Archive for the ‘Uptown’ Category

Stories this week: Wynton Marsalis and Closing of DC’s historic Chinese Restraunt
June 9, 2007

This week, I covered jazz great Wynton Marsalis at the Sixth and I Historic Synagogue in Chinatown. The Sixth and I Historic synagogue is a very extravagant-looking building that is an ever-present reminder of the changing demographics in inner-city life. Chinatown, way back when, used to be the center of the Jewish Community and it is somewhat of an odd fit architecturally for Chinatown. Wynton Marsalis is one of the most famous (if not the single most visible) jazz trumpeters in the world and he also has won Grammys for his repoitoire in classical music. In addition, his roots are very strongly tied to the city of New Orleans. His dad is a legendary jazz pianist and his older brother Brandford is a grammy-winning saxaphonist. I went to New Orleans this past fall and heard from some sources told me that his dad Ellis is still playing on a weekly basis after all these years. Wynton, himself, has been a great embassador to the New Orleans relief effort.

I was initially dissapointed that Marsalis did not bring a trumpet or talk about New Orleans at the event. Instead, he and New World literary editor Leon Wieseltier had a very interesting discussion on jazz, race, and culture entitled “Where Y’all At.”

Marsalis discussed his upbringing in New Orleans and how exactly he is a product of his culture and time. He grew up in an environment very aware of the implications of his race. His father was 26 before he could ride on a bus.

He then went on to discuss the importance of music and dance in creating a sense of collectiveness in our culture and his dissapointment that we are lacking that in the United States. I will have some more on that in a write-up, but a few interesting quotes:
“A good musician or a good dancer is a good citizen because they’re analyzing…You can’t be a good dancer or a good citizen by being passive [to your surroundings]”-Leon Wieseltier
“We’ve done an unbelievably bad job in teaching our children coutship values, we’ve not taught people about how to treat their sexuality and it reflects in our music”-Wynston Marsalis
On the divide between generations:
“In the 60’s and 50s of music, that was about something. That was the only generation who had the higher moral ground over their parents””-Marsalis
On kids not listening to jazz and perferring to follow trends like rap and hip-hop:
“How did you feel that this music was not part of your nation’s birthright. It’s not sold on you. Jazz [was a music that] brought people together during the Depresion, in the nation’s darkest hour.” -Marsalis

If a write-up is not forthcoming, there will be an expansion in this section of more quotes and pictures with captions will be posted in the gallery.

I also am working on my write-up for the Yenching Palace, which after 52 years in service will close down its doors this Monday in a farewell party for friends and customers. This was a resturaunt that I went to in my youth with my family after we watched a film in the Uptown Theater. The resturaunt is not only the oldest standing Chinese resturaunt in the D.C. Metropolitan area but it is famous for the role it played in history in 1962 when ABC newsman John Scali, secretly representing the Kennedy Administration, met with a representative of Soviet Primier Nikita Kruschev to come to terms over the Cuban Missile Crisis.

It is also famous for:
-Hosting the press conference in 1972 when the National Zoo acquired two pandas
-When Henry Kissinger opened up relations with China, the Yenching Palace hosted meetings
-The Yenching Palace catered to the Chiese embassy

-Lastly, the Yenching Palace has been patronized by a wide array of celebrities including Marlon Brando, Mick Jagger, Moshe Dayan, Henry Kissinger (who was a regular), Ian Flemming, Antonin Scalia and many others. I asked the owner/manager Larry Lung who inherited the resturaunt from his late uncle in 1991, how he knew who had visited the resturaunt and he said that it was because his uncle had the celebrities sign his guestbook. I had the privilage of then seeing the guestbook myself where I picked out names such as Alexander Haig, Betty Ford, Jason Robards, and Daniel Ellsworth among the guests.