During a 35-year career, Wynton Marsalis has become one of the best-known faces of jazz.

He’s directed the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, which tours the world, since the late 1980s. In 1997, he became the first jazz musician to win the Pulitzer Prize in music, for his composition “Blood on the Fields.” And he is the most engrossing talking head on the Ken Burns’ PBS documentary series “Jazz,” released in 2001, where he explains jazz more with his trumpet than with his words.

But Marsalis, 54, is not alone. Jazz, a unique American art form, is kept alive by all the dedicated and passionate people who play it. That will be on display Dec. 2 when the 17-piece Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra performs at Merrill Auditorium in Portland. The show, “Big Band Holidays,” is presented by Portland Ovations.

Marsalis will be there, on trumpet and as director. But so will saxophone player Walter Blanding, who has performed or recorded with legendary jazz groups like the Cab Calloway Orchestra and the Count Basie Orchestra. Trombone player Vincent Gardner has performed with Bobby McFerrin, Harry Connick Jr. and with NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” band. Sax man Victor Goines has played with musicians of all genres, from Willie Nelson to Stevie Wonder.

The orchestra will be performing with jazz vocalists Audrey Shakir and Denzal Sinclaire. Shakir, based in Atlanta, has been described by some critics as the best scat singer since Ella Fitzgerald. Sinclaire, from Canada, is an actor and pianist who has performed around the world.

In the past, the orchestra’s holiday shows have included classics like “White Christmas,” “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,” “Jingle Bells,” “Sleigh Ride,” and “The Christmas Song.” Even when playing old favorites, the orchestra’s jazz arrangements likely will make them sound new.

Marsalis comes to jazz naturally. He was born in New Orleans, the son of jazz pianist Ellis Marsalis. Several of his five brothers are also jazz musicians, including Branford Marsalis, who was the band leader on NBC’s “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” in the 1990s.

Marsalis helped found the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra in 1987.