Victor Goines thinks a big part of his job is teaching people about jazz.
That’s not to say that if you see Goines in concert — he plays saxophone in the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra — he’ll stop in the middle of a riff and pass out textbooks or announce a pop quiz on the collected works of Louis Armstrong.
No, for Goines, jazz education is all about playing. He thinks exposure to the music in all its forms is the best way for people to understand what it is: a uniquely American art form.
“It’s definitely a music that’s always evolving, that has not reached its final stage. It has a history, but it is not history,” said Goines, 51, a native of New Orleans. “It lives in the present but moves forward. I think when people don’t understand this, it’s about a lack of exposure, and we here in the U.S. could do a better job exposing this music to our kids.”
The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis has been performing around the world and participating in educational programs for the past 25 years. The current 25th anniversary tour includes a sold-out show at Portland’s Merrill Auditorium on Friday.
Goines and the group’s leader, Marsalis, have known each other since kindergarten in New Orleans. They both grew up in a place where jazz was everywhere, in families that treasured it and played it.
But Goines always saw music and education — playing and teaching — as going hand-in-hand. He had a high school music teacher who also taught math, and he thought that was a good combination. So he started his career as a high school math teacher.
“I just always wanted to be both, a great player and a great teacher, and because I had a teacher like that, I figured it could be done,” said Goines.
The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra began in 1987 with trumpeter Marsalis and surviving members of the Duke Ellington Big Band. The orchestra performs a wide variety of jazz, from New Orleans roots music to bebop and modern jazz.
The current 27-city tour features music made famous by John Coltrane, Duke Ellington, Gerry Mulligan and others.
Besides playing and touring in the Lincoln Center group, Goines is director of jazz studies at Northwestern University near Chicago. But he is very grateful also to be able to play with such talented musicians as the ones in the Lincoln Center orchestra, of which he has been a member since 1993.
“To have this kind of friendship within a group, as Wynton and I have had for so long, is pretty rare, and I’m thankful for it,” said Goines. “And in this group, playing with some of the greatest musicians in the world, allows us all together to play some of the most challenging pieces.”
But that doesn’t mean the group only plays things that other musicians would dig.
“We don’t just play what we like,” he said. “If what we’re playing doesn’t keep our audiences engaged, we’ll change midstream.”
At the show in Portland, Goines said people can expect to hear jazz standards from the likes of Duke Ellington and Count Basie, plus new original compositions and new arrangements of older tunes.
For Goines, it doesn’t matter when a jazz tune was written and first performed.
“Because all jazz is modern,” he said.
Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at: