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Music heroes make their mark

THERE are certain musicians in any era who manage to transcend even the term world-class.

THERE are certain musicians in any era who manage to transcend even the term world-class. One such man arrives at The Sage Gateshead on Tuesday.

Trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, from New Orleans, is the man and he brings the 15-strong Lincoln Centre Jazz Orchestra (of which he is artistic director) with him for a train-themed programme called Full Steam Ahead.

Wynton, born in 1961, was strongly influenced as a young man by Miles Davis, and played in a number of marching bands in the Big Easy before making his professional debut with the New Orleans Philharmonic Orchestra.

When he was 18, he won a scholarship to New York’s famous Julliard School of Music and during his studies he featured in the orchestra pit of Stephen Sondheim’s Broadway musical, Sweeney Todd.

His fame soon spread and he was picked by Art Blakey for his Jazz Messengers tour in 1980 and subsequently worked with Herbie Hancock, who produced Wynton’s debut album in 1982.

He won the first of his nine Grammy awards in 1984

Marsalis is equally at home with classical music and he has written for string quartets and recorded Stravinsky, Bach, Handel and Purcell (among others) for the Sony Classical label.

He has, at the last count, some 30 jazz albums (and 16 classical ones) to his name but also picked-up a Pulitzer Prize for his three-CD work on slavery, Blood On The Fields (1997).

Marsalis has been honoured by numerous universities – Yale, Princeton and Columbia among them – and received international recognition from the UK, France and the Netherlands.

His work in education has always been a major motivation and he has also been at the forefront of the post-Katrina fund-raising effort in the city of his birth.

All of that and he is still just in his 40s! Ticket info on (0191) 443 4661.

A COUPLE of days later, Thursday, brings another man with more than a passing acquaintance with the term legendary.

Glen Campbell has more than 70 albums to his name – including 12 gold and seven platinum sellers – culminating in total sales of about 50 million.

Most people remember the trio of Jimmy Webb-penned hits Galveston, Witchita Lineman and By The Time I Get To Phoenix, or others like Rhinestone Cowboy (also the name of his autobiography) and Dreams Of the Everyday Housewife – but there is another side to the country star.

With a humble start in Delight, Arkansas, as one of 12 children of a sharecropper, Glen left school at 16 and toured with his band The Western Wranglers.

He recorded his debut single, Turn Around, Look At Me, in 1961. Campbell ended up in Los Angeles and his brilliant guitar playing won him plenty of session work and ultimately a recording contract with Capitol Records, primarily as an instrumentalist. He played on records by Elvis, Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Mamas & Papas, Monkees and the Beach Boys.

Soon he had his own TV show, Glen Campbell’s Goodtime Hour, and his guests included Ray Charles, Cream, Ella Fitzgerald, Stevie Wonder and Johnny Cash. Campbell was able to blend the elements of pop, folk and country and make it accessible to a huge audience and he was equally successful with duets with female stars like Bobbie Gentry, Rita Coolidge and Tanya Tucker.

He has recorded for some of the best-known labels in popular music and is living proof of the longevity of a quality all-rounder.

He is currently working on an album with his old friend Jimmy Webb which should be out later this year. The show marks the start of the Sage’s second annual Americana weekend.

Just along the road, at Gateshead’s lovely Little Theatre (next to the college) on the same night is a very attractive double bill.

New York-born Diana Jones has frequently been compared to Gillian Welch and Iris Dement (pretty good company) with her mournful mix of country, bluegrass and folk themes.

Her latest (and third) album, My Remembrance of You (Newsong Recording) has won all manner of praise. She is scheduled to open for Richard Thompson on his UK autumn tour and two days after this gig she appears at the Cambridge Folk Festival.

Tickets (0191) 230 4474.

TEXAS native Nanci Griffith appears at The Sage the following night to showcase songs from her Ruby’s Torch album of last year.

Nanci was originally championed by Tom Russell, enabling her to win a contract with Rounder Records. Since those early days she has had multiple Grammy nominations, winning two, recorded with all manner of artists in her favoured folk-country genre and written hugely successful songs for others, such as Gulf Coast Highway (Emmylou Harris, Willie Nelson), Love At The Five & Dime (Kathy Mattea) and Listen to the Radio (Suzy Bogguss).

At the Sage the same night is the inimitable three-string DIY bluesman Seasick Steve Wold (featured here some weeks ago), fresh from the Pyramid stage at Glastonbury.

BEFORE all of that, and away from the Sage, there is a chance to catch a lady who appears to share DNA with Mahalia Jackson, Aretha Franklin and Big Mama Thornton.

Ruthie Foster, from Gause, Texas, has built quite a reputation in the US for her powerful live performances.

Starting with blues and introducing contemporary folk, soul and old-school gospel, Foster has a hybrid sound which is sure to captivate UK audiences.

She appears at the Cluny, Newcastle, on Sunday night.

Ticket info on (0191) 230 4474.

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