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Amel Larrieux at Highline, Marsalis' new gig

12/21/2011, 5:14 p.m.

Celebrated for his contributions as a performer, composer, bandleader and educator, Marsalis has won nine Grammy Awards and is the only artist in history to have received Grammys in five consecutive years. He is also the only artist to have received a Grammy for both jazz and classical music in the same year (1983).

"Walter Cronkite was a jazz fan and a drummer," commented Marsalis. "Ed Bradley was a mentor and treasured friend. I was an unabashed lover of Charles Kuralt's vision of America from the road, and Dr. Billy Taylor's jazz segment on 'Sunday Morning' inspired us all. I am honored to be a part of the CBS News family. I look forward to sharing with viewers the incredible variety and richness of our national culture-from ballet to the blues, from barbecue to the backbeat."

As a composer, Marsalis has consistently broken new ground. His 1997 "Blood on the Fields" was the first jazz composition to win the Pulitzer Prize for Music. Other notable works include "All Rise" (1999), "Congo Square" (2006), "Abyssinian 200: A Celebration" (2008), "Blues Symphony" (2009) and "Swing Symphony" (2010). He has also composed works for the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, as well as for some of the world's leading choreographers, including Twyla Tharp, Peter Martins, Judith Jamison, Savion Glover and Garth Fagan.

After Taylor retired from CBS, many quietly wondered if jazz conversations would ever be heard again on CBS. Marsalis' appointment makes it clear jazz will have a voice in the cultural pursuit-a good thing since jazz is so rarely mentioned on television and only on a few radio stations. Marsalis' background proves he is up for the challenge.

Oddly enough, the thought that always comes to me is, suppose they hired a radical jazzperson such as Stanley Crouch, Jimmy Owens, Amiri Baraka or Dr. Larry Ridley? It is not so much these jazzmen are radical; they would just offer opinions that stray from the madding crowd. It would be good to shake up the proletariat and corporate America.