The Ascent of JLCO’s Marcus Printup


“I express my emotions better musically than socially most of the time,” Marcus Printup said.

(Photo: Adam McCullough)

Printup, Roberts said, developed “a really intriguing balance of a sound. It sounded like it could have come from 500 years ago combined with a unique modern approach to playing jazz music. He was one of the anchors of the band I put together.” That ensemble also boasted fast-rising reedists Victor Goines and Walter Blanding, as well as trombonist Ron Westray—all of whom, like Printup, ended up joining the JLCO.

“I love him,” Roberts said. “He’s like a little brother to me.”

Printup actually is a little brother to Angela Forte, who is four years his senior and, as a reed player in school and a member of the church choir, became an early model for him.

“Watching her play, and sing in church, she was one of my first influences musically,” Printup recalled.

Thinking back, Forte said, a real turning point in his life came in middle school, where Bishop Hudson—whom she praised for his compassion and dedication to hard practice—led the jazz band. “That’s when Marcus took things to a whole other level,” she said. “He is who he is because of the jazz band.”

Printup said his understanding of Hudson’s role in his life came late. “It wasn’t until I got older that I realized how much he meant to me,” he said. But he has shown his appreciation. When Hudson died in 2007, Printup returned to town for his funeral, where he joined saxophonist Sam Skelton, another Conyers native, in what observers remember as a poignant “Amazing Grace.”

“It really did sound good,” recalled James “Dub” Hudson, 89, a saxophonist and David’s surviving brother.

Between his obligations with the JLCO, Printup said he would like to become more of a presence in Conyers. “Do some teaching, maybe do some kind of festival—invite all the kids just to see what jazz is.”

Such thoughts are typical of Printup, Forte said: “What you see is who he is. Even in the midst of the glitz and glamour of being a jazz musician, he never changed. He never became arrogant.”

Printup, in fact, has brought some of that glitz and glamour to Conyers, albeit for a sad occasion. In February 2013, members of the JLCO, including Marsalis, attended the funeral of Marcus and Angela’s father, Deacon Willie “Bobby” Printup. They played “When The Saints Go Marching In.”

“Marcus took a solo,” Forte recalled. “When it was over, the guys stood in the middle of the aisle and walked in front of the people carrying Dad’s casket. When we got to the graveside, they continued to play.”Through it all, Printup tried to maintain his reserve. “Marcus had his sunglasses on; he didn’t want us to see his tears,” she said. “But he played the heck out of the trumpet.” DB

This story originally was published in the May 2020 issue of DownBeat. Subscribe here.

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