After rocking for the festive crowd at the annual Brooks Brothers Christmas party at the brand’s massive Madison Avenue flagship on Wednesday night, music man Wynton Marsalis was still in the Christmas spirit. Last night he continued to spread holiday cheer in Frederick P. Rose Hall to celebrate the opening of the new Mica and Ahmet Ertegun Atrium at Jazz at Lincoln Center. Mr. Marsalis was joined in the crowd by Michael Douglas with wife Catherine Zeta-Jones, Bette Midler, Rufus Wainwright and Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Throughout the two-hour performance backed by his band, Mr. Marsalis wound his way through renditions of Christmas classics from the back row on his trumpet, giving credit to those original composers and arrangers who have gone unnoticed thanks copyright expirations that likely passed many years ago. “That’s the great thing about these songs,” he said. “We all know them. No one is up here asking if we’re making this up.”
The surprise gift of the evening was none other than Aretha Franklin, who emerged to a standing ovation wrapped in a floor-length chinchilla coat. She was followed by a male assistant palming her quilted silver Chanel bag, which he dutifully left on stage with her during her two-song performance. “I think I might change the program just a little bit,” she said before taking her seat at the piano for an unplanned solo rendition of “Oh Tannenbaum!” She then jokingly handed her fur to a man in the first row, then retracted it to simply throw her priceless outerwear at her feet while she slinked away to belt out the holiday tune.
“We are in one of my favorite places, Lincoln Center,” she said as she tickled the keys. “This is one of the early places I made my New York debut.” The Christmas tune was followed up with “My Cup Runneth Over,” which she dedicated to the evening’s honorees, Mica and Ahmet Ertegun. “This also happens to be my 50th year in the business, and I feel it,” the spry 73-year-old diva added as the crowd laughed. “I’m just kidding.”