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Fame & Fortune
Wynton Marsalis
Jazz musician and multiple Grammy winner says his most extravagant purchase is his kids' education.
Celebrity interview

Fame & Fortune: Wynton Marsalis

Bankrate: What else are you working on these days?

Wynton Marsalis: I'm working on a symphony for the Atlanta and Boston symphonies. We just did a Mass for the Abyssinian Baptist Church a few months ago, and I'm always working with the band. We're out on the road now playing, always working on our music.

I also have a book coming out on Random House that I wrote with Geoffrey Ward, a great friend of mine and a writer, called "Moving to Higher Ground: How Jazz Can Change your Life." It's about the music and meanings of things in the music and our way of life, and how to bring everybody to a closer understanding of how much we have in common through our music. Somebody might think it's a stretch for me and Willie to play together. It's not a stretch at all. That would never dawn on him or me.

Bankrate: So what do you do for leisure, to get away from work?

Wynton Marsalis: Mainly play chess, play ball, read, hang with my kids. Most of the time I'm clowning around and joking anyway. I have too many days without being off, but this last month or so I've been really good, so I'm in a very good mood. But also, being out on the road with the guys in the band, we have a big band of like 15 or 16 people, and this is the most getting-along band I've ever been in. There's so many of us and it's so much fun to be on the road with them.

Everybody has a different range of interests, so we all do lots of different things. When you're on the road with people, it's like they're in your family. Some of us have been playing together for 15, 16 years. One guy in our band I went to kindergarten with. We also have a range of people. Our oldest is from Scotland, he's in his late 70s, and our youngest member is 23. So the experiences are rich, with a lot of different opinions and experiences. A lot to learn.

Bankrate: Do you afford yourself any extravagances?

Wynton Marsalis: Not at all. I'm one of the most plainest, simplest ... I grew up very plain. My daddy was a jazz musician (renowned pianist Ellis Marsalis), and he never made no money, so I'm very comfortable with not having that much. I can be comfortable with a lot, or with nothing. But I'm not extravagant at all. I'm working all the time, so I don't have time (for extravagances). Right now, I'm traveling to another gig in a car. For me, the extravagance is more in the human interaction with people. I put a premium on that -- the depth of relationships you have with the people you're around, or the people you encounter. Not so much in buying things.

Bankrate: Can you think of one extravagant thing you've bought recently?

Wynton Marsalis: No. I never really buy anything for myself. I really couldn't think of it. I bought an extravagant car when I was 25, and I sold it in like two months. That was 21 years ago.

Bankrate: What kind of car was it?

Wynton Marsalis: An Aston Martin.

Bankrate: Why did you sell it?

Wynton Marsalis: I never had a thing, so I didn't understand the impact that had on people. People would be looking at it and talking about it; police would be stopping me. It was like an idol to be looked at. I didn't feel comfortable with that, so I sold it. Plus I wasn't that good of a driver, anyway. I had to get out and have other people park it for me.

Bankrate: You don't wanna crash the Aston Martin.

Wynton Marsalis: Yeah. So I never bought anything else like that after that. Actually, the most extravagant thing I bought is my kids' tuition. I got one in college, and one going to prep school.

Bankrate.com's corrections policy -- Posted: Nov. 21, 2008
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