He's very thoughful and has high expectations of all of us."
Some of the shows on the tour include one with pianist-composer Chick Corea and another with folk rock group Crosby Stills and Nash in New York in May. Other accomplished artists Crenshaw he has learned from and played with include Wycliffe Gordan a jazz trombonist from Waynesboro, Georgia, Dr. Douglas Farwell, Gerard Wilson, Jiggs Whigham, Carl Allen, Cassandra Wilson and Eric Reed. In 2012 he composed "God's Trombones" spiritually-focused piece which was premiered by the orchestra at Jazz at Lincoln Center.
And just how did he get to join the Lincoln Center Orchestra? Crenshaw said it's a world of mouth thing. " I think it was Wycliffe who recommended me. They needed a trombonist and usually that is how it works.