Marsalis cancels Venezuela on political grounds

Marsalis cancels Venezuela on political grounds


norman lebrecht

March 15, 2015

This may be a precedent.

Jazz king Wynton Marsalis has pulled his musicians out of this weekend’s concerts with the Simon Bolivar orchestra in Caracas, citing political differences.

Jazz, he told AP, ‘is a powerful tool to bring people across cultures and geographies together. But it’s important that it’s performed in conditions when the music can be heard. Intentionally or otherwise, if our performances there and the work that we were doing with them there was to become politicized those conditions no longer exist. And that could be harmful to both of our institutions.’

Last week, Venezuelan president Maduro imposed new visa restraints on US citizens. Although Marsalis and his Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra members were provided with visas, they decided that worsening political and economic conditions in Caracas were not conducive to music.




  • Olaugh Turchev says:

    What a little toady…
    Perhaps we should all boycott the LA Phil too?

    • Billy says:

      No, just ship the curly-headed midget back to Venezuela …

      • Michael says:

        Excuse me, Billy, you are entitled to your opinion on Dudamel’s conducting, even, if you insist, his politics, but why the personal vitriol? Has the man ever done you wrong? I suspect you have a bigger axe to grind, but if you have a substantive gripe, out with it, otherwise your petty slander (what do his hair or height have to do with anything?) demeans you more than him.

  • Daniel Farber says:

    We’ll be waiting for the totalitarian apologist Dudamel to protest Wynton’s protest.

  • Max Grimm says:

    Considering they were suppose to work with the Simon Bolivar Orchestra and several El Sistema ensembles (which are all supported by the Venezuelan government) coupled with Mr. Obama referring to Venezuela as a “national security threat” to the USA, cancelling their tour is the most business-minded decision Mr. Marsalis and his musicians could have made. The statement by the executive director of Jazz at Lincoln Center Mr. Scholl, where he cites worries of politicization and harm coming to their institutions is clear enough.

    • George Porter says:

      “Mr. Obama referring to Venezuela as a “national security threat” to the USA” Really? Is Venezuela Going to spend $5 billion on promoting democracy in the US? If not that, what?

      • Max Grimm says:

        You must ask a politician that question (or at least someone that understands American politics). Regarding “$5 billion on promoting democracy in the US”, Matthew 7:6 comes to mind.

  • william osborne says:

    Many ironies surround the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra. Jazz should be centered first and foremost in Harlem, as it once was before Harlem was systematically destroyed. The LCJO has made jazz so obedient and conformist that something of the heart of jazz has been lost. People thought the LCJO might signify a rebirth for jazz, but in reality it might be its ultimate sell-out and degradation.

  • Freddy says:

    Sad state of affairs when the greatest pseudo-Jazz artist ever is the “Jazz king”……

  • Brian b says:


  • Philip Colon says:

    Marsalis will not be missed!

  • jaypee says:

    How about boycotting countries that still have death penalty? I’ve heard that in one of them, shooting squad is even considered…

  • Sam McElroy says:

    It astonishes me, Mr. Osbourne (above), that, when given the opportunity to comment on the catastrophic failures of the Venezuelan regime – and on a day on which Maduro seized the power to rule by decree – you chose instead to troll attention towards a critique of the LCJO’s particular brand of jazz!

    I wonder what exactly it would take for you to admit, once and for all, that your beloved Bolivarian “revolutionaries” in Venezuela have only registered one achievement that can be truly classified as “revolutionary”: the speed at which they managed to destroy a nation, and one that sits atop the world’s largest oil reserves, at that.

    Let’s get to the real point: the social context of the LCJO’s refusal to play with the SBO.

    Today, after 17 years of Chavismo, Venezuela has the highest murder, corruption and inflation rates in the entire world. Its capital city, Caracas, is the most deadly on the planet. Political opponents are imprisoned without trial and tortured. The world’s most oil-rich nation, it now languishes amongst its poorest. Basic foods and medicines have run out. It is a hell on earth. I know, because we just spent half our life’s savings exiling my brother-in-law and his family to the US from the daily misery and constant threat to life that is Venezuela today. His life’s work, at 14 hours a day for twenty years, is not worth one dollar.

    Throughout these 17 years of deterioration into a failed state, the SBO has carried the flag of its revolutionary paymaster around the world, selling the abject lie. It has willingly served as the propaganda wing of the government, adorning the world’s stages with Chavez’s newly re-branded, 8-starred national flag – a potent symbol to Venezuelans, if innocuous to outsiders – in exchange for lavish funding by the state oil company, PDVSA. The entire music world has lined up to promote this Faustian alliance and profit from it, from sold-out concert halls to Deutsche Grammophon.

    Naturally, few dared to look behind the inviting mask of youth to the men funding the whole machine, men who make Putin look like a boy scout, men whose theft of state assets and alignment with drug cartels are the stuff of Bond films. While the classical world has turned its lens on Russian musicians and their personal political leanings, it has conveniently avoided scrutinizing the allegiances of Venezuelan musicians, whose active role as government serfs and international emissaries has been immeasurably damaging, not to mention morally irreconcilable, in its global promotion of a gross domestic deception.

    And let me be clear. I fully support government funding of the arts. But when musicians become propagandists for a malignant ideology, music loses its function, its integrity and its very soul. As Greg Scholl said in his statement, which applies to the general as well as to the specific: “It’s important that music be performed in conditions in which it can can be heard. Intentionally or otherwise, if our performances there and the work that we were doing with them there was to become politicized, those conditions no longer exist.”

    So, the Venezuelan truth is finally being outed as Chavismo enters its death throws. And now, those musicians with enough dignity and conscience, as well as the luxury of career independence, are saying no. Good for Mr. Marsalis!

    As for you, Mr. Osbourne, at least try for one small moment to consider that the earth is not flat. It is quite acceptable to utter the words “I was wrong,” especially in the face of overwhelming evidence.

    • william osborne says:

      Yes, your obsessive hatred of the Venezuelan government is well-known in these pages. Unfortunately, Venezuela fits in with the pattern in many Latin American countries. The real problem regarding Venezuela –and why it is singled out for so much propaganda– is that it nationalized the companies mining its massive oil reserves. Latin America’s tradition of oligarchic families and plutocracy has been challenged. Oh the horror, the horror, down with the commie regime…

      Here’s a short overview of problems in other countries for which Mr. McElroy and the US government have very little say:

      +The Mexican drug war has cost 120,000 lives, not including 27,000 missing.
      + U.S. trained and funded death squads mass murdered about 200,00 Mayans in Guatemala during its civil war in an event has come to be known as the Silent Holocaust.
      + Pinchot’s mass executions and Caravan of Death murdered approximately 3,000 during his17-year rule.
      + During Argentina’s Dirty War and Operation Condor, between 22,000 to 30,000 people were kidnapped by the junta and secretly murdered.
      + About 75,000 people died from civil war and U.S. funded and backed death squads in El Salvador.

      Never mind, let’s pile on Venezuela for daring to nationalize it’s oil…er…I mean having a high crime rate. I’m sure the Slipped Disc Republican Committee for Classical Music with enlighten us about those commie perverts…

      • Sam McElroy says:

        Again, off spins Mr. Osbourne in a sling-shot of non-sequiturs and irrelevance. Why are you talking about historical events in Guatemala, El Salvador, Chile and Argentina when this is a conversation about Winton Marsalis’s refusal to play in the Caracas of today? Can you stick to the subject at hand, or should we just throw in an argument about String Theory while we are at it?

        Venezuela is where it is TODAY, not because of nationalization, not because of the CIA, not because of the US government, not because of the man on the moon, but because of how state revenue was squandered, stolen and given away to ideological allies in the region. Have you read ANYTHING about Venezuela, Mr. Osbourne? Anything at all? Or, like a religious zealot, do you refuse to acknowledge any truth that does not fit your own view of the world?

        Have you not read about the offshore accounts of those in power, filled to the brim with greenbacks? Have you not read about the National Assembly leader being indicted as a narco kingpin? Have you not read about the role of the military in the drug trade? Have you not read about the 107% inflation? Or the Transparency International Corruption Index condemning Venezuela to 160th/178 in the world? Or the murder rates?

        Is absolutely EVERYTHING the fault of someone else? Or history? Can you not even have the decency to acknowledge our own family’s suffering throughout recent years under this dictatorship, and the suffering of so many others? You cite and condemn atrocities elsewhere, as well you should, yet when it comes to Venezuela, 250,000 homicides over 16 years – a 700% increase under Chavismo and the result of total social meltdown – do not elicit even the slightest whiff of indignation from you.

        And yes, I am deeply hateful of a government that has destroyed a nation, the nation of my wife and family. I am deeply hateful of the fact that so many have had to flee their homeland, or have been killed. I am deeply hateful that my wife might not even be able to see her father again, or even return home to attend his funeral in the event of his passing, because of the threats to her life for speaking out against brutality.

        YOUR obsession, however, is in supporting these thugs to the very end. Whose so-called “obsession” is the more shameful, I ask you? The obsession with defeating brutality or supporting it?

        And if you insist on answering, stick to the topic: Venezuela, today, not any other country at any other period in history.

  • Milka says:

    The elephant in the room of course is Dudamel who is silent when
    one come too close in study of his pursuit of fame and glory .

  • Paul Lanfear says:

    One could be terribly cynical and suggest that Mr Marsalis’ career would certainly not be damaged by taking this stance! So musicians who perform at the White House are not propagandists? Those who play for Saudi royalty not apologists for one of the most repressive regimes on the planet? How much of our cultural life – or, come to that, any other area of life – is dependent on (and subservient to) corporate patronage?

    Ultimately it was corporate power – with its excessive individualism and bi-partisan ‘democracy’ serving an elite minority with a flagrant disregard for social justice – that created the polarisation in Venezuela, not some “malignant ideology”. From what I can see, despite all the problems and discontent with the Maduro government, the opposition seem remarkably incapable of capitalising on this. Sure they can complain about the government controlling the media, dominating the institutions of power, etc. They are probably right. But when they held all the power it didn’t stop Chavez…even with a US-backed coup in 2002! Given that the likes of Capriles, Lopez and Machado all seem to come from that narrow class that ran Venezuela as a kind of rentier state, could it not be that their own inflated sense of entitlement actually works against them?

  • Sam McElroy says:

    “…the opposition seem remarkably incapable of capitalising on this.”

    The opposition leaders who tried to do something about it have been put in prison! Or, in Machado’s case, stripped of her assembly powers and accused of attempted “magnacide”, not to mention having her nose broken by male assembly members in the assembly itself, while the narco-baron himself looked on in laughter! And those who protest in the streets are now likely to be shot, as in the case of the murdered 14 year-old boy last month, because Maduro passed a “law” allowing government forces to use lethal force against protesters.

  • Gilberto Perez says:

    At the end, is so sad to see The Music be limited by Political influences and conditions, Music is a pure and free spirit gift, there is no other way possible… as a Musician I only can hope to see my country mature the need to take out politics and politicians from any kind of Arts… the only loser here is the Venezuelan People and musicians…