Led by Wynton Marsalis, a swinging group of musicians belted out “When the Saints Go Marching In” as they strutted down Broadway to kick off the opening of the new home of Jazz at Lincoln Center.
Office workers clapped from open windows, and other onlookers tapped their feet. Some even started to jitterbug on the street as excitement of the traditional New Orleans-style parade of saxophones, trumpets, tubas and trombones filled the brisk air.
“I just had to be here for this,” said Igor Butman, a sax player from Moscow. “This is the first real jazz center in the world.”
It was an event that Kiyoshi Koyama, a jazz music writer from Tokyo, didn’t want to miss either.
“This is one of the major events in the history of jazz,” Koyama said.
The $128 million Frederick P. Rose Hall features three concert and performance spaces, including Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola, a 140-seat jazz club; an education center that includes a combined rehearsal hall and recording studio large enough to house a symphony orchestra; two classrooms and a jazz Hall of Fame.
The 1,200-seat Rose Theater is designed for jazz but also will accommodate opera, ballet, theater and orchestra performances. The Allen Room is a 500-seat performance space reminiscent of a Greek amphitheater that provides an airy elegant setting with spectacular views through a 50-foot-by-90-foot glass wall overlooking Central Park.
Derek Gordon, who took over as executive director of Jazz at Lincoln Center last summer after 12 years at the Kennedy Center in Washington, where he created its jazz program, said the new center was “dedicated to America’s classical music, perhaps the only uniquely American art form.”
“This represents a higher level of acknowledgment, a new embracing of jazz as an art form,” he said.
The opening festival continues through Nov. 5.
Marsalis, JALC’S artistic director who also was celebrating his 43rd birthday, said jazz giants such as Louis Armstrong and Dizzy Gillespie would be proud of the new center.
“They would probably start crying,” said Marsalis, the first jazz artist to be awarded the Pulitzer Prize in music. “They gave a lot and fought hard to earn the recognition for jazz in our culture. We respect them and honor them with this center.”