Wynton Marsalis

On the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra's current Southern tour, the 16-piece band is focusing on the 70th anniversary of Blue Note Records. The New York-based label founded in 1939 by Alfred Lion and Max Margulis became seminal for musicians such as Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane, and Herbie Hancock, who all cut albums for it during their fruitful careers.

In addition, the orchestra has been at work on a lot of material generated by the band members. "We have a really large repertoire of music," trumpeter Marcus Printup explains during a phone interview as he prepares for a performance. "For the past year, Wynton [Marsalis] has been featuring different arrangements from the cats in the band, and we're starting to expand our own book as well with music from bandleaders like Stan Kenton, Count Basie, and the like."

Printup isn't intimidated by playing his horn next to the band's famous director — they have been together for more than a decade, and Marsalis's professionalism helps keep things in the right place. "I've been playing [with Wynton] for 16 years now, so it's like second nature to me," Printup says. "But every now and then, I look over and go, Wow, I'm playing with the guy that was my idol when I was in college. But he's very down-to-earth, he's just one of us — he's no male diva at all."