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Ever since his early days as lead singer of the Jackson 5, Michael Jackson has exerted tremendous influence on contemporary music and has connected with his audience on a strong emotional level.

hriller, the long-awaited follow-up to his 1979 classic, Off the Wall, advances Michael's dynamic and intimate vocal artistry and clearly establishes him as one of them most vital songwriters in contemporary music. Featuring nine songs—four of which were written by Jackson—Thriller is an exciting adventure filled with his inventive vocal flights and a vast array of musical twists and turns.

With Off the Wall, released in August 1979, Michael Jackson became the first sols recording artist in history to place four singles from the same LP in the nation's Top Ten. The multi-platinum album, produced by Quincy Jones, with Michael co-producing three songs, sold more than seven million copies worldwide and spent nearly eight months in the nation's Top Ten. Enhancing this achievement was Michael's Grammy Award for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance for his self-written "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough."

Recorded in Los Angeles, Thriller was produced by Quincy Jones with Michael again co-producing three of the songs he wrote: "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'," "Billie Jean" and "Beat It." Also featured on the album is its first hit single, "The Girl Is Mine," written by Michael and sung with Paul McCartney; three songs by Rod Temperton ("Thriller." "The Lady In My Life," "Baby Be Mine"); one by Quincy Jones and James Ingram ("Pretty Young Thing"); and another by Steve Porcaro and John Bettis ("Human Nature"). Among the impressive collection of musicians who lend their support to these songs, which interestingly span the pop, R&B, rock and jazz genres, are: Greg Phillinganes, Eddie Van Halen, Steve Lukather, Louis Johnson of the Brothers Johnson and Steve Porcaro. Vincent Price—the legendary master of the macabre—makes a special appearance on "Thriller," with a reliably spine-tingling rap.

Thriller is a vocal tour de force even more dynamic and progressive than Off the Wall. As he movingly relates a variety of emotions, Michael wraps his voice around the lyrics to create new sounds and glides effortlessly into the lofty register. The results are, in a word, breathtaking.

Throughout, his vocals blend with Quincy Jones' state-of-the-art production, which adventurously employs plenty of modern synthesizer textures. Notably, Michael was also involved in other aspects of the making of Thriller, conceiving various vocal, synthesizer and rhythm arrangements.

Michael is still very much a part of the Jacksons, who remain one of the most popular groups in music history, and he'll begin working with his brothers on the group's next studio album during the winter of 1983. Whether it be as a singer, songwriter, actor or dancer, Michael Jackson is an artist whose commitment and passion run deep, and with Thriller he has brought his talents and personal vision to new heights.

The Early Years

*1969. Michael Jackson begins to display his vocal talents as the Jacksons' career takes shape. Reared in Gary, Indiana, the sons of Joseph and Katherine Jackson start singing with their parents as the Jackson family. Shortly thereafter, the five sons—Michael, Jackie, Tito, Marion and Jermaine—take their show on the road. Winning over the traditionally hardcore audiences at the Apollo Theatre in New York and the Uptown in Philadelphia, the brothers build a strong reputation as performers.

*1970. With Michael as the 11-year-old lead singer, the Jackson 5 sign with Motown Records. The group charts four consecutive Number One singles: "I want You Back," "ABC" (a Grammy winner for Best Pop Song, 1971), "The Love Your Save" and "I'll Be There." Each sells in excess of one million copies. This achievement begins one of the most phenomenal success stories in music history, with the group selling over an estimated 100 million records, breaking box office records and causing pandemonium wherever they go. Of that time, The Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock & Roll notes: "Fronted by the exuberant Michael Jackson, who dipped, spun and moved like a miniature James Brown, the Jackson 5 transcended all barriers of race and age in their appeal."

*While maintaining his position with the Jackson 5, Michael firmly establishes himself as a solo artist with an array of hit singles and albums beginning in 1971. His most successful Motown singles are "Got to Be There," "Rockin' Robin," "I Wanna Be Where You Are" and the Number One "Ben," the title song from the film of the same name.

*Michael's best-seller Motown Albums (1971-1976) are Got To Be There, Ben, Music & Me, Forever, Michael and The Best of Michael Jackson.

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"At the beginning of my seventh year in school," recalls trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, "when I was twelve, I started practicing seriously and studying the instrument. By thirteen, I had improved 200%, which was when I decided to enter the solo competition. Every year there was a solo competition and the three winners performed youth concerts with the New Orleans Philharmonic. Nobody believed I had a chance. "Who wants to hear a trumpet player play a concerto?"

In retrospect, the irony and humor of Wynton's first experiences under the spotlight provide insight into his musical pursuits today. "A teacher told me," only string players, pianists and flutists. Besides, at that time there was only one black player in the orchestra and a lot of people thought it was a joke, that I thought they'd end up with all these classical musicians getting put in the position of being sidemen for a teenager. Anyway, at fourteen I played the Haydn Trumpet Concerto with them, and at sixteen the Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 in F Major."

It is only five years later now, but Wynton Marsalis' knack of setting the precedent—instead of following trends—is stronger than ever. In the world of jazz, his debut album on Columbia Records, Wynton Marsalis (issued January, 1982) was the unanimous choice for Jazz LP of the Year in down beat, Stereo Review and many other publications; its 39-week run on the Billboard jazz chart (with four months inside the top 10) certainly earned Wynton his first Grammy nomination (Best Solo instrumentalist), along with numerous honors as Jazz Artist of the Year, ranging from Cashbox and the Los Angeles Times (Leonard Feather) to the National Urban Coalition.

Jazz enthusiasts showered support for Wynton Marsalis during 1982, and the recognition came from many directions. Father and Sons (April, 1982) featured the joint efforts of Wynton on trumpet, his brother Branford on saxophone, and their father Ellis Marsalis on piano (the Chico and Von Freeman family unit complemented the Marsalis contingent on the side). The album spent a respectable 30 weeks of its own on the Billboard jazz chart, and even spurred a concert at Joe Papp's Public Theater in New York that August, in recognition of the success of the album's concept.

Now Wynton Marsalis is on the verge of setting another precedent, as he becomes the first American artist to have simultaneous jazz and classical albums released in the same week, both from CBS Records. On THINK OF ONE, Wynton's growth as leader, arranger, composer, and now producer comes full circle on a program that swings from Thelonious Monk's title track and Duke Ellington's closing "Melancholia," to the three new pieces written by Wynton, "Knozz-Moe-King," "The Bell Ringer," and "Later." The trumpeter's broad rhythmic thrust to his improvisational technique is especially exciting in the opening phrases of "Later," notes Stanley Crouch, "superbly controlling a rhythmic and melodic motif with a themetic and harmonic wholeness extending from Louis Armstrong to Don Cherry."

"His goal," writes Crouch in the liner notes to THINK OF ONE, "is match his technical gifts with a conception comprehensive enough to render the soul and the desire, the will and the frailty, the celebration and the tragedy of human life in the terms of the jazz tradition to which he is most fundamentally attracked." Joining Wynton on this venture is the quintet that has been with him since last year: Branford Marsalis on soprano and tenor saxophones, pianist Kenny Kirkland (who contributes "Fuchsia" to the new LP's repertoire), drummer Jeff Watts, and bassist Ray Drummond.

From the CBS Records Masterworks classical music division comes the other side of Wynton Marsalis: Haydn/Hummel/L. Mozart Trumpet Concertos, recorded at EMI's Abbey Road Studios in London with Raymond Leppard conducting the National Philharmonic Orchestra, produced by Tom Mowrey, represents three of the most popular trumpet concertos in the classical repertoire. Coincidentally, it was during the recording of this set last December, 1982, that Wynton met famed classical trumpeter Maurice Andre (recording "next door"), whose own version of "the Hummel" (as that piece is referred to) had just been issued on RCA's Erato label. It was Andre's quick friendship with Wynton, based on instinctive appreciation of his obvious talent, that led to the veteran describing the younger player as "potentially the greatest trumpeter of all time."

Of course, the musicians always know first. It was Ron Carter who, after considerable touring with Wynton in the Herbie Hancock Quartet (with Tony Williams; see Herbie Hancock Quartet, Columbia C2 38275; issued January, 1983; recorded digitally in Tokyo at CBS SONY Studios), called him "the most remarkable musician to appear on the scene in quite some time...intelligent, witty, studious, down to earth, and an incredible player."


Transcription Notes:
Fixed many transcription errors.

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