Trumpeter Pays Tribute To Marsalis With Greenville Jazz Musicians

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Patrick Lopez will play tribute to jazz icon Wynton Marsalis at Coffee Underground on Feb. 5. Photo provided.

Trumpeter, vocalist, and bandleader Patrick Lopez has done a lot of things and worked with a lot of people. He was a student of the great Cuban trumpeter, pianist, and composer Arturo Sandoval. His first vocal teacher was Jon Secada, who scored a No. 1 pop hit with “Just Another Day.” And he’s played in various combos across the Southeast, including his own band The Patrick Lopez Experience. But there’s one musician who influenced Lopez more than anyone else: the nine-time Grammy-Award-winning, New Orleans-born jazz legend Wynton Marsalis.

In fact, Lopez can talk about Marsalis’ career off the top of his head like he’s reading the man’s Wikipedia page.

“He was one of the few jazz icons in my time growing up in the ‘80s who had an impact on music as a whole,” Lopez says. “He won the Pulitzer Prize as a musician [in 1997]; I was watching when he was one of the first musicians who got a Grammy for jazz and classical music in the same year [in 1983, when Marsalis was 22]. That had such an impact on me and on musicians all around, seeing him on TV winning Grammys for music that wasn’t necessarily popular. And he has so many other awards and accolades. He was a huge influence on me.”

Perhaps it’s not surprising, then, that as an adult, Lopez wanted to pay tribute to his greatest influence by putting together an evening of Marsalis’ music, which Lopez did about three years ago in Asheville, North Carolina. What IS surprising is who Lopez was able to collaborate with on the show: Wynton’s brother Jason Marsalis, who plays drums.

“It was a thrill, having one of the Marsalises with us,” Lopez says. “It was mind-blowing. I got to experience playing his music with one of his siblings performing them with me. Wynton’s music was so important to me growing up, and being able to play it, it almost felt selfish, playing this music that I loved to hear.”

Lopez was able to bring Jason Marsalis in partly due to the efforts of the Upstate group the Greenville Jazz Collective, which had collaborated with the drummer before. Lopez met members of the collective, including guitarist Matt Dingledine, bassist Shannon Hoover, and trombone player Brad Jepson, when he moved from his native Miami to North Carolina and began looking for places to play, and for people to play with.

“When I first came to the area, I started reaching out to venues that would play jazz music, and I got to meet Brad and Matt and Shannon,” Lopez says. “They were so receptive to me, and they started calling me for performances at Furman University or at Chicora Alley. And as I’ve played with them, we’ve become friends.”

Lopez will again be collaborating with members of the GJC this Tuesday at the Coffee Street location of Coffee Underground, where he, Dingledine, Hoover, saxophonist Matt Olson, pianist Keith Davis, and drummer Justin Watt will once again be paying tribute to Wynton’s music, this time without Jason.

Lopez says the experience of going from an avid fan to a musician playing Marsalis’ music has been eye-opening. “His songs were hard to analyze as a young student,” he says, “but I can see the complexity now of his writing. If you look at a standard like ‘Autumn Leaves,’ for example, he starts breaking down the tempo, and gradually speeding up and doubling it and doubling again. It’s always a challenge to give his music the respect it deserves.”

And Lopez is quick to add that Coffee Underground is a great place to do just that.

“The word for that space is ‘intimate,’” he says. “You get the audience to LISTEN. It’s a really nice room, and the people there really want to hear the music. That keeps you on your toes. You’re not just going through the motions and playing your parts. This is more of a listening room, which makes it more enjoyable for us and keeps us on top of our game.”

What: The Music of Wynton Marsalis featuring Patrick Lopez
When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 5
Where: Coffee Underground, 1 E. Coffee St., Greenville
Tickets: $12 (seniors, students), $15 general admission
Info: 864-298-0494, https://squareup.com/store/greenville-jazz-collective?fbclid=IwAR0c974-Nn0ke-SwGAeWeDSTttdyfDwemsY_vwyXMvKiy6XHbVVNw184NQI

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