By Will Smith
Jazz’s Young Lions of the ‘80s were more of a marketing tool than an actual movement, yet it produced some of the best musicians on today’s jazz scene and was an economic force that for a while benefitted the overall financial health of the music.Essentially, it was a group of primarily college-trained musicians with musical foundations set in classic bebop and hard bop styles, and when they burst on the scene they were expected to save the jazz tradition into the next century.
While the Young Lions clearly were linked to the ascendance of trumpeter Wynton Marsalis after his stint with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, they also were the impetus for the ongoing revival of interest in the music. As a corollary to the increasing popularity of these young mainstream players, the music’s avant-garde wing gained a widening audience of listeners seeking newer viewpoints and sounds.
In many ways, the real story of the Young Lions can’t be told yet. While they remain among the stars of the current scene, they are not yet considered to be among the all-time jazz greats since they have shed their Young Lions fur. Only their creative strivings toward individuality will determine that.Previous Next