Louis Armstrong, one of the most influential Jazz musicians of all time, once said, "My whole life, my whole soul, my whole spirit is to blow that horn." For Wycliffe Gordon, an Augusta area native and renowned musician, composer, conductor, and arranger, Armstrong might as well have been talking about him. Gordon embraced the spirit and soul of jazz like Armstrong, leading to a career at the forefront of the modern Jazz movement. Now, he brings his experience back home as Artist in Residence at Augusta University.
5 Facts You Need To Know About Wycliffe Gordon
1. He found music early. Born in Waynesboro Georgia, Gordon was introduced to music at an early age by his parents, particularly his father, a church organist, classical pianist, and teacher. When Gordon was ten, the family moved to Augusta, GA where he attended Sego Junior High School. At home he listened to jazz records inherited from his great aunt. One day, his older brother came home from school carrying a trombone, and Gordon couldn't get his mind off the instrument. "I thought, 'Wow, I want that,'" laughs Gordon. "We were a year apart so whatever he got, I wanted it. And I really wanted that trombone."
2. He got his start touring with one of the jazz greats. Gordon received an invitation to join Wynton Marsalis, an undisputed king of jazz, nine-time Grammy award winner, and the first jazz musician to win the Pulitzer Prize for Music, on the road during his senior year at Florida A & M. He happily accepted the offer and had no desire to return to his old life back at college. His summer job touring with a jazz great became his career, and he spent the next 11 years on the road, developing his repertoire, building his skill set, seeing the world, and encountering unique opportunities.
3. He composed a popular radio show song. In 1996, Marsalis received a call from National Public Radio (NPR) asking for a recommendation for someone to arrange the theme song to the popular radio show "All Things Considered." He recommended Gordon, who changed the format from all classical to jazz, and his arrangement is still used today.
4. He has a day named after him. On August 17, 2007, the City of Augusta declared it Wycliffe Gordon Day by proclamation authorized by former Augusta Mayor Deke Copenhaver.
5. His musical hero is Louis Armstrong. Throughout his life, Gordon has never forgotten the lessons he learned from Louis Armstrong. "Pops brought so many people together," Gordon says. "He was pure. You listen to his music and even if it's sad, you're smiling, because you see the beauty of life. Music makes it easier for us to connect with one another. There's just something about music that makes us look into our inner selves and get rid of that shell we walk around with. It can just make the world a better place. That's what I want to share. That's why I do what I do."
Read the full article featuring Wycliffe Gordon in the Fall/Winter issue of The New Augustan magazine.