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Jazz master Wynton Marsalis says the blues is the true American music — the heartbeat and unifying principle of jazz, country, R&B, gospel and other styles — but it’s been relegated to the back of the bus by greed and the legacy of racism.

Marsalis grew up in New Orleans, Louisiana, son of Dolores and Ellis Marsalis. He was a trumpet prodigy, surrounded by top-notch musicians and steeped in the city’s eclectic music. He was encouraged to excel by his father, a jazz pianist who instilled in his son a love of musical excellence and integrity.

Marsalis plays classical and jazz music with equal mastery. He is artistic director of Jazz at Lincoln Center and has won nine Grammy Awards and the Pulitzer Prize in music. He will be awarded the French Legion of Honor on November 6.

In an interview Tuesday, Marsalis talked to CNN.com about the primary position of the blues in American music. The blues is our root music, American born-and-bred, but it’s been treated like a stepchild of dubious origin, granted only secondary status, in Marsalis’ view. It suffuses Broadway, Tin Pan Alley, rock ‘n’ roll, country-western, gospel, bluegrass and more, but never got its financial due or the respect it deserves.

Marsalis says that’s because of racism — it was the music of a whole people granted only secondary status — and its inability to make a lot of money. He also talks about his father, how slavery has affected the nation, and some lessons to be learned from jazz.

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Article courtesy of: CNN

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